Science Fiction Got Gay (and it’s a damned good thing)!

There’s a running gag I like to pull out whenever a new science fiction show comes on.  It isn’t particularly funny or anything, mind you.  Basically, I joke about the show needing to have gay and lesbian characters to be successful.  In a lot of ways, science fiction lagged behind other genres in including gay/lesbian characters.  You’d have Kirk banging green alien ladies or Riker getting with a chick with a weird face (alien, not deformed) before you’d EVER see a gay Klingon couple (though if I had to cast it, Suze Orman and Rosie O’Donnell are my first choices for this.  Shit would get DONE even without Praxis… ahh digression).  For a genre that was so focused on depicting humanity in an “advanced state of existence,” it really seemed like as much a disservice to the genre as it was to those of us who are also gay.

One of the scariest critiques I have had of anything I have written was “Why is this character gay?”  (In all fairness, the professor asked it in the frame of: “Why is this character gay and this other one straight?  How would the story be different?” instead of coming off as a bigot).  After stumbling around my words for a few minutes (and attempting to avoid the really pretentious answer of, “Well I kinda wanted to mirror a few attributes of myself in this character”) I came to an answer.  After a pause to clear my throat from the shit I had been spewing, I said, “He is Skyler McNeil.  He’s Scottish American, Tall, Intelligent, Immortal, and also Gay.  I write two things, what I know and what I dream.  He is the synthesis of both.”  The panel I was presenting to seemed to deem that acceptable enough.

I started realizing that there is far more to “Gay” than simply getting off with someone of the same sex.  Hell, even one of Skyler’s lines is (paraphrased because I am too lazy to find it in the outline): “When you close your eyes, what feels good feels good.  It isn’t so much what you have as who you are.”  I tend to identify more with that line of thinking and therefore, it adds a different layer to the characters I write about (and come to love).

The concept of “fluid sexuality” is a bit different from simply identifying as ONLY STRAIGHT or ONLY GAY.  People experiment, people change, and people, for the most part, are generally confused.  Admit it or not, we’re all a bit of everything.  That is a scary concept but an invigorating one and it is something we are beginning to see in science fiction especially.  A great example would be the character of Jack Harkness from Torchwood (played by John Barrowman).  Barrowman himself has said that “Jack will sleep with anything with a postcode.”  As funny and promiscuous as that sounds, one really has to look at the character within the context of the show.  Jack has lived forever.  He has experienced enough in life to have been influenced by the events of several eras.  He had a wife and a grandson.  His wife died.  He fell in love with a man named Ianto Jones.  He has even been rumored to get his kicks off with a few aliens as well.  Show Creator Russell T. Davies refers to Jack as “OmniSexual.”  While this concept is a bit otherworldly (ha. ha. It’s early in the A.M. and the jokes suck.  Deal), the concept of “fluid sexuality” seems to catch on.

We are beginning to see media that portrays homosexuality as more than “the act” itself.  We see these characters wrestle with feelings they don’t quite understand.  We see bisexuality portrayed as something more than “confusion” or “greediness.”  In a sense, though there was a wait, when science fiction finally got around to addressing the subject of sexuality, the genre (for the most part) approaches the topic in a completely different light.  Society is more focused on what goes on in the bedroom (and airport bathroom stalls, Larry Craig) than the people who are labeled solely by their sexuality.  Physical stimulation falls far short of love and it is about time we see this distinction.  It is also about time that sexuality is actually addressed as a complex concept that we really, truly, do not understand completely.  It is a characteristic that does define a very specific part of who we are as individuals and it needs to be represented in a fully fleshed out form.  This is why I am glad I am such a nerd and fan of this genre.

Within the frame of “Utopian” or “Dystopian,” futuristic, etc etc society, writers and creators have the unique ability to really probe into an issue that many people don’t care to look at anymore than face value.  It may have taken sometime to get these issues addressed in science fiction but now that it has, it brings us one step closer to not only selling a “more believable product” in the form of entertainment, but also helps to usher in a new understanding of that person in the mirror.

I write characters based on what I know.  I know who I am and I know that there is far more to certain facets of my identity than what we are comfortable thinking about.  Now I’m not saying everyone is going to or even should go out and “experiment” away but I am saying that I am glad I can attempt to contribute a genre that will most certainly effect a change by showing us where we can go rather than where we are.

This is why I love being a nerd.  It is who I am.  It also helps me understand certain things about myself and it gives me hope for the future.


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