Just wanted to chime in and say that being a gay male, I agree completely with the main set of points you made, @greendaisy. I also personally feel a lot of resonance with points 6 and 8 and have felt M/M variations of those themes, though they’ve manifested with different words and ideas.
I had been thinking about posting something like this for a while. Hopefully any authors writing WiPs without same-sex relationships will take your post to heart.
I would add to this that there’s no reason whatsoever to add homophobia to a story unless the story is specifically about homophobia (or multiple forms of bigotry). And honestly, I really don’t think that IF is a good place to write about homophobia, unless it’s a game that’s specifically gay-locked. A game that forces gay players to have to wade through homophobia while straight players don’t have to would end up with content that most players either don’t see or (if they do see it) don’t enjoy, meaning that it’s content that probably shouldn’t have been written. (And if somebody does enjoy fighting back against bigotry, they’d probably enjoy it more in a game actually about that.)
I would also say that this even applies to stories set in historical times that were less accepting. For one thing, the exact nature of historical homophobia is often overexaggerated: homosexuality was seen as sinful, but it wasn’t actually illegal (in Britain, at least) until the Protestant Reformation in about 1540 (a lot later than the period that most historical fantasies are basing their settings on). Sure, there were times and places where it was punished, but for the most part, it would have been seen as a private matter between the gay individual and the church. So the “realism” that these stories are based on is often actually false. So, if your story is going to be unrealistic anyway, why not make it unrealistic in a way that LGBTQ+ people can enjoy, too?
In the little world I’ve set my game, same sex couples are common and uninteresting. It’s a soft-magic fantasy world, so why not?
I have very conflicted feelings on this, to be honest. I think my summary is that, in a historical or even modern setting, I agree that I’m not interested in reading about gay characters suffering for being gay, because I have enough pain on that front and I don’t want to pile on a bunch more (see also greendaisy’s comments on trauma porn and so forth).
However, when historical or even modern day stories excise the concept of homophobia, that also is very of-putting to me. I’ve heard a lot throughout my life that homophobia is a minor issue at best, to the point that some of my supposed “allies” considered it to be bordering on mythological, an issue long past that I have no right to feel any pain over – same thing for gender and race, though I won’t speak to those since I haven’t suffered discrimination on those fronts. Though I will admit that attitude from others has, uh, changed in the last couple years as it’s been proven more definitively wrong, it’s still something that I carry and has shaped a lot of my attitude on this issue as a whole.
Anyway, what I’m saying is I agree that stories should not include specific instances of homophobia just to have them for “realism”. But I also think that there needs to be a nod to the idea that gay people face or faced discrimination, otherwise it risks coming across as revisionist, as trying to whitewash (straightwash?) history so that the suffering I’ve endured never existed. And I don’t think that’s a healthy way to move on to a future where said suffering exists no longer.
Is the stuff I just said rational? Probably not. Am I speaking for all gay people? Absolutely not, just myself. And again, I wholly agree that I’d rather read a story with no homophobia than a story with pointless homophobia. And I also definitely agree that homophobia and other bigotry has no place in a story set in a world other than our own. I just think that not acknowledging it as a thing that happens, as a thing that continues to happen in the world we currently exist in, is also not ideal.
For a specific positive example of this, there’s a game called Vampyr that came out a couple years back, set in 1920s London. In it, there is a minor pair of NPCs who are a gay couple. Their sexuality and relationship is a significant (but not all-encompassing) aspect of their characterization. The game itself treats their sexuality with respect and dignity, as does the main character if he finds out about it – however, it also acknowledges that they risk facing a lot of discrimination if they come out, and one of the two men has a fair bit of internalized homophobia that he’s struggling with. But the game doesn’t rub our faces in it, either – it’s just an acknowledgement that those are problems they have.
Personally, I think that’s about the ideal point to have it at. It acknowledges that they have a struggle that straight people don’t, it acknowledges that some gay people have a very complicated relationship with their own sexuality while others don’t…but it also doesn’t turn either character into an angstfest for our voyeuristic pleasure.
While I certainly feel that there’s validity to your view, I can also see it from the other way round. While a story with no LGBTQ+ oppression could be read as saying “there’s no homophobia or transphobia, so we don’t need to fix it”, a story which addresses but never makes any effort to really fix it could be read as saying “homophobia and transphobia are fundamental parts of human existence, so we shouldn’t bother trying to fix them”.
