Because the media panorama broadens and new platforms are created to devour content material, LGBTQ+ movies and TV reveals have gotten extra outstanding. Quite a few queer-themed films and television shows can be found on streaming providers, whereas many LGBTQ+ documentaries shine a lightweight on the struggles and victories of our neighborhood. Teen-focused LGBTQ+ content can also be changing into extra frequent, a victory for future generations who gained’t must develop up feeling ashamed of who they’re.
Literature will not be falling behind; from novels to comic books and graphic novels, queer storylines are gaining extra floor in a discipline beforehand dominated by straight, cis, and largely white romances. It’s not like queer writers have by no means existed; quite the opposite, literature was the house for a lot of queer figures who expressed their longings and needs via their writing at a time when their inclinations had been nonetheless frowned-upon at greatest. From Oscar Wilde to Walt Whitman and Virginia Woolf, many queer authors gained prominence, and some even grew to become legends.
Nonetheless, though a few of these figures managed to expertise their sexuality largely freely — Wilde and Whitman might’ve even experienced greater than an expert relationship, in response to some — others remained within the suffocating security of the closet, whether or not by alternative or not. Writing supplied a chance to precise their needs — undeclared hopes and goals — via a extra ambiguous lens, disguising their intentions behind a extra digestible façade.
So whereas one may seldom discover an overt reference to homosexuality in basic literature, we will, on occasion, bump into a specific paragraph that makes us arch our eyebrows and surprise. Take, as an illustration, Jo March in Louisa Could Alcott’s seminal novel Little Ladies, expressing her empathy in direction of the older and single girls. “Don’t snigger on the spinsters, expensive ladies, for sometimes very tender, tragic romances are hidden away within the hearts that beat so quietly below the sober robes.”
Jo March is the perfect example of a queer-coded character. She isn’t overt in her romantic emotions for anybody — not Laurie and positively not Professor Bhaer, regardless of how onerous the narrative tries to assist their ill-conceived romance. Certainly, Jo is most snug with herself, expressing a way of individuality and strength of mind that few literary characters, basic or trendy, possess. Whether or not Jo is queer or not is as much as the reader’s interpretation, however the suggestion is there for anybody keen to search out it.
Quite a few different feminine literary characters exist beneath the umbrella of queerness; the indicators are typically refined and typically not. Take Clarissa Dalloway, the titular heroine of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa is self-conscious, stressed, and trapped, very similar to Woolf herself. She spends the novel reminiscing a few good friend from her youth, Sally Seton. They shared a kiss, which Clarissa considers probably the greatest moments of her life, and sometimes expresses her emotions for her. The guide by no means outright declares Clarissa a lesbian, however it’s absolute in portraying her curiosity in Sally.
Past the wealthy and attention-grabbing concepts about sexuality and id that it poses — certainly, Clarissa may be one of many earliest examples of a pansexual character in literature –, Mrs. Dalloway is revolutionary in its portrayal of romance and romantic emotions. The narrative is unbothered with definition and as an alternative presents the story and reflections of characters seeing one another as people in love, unconcerned with gender constrictions.
Then there’s somebody like Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet’s loyal spinster good friend in Jane Austen’s Satisfaction and Prejudice. In maybe her most iconic quote, Charlotte defends her choice to marry Mr. Collins, telling Lizzie, “I’m not a romantic, you already know. I by no means was. I ask just for a cushty dwelling.” Charlotte’s selections conflict with Lizzie’s spirited, idealistic mind-set and romantic ending, however Austen goes to nice lengths to not encourage pity for Charlotte. Quite the opposite, the creator holds sure admiration for Charlotte’s pragmatic mind-set.
Was Charlotte a closeted lesbian or a sufferer of destiny, doomed to all the time appear much less in comparison with the gorgeous Bennet sisters? Maybe she was each. Queer-coded characters don’t exist in a field, typically receiving a much less constrictive narrative than different, extra conventional figures. Sarcastically, in ambiguity, they discover freedom.
We are able to consider different feminine characters as queer to various levels. Depraved‘s Glinda has intense emotions for Elphaba however seldom reveals curiosity within the reverse intercourse. And what about Austen’s different beloved heroine, Emma, whose possessiveness over poor Harriet has launched a thousand AO3 fanfics? Emma is known for its reversal of gender-reversal, so is the thought of a queer Emma Woodhouse so far-fetched? Even Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre will be seen via a queer lens, significantly in her formative experiences pre-Rochester.
