Please Stop Killing Me — Let’s Talk About #BuryYourGays

So I found out something not very fun about a book I was planning on reading the other day. I had been planning on reading this book a week from the day I found out, an experience that would have been incredibly uncomfortable for me. And as a result, I have decided to talk! To discuss. To discuss a trope I really hate that just will not die.

It keeps coming back. Like mold. Or like the Maze Runner movies.

I have made a vow to myself to avoid books where this occurs. I’m sure someone is going to comment below and be a dick about this — YOU CAN’T KNOW IT’S PROBLEMATIC TILL YOU’VE READ IT!! Have fun trying to excuse this trope in the comments, but as an lgbtq person, this trope does.not.feel.good.

So let’s talk about why.

—Disclaimer That People Will Ignore—

You guys know how I feel about recognizing nuance and critical thinking. Personally, I think acknowledging the role of the narrative in rep can be really helpful and necessary — too many books have gotten called out pre-reading and it turned out the book was ownvoices for the problematic rep or some crap. I will always boost reviews and discussions talking about the problematic crap, but I am not about saying something is Objectively Shit when I have not read the thing. I am a huge fan of Staying In My Damn Lane. I do not like — okay, sort of despise — when people go about attacking others for their positive or negative thoughts on books. And I think all media is technically problematic.

But there have to be exceptions. There has to be a fucking line. For example, I will not read books that stereotype people of color as dumb or lesser or books about How Horrible Black People are and I don’t think anyone else should. I will not read books where queer characters are converted to heterosexuality and saved from their queer lifestyle (though I unfortunately have). I will not read nonfiction books by racists.

And I absolutely will not read books where the gays die.

Unchallenged bigotry can occasionally be looked at with more nuance and a deep look at how the narrative thinks of that bigotry. But in many situations, gays dying is something I’m honestly not sure you can look at with nuance.

I have hard and fast rules here, my dudes. They will be articulated as we go on.

This will be a discussion about boring, overdone tropes. This will also be a post about how tired I am of dying so straight characters can have their narratives furthered. Or so straight readers can cry a little bit about how sad homophobia is.

—I Attempt To Rebut Arguments People Will Not Stop Using—

But all the characters die!!

Yeah, okay, this is valid if all the characters really do die. But wait. I’ve yet to read a single book where The Gays Died that didn’t kill more queer characters than straight characters. So here’s a new rule for y’all. The same ratio of queer characters and straight characters must die for this argument to be used.

Let’s take Game of Thrones, because I just fucking know someone will mention it. If we’re talking show, there have been four queer characters thus far. Two were portrayed as vapid — that was literally it — and are both now dead. Neither were given much character development before death. A third character was portrayed as openly bisexual and given a decent amount of character development. He’s dead. One still remains alive. (Yay! Let’s place bets on how soon she’ll die.) Point is, 3/4 of the somewhat-relevant queer characters have been killed. Have 3/4 of the major straight characters on Game of Thrones died? I’ll take You’re Pulling Some Bullshit for 400, Alex.

And let’s not even get into the fact that this now means… one sort of important queer character and what, thirty important straight characters? Bullshit.

I demand bi Sansa Stark and a spot on the Iron Throne, but I’ll take Yara surviving till the end of the series. The bar is so low and I bet they won’t reach it.

But it’s a tragedy where the gays die at the end and that’s the whole point of the book!

Theeeeeeeeen you’re fine. I mean, I still think queer tragedy has been done so much that it’s actually just kind of lazy and boring nine times out of ten, but if you’re talking about They Both Die at the End or The Song of Achilles, you aren’t wrong.

Why is this different? Because these books are actually written and marketed as tragedies. It is not a surprise plot twist that the gays die at the end.

But it’s a tragedy where a queer character dies at the beginning and that’s the whole point of the book!

Again, if the protagonist is queer as well, this doesn’t bug me. Come on, guys, you know how I feel about Far From You and similar character explorations.

But if the protagonist isn’t queer, as I’ve seen in several books? You fridged a queer character to progress a straight character’s plotline. You have no creativity and you should feel bad.

