Created By: lakingsif on June 20, 2017 Last Edited By: lakingsif on June 23, 2017
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Speculative Fiction LGBT

SF works feature LGBT+ characters, because of the removed setting from Real Life(TM)

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Spinning off from Time Travelling Lesbians yk, which basically said "this happens", broadening that and giving it purpose to make it not PSOC. Redirects would be Fantasy World LGBT, Time Travelling Lesbians and perhaps Temporal Adventuress, since it's a pre-existing term, though may be inaccurate. See this list and this list. To be funny, the title could instead simply be SF LGBT — the common abbreviations, as well as sounding sci-fi-y itself. Indices: ImageSource.Literature, Alien Tropes, Fantastic Sapient Species Tropes, Fictional Culture and Nation Tropes, Gender and Sexuality Tropes, Not Quite Human, Otherness Tropes, Otherworld Tropes, Setting Gimmicks, Speculative Fiction Tropes, Time Travel Tropes, Queer as Tropes, We Will Not Use an Index in the Future.
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The lesbian version of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Settings commonly used in Speculative Fiction stories typically fall into the Uncanny Valley — that is, they are similar enough to be accessible, but different enough to feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Because of (or in order to enable) this, there may be a larger or more prominent group of LGBT+ characters.

Also known as the "time travelling lesbians", it is notable that SF is kind of the San Fran of media genres — a much larger LGBT population than the rest of its kind, and with reason. The most widely acknowledged of these reasons is that because the fantastical setting (as close as it may be to the society of its creation) is not 'Real', and therefore the creators have more roam to discuss things that might be considered controversial or unusual. This may be used as a statement on the society in which the work is being produced, but is not necessarily. It is related to the Discount Lesbians trope, where a lesbian couple is deemed more acceptable if one or both (or more) isn't human and so they aren't really lesbians, though this would instead be where it isn't really Earth so it can't really be (or, so it's alright if it isn't) taboo.

Another reason to include non-heteronormative characters in SF may be to support theories of the future of humanity becoming largely bisexual, and also those that suggest potential alien civilisations may not even have sex as we view it.

It may also be, drawing back to the idea of the Uncanny Valley, being used as a marker in order to separate the SF world from the real world. There may be little changed in a humanoid alien civilisation or 20 Minutes into the Future, but a difference in view on gender and sexuality (whether global or just authorial) is a sufficient deviation from the norm that it would suggest somewhere very departed from current Earth's climate.

The use is also one way in which media connects the ideas of advancing scientifically and LGBT+ issues, making discussions of gender and sexuality a decidedly modern concern.

This trope's Ur-Example may be either Charles Eric Maine's World Without Men (1958), acknowledging sexuality, or Virginia Woolf's Orlando (1928), mostly regarding gender. The latter is discussed on the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy's entry for "Temporal Adventuress", which includes many female time-travellers who deviate from conventions of gender and sexuality. Of all the variations upon the Other-ing nature of this trope, the time-travelling lesbian may be one of the most prominent as it allows for no fixed period to be set in which the acceptability is occurring, as well as for the issue to be discussed across past and future times, and perhaps also appealing to the presumed audience as a bonus.

In short, SF settings feature LGBT+ characters and themes because it is distanced from the real world.

Also note that, while some speculative fiction works project LGBT themes onto alien civilizations in order to explore them from a comfortably safe conceptual distance (especially a few decades back, when censors were a lot harsher), or exaggerate them to have fun with weird speculative space sex, others frame them around their hopes or thoughts regarding the progression of real-world civilizations. The latter group tends to present LGBT themes as relatable or commonplace, rather than as a matter of spectacle. Both are made possible because of the setting difference.

Super Trope to Discount Lesbians, Lesbian Vampire, and Free-Love Future. See also: Bizarre Alien Sexes.

