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What Gay Fiction is Trying to Tell Us About Society

Does it really matter who’s gay and who’s not in this day and age? My musings on homosexuality, related fiction, and the society. I’m a nerd.

Oh, sexuality labels. How we hate thee! Does it really matter who’s gay and who’s not in this day and age?

I don’t label myself. What’s the point? Does anyone listen to them when I say anything? No. Do people make assumptions and jump to conclusions about things without checking if they’re even on the right track? Hell yes!

When I attended a conference back in 2015 as a national representative for my church, one debate was over same-sex marriage in the United Reformed Church. I got het up about it. I didn’t understand why I was taking this personally. Yes, I’m rather vocal on matters of equality for all, but did this apply to me as personally as I was taking it when minister after minister said, “Not in my church, they won’t.”?

It took me a long time to separate romance from sex in terms of sexuality. And even longer to consider I preferred the one time I secretly dated a female classmate in high school to the other two times I dated males because mutual friends told us we’d be good together. I didn’t even know they were interested in me like that. And I call myself observant.

But when it comes to romance and rom-coms and all that?

WHERE’S MY REPRESENTATION?

I’ll admit, Sherrilyn Kenyon is a paranormal romance author. But, like other female romance author’s I’ve encountered, she writes about a man and a woman falling in love. Happily ever after. The end.

Not in my backyard.

This article is my musings on homosexuality and related fiction. We’ll also delve into the societal backgrounds a bit. I’m a nerd like that.

Are you ready?

Sir Gawain and the Gay Agenda

black and brown leather horse saddle

We’ll start with the classic, shall we?

Way back in the late 14th century, the Church was getting suspicious that knights and noblemen were becoming a little too… “friendly,” shall we say. Allegations abounded that King Richard II had a male lover. This wasn’t acceptable to the idea that heterosexuality was the Christian norm.

In her article, A Kiss Is Just a Kiss: Heterosexuality and Its Consolations in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Carolyn Dinshaw argues that the poem may have been a response to this.

Men are kissing, said the Catholic Church, and we can’t have this. Men of the time often embraced and kissed under the chivalric code. It was acceptable. But how could religious figures of the time distinguish between strong trust and friendship between males and homosexuality?

The answer, says Carolyn Dinshaw, is the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Dinshaw claims the Gawain Poet seems to have been simultaneously entranced and repulsed by homosexual desire. The Poet points out several grievous sins but spends lengthy passages describing of the Green Knight. Beyond this, the six total kisses between Gawain and Lord Bertilak are brought up by the poet to establish heterosexuality as the normal lifestyle of Gawain’s world, and the kisses between Gawain and Lady de Hautdesert are portrayed as having the possibility of leading to sex.

Queer scholar Richard Zeikowitz, in his article Befriending the Medieval Queer: A Pedagogy for Literature Classes, states that Gawain seems to find Lord Bertilak as attractive as the narrator finds the Green Knight. Zeikowitz claims the Green Knight blurs the lines between homosociality and homosexuality, highlighting the difficulty medieval writers had in separating the two. Lord Bertilak follows the homosocial code and develops a friendship with Gawain. Gawain’s embracing and kissing Bertilak in several scenes therefore represents not a gay expression but a homosocial one.

Let us now read a sample of the Gawain Poet’s description of the Green Knight, taken from Simon Armitage’s translation:

The fellow in green was in fine fettle.

The hair of his head was as green as his horse,

fine flowing locks which fanned across his back,

plus a bushy green beard growing down to his breast,

and his face hair along with the hair of his head

was lopped in a line at elbow length

so half his arms were gowned in green growth,

crimped at the collar, like a king’s cape.

Make of that what you will.

green yellow and purple lego blocks

Armand and Renaissance Homosexuality

I’ve listed The Vampire Armand among my favourite books, and one of the major points I’ve found in the book is the relationship between Armand and Marius de Romanus.

This relationship reminds me of the ancient Greek practice of pederasty, a socially acknowledged romantic relationship between an older male and a younger male, usually in his teens. Pederasty, as described in the Greek literary sources, is “an institution reserved for free citizens,” and is even mentioned in the myth of Ganymede.

Within the Late Middle Ages, the later centuries of which we call the Renaissance, there were rather strict laws around what made up proper relationship conduct. If you wanted to be a good citizen and bring honour to your family, it was your duty to carry on the family line by marrying and raising children, regardless of your sexual orientation. In fact, sodomy was a rather serious crime. Sodomy is, I surmised, oral, anal, or doing it with an animal.” They arrested Leonardo da Vinci for it several times, and he only avoided charges and imprisonment because he knew powerful people who got him off.