But why is it any different from straight characters dying?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because straight characters aren’t constantly being fridged to perpetuate the narratives of queer people? Idk, seems like that might be relevant.

Are you guys sensing a pattern in all my examples below? It’s a problem when queer characters die so straight people can have their plotlines furthered.

This is what fridging a character is — when you kill off a character to further another character’s plotline. It’s a lazy trope. Obviously. But perhaps even more importantly, it is a plot device that occurs almost entirely to female characters, queer characters, and characters of color. It’s something you might not even notice, just feel in your soul.

Time for a little exercise.

Try to think up a character death that you thought was lazy and meant to prop up the narrative of other characters.

Got a character death in mind? Good. Now imagine that happening with 90% of characters you relate to, in a repeating narrative that originated from society’s hatred for people like you, in a scenario where you already feel alienated by popular media and popular culture.

Empathy.

But it presents a message about homophobia!!

this is perhaps the most pervasive argument I get and I want to retreat to an underwater cave every single time someone says this to me because I am just so goddamn tired

So here’s the thing. Homophobia fucking sucks. We know this. To put it more simply, I know this, and so does every queer person in the damn world. So every time someone writes a book where an attack on the gay character kills that character and a big old message is sent out about how much homophobia sucks, I am not emotionally effected. All I can think is Yeah, it damn well does, and I’m tired of dying for it.

Let’s be critical consumers and think, for a moment. If you’re making a message about homophobia with your one singular queer character dying, who is that message for? Because it’s certainly not for the queer audience.

I don’t care about dying so straight people can cry. I’ve done it enough.


97 thoughts on “Please Stop Killing Me — Let’s Talk About #BuryYourGays

  1. i dont even know what to say. i saw you talking about this with The Belles and you cleared up so many of my thoughts and its so fricking stupid. can this trope die now pleaseeeeee. love you and this rant you dont deserve to see urself die in every freaking book u read, u deserve so much more ily ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I don’t care about dying so straight people can cry. I’ve done it enough.”
    This needs to be framed.
    I can’t get over how people keep telling us we have to read this kind of books because they’re meaningful/diverse/whatever. Why would we want to read a book with a mostly straight cast that becomes a straight-only cast?
    I’m not ok with queer death written for allocishet people in any shape.

    “The same ratio of queer characters and straight characters must die for this argument to be used.”
    What if there are no allocishet characters in the entire book, not even minor ones, and that book is still a bloodbath? (I’m asking because you have at least one, maybe two, on your TBR.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ugh, it’s actually the worst. I told someone in my life that I didn’t want to see Call Me By Your Name because I didn’t like tragic endings very much and because of the age difference and she just went on a RANT about how very MEANINGFUL it was to her

      if there are actually no straight people in the book… we’re mostly good. I mean, if there are no straight characters to be seen, it’s clearly not queers-die-for-the-straight-eye, ya know?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, those two books are not written for a straight audience and have an all-queer/queer-normative world, but I would still understand if someone found the idea upsetting.

        Oh, CMBYN. Tragedy porn about marginalized characters sells even more when you can both fetishize the cis gay men and exoticize their country! (If I could blacklist that book on gr and never see any *Italy is so romantic/Italians are so hot* status updates or the five star reviews written by straight women, I would be happier.) Also, that age gap is uncomfortable at best. But it’s great if it’s “meaningful”! (translation: makes me cry and makes me feel good about not being gay.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. yeah, I totally get that. personally I guess I’m not much one for they-all-die-at-the-end anyway, but if it’s an all-queer cast I think I’ll personally be less bothered.

        oh my god, I keep seeing updates like that and it makes me cringe so hard? and I stg that’s exactly the meaning everyone ascribes to meaningful when it’s about marginalized characters 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh, it’s not an “all die” situation, it’s a “many characters die”, in both cases. I don’t like that either, I need someone to survive, otherwise it feels pointless.

