From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

How Frodo and Sam Were “Mostly Gay”

I’ve heard many a person say that Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings were gay. But as it turns out, just as Wesley in The Princess Bride was actually “mostly dead”, Frodo and Sam were probably just “mostly” gay.

Likewise, I have heard complaints from those who feel the inclusion of homosexuality in a fantasy world is as unnecessary and arbitrary as having the heroic champion pause to rail against liberal tree-hugging mages who don’t understand the war against the Tarerids in Aroc.

Such persons may see homosexuality as a unique and voluntary product of our societal history that need not exist in fantasy worlds, or as the author’s personal view being thrust upon them. Such protests are often rooted in a belief that homosexuality is not “natural.”

So why does homosexuality exist? And does it make sense for fantasy worlds and fantasy races to include homosexual behaviors?

Well, an article by Robert Kunzig in the June, 2008 issue of Psychology Today offers not one but three answers to the mystery of homosexuality’s existence, and further proof that homosexuality is natural. While the research he discusses focuses on mundane earth-folk (and particularly males), I’d say these same answers would apply equally whether you’re from earth or Middle Earth.

First, it turns out there is not any single “gay gene.” Nope, not even Rock and Republic bootcuts. Rather, a wide variety of genetic traits and bio-chemical influences must all be just right for a man to turn out biologically homosexual (as versus the variety of hormones and recreational chemical influences that may make a young man experimentally bisexual).

Which means that yes, a man can be, say, 63 percent biologically gay. His sexual preferences may be completely heterosexual. He would be seen as a “real man” by today’s standards (or even by King Denethor’s standards). But he may have increased levels of kindness, sensitivity, and other nurturing traits one might consider more feminine than masculine. Think Aragorn off the battlefield.

Only if the other 37% of biological factors needed to make Aragorn gay had been just right during his creation would he have been born truly homosexual, and thus felt exclusively attracted to other men (or male elves, I suppose, although that’s a whole other issue).

So any woman seeking a man who is likely to stick around and help raise her child in a loving, nurturing environment would choose a guy who has a large number of the same “feminizing” traits that contribute to (but do not individually cause) homosexuality. She might even forgo sailing to paradise to stay with him.

And this is how these traits have been selected for and perpetuated down through the generations, spreading them throughout the male population, even though intuitively you might think homosexuality would be deselected as not increasing the likelihood of reproduction.

Another genetic factor, passed down from the mother to some male homosexuals, may literally drive a desire in some women to have lots o’ sex with men. Cue lusty bar wench. This is good for the mother since it increases the number of offspring and therefore the overall odds of her family line continuing. But passed down to sons, it may increase the odds of homosexuality.

Finally, there is the “fraternal birth order effect.” Basically, male homosexuals often have a large number of older brothers, and in fact the more older brothers a man has, the more likely he is to be gay. Why?

The leading theory is that women’s immune systems react to male fetuses, and with each successive pregnancy its resistance to male-specific proteins increases. Once this immune response reaches a certain strength, it may affect the developing fetus such that it becomes gay. This may very well explain the rarity of seventh sons of seventh sons – there’s a high probability that the first seventh son is gay, and not too likely to be fathering seven sons of his own.

Speaking of women, what of lesbians? Well, the studies focused on male homosexuals, allegedly due to the greater difficulty in determining female sexual orientation – as the article states, “women are much more likely to report fantasizing about both sexes, or to change how they report their sexual orientation over time.”

I’m sure that is part of it, as is, I suspect, that female homosexuality is seen as more acceptable by men and therefore less “controversial” (and thus in less urgent need of explanation). But the article suggests that perhaps similar factors that lead to male homosexuality may lead to female homosexuality – for example, a buildup of “masculinizing” genes that benefits the mother by making her a better protector of her child.

One potential issue some may have with this information is the use of the terms “feminizing” and “masculinizing,” as they imply certain behavioral traits are specific to gender. For example, it can be seen as sexist to say women are nurturing and men are violent, when clearly there are nurturing men and violent women.

This is a complex rabbit hole of a side issue. Suffice to say that there are differences in the genetics, the biochemistry, even the brain structures of the two sexes (to whatever degree that may contribute to, but not guarantee, predispositions to certain behaviors and traits).

And when a male has a traditionally “female” brain structure and/or certain genetic traits or predispositions that are dominantly seen in females, or that have been identified as contributing to behaviors that society and the researchers label (but are not really exclusively) feminine, this has been shown to result in homosexual behavior.

So what do all of these revelations on homosexuality mean?

It means that homosexuality is natural and isn’t going anywhere. Nor should it, since the individual traits that contribute to it are actually beneficial in many ways.

It also makes sense that homosexuality can certainly exist in fantasy worlds and fantasy races as well, for the same evolutionary reasons.