Compare Fetish-Fuel Future, when an author creates a futuristic setting where their personal kink is the norm.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • In Outlaw Star there's Fred Luo, a Camp Gay who has a crush on Gene Starwind, The Protagonist of the series, who's the one who provides weapons, ships and all they could need for their missions... but especially he offers discounts to the crew if Gene treats him nicely.

    Literature 
  • Orlando: A Biography: Orlando begins as a heterosexual male in the early 20th Century, and through time travel accidentally swaps gender, but never has to define or justify their existence. Though the concept of gender is wholly linked to biological sex, it is an early example of using the genre to discuss very untouched issues, and may be opening a discourse on the possibilities of living as trans*.
  • World Without Men: Several thousand years into the future, and men have been extinct since the 20th/21st century, when feminists forced sterilisation and began reproduction through artificial means. This has left an entirely female population, most of which are blindly satisfied with their world. The main women, though, are a lesbian couple who have seen the truth that this is unnatural, and treat a man that has been created as a Messiah.
  • Michael Moorcock's recurring character Una Persson, who varies between being bisexual and exclusively lesbian at different times and in different timelines. See in particular The Adventures of Una Persson and Catherine Cornelius in the 20th Century.
  • Joe Haldeman's The Forever War has this as an unintended side-effect. Sending an army several light years away to fight a war then retrieving the survivors afterwards means, inevitably, that the time-dilation effect applies and those soldiers have returned to an Earth several centuries older than the one they left. After the second or third jump to and from a war-front, heterosexually inclined veterans realise in their absence that the social mores of the world have reversed - being gay is now the norm and a small population of diehard hetros are now the "queer" ones. The inevitable happens and several formerly hetero ladies travel on their next jump into time and space as active lesbians.
  • The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, set in a parallel dimension in which there are three distinct genders that also function as guilds/houses that one may be sorted into (logicals, emotionals, and parentals). One of the main characters is Dua, who is split between the genders and so a version of non-binary (which in the setting is also naturally divergent).
  • The Man Who Folded Himself, in which time travelling Daniel ends up in a relationship with himself after travelling alongside various realities of himself, as well as with a woman called Diane — who may also be a version of Daniel from another reality.
  • In the Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie, the Radchaai Empire has no societal concept of gender, their language's Translation Convention defaults to female pronouns, and no mention is ever made of Radchaai basing their choice of partner on which anatomical features they might have. In addition, the main character's Asexuality is acknowledged and accepted by her crew.
  • Theodore Sturgeon's 1953 short story "The World Well Lost" is a Gay Aesop featuring a pair of inhumanly beautiful alien refugees from Dirbanu who gain brief popularity and sympathy on Earth, but who are then promptly deported when Dirbanu identifies them as fugitive criminals. The copilot of the ship deporting them learns that the refugees are a same-sex couple, which is illegal on their home world; helps them escape extradition; realizes that the Dirbanu's distaste for humans comes from Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism that makes all human couples look same-sex to them; and is revealed to the reader as a deeply closeted Straight Gay man himself.
  • Greg Egan likes this trope, frequently either using it or at least paying lip service to it. His stories are rarely if ever entirely focused on LGBT+ issues, but rather they're folded into a larger concept of humanity and society. Overall, Egan's stories tend to advance a progressive viewpoint, with LGBT+ characters treated very sympathetically by the story. More often than not, the LGBT+ demographic in question has been completely normalized in the setting.
    • In Distress, the concept of someone being "traditionally" transgender has become a complete and utter non-issue; in addition, five entirely novel gender identities exist: ufem, ifem, asex, imasc, and umasc. Asex is what we would today refer to as gender neutral, but the others refer to varying degrees of femininity or masculinity, ranging from "comically exaggerated gender-specific traits" for the u-genders to "extremely understated gender-specific traits" for the i-genders.
    • The main character of Teranesia is a homosexual man. Evolutionary development is a core theme of the novel, so of course the novel examines the question: If facilitating reproduction is the purpose of evolution, and homosexuals don't reproduce, then why does homosexuality occur naturally? The book doesn't offer a definitive answer.
    • A lot of the characters in Diaspora and Schild's Ladder are gender-neutral, although to be fair, that's because most of those characters exist as software and were created as such, having never been in an actual homo sapiens body.
    • Most of the Orthogonal trilogy is unusually silent on the subject of LGBT issues and characters (the trilogy instead examines issues of gender equality and women's rights), but by the end of the trilogy, the protagonists' initially two-gendered, male/female species has undergone a Singularity that has resulted in, among other things, a single-gender race that is explicitly considered neither male nor female.