        So many of the popular tearjerkers exploit marginalized people’s pain and are written for everyone but the people they’re writing about. But if we complain about that, there’s always someone that will tell us that a) we didn’t get it b) we spoiled it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. THAT’S SO TRUE. actually, usually they say both🙄 did you see the comment on my TTF review this morning saying “you didn’t have to spoil book two as well” even though it very clearly says “this is a spoiler for book two”? I want death

        Liked by 1 person

  3. this post is so absolutely incredible in every possible way & i agree with EVERYTHING in it, mother/queen of discussions. i honestly hate when books/tv shows/movies/etc kill off queer characters so fucking much i can’t even begin to describe, & i’m so disappointed that the belles did that as well because i was SO excited for it. amazing post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love you ❤️❤️❤️ I love being the Discussion Mom

      and it’s so frustrating that the Belles did it like… Dhonielle Clayton I trusted you?? she’s one of the fucking heads of we need diverse books like you’d think she’d know to avoid this one singular trope??

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the saddest thing is that a lot of people are unaware of tropes like these. I mean, it usually isn’t that hard to read in between the lines, especially when genres like fantasy don’t really include a lot of diversity in the first place. Thanks for writing this article, and pointing out what should be obvious!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is AMAZING. This sounds super horrible of me but as I’ve been reading books I guess I haven’t noticed that queer characters are always killed off, and usually to progress a straight person’s plot line, like you said. And you’re right, it should stop. That doesn’t count as diversity or whatever if you’re just using queer characters as a plot devise. And I LOVE your rule about queer to straight deaths. Does it make any sense in a series or book where tons of people die to have more queer deaths than straight deaths??? I’m going to keep an eye out now in the books I read to see if that is what is happening. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, this is fantastic! Now, I’m kind of shipping Sansa and Yara? Can that happen, please?
    I’m writing a book with a gay character, and I will protect him with my life. He’s so precious and no one may touch him!
    But seriously, stop killing off diverse characters! We NEED them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hey this is an amazing post. all of your posts are amazing but this is especially amazing. i’ve heard of this trope in passing and am able to recognize it as an Objectively Bad Thing but i haven’t really read about it, to be honest, and there are nuances i’m now realizing i didn’t understand previously. especially the last point – i’ve definitely read books wherein queer side characters have been killed to make a point about homophobia or whatever, and i don’t think i’ve identified that as problematic. thanks for making it so clear why it is. v important post

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you so much I love you so much 💚💚💚💚 queen of validating my discourse

      and I feel like the side-characters-being-killed-off to make a point about homophobia thing happens constantly and isn’t really talked about so people don’t realize that it hurts? but yeah, it’s one of my least favorite tropes. and I’m really really glad this post helped 💚💚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this!! I’ve definitely noticed this trend in books, TV shows, movies—basically EVERYWHERE in the entertainment industry—but I’ve never really thought too hard about it until now. which, as I now realize, is v narrow-minded of me. but, again, this is why discussions like these are so so important, so thank you for that. ❤

    also i think if Yara dies part of me will die too

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This was a really great post, Elise!! I didn’t know that I*pulse had a queer character who was “converted”. Thank you for letting me know. I wanted to read that book, and if I had, I would have been incredibly upset. That situation hits too close to home.

    What I hate most about the bury your gays trope is how it basically suggests that queer people aren’t worthy of a happy ending like every one else. It’s incredibly tiring to search for days, months, years to find a book that represents you and your sexuality only to have that ONE character killed off.

    Also, I cowrote this: “Let’s be critical consumers and think, for a moment. If you’re making a message about homophobia with your one singular queer character dying, who is that message for? Because it’s certainly not for the queer audience.” FUCKING YES!! We know homophobia sucks, you don’t have to tell US that!! asdfghjklakdfhaldnfl

    Thanks for writing this up!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. oof i love this post so much it’s so fantastic ❤

    i'm honestly so sad about the belles and i just like LSDKFJLSKDFJl

    i thought your post was so nicely done, i like how you did the arguments and everything ❤ queer characters deserve to live. like now i'm thinking about lin's hamilton and how all the characters were poc except for king george and can't someone do that for more queer characters pls

    Liked by 1 person

  11. literally tearing up reading this. elise, you’re dicussions are literally perfection (especially this one, it’s been getting to me a lot lately). thank you for putting this into words. i’m sharing on every platform that i can (if ya don’t mind, of course). ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I agree with this totally, bury your gays is something that needs to go and die in a hole. I was reading a book that had up until that point had decent gay rep and then “bury your gays came up” and I was just so frustrated, like you were doing so well!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. oh, I forgot a character died in that first book. I think that one bothered me less because of the how the author handled the rest of the books – it’s actually super subversive of the bury your gays thing, so you might be interested in those!

