I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

Over the past few years, I've read several novels that had a gay/lesbian side character who, at some point in the book, made a comment about a member of the opposite gender thusly: "Ooh, that character's so attractive, he/she could definitely turn me straight!"

Seriously, there are so many of these lines out there that I don't even have to think about their existence. They're out there, a mini phenomenon. But recently, I stopped to consider what that line actually means to me. And I'm not happy with the results of that thinking binge, not at all. Which is always a risk you take when you start thinking, so don't worry. I know the risks of binge thinking, but they won't scare me off. I'll be at it again soon.

Anyway. My binge thinking began by reminding me of this fun video on YouTube, called When Did You Choose to be Straight? From there, I started feeling this as-yet-unnamed horror creeping up my psyche, in regards to the quote at the top of this post.

Why is it that only the gay and lesbian characters say that line? I've never seen a straight character say it. I don't hope they're out there, for reasons I'll get to in a minute, but if there were books with straight characters saying some version of that line, I'd at least feel that I were living among slightly less discrimination than usual.

See, when only the homosexual characters say that line, it implies that authors, as one body of writers, are living with the apparently obvious "truth" that gay characters can change their sexual orientation at will, while straight characters wouldn't even consider it. Reading that line runs me right past "Oh, it's just a flirty line saying someone's hot" and straight into "Maybe you should stick to writing what you know."

It gets worse, at least in my head. I tried to apply that line to myself. How would I have to be feeling if I were to say that line out loud and mean it? I couldn't come up with any possible situation. Then I worked on creating an equivalent statement for myself, and I got horrified enough to get out of bed and post this before breakfast.

For me, personally and individually, "Ooh, that character's so attractive, he/she could definitely turn me straight!" is the perfect equivalent of: "Ooh, that character's so attractive, he could definitely make me like getting raped by him!"

Just. No. The line is only humorous until you stop and think about what it actually says: that GLBTQ characters have no original orientation and don't want one. I'm as straight as they come and I'm offended. (I hope that's okay, because that isn't changing, either.)

This is just one of the many examples of homosexual stereotyping in fiction that have been jumping out at me as poor choices for creating a balanced reaction in readers' minds. Homosexuality is just one facet of real people's lives. Why does it have to be expanded into glib stereotyping in fiction? It doesn't.

1 comment:

  1. Not that I've done a scientific analysis of this or anything, but I think this is a matter of gender as well as sexual orientation. I do hear straight women pretty consistently say, "She's so gorgeous I'd sleep with her." (Specifically jumping out at me, although these aren't fictional examples, are Britney Spears kissing Madonna in 2003 and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" song - then again, that might all be for perceived shock value?) And equally I think gay men are sometimes prone to say...well, that exact same statement. But I rarely hear straight men talking about going gay for Ryan Gosling, or, for that matter, gay women rarely talk about wanting a man in their lives. Perhaps men are just unattractive creatures, LOL. Again, not so scientific. I understand what you mean about the concept being heteronormative which sets us back as a culture, but I've certainly seen it happen IRL so I don't know that it's like, crazytown to see it in fiction.