must admit that I am overly fond of “The Hours,” a film about Virginia Wolf writing “Mrs. Dalloway.” It’s an exceptionaly acted and written work that also unfortunately features two LGBTQ characters dying by suicide.
Dead LGBTQ characters litter our media landscape. It’s a trope that has its own name on the site TV Tropes, “Bury your gays.” So prevalent is “Bury your gays” that it has its own set of sister tropes, ranging from “Dead Lesbian Syndrome” to “Tragic AIDS Story.”
The problem is, to some degree, a reflection of the fact that there are so many things that cut the lives of real queer people tragically short. AIDS was originally identified as GRID (gay related immune deficiency) due to its original prevalence amongst gay men. LGBTQ people are the frequent target of hate crimes, meaning that we do carry a higher risk of being assaulted and murdered. All that in addition to us being at higher risk of dying by suicide thanks to systemic transphobia and homophobia.
But this all ignores that LGBTQ people can also lead happy and fulfilling lives. That we can be productive members of society. The LGBTQ community has through the course of history, made significant contributions to the arts and literature and helped advance scientific knowledge. We have also made contributions to the political arena and created economic theories.
Which brings me to the fact that there are so many films that are about or include LGBTQ historical figures which downplay their queer identities. There are a few exceptions of course. For example, if the story is about an artist or writer, we might get a passing reference to them not being 100% cis het. Then there’s the fact that if an LGBTQ historical figure was a depraved criminal, such an individual’s queer identity will most certainly be emphasized to the extreme in any story told about them.
The point being that actual examples of LGBTQ people getting to be either happy, healthy or heroic feel so rare in the media.
There is a reason so many of us were lamenting, where oh where did my queer batgirl film go? The good WB buried her away from me. “Batgirl,” the film buried by Warner Brothers after it finished filming, was reported to have a transgender superhero played by a transgender actress.
To go back to “The Hours,” there is a scene where a gay writer has a lengthy lament that includes the lines “I wanted to write about it all. Everything that happens in a moment.”
As LGBTQ people we deserve everything that was never given to us. We deserve a media where we are not just criminals or victims. We deserve stories that are not entirely about us dying of STIs. We deserve to see ourselves as heroes in stories both fictional or real.
But most of all, we deserve to be happy.
Write to Jeremy Redlien at firstname.lastname@example.org