And it means that when you say some guy who just cut you down in Halo or World of Warcraft is “so gay” as a put down, you are technically correct, if as rude and unthinking as someone who uses a racial slur.

Because every “straight” guy you can think of, both real (Sean Hannity, Rick Santorum, the Pope, and Pastor Fred W. Phelps) or fictional (Indiana Jones, Perrin Aybara, Colbey the Renshai, or Captain Sun Wolf), is likely “a bit gay” — genetically speaking, of course.

30 Responses »

  1. Weak. Quite well written, but unconvincing, beyond the common knowledge that ‘almost everyone is gay to a certain extent’ and did not address the title question.

    “And when a male has a traditionally “female” brain structure and/or certain genetic traits or predispositions that are dominantly seen in females, or that have been identified as contributing to behaviors that society and the researchers label (but are not really exclusively) feminine, this has been shown to result in homosexual behavior.”

    Cite, or I call bullshit. “Shown to result” you may as well have just written “I don’t understand the science”

  2. FM, this article summarises the one it cites …

  3. I’ve not heard that Frodo & Sam were gay. I’m not sure if you’re referring to the films only, both the films & the books, or just the books, for that matter. The idea that homosexuality should be excluded from fantasy strikes me as absurd. The fact that homosexuals are present in the real world alone is enough to make homosexual characters valid in fantasy. Fantasy is a setting, not an excuse to evade real world issues. I also wonder about the reasoning behind the supposed gay-ness of Frodo & Sam. Hetero males relate best to fellow hetero males.

  4. Will: Just type “Frodo Sam Gay” into Google. I believe the question is mostly inspired by the movie, though it has been raised about the book as well. And that doesn’t even count slash fiction of course ;)

    I personally don’t believe they were gay, but rather from a culture that didn’t get so squirmy and uncomfortable about males expressing their perfectly hetero affection for each other. Love is not the same thing as sexual desire. However, per the evidence and theories expressed in the article I referenced, they perhaps had a high percentage expression of those traits that, had sufficient other factors been in place, would have otherwise caused them to be born homosexual.

    And yes, sadly, there are people who protest the inclusion of homosexuality in fantasy fiction. Heck, there’s people who think Spongebob Squarepants is pushing the “Homosexual Agenda” onto their youth, so, you know, there are always the sadly misled extremists.

    But beyond that, I have certainly heard arguments against gays in second world fantasy, just as I’ve heard arguments about whether there should be Catholic style religions, Asian cultures, whether fantasy races should be multi-ethnic and multi-colored, etc. I have heard it presented with various justifications as well — that Western readers have certain expectations and comfort zones, that other worlds would not have evolved or developed the same as ours, that it just isn’t marketable, etcetera and so forth. All lame rationalizations, in my humble opinion.

    For the most part, though, I think the bigger issue is not the protests against such things, but rather the lack of inclusion of racial and sexual and cultural diversity to begin with. But that’s a problem that is slowly being addressed, I think, and another topic altogether.

  5. That is really gross. Thanks for ruining LOTR for me.

  6. Fox: Assuming you are referring to the overall article, or to the thought of Frodo and Sam loving each other, here is something to think about — positive human relationships have been found to be the single most important factor in emotional health and long term happiness. And both of those things tend to also equal longer life and greater health.

    Assuming one is male, deeming even non-sexual love between males as “gross” would eliminate half of humanity from your potential pool of true and deep relationships.

    There are multiple possible reasons a person may develop such a self-limiting emotional handicap as feeling uncomfortable with expressions of love between two men, even expressions that don’t involve sex, most of them having to do with upbringing and socialization. But it is nothing that can’t be changed if one wants to do so.

    Being truly emotionally developed, including being truly and honestly comfortable in your own sexuality, and by extension not uncomfortable with other people’s sexuality or feeling a need to “prove” your hetero status, will be more than worth the effort as the rewards are a healthier, happier life.

    Just as you might exercise your body to feel healthy and attractive, so too it is important to exercise and work on your emotions and cognitions to ensure they are healthy. Just as eating a bunch of junk food, or receiving an injury, can undermine your physical health or require physical therapy, some of the junk we are socialized with through parents or friends or media, or some of the emotional injuries we receive, also require work to undo, and sometimes therapy.

    I would also like to point out that whereas I can’t think of anyone who would be harmed by the kind of love and devotion Frodo and Sam demonstrate, contrarily, expressing disgust or fear over such love is not only a sign of often self-inflicted emotional damage or limitations in the person expressing the negativity, but also is harmful in real ways, as demonstrated by the recent rash of teen suicides for example.

