How To Respond To The Most Common Complaints About Newly Out Characters
GaymerX is a gaming convention that takes place every year in San Jose, CA. GaymerX is a “queer space”; a convention where panels center on queer themes, but all are invited and welcomed. As a proud media sponsor of GaymerX, Unicorn Booty covers gaming issues of all sorts.
It’s come to this. You always thought that this day would arrive. The signs were there, and now it’s true. Your beloved fandom just got a gay character.
It could be that a long-established character is revealed as gay, like Iceman in All-New X-Men #40. It could be that a new gay character is inserted into an existing franchise, such as Kung Jin in Mortal Kombat X or Dorian in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Maybe it’s not a character, but an organization that has taken a very public, pro-queer stance, like when gaming convention Gen Con threatened to pull out of Indiana in response to their “religious freedom” bill.
This time might be confusing for you. You probably have several questions and very few answers. You might encounter resistance to the new character from your fellow fanboys and fangirls. People will criticize you, your fandom, or the characters you’ve come to love. But there’s no need to fear, because we’re here to help you muddle through the endless online discussions you might end up in.
Just follow our simple, point-by-point response guide, and you’ll be well on your way to winning any flame war you might come across.
“I don’t care if they’re gay or not. I just want a well-designed character.”
This argument will come up a lot, and it can sometimes be a hard one to counter. After all, don’t we want all the characters we love to be well-written and not defined by a singular characteristic like sexuality?
But well-written characters are very often realistic characters, and how realistic is it to ignore sexual diversity and exclude an entire block of the human population?
Including gay characters adds complexity and potential depth, makes the entire franchise truer to life, and tells queer readers that they’re acknowledged and appreciated. Just gently point out to your fellow fans that a well-designed franchise would feature a very diverse group of characters, including a few queer ones.
“Why do they have to turn that character gay? They’ve never been gay before!”
This is a great time to remind your arguing friend that a lot of queer people spend their entire lives in the closet, whether that’s because of societal or family pressure, or fear of retaliation and rejection.
Some people complain that revealing a character’s sexuality in a sudden way can seem like an arbitrary flip of a switch. But rather, it forces you to reexamine their past and consider their coming out as a long, gradual culmination of their past actions and behaviors.
For instance, several comic fans I know said that Iceman being gay made sense given his horrible dating history and his constant worry that he cannot control his powers (and subsequently himself). A common theme in Iceman’s story arc is that he is actually much more powerful than he appears (on a technical level, he approaches Jean Grey magnitude), but that he never uses his powers to their full potential because he is afraid of the consequences.
In the end, a person’s outward behavior isn’t always an indication of their sexuality, and that cuts both ways. Every gay man doesn’t prance around like a ballerina listening to Hooked on Gaga (It’s true, though we’ve also been known to strut and sashay). Well-written characters should, after all, exhibit behaviors as varied as they are in real life and not be held to cheap, lazy stereotypes, even if that means they didn’t seem gay until the moment they came out.
“I don’t want to hear about their love life!”
This is a very common complaint about queer people in general, not just fictitious ones in fandoms. In less than 10 words, the person has just reduced the queer experience down to nothing more than who a person schtupps.
To respond, just politely state that not only is the queer experience much, much more than bedroom shenanigans, but there are plenty of times in nearly every fandom when the romance of a heterosexual character was not only discussed but became a major plot point. Example: Nobody asked to discuss the love life of Cyclops, the X-Men’s officially designated prig, but that didn’t stop Marvel Comics from talking about it endlessly for over 50 years.
“This is just a P.R. stunt. They’re just pandering to make money.”
Now, this is just plain rude, but try to keep your cool and respond in a civil, proper way, using correct grammar. Nothing destroys an argument more than poor grammar.
What this comment is saying is that there is no pre-existing queer audience for this product, and the company is so desperate for money that they’re trying to cater to an audience they normally would not want or need.
Kindly remind this very rude person that there are queer people of all stripes, including geeks devoted to comics, video games, sci-fi, movies, whatever. A gay character appearing in the fandom not only shows that the creators acknowledge those fans, but it offers a welcome and refreshing change from the non-stop “pandering” fandom often does to straight people — it must be a serious strain to have so much attention paid to them all the time. The poor dears! No wonder they’re so rude!
“I don’t have a problem with gay characters. I love Will & Grace and Modern Family.”
This is a not-so-subtle variation on the classic “but some of my best friends are…” theme. It is, as the children like to say, complete balderdash.
Will & Grace used exaggerated “queerface” stereotypes for broad comedy, and the couple from Modern Family is almost disquietingly normal. Neither truly points to the width and breadth of the gay experience. Saying you appreciate gays because you like Will & Grace is like saying you know what it’s like to be transgender because you’ve never missed an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Appreciating a queer character in one series does not absolve anyone of ignorance regarding queer characters in another series. It’s not a “Get Out Of Jail” card so much as a “Weasel Out Of Responsibility For Ignorant Statements That I Don’t Want To Own Up To” card, which admittedly, isn’t nearly as pithy (and probably why it never made it into the final draft of any Monopoly game).
“Keep politics out of my fandom! I just want to enjoy it on its own!”
And finally, we have the Molotov cocktail of internet comments. This goes beyond rude and into outright discourteousness.
“Keeping politics out” is a very popular phrase that roughly translates as “I don’t want any threats to my privilege, entitlement, or status, and by demanding equal treatment, you have soiled the good name of my fandom. I SAID GOOD DAY, SIR!”
It’s wise to remind yourself that this person probably lives a life of powerlessness and can only find purpose by living vicariously through the heroic or mythic characters of their fandoms, so perhaps they deserve at least a modicum of pity.
Then, after you’ve repeated that to yourself and taken a few deep and calming breaths, you can remind this sad, little person not to be such a close-minded asshole about sharing their toys.
We hope this has been an enlightening read for you, and trust that now you’ll feel confident and secure in your arguments with strangers on the internet who are angry, upset, and simply put out that a queer person would be part of their little fantasy world.
So the next time you encounter someone like that, kindly remind them that obsessively collecting the superheroic exploits of muscle-bound men in tights who like to blast things; or learning every inch and movement of exquisitely-detailed and muscle-bound men in video games who like to punch holes and pummel each other is…well…kind of gay. Don’t you think?
This story was originally published on 04/22/2015
GX3: Everyone Games marks the third year of the GaymerX convention, a meeting of LGBTQ tabletop and console gamers with panels, meet-ups, parties and more! The convention takes place December 11 to 13 in San Jose, California. This year’s Bosses of Honor include RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Trixie Mattel, Mass Effect’s Jennifer Hale, and many, many more! Tickets are available at GaymerX.com.