September 4th, 2013


sing poets and sing singers at the alter of the straight

There is a growing prevalence at the moment for Neal/Diana fic. This upsets me a lot, and I'm going to talk about why.

Disclaimer: I am not censoring anyone (since I am not a government entity, it would be literally impossible for me to do so). It is everyone's personal choice to write what they write. I am just trying to explain why this particular choice is very loaded, and problematic, and capable of hurting people. Not everyone feels like this, obviously. I don't speak on behalf of any group.

(If you're going to comment with YKINMK, or some variety of "don't read, then", please don't bother. I don't need to read the fic to have it glare in my face as I scroll down my flist.)

Diana, you see, identifies as a lesbian, at multiple points in canon. Very clearly and unambiguously. She has expressed her lack of attraction to men in general and to Neal specifically.

Writing her otherwise is erasure.

The obvious (and very tired) retort is "but what about writing straight characters as gay/bi? That happens all the time!"

Firstly, I can only think of two characters I have ever seen who have actually stated themselves to be straight (Pete from Warehouse 13 and John from BBC Sherlock, if you're curious). Because we live in a heterocentric society, characters (and people) are assumed to be straight unless and until they state otherwise. Coming out is hard, and it isn't a one-time event -- if you're lucky enough to have passing privilege you have to come out again, and again, and again, to each new group of people. It's SCARY. Even then, it can be really hard to get people to respect your identity -- think of all the "you just haven't met the right man/woman yet" bullshit.

And secondly: writing a straight or assumed-straight character as queer is an act of subversion. In our heterosexist society, our media suffers deeply from an overabundance of assumed-straight characters, and a lack of meaningful representation for queer people. Taking assumed-straight chars and writing them as queer can be powerful: it's forcing ourselves into spaces which actively try to keep us out. It's saying, We can be main characters. We can be heroes. We belong here.

Taking a gay character, one of the very few textually gay characters, and writing them into a straight relationship is a fucking kick in the teeth. No way to sugar-coat it, I'm afraid, and I don't want to.

I was talking a moment ago about the lack of respect for queer people, and queer identities, and this is a part of that. Writing a gay character in a het relationship does not happen in a vacuum -- it happens in a context where gay characters are already crumbs compared to the spread of assumed-straight characters. Where we all know that creators can and do take them away from us at any moment (Moffat's Irene Adler, I'm looking at you). Where (usually) straight people feel completely justified in continually questioning self-professed queerness, and so many media narratives glorify the gay-identified person finding that they "just happen" to fall in love with someone of the opposite gender. Where "she'd like it if she just tried it" is a meme, one that makes people feel justified into coercing or forcing gay people into sex they don't want. Where we all know that you might not really be gay -- maybe you're just confused, or immature, or waiting for the right man.

There are reasons to write a pairing like Neal/Diana. Because you find the thought of them together hot. Because you enjoy their interactions, and want to write more of them, and a relationship is an easy way of doing that. Because you just feel like it.

There are reasons not to. Because it hurts people to see that one of the few characters they can identify with, that they can count as one of them, other people feel justified in claiming for the over-represented majority instead. Because you respect representations of queer identities. Because, whether you agree with them or not, you realise that writing het ships for gay characters makes people upset and hurt.

You can choose which of those reasons you care the most about. But you ARE making a choice. And you're displaying it in public every time you write this pairing. Please, consider choosing not to.

Posted at with comment count unavailable comments.