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Is It Really "Queer-Baiting"?

CW: This article discusses themes related to homophobia.

By Avi



 

What Is Queer-Baiting?

Queer-baiting is when various forms of media or individuals suggest the presence of a "queer" fictional identity or relationship, without ever planning on giving this representation in the first place. This can be misleading for audiences, and make them feel entirely betrayed. Over the years we've gotten used to this concept, and it's helped writers and producers develop their media to fit today's standards of representation. Often times, TV shows, movies etc. are marketed as featuring queer "content" because the producers and marketing teams seek to encompass a wider audience, particularly including the queer community. This is part of a wider issue concerning the misrepresentation of identities for marketing purposes. An example of this wider issue is the concept of "rainbow-washing". This is an issue, because for many- good queer representation has been few and far between. According to screenrant.com, queer representation has previously been negative, resulting in the perpetuation of stereotyping and further persecution. (To access "screenrant['s}" article on negative queer media tropes, click here.)


Despite this, the debate around queer-baiting is expanding. Recent misguided attempts to eradicate queer misrepresentation, has led to some users to label real people as "queer-baiters". Now that we know the debate's origins, lets dive deeper into the complicated issue of queer-baiting.


Are They...You know?

Often times the word "gay" is omitted in order to preserve the illusion of an "unbiased" piece of media. This is often to retain other content consumers that may have more "conservative" Western values and who to them, direct mentions of the LGBTQ+ may even be offensive. Due to this, content may diverge from direct LGBTQ+ representation. The relationship between queer individuals and other intersecting, or conflicting identities is complex. Therefore, it is not possible to cover every aspect of what it means to be "respectful" in regard to showing queer identities in media, in one article.


Regardless, many recent political developments have shifted conversations surrounding queer people to an uncomfortable and potentially even dangerous place. Many countries and communities have participated in LGBTQ+ censorship. Triumphs for the queer community have seemingly been reversed. This is why queer representation matters.


Increasing awareness, spread by activists and increasing social media usage has led to some positive change in this aspect. With information (and misinformation) being spread at the click of a button, the internet has allowed many to become more empathetic towards other identities. In the long-term, as well as the debate surrounding queer-baiting, this has allowed many new queer voices and stories being highlighted accurately. For many, this has brought a stronger sense of community and has brought forwards experiences that otherwise, would have been kept in the dark. But for places where queer media is criminalized, they still have a long way to go before these voices can be safely shared.

One thing is certain, a critical lens is needed when we write fictional queerness - as this will improve the media we consume and produce in the future.


The "Unlabeled" Issue

The topic of queer-baiting has slowly switched from a broader discussion of the media we consume, to something a bit more close to home. Now, real people are being scrutinized for their role in the queer-baiting trope. This could be due to the conflation of celebrity, with fiction. Analyzing a real person as though they are a case-study of our society, is nothing new and has been around ever since our obsession with fame and the famous began. This has led to many feeling entitled to knowing the ins-and out of people's lives. Especially in the age of daily posting, not much is kept a secret. According to gq-magazine.co.uk,

The article referenced, is on the topic of Harry Styles, and the accusations he received after revealing that he does not use labels to describe his sexuality. Despite the need for positive queer representation, a figurative window into someone's bedroom is not the direction the community should go in. The defensiveness to protect oppressed identities in often understandable. In this instance, however, and many other incidences, further clarification on someone's sexuality should be treated as a privilege, that is not automatically owed. In an age where gay and queer people are still oppressed, NOT coming out is more of a move for safety than it is for deception.

It should also be said that as ever, society will grow and expand to accommodate for changing identities as our technology and conversations become more nuanced and complex. Therefore, the debate surrounding IRL queer-baiting may be diminished by the changing nature of queer life and politics.



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