Forgive me for making a broad generalization, but it just seems like LGBTQ+ characters in stories cannot seem to catch a break.
Whether they just simply don’t get a happy ending, or whether they tragically die and absolutely crush the hearts of fans everywhere, especially queer fans, it just seems like gay characters aren’t allowed their happy ending.
So, why is this?
Stories tend to benefit heavily off of plots involving the struggles of gay characters that they face simply because they are gay, whether it be disapproving parents, bullying, or just general homophobia. Of course, though, sometimes in fiction, people die. People suffer. Misery doesn’t discriminate based on race, gender, or sexuality, but sometimes it just seems like stories have got it out for LGBTQ+ characters.
The opposition to this “bury your gays” trope came around full force after the deaths of, (warning! spoilers ahead!) Poussey Washington from Orange is the New Black, as well as Lexa from The 100.
You may find yourself asking, “So, why does this matter so much?”
The answer is simple: people like to see themselves in characters. LGBTQ+ teens like to see themselves in LGBTQ+ characters the same way young girls like to see themselves in strong female roles. I mean, I know I always looked up to Kim Possible.
When you find this character that’s just like you and shares the same struggles and experiences as you, you find yourself rooting for them; it’s just how it is. You see yourself in them, and when they find happiness, it makes you happy too. Now, how much you take on the character’s emotions depends heavily on how large of an attachment you have to them, but even if you don’t devote every breath and your entire Tumblr blog to your favorite character, their happiness could still, at the least, make you smile. So, of course, when these characters die, it’s a bit discouraging to see, especially when you see yourself in them.
This could be changing, though. The new Beauty and the Beast movie, featuring explicitly gay character LeFou, does give him something that could not be categorized as much of a happy ending, but definitely a hopeful one. After the death of his obvious love interest, Gaston, he can be seen dancing with another male character, Stanley, for about two seconds.
While this is not a guarantee for all future media to stop killing off gay characters, it definitely is a start, and maybe one day we can see ourselves live happily ever after.