    (And if you weren’t referring to the overall article, or to the thought of Frodo and Sam loving each other, well, the above is still worth saying). :)

  7. I read the article and there’s no cite in that either, nor any evidence. That’s why this article needed a cite, rather than just vaguely referencing “Oh, it’s somewhere in the article we’re talking about”

    Fact is, unless that’s referencing some brand new and compelling research, that entire paragraph misunderstands, mischaracterises, or flat out lies about the current understanding of sex-linked brain development and it’s connection to sexuality. If the author had bothered to cite it properly it would be easy to check the reference, and find out where he has made his mistake, or even, find out that there’s new and interesting results being published.

    Fox, you’re a tool. I’d be more descriptive but I don’t know what language would be considered unnacceptable here. If that were to ruin the book for you, all that would say about you is a) you’re a homophobe and b) you’re such a stupid homophobe, with such retardedly inculcated prejudices that you are unable to read a book with a gay main character. The story and the writing somehow change for you, if there is any hint or allusion to being gay. Twat.

  8. FM: You did notice this is Fantasy Magazine, not a science journal, right? ;)

    But seriously, I was not writing for a science audience. To be specific about brain structure, below are some links to hopefully satisfy your citation requirements (some are techy for folks like you, some are user friendly for the general reader). They explain (with citation):

    A) there absolutely are brain structure differences between homosexuals and heterosexuals,
    B) Many of those differences do match opposite sex structures (i.e. a homosexual man’s brain structure is in some ways more identical to a woman’s brain structure than a hetero man’s), with the caveat that:
    C) Regarding the hypothalamus, it does differ in size between gay and straight men, but that difference does not necessarily match the size difference between sexes.

    Also, while the brain has been shown to change based upon use and behavior (e.g. persons who are blinded or suffer brain damage may have changes in brain structures as they adapt to their new situation), the significant brain differences identified between homosexuals and heterosexuals are believed to develop during fetal and neo-natal development. In other words, those who try to dismiss these differences as being BECAUSE the person chooses to engage in homosexual behavior are misinformed and incorrect.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/30/10273.full

    http://www.isds.duke.edu/courses/Fall02/sta240/THmidt.dir/sciencearticle.pdf

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC49673/pdf/pnas01089-0546.pdf

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-7988.html/

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/09/60minutes/main1385230.shtml

    http://playthink.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/the-gay-brain/

    Thank you for holding me to a high standard, especially on a topic that has very real impact in many people’s lives today.

    Cheers,

    Randy

  9. PS – let me just clarify (in case it was missed somehow) that my article is not intended to be a bullet proof representation of the science behind homosexuality, but rather a discussion of how we can believe homosexuality would naturally evolve in a fantasy world given that we can posit explanations of how homosexually likely evolved in our world despite the intuitive assumption that it would be selected out (i.e. natural selection selects for traits that increases likelihood of survival and reproduction, and homosexuals do not reproduce with each other, yet we can understand now how such traits might be selected for after all).

    Clearly, I support the belief that homosexuality is natural. And personally, I wouldn’t care if it was entirely biological or environmental, it is natural either way — it has been around for all of recorded human history, it is evident in other species, it is just love, and it is not harmful. And while I do believe that there is a strong genetic/ neurological/ biological component, and that the science is increasingly supporting that fact, it was not my intent to “prove” that with this article, but at most to expose readers to that probability so that they can go forth and read more on the topic if they wish. Particularly if that reader is gay and struggling with their identity due to bullying or having been taught that it is wrong and unnatural or even evil. Or if the reader is a homophobe who thinks homosexuality is unnatural.

  10. Hmm, I’ll concede the science behind brain-structure differences and the likelihood of homosexuality occuring in a metaphorical fantasy universe, but I don’t buy the “partially homosexual” argument. Oh, sure, a guy could be more nurturing, neat, orderly, or have a thing for showtunes (I’ve no trouble as a heterosexual man admitting that I’m partial to Fiddler on the Roof and Wicked, personally) but until he is focused on men romantically/sexually he’s not “a little bit homosexual.” That sounds similar to being a little bit pregnant.

    I certainly agree that homosexuality is no more evil than heterosexuality. Plenty of people are in happy stable relationships of either orientation, and plenty of people hurt themselves and others in relationships of either orientation.

    That being said, Frodo and Sam are kind of annoying. I mean here’s Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Theoden, Eomer and Eowyn (and even Sam and Merry) whipping ass on Orcs and Uruk-hai and Nazghul left and right, and there’s Sam and Frodo gazing solefully into each other’s eyes again. Sure, Arwen and Aragorn get a few moments like that in the movies, but it’s a FEW momments and then back to the war!

    And I do have one more quiblle with your argument. The odds of anyone reading your article liking Fred Phelps are extraordinary slim, so naming him as a possible hero for the reader seems a little disengenous. Even the stick-in-the-muds trying to ban Harry Potter from school libraries would name him a biggot and a hate-monger. Any publication of fantasy is bound to be apostate to him and his ilk.