And what of the boys? Queer-coded male characters in literature are extra frequent than one may assume. Basic mythology is filled with homoerotic subtext that turns into blatant textual content as a rule — from Achilles and Patroclus to Zeus and Ganymede, to Apollo and his many, many, many male lovers. Timeless novels like The Image of Dorian Grey and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are well-known for his or her unsubtle and rampant queer references, to the purpose the place they’re virtually thought of LGBTQ+ literature, whereas characters like Les Miserables‘ Enjolras or The Nice Gatsby‘s Nick Carraway exist as prime examples of queer-coded figures in well-known literary works.
Enjolras, arguably probably the most charismatic character in Victor Hugo’s largely miserable historic novel Les Misérables, reveals a number of queer indicators. The face of change and revolution from the reader’s perspective, Enjolras’ perfection relates carefully to his distinctive femininity, described by Hugo as having “lengthy truthful lashes,” “rosy cheeks,” and “pure lips.” He additionally shares a confrontational but tension-filled reference to the skeptic Grantaire, reconciling with him throughout their final moments and dying hand-in-hand.
The protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novel, Nick Carraway, is one other prime instance of a queer-coded determine. Nick is The Nice Gatsby‘s beating coronary heart, a personality who continues enthralling audiences because of his sharp insights and means with phrases. Nevertheless, it’s his intense attachment to Jay Gatsby and observations about different characters — primarily Tom — which have led to numerous authors deciphering Gatsby via a queer lens. Nick’s appreciation of Gatsby comes from a spot of idealization not removed from the place Gatsby comes when relating to Daisy. Whether or not Carraway needs to be Gatsby or be with him is up for debate, however the depth of his emotions is powerful sufficient to not solely warrant however truly encourage dialogue.
Holden Caulfield from The Catcher within the Rye has a number of intriguing and doubtlessly queer layers. He interacts with males all through the story, brazenly exhibiting admiration for his roommate’s physique whereas being stunned by a bodily gesture from his trainer, which he interprets as a sexual advance. Holden’s views on sexuality are immature, coming from a spot of inexperience; he lacks a transparent understanding of what he needs or likes as a result of he fears change and complexity. Holden longs for simplicity, one thing hardly ever afforded to youngsters in coming-of-age tales.
In his article, “The Queering of Nick Carraway,” creator Michael Bourne famously stated, “I believe the queer readings of Nick Carraway say extra about the way in which we learn now than they do about Nick or The Nice Gatsby.” In a means, he’s proper. We dwell in a time after we are extra conscious than ever of the presence and influence of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood. We exist; we’re right here, desirous to be seen and heard, particularly after spending so lengthy hiding behind closed doorways of disgrace and concern. Is it so far-fetched that we spent years on the lookout for any signal of illustration within the literature we liked and consumed, settling for no matter ounce we discovered, faint as it would’ve been? And is it incorrect to assume that we’re studying new that means into timeless classics now that we’re open to a extra inclusive mind-set?
Writing is usually a tough process. We, as writers, know our function and intent when placing our ideas into phrases however don’t have any management over them as soon as we launch them to the lots. These of us fortunate sufficient to have our concepts learn by others perceive the double-edged sword of writing; as soon as we publish one thing, it stops being solely ours. Writers give function to their phrases, however readers give them that means. Audiences imprint on the writing, deciphering them from a spot of intimacy, formed by their very own experiences and perceptions. And if these concepts make them determine queer parts in a specific character, there should be one thing to warrant it, for they perceive higher than anybody else.
We are able to’t say for certain if these characters are queer, however we will surprise and analyze, focus on and contribute to their already wealthy legacies. And what’s so incorrect with that? Dialogue can solely profit in the long term, particularly when speaking about characters that imply a lot to so many individuals. These characters have withstood altering occasions, evolving concepts, wars, conflicts, guide bans, and all the pieces in between; certainly, they’ll cope with a few queers embracing them as one among their very own. If an LGBTQ+ child fighting their sexuality sees themselves in Jo March, who’re we to say their interpretation is incorrect?