I do agree that both kinds of stories are valid, despite this, but I feel that the former lends itself far better to IF than the latter. Speaking for myself, I would far prefer a story that didn’t keep trying to remind me how much some people hate me solely for existing… And, honestly, it’s pretty easy to just make things equal for everyone, while I can imagine it’s a lot harder to present homophobia/transphobia as things that exist without going too far into either trauma porn or bigotry normalisation.
Also, I think I’d probably use “straightwashing” to refer to a historically LGBTQ+ person being presented as cis/straight, rather than just pretending there was no intolerance to begin with. (I guess you could call that “tolerancewashing”? )
Touché. Seriously though, these are some very good points, and I’ll try to remember them as I take in media in the future.
I guess one thing I should have mentioned is that there’s an element of willingness to trust the author’s intentions, and I do admit that in general, I’m more willing to trust an author who writes a story with bigotry removed than a story that includes bigotry for edginess or whatever. And I also admit that I’m particularly stubborn about extending that trust to authors and humans in general so again I’m definitely not speaking for everyone on this. In any case, I appreciate you acknowledging my perspective.
Your point about leaving a nod to the idea of past discrimination, I understand the point you’re trying make but I feel that if there is no discrimination and bigotry in the current setting now or depending on the story ever was, then it probably wouldn’t be all that necessary to draw attention it unless it’s really relevant to the plot. If it’s not executed well it may come off badly, if it’s relevant to the plot then include it (carefully) but I wouldn’t have an off hand comment about it from a character as a way of exposition for example. It probably wouldn’t do it any real justice and wouldn’t really serve a purpose.
Does that make any sense? I’m worried it doesn’t. If this isn’t what you meant I’m sorry for misreading you.
Edit: I’m pretty clueless about it all I’ll add, I suffer from anxiety and I’m not really in contact with anyone else from the LQBTQ+ community, so my thoughts might be a little off on the matter.
I definitely think this is a very interesting point, I suppose where I’m coming from I feel like it is a little “advanced” for the people that are being addressed in this topic because it can be a fine line and it also tends to be something straight authors are not interested in doing.
We still semi-regularly have (HG) WIPs with like one gay RO added as an afterthought or are straight-locked without narrative reason so it is difficult for me to trust a straight author to craft a meaningful historical narrative showcasing homophobia that still has a good ending.
Maybe some ways to exemplify this (and tell me if I’m misunderstanding) without showcasing actual bigotry might be like in a present-day boarding school story your gay character is respected and there are no instances of homophobia BUT they could make a joke about straight people or straight relationships with the RO or a gay friend. Straight people jokes imply that homophobia exists/existed without the character experiencing any directly.
Or maybe they visit a renovated historical speakeasy gay bar which, again, only exist because of previous homophobia, but does not require the characters to experience any. Or, they could flag either by wearing pride flag attire or other known methods of flagging. Again, another practice that exists only because of discrimination faced by the LGBT community.
Of course, there are a lot of settings where this again wouldn’t apply, but it could work in story settings that are essentially present day.
So much good discussion stuff! I know this might sound silly but I really do appreciate how respectful you guys are being with me here, and I hope I’m reciprocating that. I, uh, haven’t experienced much of that IRL, and it means a lot to me.
I think I agree with what you’re saying. I guess it all ultimately depends on the story, the characters, and the characters relevance to the story (and/or the relevance of their sexuality to the story). I agree that if they haven’t experienced bigotry, then obviously there’s no point in mentioning it. And I agree that if they’re minor and the bigotry they may or may not have faced is irrelevant to the story or to their character arc, then it could also probably be safe to not mention bigotry. Is that what you were saying?
This is terribly embarassing to say, but I’m not entirely sure what you mean with your “straight joke” example (I’m gay but also had a very conservative/religious education, so I’m still learning how to talk about this stuff - see also straightwashing, and thank you all for correcting me on that), so I’ll talk about this one instead. I agree that this is a way to acknowledge homophobia without having an onscreen instance of it. However, I also feel that this falls into the same potential issue, suggesting that homophobia was, but homophobia is no more.