    Unless, of course, you’re trying to imply that looking up to Hannity or the Pope is morally equivalent to being one of Phelps’ biggots, since there are conservatives and Catholics who do like fantasy and science fiction, THEY might be reading, after all, and why miss an opporutnity to equate being religious/conservative with being bigotted? Generalizations are only evil, after all, when they’re someone else’s generalizations…

  11. I also have a quibble with the way I just spelled quiblle. Sigh, my argument undone by a typo.

  12. As a big Tolkien fan…

    Tolkien made a statement on this. I don’t have links — I believe it’s in the Humphrey Carpenter biography, but I don’t have time to read the whole thing to find the page number — but he said he didn’t even know what homosexuality was until he was twenty-something, and that none of his characters were gay. Tolkien enjoyed friendship with a variety of other men, including C.S. Lewis. He lived in an age where male camaraderie was not equated to being homosexual and men didn’t have to prove they were heterosexual. Frodo and Sam highlight some of the noblest parts of friendship. Reading it as a homosexual relationship, to me, is like saying “you can’t be friends without sleeping together, or wanting to.” That’s absurd.

    Have the discussion about homosexuality in fantasy if you like, but I think pulling LotR out of context to try and make a point is disrespectful to the best creative mind of the past century. I love the Frodo and Sam chapters, because it shows that true friendship ennobles humanity. Don’t we need a little more nobility in humanity?

  13. I was talking about the movie more than the books, personally.

    Now, Tolkien as the BEST creative mind of the last century? I don’t know, a genius certainly, but the best? That’s a bold assertion.

  14. This is a really interesting exploration of the benefits of diversity. I cannot cite this as I heard it on Radio National (ABC Australia) but it was a program that posited the view that the incidence of homosexuality, both male and female, which is about one person in ten, was in direct correlation to the average size of clans in the early years of homosapiens- the scientist argued that in such a clan having a member who could be part of the hunting and gathering group without having dependents such as children was of great value.

    So we rate- on and yes I love the hoyay in LOTR

    Cheers

  15. Justin: I dismiss everything you said because you misspelled quiblle. Thanks for giving me that easy out.

    Oh, all right. In response, let me say that I did start off comparing my definition of “mostly gay” to Wesley’s state of “mostly dead” in Princess Bride, so clearly I recognize the sense of ridiculousness in the statement. I suppose it might indeed be compared to being mostly pregnant in the sense that a woman who is fertile and has an egg ready to go and just had intercourse with a fertile man has many of the attributes that would make one pregnant, but is lacking that all important defining attribute, that the egg has actually been fertilized. Saying they are “mostly gay” is of course just another way of saying they are not at all gay, but have certain attributes that, had conditions been otherwise, would have made them truly gay.

    And good point on Freddie boy. Thanks.

  16. Miriel:
    I fear you may have misread my article (or perhaps based your judgement on the title alone?), which I will take as a challenge to be more clear in the future. At no point did I say Frodo and Sam WERE gay, nor did I take LotR “out of context” to make a point. I spoke to public PERCEPTION of the relationship between Frodo and Sam based, primarily, on the movie but also on the books.

    You say we need more nobility in humanity, and I am curious what you think my article was doing if not PROMOTING said nobility in humanity? After all, my article and subsequent comments are more aimed at reducing unreasoned prejudice and persecution of people based on a perception that their natural sexuality is somehow unnatural and evil than, as you seem to think, somehow besmirching the good name of Tolkien.

    I hope, in short, that you will read (or re-read) the article and comments and perhaps spread some nobility to the humans who this topic impacts in very real ways.

    And Tolkien was a hack.

    Just kidding.

  17. Chris M:
    Thanks for that. Very interesting. Reminds me a bit of the Native American/ First Tribes “Two-Spirits”, persons who are believed to have both male and female spirits within them and serve a variety of specific functions within the tribe.

    Despite these small examples of cultural acceptance of LGBT persons, it is important to remember that they have also been very much persecuted and ostracized throughout history. And in many parts of the world today, if you are even suspected of being gay you are cut off socially, arrested, tortured, and even killed. This lends even further proof, in my mind, that it is “natural,” because who, for example, would “choose” to be gay in a society where you had to hide it for fear of your very life? But that is a rather assumptive argument and certainly can be argued away by the willfully bigoted.

    This also leads to the point that while it certainly makes sense to have LGBT characters in a second world fantasy novel, how the society views and treats LGBT characters should be rooted in the unique cultural history and sociological factors of the created world and should not arbitrarily be modeled on, for example, the LGBT experience in modern US, or conversely in World War II Germany.

