On Homophobia in Narrative

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via [personal profile] flo_nelja

Original question: Do you like your femslash homophobia-free?

My edit into what I want to answer:
Do you like your (fem)slash/same-sex sexual relationships homophobia-free?

Depends entirely on the story/setting. I like stories from lots of different times and places, from historical to fantasy and science fiction, and I like the cultures they’re set in to make internal sense. And if they’re set more-or-less in the real world, I like a sense of cultural realism. I love settings where the gender of one’s partner is a total non-issue and not tied to any “identity” groups, just a fact of who you’re attracted to, like dark hair vs. light hair. (That’s the most common formulation in the sci-fi worlds I’ve written.)

But if homophobia is culturally there in real life—or it makes sense it would be in a fictional world, I want it to be accounted for. What do I mean by “makes sense”? Well, for example, if there are stark gender roles with women seen as subordinate, those roles will probably bleed over into attitudes toward same-sex sex, not necessarily making it “bad” but probably making it “bad”/lesser/a boyhood stage to be the penetrated partner in a male/male relationship, so I’d want to see that represented as a thoughtful exploration of the implications of how societies are.

I care about this cultural authenticity because I want to resist ethnocentrism. I want to hone my own skills (and see our society hone its skills) in seeing from other cultural views and better understanding how culture, as a phenomenon, works. That’s necessary to pluralism; it’s necessary to living in a diverse world. At the end of the day, it’s necessary to empathy.

This all makes me persnickety about how attitudes to same-sex sex are addressed. For example, if I’m reading Starsky and Hutch slash, I want it to account for the fact that in the 1970s, both Starsky and Hutch would have grown up with a lot of internalized homophobia and be living in a homophobic society. Not to represent this, to me, runs the risk of forgetting or devaluing the battles people really fought (not so long ago) just to live their lives. Now, that may all sound like taking a fic too seriously—and sure. I have no problem with anyone wanting homophobia-free S/H feel-good slash. Knock yourself out; it’s just not going to be my cup of tea.

Conversely, I find myself annoyed by Stamets in Discovery identifying himself as “gay.” My first thought was “Really? In the 23rd century we’re still identifying people by the identity categories defined in the 1920s?” He could as easily have said, “You know I’m attracted to men,” with zero of the attached cultural specificity. To me, that line lacks the utopian imagination Star Trek was invented for.

In a nutshell, it’s all contextual.

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About the author

Arwen Spicer
Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

Arwen Spicer By Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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