The solution?..Uh, I’ll get back to you when I figure it out. Again, I agree and acknowledge that this situation would at least come across as well-intentioned to me. I just think there’s an implication there that rubs me the wrong way, but then again again again, I also see how my personal experience is coloring that. I dunno.
I personally am a sucker for realism, and so I will always prefer for it to be acknowledged in some way when it makes sense to the character’s personality (the RO’s) in question or if the setting is realistic (Ancient times for example). It doesn’t have to be every RO or characters, but some reactions/acknowledgements here and there is more interesting in my opinion.
It makes for a more nuanced story and could make for better replayability for those that like to play male and female in different playthroughs or have many MCs for roleplay stuff.
It might be fun also if there is an acknowledgement of some sort if the player is bi or gay, but that might be too specific and make for some dialog that isn’t that necessary, but I’m personally a fan of those kinds of nuances, so I dunno. Though it can also be really unnatural and kinda cringe if badly added in xd
I also would personality say it also makes for better quality writing/story telling to do so, since it would probably take longer to write for all the different reactions and dialog accordingly, and some be even more ‘‘choice’’ heavy, and more tailored.
Though the consensus so far here seems to be that it’s more appreciated to be the same.
An example of this kind of dialog thing:
So far, the best way I have seen it done is in Fallen Hero (the WIP one) with Herald’s reactions mostly. I made for a great scene and it caught me off guard, in a good way. Herald reacts differently if you are male (though I can’t be sure since I never play as female, but it seems to be different).
Also with Marshal Steel if I recall correctly? Not sure about him.
Credence: Being (prob) gay, whatever that can hold.
“Realism” is subjective and often is nuanced beyond the ability to portray itself in a limited medium, like an IF story.
The best any author can do is to give their audience a glimpse of “reality” as experienced in their story.
The very fact that most Americans, let alone non-Americans do not know what a Boston Marriage is, tells me for a fact that almost everyone has no clue, what “Victorian relationships” were like. I know more about that era of American life than most, yet, even I discover things that change the way I view that subject, with every bit of research I do.
So, whenever I see feedback relying on “realism” I immediately red flag it as questionable, because the simple fact is that one person’s realism is another’s fantasy.
Current objective contextual realism (which I would call realism only though) in accordance to the writer’s portrayal location or the writer’s time setting, to be more precise.
Or like, with class system and things like that. Poor vs working class vs higher class vs rich, etc.
In general settings, like Eastern vs Western current (or not) world
Can be only broad lines too, if older times, since we indeed can’t be 100% sure about everything in Victorian relationships and such, not being in the Era anymore. Though some pointers are kinda out there for generalities.
Also agree, can be a big red flag for sure.
(edit: typos, didn’t write enough)
(edit 2.0:) Realism in the more serious and mature grounded in reality sense)
On a similar note, quite a few early and Medieval Christian traditions would have allowed pairs of men to be declared “legal brothers”, and while these were sadly eventually restricted when the church realised why they were so popular, they did last for several centuries (and possibly even until the early 20th century in some places, but I haven’t been able to find out much about that). But of course, nobody really ever talks about them, especially not when discussing “realism” in historical fiction or fantasy.
A post was split to a new topic: Differences vs Stereotypes
One of the reasons why I love the series so much. It’s a reasonably balanced approach to realism vs er… what’s the word? Escapism? And yes, I myself am all for acknowledgement (even if it is not always exclusively positive within a given setting) and playing things out somewhat differently for both characters’ genders and sexualities.
Thanks a lot, you just made me do research, which sent me down a rabbit hole for more information when I should be working.
Agreed. My buddy and I recently finished a novel and one of the people I asked to beta read (who is actually a close friend) refused to continue after the first few chapters because “it’s set in the real world” and he hates realism. I’m not sure what was too real for him–the vampires? The MC with telekinetic and telepathic powers? The indestructible detective? I asked him that and he stated he simply hates anything that even references the “real” world. So yeah, fantasy and reality are totally subjective in fiction.