  18. I did read the article. Tolerance and nobility didn’t occur to me as the aim of this writing. The article slams slurs against homosexual individuals as a great evil, but in the comments you refer to people who are morally opposed to homosexuality as bigoted and homophobic. I see you participating in the same name-calling you dislike — segmenting a group of people into a broad stereotype. Throwing names at people you don’t like (or who called you names first) isn’t new, and I wouldn’t call it tolerance or nobility, either. To me, tolerance means finding something to respect about people, even when I don’t agree with everything he or she believes. It’s easy to praise people you like and throw names at people you don’t. Having a dialogue with people you disagree with — that’s something that actually leads to understanding each other, even if the opinions don’t change.

    I commented on Tolkien’s intent partially because I thought it was an easily documented weak point of the article (okay — “greatest creative mind” is clearly opinion — I’d also take Louie Armstrong or Nikola Tesela, but I think that’s a debate for a different day). Tolkien’s also dead and can’t restate his opinions for himself. I think I owe him a couple for writing some amazing things and sparking a genre. If I was dead and someone was misinterpreting my work, I’d want someone to speak for me, even if it wasn’t popular. Hmm…Speaker for the Dead…but that’s a different book.

    On a completely different note, I really wish there was a cite for the radio show. I’m not sure where those numbers came from. Technically, the smallest organization of human society is called a “band.” They’re no larger than 25-60 people (People of the Earth, Brian M. Fagan — yes, I keep archaeological textbooks in my house. They’re a good read. This is a standard one). Certainly some had about ten people, but the size of bands vary greatly. This organization continues in some parts of the world today, and was “the dominant form of social organization for most hunter-gatherers from the earliest times [i.e., when we're talking about] up to the origins of food production” (p. 18). Sorry I’m a stickler for details — I know I’m probably annoying someone right now. In these bands (and society in general), there are people without small children to watch who have been documented as extremely helpful to the survival of the next generation. They’re called grandmothers. One of the reasons posited for the longer lifespan of women is their important role even after reproductive capability ends. That’s why I wish I could go read up on the radio thing; they might have something new, but it doesn’t sound like any of the prehistory I’ve ever read. Recovering new archaeological data on the size of bands would require some very interesting circumstances. Now, if they’d done a wide ethnographic study of current bands and found that in many bands, one-in-ten was homosexual and that had a positive effect on the culture — that would be a good argument. Analogy based on ethnographic studies is often employed in archaeology (with some caution, of course — but I’ve probably bored enough people already).

  19. Miriel,

    Again, I fear you have misread my article. I never misrepresent or abuse Tolkien’s characters.

    As for saying that I equated “moral opposition” to homosexuality with bigotry and homophobia, I did not. You are taking words out of context.
    But I will be happy to do so now.

    The dictionary defines a bigot as “a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” And homophobia as an “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals”.

    Just as a person who in the past (or, sadly, in the present) was “morally opposed” to relations between blacks and whites would justifiably be labeled a bigot and racist, so too a person who is “morally opposed” to homosexuality is, by dictionary definitions, a bigot and a homophobe.

    As for “moral objections” in general, there is no rational justification for opposition to homosexuality. It is natural. It harms nobody.

    Of course, most moral objections to homosexuality are based on misunderstanding, or selective application, of religious texts.

    People who don’t bother to understand the Bible, but just take the word of others on its meaning, may think that the Bible, for example, condemns homosexuality. And they would be wrong. Because it doesn’t, not really.

    In the old Testament, true, it “condemns” it to the same degree that it condemns eating shellfish, or cutting your hair incorrectly, or being disobedient to your parents. But those were all rules that were needed for tribal cohesion, and were also tied into the belief of purity being one thing (i.e. can’t wear clothes of two fibers, can’t have a sexuality that is of both sexes). Yet I don’t see Christians trying to pass laws saying that if you eat at the Red Lobster or wear polyester, you should not be able to marry. Go figure.

    In the New Testament, Jesus doesn’t say anything about it. You’d think, if it was really important, he would have spared a couple of words on the topic. But nope. Where Christians get their justification from is Paul. But what they overlook (or simply don’t bother to learn) is that Paul was speaking not about homosexuality (a loose and lazy modern translation of the original Greek word), but very specifically about pagan sex rites performed in temples where men abused boys. Which I think we can all agree is a terrible thing. But it is not a condemnation of two men having a loving relationship. Or even a consensual one night stand for that matter.

    So, again, since there is no real justification to “morally object” to homosexuality, to do so is the very definition of bigotry. Maybe it is like the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” not the hard bigotry of lynch mobs, but it is bigotry nonetheless. And of course personal discrimination against homosexuals is, by definition, homophobic.

    But that is just my opinion (based on fact, but an opinion nonetheless). Your opinion obviously differs. So I shall consider my point made, and shall respond no more on the topic.

