The Problematic World of Straight Fan-girling


Posted by Pallavi Kaul
bisexual, cisgender female

Artwork by Vanshika Singh

Every time I open Tumblr and stare at its dark blue logo, I brace myself. I know I’m stepping into the fangirl zone, and it is not always pleasant. The world of fandoms is dramatic at best and problematic at worst. With the surprising rise in the popularity of “shipping”, fandoms have now integrated themselves into the mainstream. And this brings with itself a side of shipping and fangirling that I, as a queer person, do not particularly enjoy seeing. Spending 15 minutes on Tumblr can tell you why.

As you start scrolling on Tumblr, you embark on a journey. You start with about fifty posts on how all these straight fangirls are going to hell, because having “precious gay OTPs” is equivalent to “sinning”. There would be ironic prayers for forgiveness from Jesus, some mentions of why their families are scandalized by their gay OTPs, and then some jokes about hell. If you proceed further, you’d witness some NSFW fan art and some “gay smut” accompanying that; all made by straight women and for the consumption of straight women. There is a very consistent sexualization of queer characters, mostly gay men, that happens within the groups of straight fangirls. There are times when queer characters are reduced to their sexuality alone. Their actual personality traits, their stories, their experiences are neglected and all that is remembered is their sexuality. There is a trend you notice; almost all ships the straight fangirls have – are gay men. There is a saddening void where women-loving-women ships need to be. Even though there is a scarcity of lesbian or bi women in popular media, the amount of women-loving-women ships you can find in the top tumblr fangirl posts is even scarcer. This again makes you question the inclusiveness of these supposed allies. Straight fangirls often claim to be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, but what they do not realize is that having “gay ships” and reading gay porn, doesn’t make them allies. The space for actual queer fans in these fandoms is not always large. When asking for accurate representation, their voices are not heard as loud, and when protesting against misrepresentation that they get as consolation prizes, their voices are almost tuned out.

Arguably, the primary consumption of queer media is by the LGBTQ+ community. So, when queer fangirls speak up against problematic queer ships or blatant misrepresentation, they need to be given a platform by their straight counterparts. Excusing queer or queer-coded characters for their racism or sexism isn’t a privilege that straight fangirls can enjoy, and yet they do. Because they “headcanon” a certain character as gay, they excuse the very obvious problematic behavior that this character has. They infantilize the characters, put them on a pedestal so high that they almost don’t seem human and essentially glorify queer characters instead of normalizing them. And then if you somehow scroll past all this, you land on a ship or two that might concern you. There are characters that these fangirls ship just because they happen to be two people of the same sex, and they completely ignore that the ships may be incestuous, pedophilic or abusive.

There is queer baiting that obviously happens in movies, TV shows and books. And while queer people tend to oppose that, straight fangirls simple excuse it. Shows have been running for years, making money off of their queer audience by baiting them into watching, by representing them in a completely wrong manner, and by tokenizing queer characters. And straight fangirls, to a certain extent, are complicit in that. Because for them, it’s a part of their lives they like to engage in. But for actual queer people, this is our life. These are experiences we’ve had or shared. The characters aren’t our “precious gay babies”; they are us or our friends. And while we love that there are non-cis and hetero couples that we are now seeing in media, we know that there is still a long road to go. There are subsections of the community that need to be more represented. There needs to be a space given to the LGBTQ+ fans in fandoms where queer characters exist. And if they do this, they may understand a very important fact: our existence is a reality, not a fetish.

Liked this take on straight fan-girling?
Read more by the writer: Where Is The B In LGBTQ?

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