The Straight Washed Media

 This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness
Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from

Well, there are certain genres of media that
automatically assume that GBLT people couldn’t possibly have existed,
especially if it’s set in the future (especially in dystopians. I
tell you guys, us GBLT folks are super freaking tasty – the zombies
and aliens go right for us!) and especially if it’s set in the past.
Because we all arrived in 1960, don’tchaknow.

It annoys me, but then, erasure is extremely
common in most genres, so the even-more-likely erasure that happens
here only gets a little bit more of an annoyance. But some shows, films
and books really stick in the craw.

Like Enigma which is not-very-subtly based on Alan Turing.

Or Shakespeare
in Love
with a very straight Shakespeare.

Even Troy,
though based on fictional figures, crosses the line with a very straight
retelling of the Illiad. Do I even need to talk about 300?

Uh-huh, and it’s not like these examples
are one offs, straightening history has been a major habit of the media’s
for a very long time. In fact, straightening us in general seems to
be a massive requirement and reason #866 why I don’t watch these dancing
reality shows is I’m sick of seeing gay celebrities shoved automatically
into opposite sex pairs for dancing.

For that matter, straightening history has
been a major part of society and academia for a long time. References
to GBLT people throughout history have long been buried by academia
and that’s on top of the forces of homophobia and transphobia that
forced our predecessors to hide and closet themselves when they were

Our past is often hidden from us. Those who
come before have been removed from history or been forced into a closet
that has lasted decades or centuries after death – perhaps even
forever. Our heroes, our past, our foreparents have been lost, taken
from us, and that is a terrible loss. It becomes hard to almost impossible
to find those who came before us as not only has the closet forced individuals
to hide their sexuality, but for much of history denied the existence
of the identity itself and denied us a coherent language with which
to define that identity and personhood (which is why I really really
have no patience with anyone saying “but they wouldn’t have called
themselves gay” excuse people love to trot out. For so much of history
the only mainstream words for people like us were insults or euphemisms).

And once we’ve found those of us who were
rendered invisible it becomes extra impossible to reclaim them from
under the tide of heterosexism, cissexism, homophobia and transphobia.
So much of the world resists any indication that GBLT people existed
in the past (or exists today for that matter). Society also continues
to consider being GBLT to be some kind of terrible, shameful thing meaning
any attempt to try and find our forbearers is regarded as an attack
or attempt to corrupt previous figures. Just look at the Greek lawyers
threatening lawsuits on anyone who dared to suggest that Alexander the
Great may have loved men.

Most tellingly, they will often say “this
person is dead, they can’t defend themselves” because, y’know,
being GBLT is an accusation you need to defend yourself against. Or
it’s considered “demeaning” because whatever the figure did is
suddenly rendered moot by us spilling the icky gay on them! Whatever
achievements or brilliant reputation they managed to maintain can only
possibly be preserved if they are straight.

It’s hard enough to try and dig up historical
GBLT people in the first place with our prejudiced society, harder still
to hold them out of the closet and present them as they were with the
constant forces deciding to bury us or hold that we’re too obscene
and need to be hidden from, well, everyone.

So this is my context. And then I turn on
the television and find another representation of one of the few people
where we’ve found powerful to outright irrefutable evidence that they
were part of our community aaaaand – straightness again. It just
throws salt in the wounds to continue the closeting.

Now here’s hoping that Da Vinci’s Demons isn’t yet another example. I notice Da
Vinci’s female lover has been cast… Hmmm maybe “hoping” is too
strong a word.

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