  20. PS, I will admit that my intolerance of intolerance makes me bigoted towards bigots, and therefore a bigot, which I simply won’t tolerate. And I’m probably a homophobiphobe, though whenever I start to think about it I get really angry at homophobes and want to just kiss them… I mean, spank them … I mean, oh, never mind.

    And before someone calls me bigoted towards Christians, I’m not, honestly. Love the Christians, hate the dogma.

    And before someone reads that and claims I hate dog mothers, I love all animals. Except Pandas. They are not fooling me, and I will never let them get a real foothold in this dimension.

  21. What a muddle this essay is. First of all, though, I’ll point out two things:

    1. What the author is doing is summarizing a paper from a 2008 issue of Psychology Today and attempting a feeble link to LOTR. The bulk of the essay doesn’t concern itself with fiction at all. I don’t think Fantasy Magazine should have published this weak effort.

    2. No single research paper “proves” anything. (Most published papers end up in the dustbin.) Results have to be replicated. Other theories are proposed, investigated, and scrutinized. Errors are found, fraud or deception (deliberate or accidental) are revealed.

    If Mr. Henderson is truly interested in research in human sexuality, he needs to read far more widely, and read in depth, over time. And stick to the science. Fictional characters don’t make good research subjects.

    Basically, the author wants to use the Psychology Today paper in order to say — as an attention grabber, at least; I don’t think this is his main goal — that Frodo and Sam are “mostly gay.” (This despite the fact that (a) in the story, they’re not gay; and (b) in the author’s intent, they’re not gay. There’s no ambiguity here.)

    The explanation of being “mostly gay” runs thus: A completely heterosexual man can be “63% biologically gay” owing to the presence of biological variables in the brain. This gay part of a man’s biological makeup expresses itself outwardly as increased kindness, sensitivity, and nurturing behavior. (At this point my bogus-alert-meter reads, “Yeah, right.”)

    Judging by the fact that Mr. Henderson calls Frodo and Sam MOSTLY gay — and here I have to supply the analysis that should have been in the essay if he really wanted to prove his thesis — he must be judging the quantity of biological gay components that they possess by their personalities, i.e., being kind, nurturing, and sensitive. (BTW, how kind is Sam? He’s kind to ponies, but more than a bit unkind to Gollum. He takes care of his master, so nurturing can get a check mark by it, but I wouldn’t call him particularly sensitive.)

    So, if a lot of biological variables, potentially linked to homosexuality, exist in the brain (a certain combination of which will actually result in homosexuality), claims Mr. Henderson, it follows that everyone with one or some of those traits is part gay: everyone, or almost everyone, is part gay.

    By this kind of reasoning, we’re all part lemur, too — we have all that leftover genetic material from evolution — and part Polynesian, and part redhead. (Or supply whatever you’re actually not.)

    As for the scant treatment of the question of whether homosexuality should be present in fantasy fiction — it is, and has been, present for a long time. Elizabeth Lynn in the 1970s, is one example, and, frankly, too many authors and works for me to enumerate or even remember since then. The time to issue a call for it was around 1960.

  22. Francis:

    Thank you for pointing out we are all part lemur! What an awesome observation! Seriously. That is cool. I mean, have you seen lemurs? They are unbelievably cute! How could anyone object to being reminded of that? And my first thought was to picture you typing furiously at the keyboard all red faced muttering “what utter audacity, sir, for assailing me thus with an article that is not perfection itself!” But then I pictured you with a lemur head and now all I want to do is give you a tickle behind the ear. So cute!

    As for your point that this article should have been written in the 1960s, I agree. So too should gay marriage have been legal in the 1960s. And from the fact that every response to this article (let alone the LotR movies) has been “Yay for Gay in Fantasay!” you obviously are correct. It is a dead issue.

    I also hope you will return someday if I write an article regarding the still too-real lack of PoC representation in fiction to remind me that racism is dead.

    A happy life to you, and keep up the fine word policery!

  23. Perhaps I should have stated my larger point more explicitly in my comments. I’d like to read better essays about fantasy and other fantastic fiction — essays that the authors take seriously and work to develop into something interesting and thought-provoking.

    Randy, if you think there are no gay or PoC characters in fantasy, you are not reading much fantasy. Are you actually a reader?

    If you write an opinion piece, don’t expect every respondent to say “yay.” It doesn’t happen, regardless of the subject.

    But do expect readers to ask for more than a so-so effort when you write something. Essayists, just like fiction writers, need to be original and fresh, look for new subjects and different views. And they need to work hard to write something interesting. If your only reaction to criticism is to think ‘word policery,’ you’re really missing the point. Good writing takes serious work and the ability to self-critique.

