QA: Power dynamics of queer headcanons

I’d like to address a question in my comments so it gets more viability, and I can elaborate on power dynamics a bit better. It’s a good question that gets to the heart of why this is an issue I am so firm on and persistent about.



Question:
Just curious, how do you feel about people making Molly trans or gay?

Answer:
I think messing with

any queer identity is rude because you’re talking representation away

from someone else who needs it. Bi and pan erasure from the queer

community itself remains a persistent problem, and headcanons that make

Molly (exclusively) gay contribute to that. That one in particular irritates me because of power dynamics.

Nonbinary

people are similarly erased by the trans community, so while my

feelings are softer on that one because we’re all lacking decent

representation, I still see that as perpetuating a consistent systemic

harm. It reeks of Molly’s gender needing to be more palatable to a

binary model he doesn’t belong in.

People deserve to see themselves in

canon representation without being told by anyone that representation is

wrong.


Now, I don’t think people are making these changes out of malicious intent. I do believe they just want to see themselves represented. But actions have consequences and you can do hard you don’t intend.

We’re used to altering allocishet characters to make our own representation. They are over-represented, written as a default, and at the apex of the sexuality & gender power structure. They have the bulk of the pie and the rest of us are squabbling over crumbs.

So, the optics of altering aspects of queer identity in a character are very different. It is inherently punching down and stealing someone else’s crumbs. It’s shoving each other and we’ll never get anywhere doing that.

It also gets into the power, privilege, and gatekeeping structures within the queer community. Roughly, this is what they are currently:

Attraction:
Straight >> Gay > Lesbian >> Bi, Pan

Gender:
Cis >>> Trans >> Nonbinary (them/them) > Nonbinary (other nongendered pronouns), Nonbinary (binary pronouns (although more passing privilege))

Attraction Intensity:
Allo >>>> Ace > Aro

Obviously, the exact power dynamics in any situation are going to be more complicated than that, but it’s worth understanding this is often the order, especially when it comes to gatekeeping queerness. The intersectionality of racism, misogyny, abeism, ageism, etc. all also play a gigantic role in these power dynamics, but they’re outside the scope of this essay.

So, part of the dynamic of changing Molly from allo, genderfluid (he/him), bi is a subtext that bi isn’t queer enough, using binary pronouns isn’t queer enough, being genderfluid isn’t queer enough. And again, people making these headcanons might not intend for that to be the subtext, but the history of systemic gatekeeping means it’s there anyway, and everyone who has been subject to that gatekeeping feels it whenever they come across these headcanons. Note that depending on usage, “gay” can be used by bi and pan people to mean they feel same-gender attraction. This usage is directly a product of the above power dynamics.

It’s also worth noting that since Molly is canon allo, meaning attraction intensity is NOT part of his queer identity, headcanons that make him ace aren’t participating in queer erasure or gatekeeping. Power dynamics are what’s important here.

Any time we’re talking about representation, we’re talking about power dynamics. Good representation inches our way closer to equality of power. Bad representation or erasing representation re-entrenches or further unbalances existing power. That’s the most important thing to be mindful when you’re wondering if changing representation is okay. You can ignore these power dynamics, but you can’t opt out of them.


Since this has already come up in response, pointing out

power dynamics is not an attempt to “win the oppression Olympics.”

All queer people are oppressed by allocishet normativity. None of us are more

or less oppressed. But there is a power structure to who gets their voices

heard, who is erased, and who is told they’re “not really oppressed”

or “seeking attention.” That is what I’m pointing out. We experience oppression

differently, and that’s why all our

voices need to be heard. This is how

we fight among ourselves. Ignoring voices and experiences limits our ability to

fight the system that hurts all of us.

To be perfectly clear, my “don’t mess with canon queer identities” absolutely extends to gay, lesbian, and trans character. Changing those identities to ones you like better is also erasure and harmful. Tangentially related, shouting over each other’s queer headcanons for cannon allocishet or unconfirmed characters is also incredibly rude. My point is we need to share our toys.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.