In media, especially prior to the 2010s, queer people were used as a plot device, and never in a serious matter that drove the story forward. For men, queerness was and continues to be used for comedic relief, because why would a man kiss another man unless it was to make people laugh? For women, queerness is used as something attractive to look at, because why would a woman kiss another woman unless it was for someone else to enjoy it?
As we delve into the differences between how queer relationships and identities are used and viewed, we see that men, transgender people, or masculine-presenting women are posied as gross, funny or undesirable. When it comes to feminine women, however, relationships are often viewed in the complete opposite way. Why exactly is this? The answer largely stems from misogyny and the patriarchy.
In a society dominated by men, we adjust the produced media and stories told in order to pander to them. What this means is that since straight males have nothing to gain from a relationship between two men, it is deemed as invalid and inferior since it has nothing to do with them.
When it comes to two women, however, straight men suddenly become interested because it is something that they can enjoy. This makes these relationships seem false and performative because society chooses to believe that anything women do is for the enjoyment of men.
Queerness in women has become so sexualized that they are not seen as anything outside of the men who want to gain from them. Over time, lesbian relationships became fetishized, thus resulting in an influx of harmful representation in the media which created an image of these relationships under the guise of the male gaze. A prime example of this is the way lesbian movie posters often depict actresses very close to one another, nearly kissing, while this is much more rare in posters of gay men.
As a lecturer and queer author, Dr. Stuart Richards states, “If it’s for mainstream audiences, what they’re presenting is this one type of intimacy and that type of intimacy is a sexualized one…Audiences are generally more comfortable seeing women kiss than men kiss.”
The way these relationships are portrayed causes them to exist without needing to be real. This gives them a place in our society that allows them to become normalized despite how inaccurately they are viewed. This is extremely harmful to the community and the way people see lesbian relationships despite the added exposure they receive, and is the reason these relationships are more accepted than gay relationships.
Whether normalized or not, these ideas can be very dangerous to queer individuals. The idea of two men being in love is so offensive to some people that they feel the need to get violent upon witnessing it. The idea of two women being in love seems so unfathomable that refusal to show this “love” in a way the viewer enjoys can spark anger in an individual who cannot control themselves. Queer people are real and they do not exist to please others.
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