    This essay was doomed to be mediocre because you started with a lazy premise. No one really thinks Sam and Frodo are gay. It’s just a joke. You used it as an excuse to summarize a scientific paper. This summary was the bulk of your essay.

    Only you can examine what your real goals are in writing. If you are truly interested in fantasy, you should demand more of yourself when you write, because you reveal scant knowledge of fantasy literature.

    Sorry to state it so baldly. Maybe the comments are better directed to Fantasy Magazine editors, to select more carefully.

  24. I appreciate and understand your point, I really do, but it is also essentially an opinion piece and I hope you will understand if not everybody says yay to it. Just because you found no personal value in it does not mean there is none to be had. I hope :)

    And seriously, Lemur head! So CUTE!

  25. So, you don’t really read fantasy, you just like to write opinion pieces about it.

    Here’s my suggestion: go read Nalo Hopkinson, Terry Pratchett, Kage Baker, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, Charles de Lint, Elizabeth Moon, and dozens of other authors who have published fantasy novels and short fiction that include minority characters. (Include SF authors in your reading and you will have even more writers to choose from.) Then, should you wish to discuss PoC in fantasy fiction, you’ll have something to say.

  26. Francis:

    Sigh.

    I was really trying to keep things light-hearted. And I generally don’t respond to people who like to play the “Who’s Got More Fantasy Street Cred” game. For one reason, there is a ton of Fantasy and Scifi out there and it is possible for person A and person B to have each read thousands of books and yet not read any of the same books. And I know there are of course plenty of people out there who have a broader and deeper knowledge than I, and that is fine.

    Suffice to say, however, I have read five of the seven authors you listed (and Nalo was one of my instructors at Clarion West as well. Hi Nalo!). And to bring it back on topic, I have also read fiction that included gay characters. I’ve read most of Mercedes Lackey’s books, for example, and every single one I’ve read has gay characters in major roles.

    Now, while I generally dismiss attempts to tear down my work or my credibility (I feel comfortable about both, though I will always consider how I can improve the clarity of my writing to avoid such criticisms in the future), I do feel your persistent complaints represent an opportunity to share a few things. I don’t imagine this will change your perception (though it would be nice if it did), but I would not want someone unfamiliar with these subjects to read your comments, assume they were true, and echo them, perpetuation the lack of awareness.

    So, first, a few links you might find helpful (and which I thank you for giving me a reason to post), and then a point by point response to your comments.
    (Note: I appear to be having issues posting comments, so will break my response down and try. My apologies for spreading it across multiple posts).

  27. My response to your comments:
    1. What the author is doing is summarizing a paper from a 2008 issue of Psychology Today and attempting a feeble link to LOTR. The bulk of the essay doesn’t concern itself with fiction at all. I don’t think Fantasy Magazine should have published this weak effort.

    Response: My article was not aimed at proving all the points in LotR where Frodo and Sam act gay, or some similar premise that would have focused the balance of the article on the fiction itself. I used LotR only because it is an example that, thanks to the movies, the broadest audience would be aware of and understand the references to (see my point about the broad scope of non-overlapping reading tastes above), and also because (as can be seen by Googling: Frodo Sam Gay) it is a very real debate and there really are people out there who would love to spread their homophobia to include making homosexuality in fantasy fiction, even incorrectly perceived homosexuality, “gross” and “unnecessary.”

    So my article was to establish that homosexuality can be explained evolutionarily, and therefore can certainly exist in fantasy worlds LIKE LotR. Thus, I chose to make the balance of the article about the scientific example.

    2. No single research paper “proves” anything. (Most published papers end up in the dustbin.) Results have to be replicated. Other theories are proposed, investigated, and scrutinized. Errors are found, fraud or deception (deliberate or accidental) are revealed.

    If Mr. Henderson is truly interested in research in human sexuality, he needs to read far more widely, and read in depth, over time. And stick to the science. Fictional characters don’t make good research subjects.

    Response: Again, my point was not to “prove” anything beyond a doubt about the nature or cause of homosexuality per se, but rather to show that there are perfectly good explanations for homosexuality that one can use to support the existence of homosexuality in an alternate world. But thank you for more completely unecessary advice :)

    yadda yadda yadda …
    So, if a lot of biological variables, potentially linked to homosexuality, exist in the brain (a certain combination of which will actually result in homosexuality), claims Mr. Henderson, it follows that everyone with one or some of those traits is part gay: everyone, or almost everyone, is part gay.

    Response: True.

    By this kind of reasoning, we’re all part lemur, too — we have all that leftover genetic material from evolution — and part Polynesian, and part redhead. (Or supply whatever you’re actually not.)