Having said all that, The Vampire Armand was published in 1998.

The book describes Armand as noting differences in sexual activities with the different genders, but not really having a preference one way or another. The AIDs pandemic has just reached its peak in 1998, y’know, what used to be called “the gay virus.”

During the 1990s, society was becoming socially liberalised and entwined with capitalism. In 1990, the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of diseases (what, what?), though considering Rice’s previous works (of which I haven’t really read much), the gay sex scenes between Marius and Armand may have been shocking to Conservative Christian people. Perhaps they still are today.

The House of the Big Gay Blanket

One of the most quoted quotes for The House in the Cerulean Sea is V.E. Schwab’s “like being wrapped up in a big gay blanket.”

Published in 2020 as TJ Klune’s first stand-alone novel published with the Macmillan Tor imprint, the story is about a social worker for magical children assessing an orphanage at the titular house in the cerulean sea and falling for the master of the orphanage. The only thing separating this story from any other heart-warming fantasy romances is the fact that both of the main characters are men.

As a modern book, by which I mean published this side of 2010, it was refreshing to read a low-physical-action book where the plot still spun. But there’s controversy, because of the fluffiness of the book and Klune using Canada’s “the 60s scoop” as inspiration for his book’s plot.

Not too long ago, they discovered a mass grave containing the remains of 215 children outside a former residential school in Kamloops, BC. These residential schools were a government effort towards the cultural assimilation of First Nations carried out by Christian churches, operating from 1830 through the mid-20th century. The last residential school closed in 1996, with a known total of 3200 known children found, some as young as three years old. The stated purpose of the residential schools amounted to a cultural genocide on First Nations by “killing the Indian in the child,” severing the link between children and their native culture by relocation and re-education.

This is what the social workers of magical children are doing, they’re taking the magical children and raising them away from their culture, in a “civilised” society.

The message of any romance book is “love conquers all,” and because Klune says he’s a cis white male with no experience of this systematic racism, he wrote the fantasy story. He brushed over history.

That’s what this society does. In my research and experience, it sweeps the horrifying truth of the matter under the colonial rug and pretends it doesn’t exist.

Because we’re taught we can sold everything with hugs and love.

The Old Guard. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Skydance Media, 2020.

The Old Guard Is Gay

I can’t remember when I first came across The Old Guard, or why, but I managed to get my father to watch the film with me. I didn’t tell him two of the main characters are gay, in a relationship, and met on opposite sides of the Crusades.

He liked the film as much as I did.

The comics, written by Greg Ruka, have questionable character designs. None of the inhuman beauty, spandex, and sculpted bodies of regular superheroes here. But since Ruka wrote the first and last draft of the film’s script, it runs pretty much word for word for Book One: Opening Fire. Including “that scene.”

Soldier: What is he? Your boyfriend?

Joe: You’re a child. An infant. Your mocking is thus infantile. He’s not my boyfriend. This man is more to me than you can dream. He’s the moon when I’m lost in darkness and warmth when I shiver in cold. And his kiss still thrills me, even after a millennia. His heart overflows with the kindness of which this world is not worth of. I love this man beyond measure and reason. He’s not my boyfriend. He’s all and he’s more.

Nicky: You’re an incurable romantic.

[Joe and Nicky kiss in front of the stunned guards]

In Opening Fire (and the film), the Old Guard are a group of immortal mercenaries. They don’t stay dead when they die. And none of them bat an eye at Joe and Nicky’s relationship. Refreshing, particularly in a superhero comic.

Also refreshing is how Joe and Nicky just are. Them being in a gay relationship isn’t the focus of the story. The focus is how the group becomes targeted for their immortality just as they discover a new immortal. When Joe and Nicky have their own stories in the compilation book Tales Through Time, it’s with regular couple problems.

The point of The Old Guard?

Nile: So are you good guys or bad guys?

Joe: Depends on the century.

Is there a moral to this story?

See the above quote.

See the above quote.

But seriously, all these pieces of media were created by a creative person and based their works on the society they live in, no matter how tangibly. And I have an exclusive free invitation for you to get on a call with me, where I can help you map out your creativity, allowing you to align with the imaginative energy you were born to express. The map will be your sacred guide to your creative freedom. I don’t work with everybody. This invitation is for people who are truly ready to release creative blocks and rise into their divine creative energy.

You’re done with your excuses, and you’re 100% committed to putting your fear in the backseat where it belongs. You’re over tolerating toxic monotonous patterns and refuse to do so for one more day. Now you’re ready to do whatever it takes to live in union within the divine creative vortex. Book here and let’s get your epic ascension started.