This is really one of my biggest pet peeves in IF. If a RO is a dominant type, they shouldn’t turn all submissive and uncertain when faced with a dominant personality. That makes no sense. A protective RO isn’t going to completely cease being protective just because the MC is capable and tells them to back off (I’ve told my husband countless times to take his damned shoes off when he comes in the house and, after years, he only manages it about 50% of the time, so telling someone to change behavior that is ingrained in them doesn’t really work).
On the same line, I agree with whoever said female MCs (or gay male MCs) shouldn’t be forced to turn into passive wallflowers. It is entirely possible to have both parties in a relationship be strong/dominant types and to have it work out. I think that’s why it’s important for games that are heavy with the romance to allow for options for the MC to choose how to react in situations rather than forcing them into, as someone else put it, “being the little spoon” simply because they’re female or a gay male.
Does anyone else find it much more stressful to write heterosexual relationships than gay ones? The “proper” gender roles in straight relationships are pretty much drilled into us from a very young age, consciously or not, and while many of us are probably actively working on reducing our own biases, it can be very difficult! A lot of times I just find it easier to pretend that both parties are always of the same gender, because, well, stereotypes and things about what the man and the woman should be doing don’t really apply when it’s not a man and a woman in a relationship. It allows me to just focus on the characters’s personalities and their dynamic without having to worry about my inherent bias leaking into my writing.
This is exactly the kind of thing I don’t want to do. On a rational level, I know there’s no reason why male ROs have to be dominant and female ROs submissive. Except I also know that I’m conditioned to think that way, so if I’m thinking of it as a heterosexual relationship, I’m always checking that my subconscious isn’t making me lean into gender stereotypes. When it’s a gay relationship, there’s no need to worry about them at all, because as I said above, they simply don’t exist anymore.
Note: the above applies mostly to fixed-gender ROs, which is one reason I really appreciate gender-variable ROs and MCs.
Honestly? I used to have more trouble writing gay relationships because I was so afraid of screwing up and getting crucified for it (I still am, really, but I ignore it because I know my characters!). In my head, characters are characters–gay, straight, male, female, whatever. They each have their own personalities, desires, motivations, histories, and, yeah, kinks (where applicable!). So I don’t tend to think of the gay romances any differently than heterosexual ones. Whether that’s the correct way to view it or not is probably subjective.
Still, hetero romances are easier for me to write because it’s “what I know.” Granted, my vision of a romance doesn’t necessarily match what others may envision, but isn’t that true no matter what? The whole “gender role” thing–I was never exposed to that, really. I mean, sure I’ve run into a couple of sexist pigs but, again, people are people. And they get much more reasonable when they realize you won’t put up with their shit and are easy to get along with when they just treat you like they would any other person.
You probably shouldn’t worry that much. If it’s a game, just give options. Some extremely dominant women want to be dominated in bed (bed, not a relationship). Some dominant men want the same. Some more submissive personalities like feeling like they have power in a relationship and want to switch “roles.” And some people just want to be with someone who is as strong as they view themselves–i.e., an equal. It’s hard to know what anyone really wants unless you ask them. Or are psychic.
But all relationships–friendships, work relationships, romances, and everything in between–are give and take and require work from both (or more) parties. When there are disagreements, a lot of times it can be a ‘live and let live’ solution, but there are some times when a decision must be made. The problem is that a lot of people will view such a case as winning or losing and feel as though they’ve been demeaned or dominated if they don’t get their way instead of just letting it go and realizing that, next time, they may be the one to make the call.
Anyway, I got off on a tangent there, but my point is that, when you’re writing, as long as you’re making characters that are as deep and layered as actual people, it’s probably not conducive to the character development (or the story overall) to try to avoid stereotypes or gender roles at all costs. In the long run, even if there’s something about them that fits into a stereotype or typical gender role, there will be a thousand other things about them that defy those roles–just like real people do.
I think roleplaying might help with that. I mean, it could be a little weird to put yourself in the place of several characters and jump from one to another. But it helps to build a dynamic. I mean, even with the supposedly standard, you can have different dynamics dominant-submisive.
I can see how two dominant people who are into sports that start competing with each other and later, when they start dating, keep the competition outsider sports. While other people, while still being dominant might reach agreements and became a team (that compete against others).
I think the key is on the details. Even in “dominant” situations there are variations, from physical, to games and even kinks.
maybe something like a sims?