(Yes, I’m late, I know. Long week. Throw-away anecdote rant as a result. Sorry.)
Our world is becoming much more accepting and inclusive of alternate genders and sexualities, and while it’s an incredibly slow-going process, it’s a step in the right direction. What isn’t a step in the right direction, though, is this “shipping” bullshit. It’s one thing to root for your beloved characters’ sex lives, but with as much as we (generalized collective) find it offensive to try and make someone “switch sides” in real life, why in the holy monkeyfuck is it Ok to do so to these characters we invest in emotionally? Is it some manner of odd release that I’m just not getting, kind of like the tendency for many of us to seek out violence in video games to vent negative thoughts? Well, maybe, but that doesn’t make it right.
Let’s get our imagination caps on and dive in to a few scenarios. I’ll provide my judgment of them, of course, but ultimately it’s your decision – that is to say, “if you wanna be a shithead, it’s your funeral.”
First, let’s suppose that you are a rational, sexually-aware adult who is fully secure in their chosen sexuality and sexual preference. You surround yourself with many people in your life, some of which you want to have sex with, some of which are just your friends, and some of which don’t matter on your social radar at all. Now let’s suppose that you’re really close with one of your non-sexually-preferred-gender friends – and I mean, really close. You do everything together. You know everything about each other. You can rely on each other through thick and thin. “But you’re a couple, right? Why not? You’re clearly in love! Just fucking get together already! It’ll be great – you’ll love it once you do!” How does that sentiment make you feel? Angry? Disgusted? Resentful of those who push it?
As a thinking, breathing, sexual being, you’re probably going to be pissed with someone trying to make you “hook up” with someone you don’t want to. Is it that you suddenly matter more than, say, Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins? Tolkein wrote their relationship as close, loyal, supportive, and caring, so clearly they’re gay, or at least in an ersatz homosexual relationship, right? No, you fuckin’ asshole, not right. Offensive and against the original narrative provided. Also against Tolkein’s (very few) explicitly relayed thoughts on sexuality in general (spoiler alert: conservative). Still, they’re just hobbits and you’re a real person. A stupid, stupid, fucking Tumblr fanfic-addicted person.
Luckily, that’s not all of the people on Tumblr, though. THANK YOU, “The Whimsical Dreamer,” for this excerpt from one of your posts (reposts?):
[…] think of it this way: if a straight boy was constantly seeing “lesbians” everywhere, or talking about how those girls would look so good together, or making up headcanon about you and one of your platonic girlfriends, you would think he was creepy as fuck, sexist, and probably a pervert. Because he isn’t seeing you or other girls as people with real agency, he’s seeing you as an object to project onto. He’s invalidating your personhood and your sexuality and making your actual queer friends feel like their sexuality isn’t a real identity. That is what you’re doing to these boys; straight or gay, real or fictional, you are projecting onto them and invalidating them.
“Ok, Spooder, you’re going on a wild tangent here. That’s not what we do all the time.” You’re probably right, but it’s what’s done consistently. It’s not even limited to forced homosexuality, either. What I, as a straight man, find even more offensive is when you try and focus a non-straight character in to a straight relationship or sexual scenario. For instance, think of all the backlash Blizzard received when they outed Tracer from Overwatch. On one avenue of reaction, there we calls for boycotts of the game, because how dare they make the “cover girl” a homosexual. (Shock! Horror! Think of the children!) On another, people suddenly remarked that they felt “validated” in a lot of their erotic fanfic/fanart. In a third, even darker avenue, “certain parts of the internet” felt absolutely enraged that their stories involving Tracer in some really, realllllly dark rape art/stories (which I shall not be linking – pass the eye bleach) were “less important now.” One reddit comment I recall is from a lovely little man (assuming gender here) that remarked “fukc you Blizard she just needs 2 get fucked by me an my crew 2 get her strait.”
Fucking really? No matter the reaction, she is a character in a video game with little to no plot. Minor webisodes? Cool. A little bit of backstory via comic books? Fine. In the end, it’s a fucking Team Fortress imitation – we won’t get in to this argument here, but yes, notice I say “imitation,” not “clone.” It’s not a direct ripoff, but come on. It’s damn close. Anyway, her sexuality was a nice little Easter egg-type offering, but it didn’t change the way she interacted in the game. She didn’t suddenly stop and go “dat ass” every time Mercy or Victory dropped in to their victory poses. She didn’t try and dive head-first in to Mei’s tits. Nothing changed. Calm the fuck down.
“You just don’t get it. We’re making the narrative fit us because so far nothing fits us.” Uh, fuck you. There are many healthy – albeit slightly exaggerated – alternate-sexuality characters out there that you can learn to love. One of my fiancée’s favorites seems to be Deadpool, who when he’s not courting Death, will try and fuck anything he fancies (or at least flirt). What about Dorian Gray? Crazy man, no matter whether we’re talking Wilde’s actual portrayal or Penny Dreadful’s over-the-top bastardization of his tale, but he’s bi, and damn unapologetic about it. Poor Luis Carruthers, from American Psycho¸ is so very in love with Patrick Bateman and “just has to suck it up.” The list keeps going, and while a lot of these characters may seem obscure and unlikable, it doesn’t suddenly invalidate them. Haven’t heard of a lot of these books/tales? That’s Ok, neither had I. Maybe we should change that.
Look, I know what you’re thinking. This straight guy is telling you to stay in your lane. No, no I’m not. I’m telling you to stay confident in your sexual choices and preferences – to celebrate them – but I’d also like you to respect the choices of others, be they fictional or real. It’s an important thing to me. There’s enough homophobic and “homophobic-esque” behaviors in the world, and while we’re all going to demonstrate one or two of them in our time (sometimes constantly, though not intentionally), becoming aware of toxic behavior is a good step in wiping it out. Ship gay characters with gay characters. Ship straight characters with straight characters. Ship bi, pan, fluid, and queer characters with whomever actually fits their preferences. (Deadpool? Prrrrrobably not Squirrel Girl.)
I get that this may be a hard concept for many of you reading this, but let me spell it out nicely, because it’s only hard if you’re stupid. Is it Ok to go up to a person on the street and go “No, you’re gonna be with (fill in person they don’t desire here) because I said so?” No? Then why the fuck would you do it to a character you’re allegedly a fan of and claim to give a shit about?
Stop toxic sexuality conversions in your own fangirly (or fanboyly, or fan apache attack helicopterly) minds, and you can begin to stop them in our societies at large.