February 24, 2012

Me, LGBT, and Science Fiction


Hello again! It’s been a really long time since my first post back in November. Since I lack any viable commentary on important issues, allow me to instead regale you with some of my nerdier interests…

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been more seriously considering the effect that science fiction and fantasy in books and games have all been pretty influential on my understanding of LGBT issues. I know it sounds a bit strange, considering that those are fields that have had traditional grounds in the heterosexual white guy demographic but I know that it was in those genres that I first even came across LGBT characters and stories.

Growing up, I definitely didn’t get that there were non-straight folks. I mean, my best friend as a kid had the two most awesome aunts ever who I always thought were sisters. So when these books that I loved started to deal with these LGBT characters, I was both totally embarrassed at my ignorance and really curious.

Part of what helped this curiosity along was when I was thirteen or so, I started reading books by this woman, Elizabeth Bear. Her characters fall all over the spectrums of gender and sexuality and represented viewpoints that I had never considered before but started to increasingly identify with. By looking for more books like hers, I found an entire subset of stories in a genre I already loved. I could see that there had to exist other people who had feelings that were like mine and that they were leading normal and fulfilling lives (saving the galaxy, riding around in Victorian airships, etc).

Flash forward to present day. Over Christmas break, I was playing an RPG* with my younger brother that lets you pursue romances with characters regardless of gender. I got to spend three glorious weeks arguing with him over which character was the best romance option and he got to rub it in my face that when I went back to school, he got to play through again to romance the elf assassin guy with his dude archer character. Our shared interest in fantasy and games had let me see that whenever I do finally get around to coming out to my family, my brother is probably going to be a non-issue.

Eventually I would like to write a post with more thoughtful analysis behind whatever I’m starting to get at here, but for now any other nerds out there with similar stories?


Footnote:

*We were playing Dragon Age: Origins, for the curious.

5 comments:

  1. Yes. You have described perfectly just how important sci-fi is for LGBTQ people. I had the same experience, although (given my generally sheltered upbringing and personal naivete) I didn't stumble across LGBTQ-friendly books until well into high school. But they were so important for me when I was really figuring myself out, and I continue to go back to them when I want to read something comforting and familiar.

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  2. While my first exposure to LGBT themes wasn't through sci-fi or video games, those two still hold considerable weight in my queer experience. Namely, video games are a huge part of me. It's interesting to look at video games and other media forms, trying to gauge how "LGBT friendly" they are. And it shouldn't be a shock that the gaming community, or at least in the First Person Shooter (FPS) community, tends to be largely homophobic. Being called a faggot has been the norm in my experience of FPSs, but it's gotten to the point to where I laugh at it and say "joke's on you, I AM gay and that doesn't change the fact that I'm owning your ass right now" (hur hur hur). Surprisingly however, there's been quite a bit of LGBT themes in games (as early as Birdo from Mario), and games have become progressively less campy or use fewer caricatures of queer individuals. This is especially apparent in Role Playing Games (RPGs). *Shameless plug* Bioware has been on the forefront for including queer characters and romances into their games, one of those being Dragon Age: Origins as you mentioned. I'll be honest, I feel as though romances in general in video games are shallow and insubstantial. But at the same time it's nice to have some affirmation by game developers and publishing companies that include same-sex romance options in their games. I'm definitely not complaining about male Shepard in Mass Effect FINALLY being able to romance another man after female Shepard has been able to romance another woman for two games. Regardless, I'm pretty content with the progress Bioware has made in general.

    Thanks Liz for writing this wonderful post! I'd definitely like to discuss more on this topic with you :].

    Also an interesting article on queer characters in videogames:
    http://games.ign.com/articles/121/1217180p1.html

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  3. Bioware FTW. It's difficult to play any other developer's games once you've experienced KOTOR, DA:O, and Mass Effect. Psyched for ME3's release!

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  4. Apparently, I can't direct reply to anyone, so:
    Jennifer: It's good to know other people had the same kind of journey. I know what you mean about the comforting and familiar feeling. :D

    Ryan: Romances are definitely not the most awesome pieces of writing in video games, true. I agree though, that just their presence is really important, especially in RPG games where the player has the ability to project onto the PC. It goes a long way to show that the dev team has taken into account their audience's thoughts and experiences.
    Bioware does seem to be a great company, what with David Gaider standing up for their decision to include same-sex character options and now their support of Jennifer Hepler.
    I have seen that article, in fact! When I was thinking about the post, I went back and forth and whether to spam everyone with links or not.
    Here's one for you!
    http://blog.twowholecakes.com/2011/06/shepard-aint-white-playing-with-race-and-gender-in-mass-effect/

    Anonymous: NINE DAYS LEFT, AHHHH

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  5. Thanks for the read, Liz! That's an interesting perspective that I never considered. I definitely need to do a run-through with Fem Shepard (Jennifer Hale <3) once I finish ME 3 with my current Shepard. 8 more days, I can't wait :D.

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