Monday, February 27, 2012

These are terms that do not exist....

Lately I've been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It's scratching a lot of itches for me.  It's a solid WoW-Clone MMO with all the features you'd expect and a solid, reliable, and recognizable interface.  The story is top notch and if you play a Sith you get to have a rocking British Accent.  Unless you're undercover in which case you're supposed to sound like you're from the American Midwest.  Personally, I'd like to find that planet where you sound like you're from Boston*.

At any rate, I was looking up stuff on line related to a recent twist with my newbie operative when I came across a fascinating quote:
After a user expressed concern that Bioware had "disallowed" the use of the terms "gay" and "lesbian" on the boards in a thread titled "GLBT discrimination in forums?" a Bioware forum moderator dropped in and posted this: 
As I have stated before, these are terms that do not exist in Star Wars. 
Thread closed.

Bioware, of course, has since apologized.  Many times over. After all this was back in 2009 and by 
Internet standards on the same page practically pre-historic.   It probably still apologizes when it comes up.  The truth is that in our reality those terms do exist and the people who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, do exist.  Such a dismissal was callous and a public relations fuster cluck.

But it got me thinking about the greater concept there.  Strip away the situation of a frustrated forum moderator shutting down conversation and look at the basic concept:

The terms "Gay" and "Lesbian" do not exist.
What's important to note is that it doesn't say that same sex relationships do not exist, that gay people do not exist.  Only that the terms do not.  That implies a world where loving someone of the same gender is not seen as something that requires a label to describe it other than "love".

We don't look at married friends (who happen to be opposite genders) and say "Wow, they've got a great straight marriage".  No.  We simply say "They've got a great marriage."  In an ideal world the term "gay" never comes into play since the use of the word denotes "other".  You have a "boyfriend" and you have a "gay boyfriend".  You have a "lover" and you have a "lesbian lover".

As I'm oft to note, dear reader, I am in the process of building a world, one nation-state at a time.  I have the freedom to make my Royal Commonwealth of Worlds how ever I like, to be whatever level of Utopia I wish it to be.  I can make it homophobic, homo-accepting or simply gender-not-interested.

I did this to a degree in FantastiCon.  Two of my three main characters hint at same sex relationships but never are the words "gay" or "lesbian" used.  I presented, I think, an idealize view of sexuality even though the book is set in "the real world".  In fact upon first read-through, my mother in law looked at me and asked "Is that she supposed to be gay?"  I shrugged it off and said "I guess.  I simply wrote her as having a romantic option and didn't worry about gender typing."

So upon reflection, I believe that in my Commonwealth, I can unapologetically say that the terms Gay and Lesbian won't exist either.  Perhaps they will for the New Terran Confederacy, or the Empire of the Red Nova.  Surely among some of the Union of Independent Worlds there will be some that are radically homophobic and some that are strictly homosexual.  Why not?

But no, I think that while I am trying to avoid the total Utopia that some series go for, I will have this:  One where we judge not on the gender of a partner but on the quality of the relationship.

*  As most Star Wars fans will know, John Ratzenberger plays the role of Major Bren Derlin who has the singular line telling all of the assembled crew on Hoth to get to their ships.  It's hard not to hear that line as having a touch of Bostonian drawl, more so when you know the actor who provides it.


  1. I think in the future gender will matter a lot less. Once technology allows us to change genders back and forth with reproductive capacity unimpaired, labels like gay and straight will lose meaning. Jack Chalker played with this concept quite a bit in his novels.

    1. I want to agree but as long as we have sex, gender will always matter to some degree. Maybe once we can redefine our looks and our 'parts' at will that will change, but until then things like sexuality will always be a consideration.

      I know going in I don't plan to write any specifically "gay" characters. I intend to have some in relationships, and some will be very open with sex and others more reserved. But what I want to do is to take the gender issue off the table. It's not the parts that matter, it's the emotions of the relationship that does.