I’ve been meaning for some time to link to ‘Nathan Burgoine’s essay talking about how some fiction is astoundingly bad at explicitly acknowledging bisexuality. Labels have meaning, and utility; choosing not to use them has consequences.
I’ve said before I find gay-for-you plots somewhat problematic. Coming at it from a few different angles, here, there are multiple factors that make me flinch. But the first one that I’ve seen a few times is the very dismissive “Gay-for-you is just a trope, like millionaires or big misunderstandings.”
Being queer is not on par with a career or a social misunderstanding. I get what is intended by what’s being said: that this is romance, and themes and plotlines recur in romance, and that this theme: the straight guy who falls for another guy, is a plotline, but saying that it’s a trope is insulting to those of us who’ve lived a queer life (and, often, suffered for doing so) when you’re equating it with the life of a fictional millionaire, or a guy and a gal who just need to stop for five minutes and talk to solve their problems. Unlike that fictional millionaire or a conversation, queerdom is an identity and a minority with a history of being stomped down on. How you portray a member of a living, breathing culture of people is important. And if you do it wrong—in ignorance or on purpose—it can’t surprise you to hear about it.
Like I said, I do understand what was intended by the sentiment: the goal of the gay-for-you story is to provide entertainment and deliver a romantic story for the enjoyment of the reader. And there’s an odd sense that a gay-for-you story can’t do that and still be harmful or painful to queer readers. It totally can. People have enjoyed and loved on things that are reductive or erasing or stigmatizing before, and they’ll do it again. Look at Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
So, no. We queerfolk? Not just a trope.
There’s much, much more at the author’s blog.