Straightwashing GBLT Characters
This erasure annoys me, it truly does. But do you know what annoys me even more?
When they remove already existing gay characters to sanitise a work for television. To have those few tiny crumbs we’ve actually managed to achieve removed lest it hurt the delicate fee-fees of the poor straight world.
So when Tanya Huff’s Blood Ties series of books became a TV show, bisexual Henry became straight and gay man Tony was replaced by a straight woman. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a big fan for the portrayal in the books – but that doesn’t excuse cutting them out entirely.
Even Troy crosses the line with a very straight retelling of the Illiad.
Now we’re getting Da Vinci’s Demons, that would be Leonardo Da Vinci, he was repeatedly accused of sodomy, never married, was never connected to a female lover, but repeatedly with men, drew erotic pictures of them and left his most valuable painting in his will to one of his live-in “apprentices” Da Vinci. It’s an act of wilful ignorance to not realise Da Vinci played for our team. In fact, if you don’t want to include us icky gay people then you probably need to stay away from Renaissance painters – especially Florentine Renaissance painters! But Da Vinci’s Demons?
Well, the first scene we see him in, pretty much, involves him with a bare breasted woman who he “rescued” from a nunnery and it’s repeatedly made clear that he is having regular sex with. His main love interest - his overwhelming obsession - is Lucrezia Donati. A substantial amount of his time is spent obsessing over her - and her over him; and we get several explicit sex scenes between them. So do we have any indication that Leonardo Da Vinci, actual gay man, was actually even slightly interested in men? Well, in the Tower he is accused of sodomy (Florence is apparently full of “sodomites” - shame we never saw any of them, ever) and on trial. It’s almost comic if it weren’t so insulting - firstly when he makes an ambiguous speech that amounts to “mind your own business” Vanessa speaks up quickly to remind us that he’s totally slept with her.
Later he finally confronts his accuser, they share a chaste goodbye kiss (and it’s ADAMANT that this is goodbye) and Leonardo calls it “curiosity” and “experimentation.” They then quickly plunge him naked into a bath with Lucrezia so he can finger her under the water - subtle, right? They could have just flashed “No Homo” up on the screen. But hey, we did have a murderous gay or paedophile pope (Jury’s still out) and a self indulgent bisexual Duke of Milan (now dead). That’s some epic level straightwashing
Of course it’s not unique among straight washing of historical settings. Ancient Greece? Straightest of straightopias that ever declared the overwhelming joy of vaginas and penises being united! Really. Or so 300 tells me and Troy. Or Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Not only are all of them straighter than a damn laser beam, they’re freaked out by gay men or just homophobic. and so many more – I’ve actually read over 5 series using the Ancient Greek gods that are entirely straight. One actually has a homophobic Apollo. Apollo, homophobic. Or an all straight group of amazons. It makes me want to beat someone round the head and shoulders with a mythology text.
It’s not like these examples are one offs, straightening history has been a major habit of the media’s for a very long time. In fact, straightening us in general seems to be a massive requirement and reason #866 why I don’t watch these dancing reality shows is I’m sick of seeing gay celebrities shoved automatically into opposite sex pairs for dancing.
For that matter, straightening history has been a major part of society and academia for a long time. References to GBLT people throughout history have long been buried by academia and that’s on top of the forces of homophobia and transphobia that forced our predecessors to hide and closet themselves when they were alive.