    Response: Again – Lemurs! Really, they are adorable! http://www.umass.edu/sbs/news_events/news_stories/lemurs.htm

    As for the scant treatment of the question of whether homosexuality should be present in fantasy fiction — it is, and has been, present for a long time. Elizabeth Lynn in the 1970s, is one example, and, frankly, too many authors and works for me to enumerate or even remember since then. The time to issue a call for it was around 1960.

    Response: My article was not about any lack of homosexuals in fantasy fiction. It was about people’s reactions to homosexuality in speculative fiction (and even just perceived indicators of homosexuality such as in the case of Frodo and Sam).

    Perhaps I should have stated my larger point more explicitly in my comments. I’d like to read better essays about fantasy and other fantastic fiction — essays that the authors take seriously and work to develop into something interesting and thought-provoking.

    Response: So you did not think about the article? Given how many words you’ve written in complaint, I should think it provoked you quite a bit ;) But again, let me assure you that I took this article seriously and gave it quite a bit of thought. It did not materialize out of thin air, but out of research and effort (and caring about the subject). So I did not do it on a whim, for fun, or because I had nothing better to do. And while I won’t discuss compensation for nonfiction articles, let’s just say I didn’t do it to get rich. I actually have written humor articles for Fantasy Magazine that were for pure entertainment value (with the occasional thought-provoking comment slipped in), and believe me it would have taken me much less time and thought and effort to write one of those than it did to write this piece.

    The real issue here is simply that you don’t like what I wrote. And that is fine. But don’t make the incorrect assumption that just because you did not like it, and don’t agree with its points, that somehow you are the final word and authority on its quality or its value to other readers. Go read something else, and move on with your life my friend. You’ll be happier for it.

    Randy, if you think there are no gay or PoC characters in fantasy, you are not reading much fantasy. Are you actually a reader?

    Response: Yep, I’ve been known to read. And I never said there were no gay or PoC characters in fantasy. But there does remain a very real imbalance, particularly with PoC, both in raw percentages of representation, and in the quality of representation, not to mention the inclusiveness of PoC writers. Is it getting better? Yes. But there is still work to be done.

    If you write an opinion piece, don’t expect every respondent to say “yay.” It doesn’t happen, regardless of the subject.

    Response: Once again you willfully misread me. My point was not that I was surprised that everyone did not agree with me. My point was that the fact that some of the comments on my own article were of the (paraphrased) “ick, gays in fantasy, gross” or “thinking of Frodo as gay desecrates LotR” actually demonstrates why my article is relevant. As does your many claims that there is no issue here.

    Then you go on for a bit about what a poorly written and pointless piece it is again. To which I say, see above. And seriously, move on. Perhaps read something on lemurs. That can’t help but cheer you up.

    And on this topic I shall say no more.

    So thanks for playing, and here, please enjoy the home version of “Who’s Got More Fantasy Street Cred” as a parting gift.

    Cheers,

    Randy

  28. (It appears the links were the issue. Further breaking out and retrying in 3…2…1…)
    A few example links relevant to discussions of homosexuality and speculative fiction:

    John C. Wright’s rant against SyFy for promising to be more inclusive of gay characters (unfortunately, the original post with comments was deleted by the author, because the comments praising Mr. Wright and ranting against gays in scifi were themselves a master class lesson on why my article is still relevant): http://cnx.com/johncwrightisahomophobicdick.html

    A response to John C. Wright: http://notesfromthegeekshow.blogspot.com/2009/08/open-letter-to-john-c-wright.html

    Prominent Science Fiction author and editor Orson Scott Card’s article against gay marriage and the science on homosexuality: http://www.mormontimes.com/article/10235/Science-on-gays-falls-short?s_cid=search_queue&utm_source=search_queue

    A response to OSC’s article: http://www.afterelton.com/people/2008/7/orsonscottcard

    An earlier article on homosexuality by Orson Scott Card: http://www.nauvoo.com/library/card-hypocrites.html

  29. Some links relevant to the discussions of PoC (and representative of the Other in general) in speculative fiction:

    An overview of RaceFail: http://wiki.feministsf.net/index.php?title=RaceFail_09

    A post by N.K. Jemisin on the value of RaceFail: http://nkjemisin.com/2010/01/why-i-think-racefail-was-the-bestest-thing-evar-for-sff/

    A good resource for those wishing to discuss (or argue) about racial issues, including those who would want to claim that there are none: http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/required-reading/

  30. And for any young readers of this article who are gay, and are struggling with hurtful persecution and “moral objections” and barbs of willful ignorance and other forces trying to make you feel like your feelings are wrong or bad or dirty or evil: http://notesfromthegeekshow.blogspot.com/2010/11/it-gets-better.html

    And here is a good history, and listing, of LGBT in Fantasy and Science Fiction: http://www.hipsterbookclub.com/features/articles/LGBTSFF/index.html

    (Phew. Ain’t technology fun?!)
    Cheers.

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