Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Praying the (Metaphorical) Gay Away: Internalized Religious Homophobia in Genre Fiction

It’s often hard to be religious and queer. At least, depending on the religion. Many segments of Christianity as well as other mainstream religious schools of thought put queerness firmly into the realm of “abomination”, to some degree or another. A popular mentality in many conservative Christian sects is that queerness goes against the natural order set into place by God when He created Adam and Eve as partners, making same-sex attraction “disordered”. This often translates to an understanding of queerness as either a mental illness, which could be healed with prayer, or a vice that, like a desire to gamble or steal, can be resisted through faith-based strength of character. While this attitude is not representative of all religion, nor, in Christianity’s case, true to Christ’s actual teachings, the fact remains: it’s damn hard to be religious and queer.

And while it remains hard to find good representation of queer characters, and good representation of religious characters, you’re more likely to catch a Mewtwo at your local grocery store than you are to find a meaningful and balanced representation of someone who ticks both boxes.

Instead, we often see religious characters in genre fiction who, while part of a societal out-group that could stand as a metaphor for queerness, are not actually queer themselves. Furthermore, they often believe or have been taught to believe that this otherness is, yes, an abomination, leading them to make terrible choices based on their internalized hatred of themselves or others like themselves. Perhaps God has singled them out as martyrs, challenging them to live a godly life in spite of their inherent (ungodly) differentness. Unfortunately, these portrayals do nothing but serve the tired stereotype that closeted individuals are often responsible for anti-queer hate crimes, rather than dealing with the more realistic issues surrounding internalized religious homophobia.

Trigger warning for discussions of self-harm and suicide after the cut.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Rick Macy and the Blue Whistling Thrush by Iphys

“I’m not going to your school,” he mutters.

“I’ll tell you what,” she says. “Why don’t I sit here for … ten more minutes, and at the end of it I’ll ask you again. If you say no then, I’ll leave. Does that sound okay?”

“No,” he says. “I want you to leave now. My dad’ll be home soon.” He tries to make that last bit as threatening as he can.

Her face goes hard suddenly, where it was unsmiling but gentle before. “Rick,” she says, and he flinches at the iciness of her tone. “Your father doesn’t frighten me. He shouldn’t frighten you. There have always been cruel, close-minded people like your father, and you have the choice, right now, to stop being afraid of them.”

“Shut up,” Rick says. “My dad isn’t cruel, he just doesn’t want me to be a freak—

“A freak like Kieren?” she says coolly.

“I’m not like Ren!” he says, trying very hard not to yell. “I’m not like Ren, and I’m not like you, I don’t even know you, so just go away already and stop saying bad things about my dad.”

I recently binge-watched all of the BBC’s In The Flesh, a show you may have heard described as “that show about gay zombies”. The description isn’t entirely wrong—there are zombies, and some of them are queer, but In The Flesh really serves as one big metaphor for the Other—the people who, for many reasons, are discriminated against by people who claim they and they alone are “the norm”. I’ll admit that when I first went looking into In The Flesh fanfic, I was hoping to find fic about the vivacious Amy Dyer, or Kieren’s badass, vulnerable little sister Jem (or fics with Amy and Jem, if you know what I rick macy in the fleshmean). Both ladies are two of the most well-written, well-developed female characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to see on any show, gay zombies or not. But if any one character exemplifies the difficult, thought-provoking, heartwrenching themes of In The Flesh, it has to be Rick Macy. And that’s where today’s Fanfiction Fridays has landed us.

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