Last month there was some hub-bub in the queer romance community about bisexuality erasure in the gay-for-you tropes. There was a lot of drama, which I try to avoid, which is why I’m making this post now instead of then.
If you missed it, here’s the quick and dirty:
One side said that the gay-for-you trope is assuming a binary of sexuality and erasing bisexuality and the wide spectrum present. It should be called “bi for you” or “out for you” if we’re going to have it at all.
The other side argued that it was just a trope and shouldn’t be taken too seriously and that it’s rarely authors that label things “gay for you” and they aren’t necessarily writing gay for you, it’s the readers who label it (and changes take time).
I’m sure there was A LOT more said in the “conversation” but that was the gist (and I tried to remove a lot of hurtful things that were thrown around, so hopefully I didn’t make it worse by simplifying it all!)
I’ve mostly avoided this complication/argument by writing 100% gay characters. The conflicts haven’t been about understanding their own sexuality or coming to realizations about their sexuality. I’ve never really been a fan of the gay-for-you trope, mostly because it seems to center around the idea of a magical penis that can make anyone gay.** Obviously the story is supposed to be about how the people fall in love, not just sex, but in my reading I’ve found most of the GFY tropes have a lot of sex in them. Which isn’t bad, but tends to highlight one part of the relationship more than the others!
Because I don’t write this, I didn’t feel an intense reaction when I saw everything hitting the wall, and instead just watched and listened. And pondered.
One point I think those pro-trope have is that romance is fiction and it’s supposed to be fun and enjoyable and doesn’t always need to be grounded in reality. The fantastical elements are those that we might consider our guilty pleasures, things we wouldn’t enjoy in real life, but in our imaginations their tantalizing. That’s why we read, isn’t it? We don’t want reality pushing into every aspect of our books and dulling the joy and pleasure there. We can ignore points about hygiene and whether spit is good lube and if having a burrito is a good idea before sex.
On the other hand, having a burrito before sex is very different from a trope that hurts feelings and further erases/hides a part of the queer community that already struggles against being ignored. And I think when we think that our pleasure is more important than your pain, that we need to stop and think.
Instead of right and wrong, why can’t we sit down and discuss how X can still have her tropey stories while not hurting Y? Is it enough to change the concept to “out for you” instead? I don’t know the answers, but the screaming matches I saw happening sure didn’t help anything (except maybe raise awareness). I did see lots of posts making points and sharing personal stories, and those I think did help. They weren’t blaming or accusing, but just saying “This is my experience.” Hopefully those each were read by the other side, and hopefully an actual discussion can come of it and a happy place can be reached.
tl;dr: CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
And now I shall return to my hidey-hole.
** There’s an anime called “Antique Bakery” that my friend told me about that has a character called “the Gay of Demonic Charm” because he supposedly can turn anyone gay for him, but it’s all done very tongue-in-cheek, probably mocking the gay-for-you trope that shows up in BL and yaoi often enough.