There is work to be done in Hollywood when it comes to LGBTI representation. A lot of it. That doesn’t mean, however, fan harassment of creators — especially those who support us — is justified.
One of the most popular LGBTI-read relationships in 2019 is Crowley and Aziraphale, the demon and angel of Good Omens.
Amazon adapted the series this year, based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett.
David Tennant and Michael Sheen played Crowley and Aziraphale, respectively. Many fans watched the series and read their relationship as romantic, sexual, or anything in between. Several more fans have been reading them similarly since the book was first published in 1990.
Though the characters never kiss or say I love you, there is a deep, emotional bond, regardless.
Some fans, however, are not satisfied with this.
Harassment and vitriol are not the answer
This week, one fan angrily tweeted to Gaiman. They used caps and bitter language, calling Gaiman names like ‘spineless coward’.
Gaiman’s response to the fan was classy, telling them it is ‘completely within your rights’ to read Crowley and Aziraphale as a queer relationship.
The fan specifically took issue with the fact that Crowley and Aziraphale are canonically not male (and therefore not gay) because demons and angels are sexless. This is why Gaiman does not describe them as gay.
‘I’ve actually never said this is not Queer,’ he continued.
Elsewhere on Twitter, he said that although the characters are not gay men, he did write them — specifically in the TV show — as a love story.
According to the book, angels and demons are sexless. They don't have genders. I've been very happy to describe it as a love story, because that's what I wrote. I'm not going to describe them as gay men because whatever they are, they aren't that.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) July 10, 2019
He’s said the same on Tumblr and that he ‘absolutely’ embraces LGBTI fans reading and celebrating them this way.
Recognize people who champion our stories
Gaiman is a writer who has long been inclusive in his stories and supportive of his LGBTI fans.
When a fan asked him about including diverse characters in the Sandman comic, he replied simply: ‘Most of my friends were LGBT and I didn’t see them in the comics I was reading, so I put them in the ones I was writing.’
Another time, a queer fan of color asked Gaiman how to make their experiences relatable for a ‘mainstream audience’.
‘Here is a secret of writing: if you write a person who people can care about, readers will read about them. Never lose sight of that,’ he responded.
‘You have unique stories, your stories, ones only you can tell. Tell them. I’m much more interested in them than I am in you trying to make them less true and less interesting to please an imaginary audience.
‘If publishers and agents don’t like them, go around the publishers and the agents, and publish directly – there are so many ways to do that these days. But write your stories. Don’t compromise. You can trust your readers, of all genders and skin colours and experiences to follow you, if you are honest with them.’
Despite what some may think, the A in various iterations of the LGBTI community’s acronym does not stand for ‘ally’ (it stands for asexual/aromantic). Allies’ voices are not nearly as important as our own when it comes to our experiences and stories.
Their support, however, is still important — and can aid us in educating others, as that is not our job.
There are more important battles
Life is full of battles, some more important than others. Losing sight of this risks exhaustion, burnout, unintentional stumbling that keeps us from happiness and peace.
There is work to be done, and we should absolutely continue using our voices, demanding better, refusing to watch things that harm our community. On the flip side, this is why we need to watch and read LGBTI-inclusives stories (unfortunately, capitalism does still dictate many aspects of creativity and accessibility).
These ideas can get dangerous on the internet.
The internet, where it’s much easier to type hateful messages from behind a screen, breeds toxicity. Death threats and vile harassment are never okay.
Discourse, holding people accountable (including allies, who should not only strive for inclusivity, but also use their privilege to lift up marginalized creators), and using our own voices and agency in proactive ways will always go further and make a bigger impact.