        Like

  13. Thank you so much for writing this! I’m queer too, and I feel this post in my soul. (Semi-coherent rant about The Belles and buried gays ahead. spoilers-ish for the Belles, for ppl who haven’t read it.)

    I naively picked up The Belles and have been reading it non-stop for the last few days. I was really into it, and enjoying that Claudette and the queen had been casually mentioned as queer (as in, there wasn’t a big to-do about it, they were just in relationships with women, and it was NBD.) I was really excited that queer people could just be a simple part of the landscape of a story.

    Then I got to THAT scene with Claudette, and now I am…how do you say…shaking with rage. Why tf do authors write queer characters, just to kill them??? And in such horrible ways???Like, I’m not gonna finish the book after that scene, but I would wager $100000 that no straight character is killed in such a brutal manner. As of the point I left off, the lesbian character was the only death at all in the book.

    It’s like you said with ppl comparing the deaths of queer and straight characters: not only are queer deaths wildly disproportionate in number, compared to straight characters, but they’re often disproportionately brutal as well. Or, disproportionately fridge-y; straight characters die heroic deaths, lesbians get killed by stray bullets.

    *takes a deep breath to calm myself down and refocus*

    Anyway, I got to THAT scene in the Belles, dropped the book like a hotcake, and came online to see if anyone else was talking about this. And you’re one of the only people who is, honestly. A google search with the title + author + “homophobia” basically just turns up this blog post, and your goodreads review (both of which are wonderfully written, and so, so validating, by the way.)

    Finding this post makes me feel like I’m a little less alone. That I’m not the only one affected by this, or struggling bc people keep insisting on perpetuating this awful trope. Thank you for writing and sharing. I really needed this today.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I actually went on a tumblr rant the other day, after reading the Belles and finding this post. I was trying to see if there are any sites like, “does the dog die,” but for LGBTQPIA characters in books. I haven’t found one so far, but there was interest on the tumblr post, so I put one together: https://dothequeercharactersdie.wordpress.com/

        It will probably be a small project, since it’s just me compiling user contributions in my spare time, but if people start contributing, maybe we can get a database going! It would certainly be nice to have some content notes/trigger warnings for queer novels.

        In the meantime, I’m just like. scared to read from all the generalized “pride” book rec lists, because I just can’t handle any more dead queer characters. Or creepy age gaps and/or sexual violence (which seems to be weirdly disproportionate between queer and straight characters as well.)

        I saw that you have a sapphic book list recs (awesome!!) Do you have a list specifically for lighthearted/happy sapphic reads? I just read The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and enjoyed that slice-of-life vibe. I’m open to any genre though, I’d just love to read queer ladies in happy endings for once. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. oh damn, I would love to help you with that! I can add a link to my bio and help with specific rep. we could make a list saying “here’s what the rep is here, and here’s who dies” just to make sure people know whether it’s one gay side character among 40, or the Only Gay In The Book [which makes a huuuuuuge difference to me, but it’s worth knowing either way.]

        And hey, I have this whole “sapphic books shelf” on GR – I have it linked in one of my twitter rec threads, and almost all of them have happy endings, but a lot of them are very angsty in the middle [that’s what I like]. give me a sec and I’ll comment back some Very Happy ones!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. okay, some very lighthearted ones I still love: Style by Chelsea M. Cameron, Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler, Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, A&B by J. C. Lillis, and Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli.

        a lot of these were fours and not fives because I like dark books with happy endings rather than light books, but A&B is like the funniest book I have read ever in my life 👌👌

        Liked by 1 person

      4. happy endings in general are promised for most of the books on that list, but prime faves with happy endings that I haven’t mentioned: Echo After Echo [mystery], The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza [contemporary fantasy] Reign of the Fallen [high fantasy], Girl Made of Stars [contemporary, this one is f/gq and holy fuck the romance is the w o r l d], How To Make a Wish [contemporary], Final Draft [contemporary], and Into the Drowning Deep [contemporary scifi].

