So I found this little musing on Tumblr, land of opinions, about the shipping of the non-canon, non-gay men characters on Sherlock. Cantpronounce is “still struggling to understand why” straight women shipping two men together is seen as fetishizing homosexuality.
Disclaimer, I know nothing about Johnlock, but this entitlement some straight people feel about LGBT characters is hardly unique to Sherlock. (Klainers, I’m looking at you) and hardly unique to women (straight dudes, queer women don’t exist for your gratification.) What I do understand; however, is why some LGBT people (and those allies who get it) have a hard time with straight people appropriating queer characters as their talisman for being mistreated by showrunners, writers or whoever, for shipping same gender couples.
Cantpronounce, as “a white, straight girl” who does not, judging by her post, seem to understand her privilege at all as both straight and white, is indeed fetishizing gay men by wanting to see them together, because there is no other reason–not as an ally to real LGBT people, for example. Don’t get me wrong, there is a definite problem with policing female sexuality in our culture. Female sexuality is complex, and women look for all kinds of pairing and couplings, which is completely valid. There is nothing wrong with shipping same gender couples. It’s the language and entitlement surrounding this that is problematic. Let me be clear.
Cantpronounce further says in a glaring statement of privilege:
“Yet, the power of heteronormativity and of people’s preconceptions and cultural set up is extremely strong, and I know it does influence me. I wish I could just enjoy my ship without being scared or worried or whatnot.”
Gee, I wish I could just enjoy my life without being scared I will be sexually assaulted or rejected by friends and family or denied basic civil rights just because I am LGBT–or whatnot. That’s what TV LGBT characters accomplish, and when heterosexual people start encroaching on that with their own entitlement, they’ve turned LGBT people into tokenistic objects who exist for the gratification of straight people, whether it’s men fetishizing lesbians or, in this case, women fetishizing gay men. It’s sometimes dangerous and quite frankly, the entitlement is irritating and absolutely unhelpful.
The ability to ship a non-canon fictional couple without shame has no political bearing on the real life of straight women. LGBT people don’t just want to see more couples like ourselves on screen, we NEED these characters as a tool for political gains. Representation with canon (or queer-baiting non-canon) characters on television for LGBT people does have a real life, political impact on the basic civil rights of LGBT people. (See well documented research correlating LGBT representation on TV and political gains.)
While I certainly understand being thought of as weird, being scared or worried as cantpronounce mentions she feels about shipping Johnlock, for LGBT people they aren’t just scared because of who they ship, but who they love in real life. At the end of the day, cantpronounce and other straight women like her will legally marry a man anywhere in the world she wants and get off while dreaming of gay men together. Must be nice to have your cake and eat it too. It’s not fiction for LGBT people.
And while cantpronounce doesn’t go this far, I’ve seen many straight women using LGBT rights as the reason they want more screen time for gay male couples. (Klainers…) Yet, these same self-identified “allies” actively ignore or denounce queer women characters and advocate only for two very specific male characters. Straight women claim–without even asking gay men--that male couples are great for LGBT representation. This disingenuous appropriation of the struggle for LGBT equality by straight women for their own gain is appalling. As Indigenous Action writes, “Co-signing ally as an identity while nothing concrete in your life connects you to any social justice work is infuriating.”
Representation on TV is one of the most powerful political tools the LGBT community has. Furthermore, when the squealing fan girling moves out of the fictional realm and these straight women start oozing how cute real LGBT couples are for their own personal satisfaction, that diminishes real people and turns them into characters who exist for heterosexual people. Who wants to be treated like that? Nobody.
So, “Why is shipping two characters seen as ‘fetishising homosexuality’?” The answer is simple. Same gender couples on TV have a much deeper resonance, importance and meaning than feeling validated shipping whoever a privileged straight person wants. Wanting more LGBT characters is great, but not for the selfish satisfaction of the heterosexual majority. LGBT characters represent real people. Real life trumps fiction. Please take your disingenuous entitlement (read: fetishization) of LGBT characters elsewhere.