Article – “Why Gay Sci Fi and Fantasy Are Important” by Lee Wind
Okay, I’ll admit it. I freakin’ love Sci Fi. Fantasy, too. I spent so much time reading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series when I was a kid that when I wasn’t paying attention (because I was so absorbed in reading), my family teased me about being on Pern!
And yet, as many times as I re-read Dune, as many reruns I watched of Star Trek, or Star Wars movies, or TV’s first Battlestar Galactica episodes, or even better, the anime-inspired Star Blazers – every story, every book, every episode, had a romantic boy-girl connection. They could be friggin aliens, and it would still be a boy-girl, hetero-normalized pairing.
Not seeing any reflection of someone like me – some guy who was also attracted to another guy – made me feel marginalized. Excluded. That not even in a fantasy future, would there be a place for me. And if there was no place for me in any of these fantasy futures, how could there possibly be a place for me in the reality of my teenage years? It made it so hard to come out and be honest (even with myself) about being Gay.
See, Fantasy and Sci Fi play a very special role in our culture. We humans tend to be spineless creatures, rarely brave enough to examine or explore issues of prejudice in our reality. Fantasy and Sci Fi, by building worlds similar and yet somehow different from our own, give us a “safe space” to work it out.
Sometimes it’s elegant, like Dr. Seuss’ Star-Bellied Sneeches (yeah, I think The Sneeches from 1961 was fantasy.) And sometimes, it’s a bunch of actors with their faces painted half black, half white down the middle, and Capt. Kirk and the rest of the crew can’t tell the difference between the ones who are white-black and the ones who are black-white *.
That was the 1960s, and racial prejudice was the issue of the day. Lieutenants Uhura and Sulu were break-through casting moments. Books and stories on TV helped shift the myths we held as a culture of what was possible. It’s no accident that we had a Black President on the TV show 24 a full seven years before we actually had a President who is Black.
Until recently, there were NO gay characters in Sci Fi and Fantasy books or TV shows. But now there are. Torchwood, and the Star Trek: Phase II fan-created Gay episode “Blood and Fire” are great – but even more important are the books.
When you’re your own director, and you do the casting, and the music, and the dialogue, and the sets and the costumes and everything in your mind, just from reading the author’s words on the page or screen, it gets in deeper than movies or TV. Stories are read and experienced inside on a mythic level. And these stories, if they dare, can change the myths we tell ourselves about what is possible for others, and for ourselves.
Gay superheroes, Gay vampires, Gay empaths, Gay faeries, Gay magicians, Gay mages, Gay ghosts, Gay spaceship Captains, Gay warriors – GLBTQ characters in Sci Fi and Fantasy books push the possibilities for Gay Teens – and for everyone else’s perceptions of what Gay people can do and be.
Including GLBTQ characters and themes in Sci Fi and Fantasy tells a whole new generation of kids, desperate to see some reflection of themselves in the stories they love, that there is a place in the fantasy future for them. And by extension, if there’s a place for them in those fantasy futures, they’ll know there is a place for each of them in our real world, too.
And there is.
About the Author
Lee Wind is writing Ocean Born, an Underwater World Gay Teen Action-Adventure Romance Fantasy novel. His award-winning blog I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read? features over 200 GLBTQ Teen Books, and a whole virtual bookshelf of Gay Teen Fantasy and Sci Fi Titles. He lives with his husband and their daughter in California, and is a volunteer advisor for his local high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club.