        Liked by 1 person

      5. (For some reason I can’t reply your the later comments in the thread, so I’ll just comment here.)

        Great idea re: having different categories and disclaimers for the “do the queer characters die?” site. I totally get what you’re saying – the context matters a lot, and a simple “yes/no” option doesn’t really cut it.

        Right now the site is just a free wordpress blog, which means the form options are suuuuuuper limited, so I’m thinking about just buying the url and hosting it myself. That would give me the ability to create a custom submission form that would let people indicate specific identity rep, triggers, and more nuanced answers.

        Like, I saw that one of your screen names was girladamparrish, so I’m assuming you like The Raven Cycle? That’s one that definitely has nuance when recc’ing it imo. Like, there’s violence against a queer character, but not *because* he’s queer. And it’s not totally out of proportion with what the other characters go through (although Adam and Ronan do get dealt shitty hands imo.)

        So yeah it’d be good to figure out a submission form/rec format that could handle nuanced situations like that, or, like you said, if a single side queer character dies, out of a full cast.

        I’m gonna start by seeing what I can do on the technical side of things. If I figure that out, and if you’re interested, we could brainstorm which questions to ask, and how to best word them.

        Totally zero pressure, but if you wanna be involved, I’d love to have you on board! Even if it’s just brainstorming the best way to set things up and word the questions/rec format.

        Anyhow, it’s been so awesome and refreshing to find your blog, and I’m jazzed about all the book recs! I do appreciate angst and drama too, but I’m just in a place right now where lighthearted reads sound perfect. So thanks for all the happy recs!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’d love to be involved! I don’t have money to buy the domain [i mean, if you can tell from my Very Free WordPress Blog] but I’d totally be down to join that!

        Yes, lol, I kind of adore The Raven Cycle. I think some of the nuances there are 1) the violence is a part of the narrative arc of the book, and 2) it’s a part of the character’s backstory, and it plays into his character arc [which is ultimately not a tragic one in any way shape or form]. The two queer characters are honestly the ones that get the shittiest beginnings, but neither get shitty endings [which is my main concern]. I do think whether queer-characters-in-pain will bother you is somewhat of a subjective thing, but maybe degree of violence can be something we note for [as that’s a bit of an objective measure].

        For me, the big objective ones are: what percentage of the queer characters die in comparison to what percentage of the straight characters die [there tends to be an imbalance and that’s often a problem], what percentage of the major characters are queer, do all of the queer romances end in tragedy [and if all of them do, do all of the cis m/f relationships also end in tragedy?]

        Liked by 1 person

      7. That all makes sense, for sure. Comparing the fates of the queer and non-queer characters in a story definitely puts it into perspective, and it’s hard to capture all that nuance on a short-answer form for sure.

        Okay! I have info on the project!

        So, I looked into hosting options today, and hosting was more expensive than I thought, so it’s gonna have to stay a free wordpress site. Which is fine, actually. It just means the
        submission form options are limited, but that’s okay.

        I have some ideas on ways to make it work, but is there a better way to chat with you about this? I don’t want to clog up your comments on this lovely post.

        I don’t know how to dm ppl on wordpress, but I see a link to your twitter, so I’ll reach out to you there with my email. I’m excited for this project!

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I had the same issue with “the book” I had started it and wasn’t liking it much but wanted to continue anyway, they I read a spoilery review and this turned me off completely.
    You talk about the problem so well! I’m sorry you have to do it more than once though

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for saying this. I’ve heard of this trope, and I know what it is and that it’s bad. But until recently I had never read a book or watched a TV show where this happened. So this post gave me my first real look into it and really helped me understand why this trope is bad and just how fucking hurtful it is.

    Also, you SHOULD NOT die to further a straight person’s plotline, that’s bullshit. I’m so sorry you’ve dealt with people sending that message in their books and movies and TV shows on multiple occasions. This trope should honestly just die.

    Like

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