    Live-Action Television 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Time Lords are an all-bisexual and non-binary race, as they can regenerate into the opposite sex.
    • Madame Vastra and Jenny, an ancient reptilian warrior and a Victorian maid who are married. They time travel and solve alien crime together, sometimes assisting the Doctor.
    • Bill Potts, the lesbian companion of the Doctor's, with revelations of her sexuality happening in every other episode, and being a plot point in a few, as well as leading to discussions of views on sexuality with a Roman Legion. The only negative thing that happened to her because of her sexuality was that her date freaked out when the Pope walked out of her bed room in an angry huff. This incident was actually in a Lotus-Eater Machine so didn't actually happen. When Bill tells her date about this, the date actually laughs at the whole situations... and then UNIT agents raid Bill's apartment. Bill's sexuality is particularly significant in the first episode she features in, where her attraction to a female student is what causes her to end up travelling with the Doctor.
    • Ace, one of the Seventh Doctor's companions. Though they couldn't be open about it at the time, later sources confirmed she was into girls.
    • Captain Jack Harkness, an Extreme Omnisexual from the future.
  • Legends of Tomorrow:
    • Seems to be exploited in Sara, who is taken from sister show Arrow, where she was canonically bisexual but ever since joining the time-travelling legends has discussed more and more how she exclusively "prefers girls". Sara's sexuality spills over into the stories, with her various romantic entanglements through history being aligned with the plot of that episode.
    • One episode takes the fantasy setting of Camelot and makes Guinevere gay as she prefers fighting alongside Arthur to being romantic with him and falls for Sara Lance, a lot. The romance of Merlin and Arthur also features, with Stargirl as Merlin and so transcending gender.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Jadzia is the host for the Dax symbiot and has the memories of the previous hosts, several of which are male. It's expressly stated that Jadzia is a unique personality and can access the memories of the previous hosts, and as such is not bound by obligations of the past host, which included in an episode about Jadzia meeting another female Trill whose previous host was married to Jadzia's Dax previous male host. The two women start to "rekindle" their relationship, which is a taboo on Trill... not because they are two women in love, but because they are two joined Trill in love, with the Trill concerned that lingering bonds between two joined Trill carrying over to their next host would result in rulership by an elite The Nth Doctor class. The fact that they were both women at the time is never called upon, though the taboos and the pressure against the relationship do parallel many LGBT issues. Given that the woman was not physically the Woman Dax remembers, it's quite possible that joined Trill take on the sexuaility of the host, but leave the emotional attachment to past lovers, regardless of sex, which could be a form of pansexuality (they are attracted to the person for reasons beyond traditional binary gender attraction). Her comments to why she let Worf plan the wedding with little input from her indicate that at this point in the symbiot's life, the wedding had been experienced from both the point of view of the bride and groom several times and was pointless beyond the happiness of the spouse.

    Music 

    Webcomics 
  • Neo Kosmos takes place in the distant future, where Earth had been destroyed and the only remaining humans are children raised by alien scientists for their research. Those aliens are a One-Gender Race who use gender-neutral pronouns in most situations and leave the children to identity however they want. Most of them settle on being agender and use neutral pronouns as they have little interest in the whole "gender" thing, except for Iris. She, after research into old Earth culture, realizes that she's a girl; everyone, including the aliens, respects this. The fact that she's a "human type XY" and by modern standards transgender is a non-issue for them.


Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • June 20, 2017
    Getta
    The draft currently heavily talks about scifi. What about making it talk about Speculative Fiction in general?
  • June 20, 2017
    DustSnitch
    The Gods Themselves and The Player of Games are examples of Bizarre Alien Sexes. To my knowledge, all the actual characters are cisgender and heterosexual (or "heterogender," if you prefer) by their alien standards.

    And while Orlando: A Biography involves a Gender Bender, the character's gender appear to be entirely attached to their sex. As soon Orlando loses his physically male body, he considers himself a woman. The whole thing is quite heteronormative as well, since Orlando becomes attracted to men as soon as he becomes a woman.

    Basically, I don't think Orlando, The Gods Themselves, or The Player of Games are an example of this.
  • June 20, 2017
    intastiel
    • In the Imperial Radch trilogy by Ann Leckie, the Radchaai Empire has no societal concept of gender, their language's Translation Convention defaults to female pronouns, and no mention is ever made of Radchaai basing their choice of partner on which anatomical features they might have. In addition, the main character's Asexuality is acknowledged and accepted by her crew.
  • June 21, 2017
    lakingsif
    ^^ I agree with Player of Games. But Dua in Gods Themselves is split between genders, and though Orlando is a bit roughly done, it was still using the genre to present the themes.
  • June 21, 2017
    lakingsif
    And looking for more opinions on making it all Speculative Fiction, I like the suggestion
  • June 21, 2017
    Getta
    I wonder if Y The Last Man is an example.

    Compare Fetish Fuel Future
  • June 21, 2017
    hszmv1
    Added note for Bill Pots example:
    • In the Roman Example, Bill was expecting a less enlightened response from the Legionaire who fancied her. Turns out not only do Romans not have any taboos against homosexuality (which is historical), the specific Legionaire is bi, then points to his Number Two and outs him as exclusively into men. The Number Two is proud about thisOk and adds that the Commanding Officer is out of his league. The Commanding Officer then aplaudes Bill for picking one sex and sticking with it.
    • The only negative thing that happened to her because of her sexuality was that her date freaked out when the Pope walked out of her bed room in an angry huff. [[Spoiler: This incident was actually in a Lotus Eater Machine so didn't actually happen.]] When Bill tells her date about this, the date actually laughs at the whole situations... and then UNIT agents raid Bill's apartment.

    • Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Jadzia is the host for the Dax symbiot and has the memories of the previous hosts, several of which are male. This has lead her Captain and commanding officer to jokingly call her "Old Man" as her former host was his mentor and was quite advanced in age when the Captain met him. It's expressly stated that Jadzia is a unique personality and can access the memories of the previous hosts, and as such is not bound by obligations of the past host. This allowed Trek to slip in an episode about Jadzia meeting another female joined Trill who's previous host was married to Dax's previous male host. The two women start to rekindle their relationship, which is a taboo on Trill... not because they are two women in love, but because they are two joined Trill in love (the Trill are concerned that lingering bonds between two joined Trill carrying over to their next host would result in rulership by an elite Nth-Doctor class). The fact that they were both women at the time is never called upon, though the taboos and the pressure against the relationship do parallel many LGBT issues. Given that the woman was not physically the Woman Dax remembers, it's quite possible that Joined Trill take on the sexuaility of the host, but leave the emotional attachment to past lovers, regardless of sex, which could be a form of pansexuality (they are attracted to the person for reasons beyond traditional binary gender attraction). Her comments to why she let Worf plan the wedding with little input from her indicate that at this point in the symbiot's life, the wedding had been experienced from both the point of view of the bride and groom several times and was pointless beyond the happiness of the spouse.
  • June 21, 2017
    lakingsif
    Since the text points out that Roman views on sexuality were very liberal in real life, the note isn't very relevant to the trope and doesn't add anything to the example. But I added the other part and expanded a little.
  • June 21, 2017
    hszmv1
    The mention of the Roman thing I felt was necessary as Bill, being the time traveler from the future, expected it to be a taboo because of assumption that European Civilizations always had such a Taboo. I did like the idea that the guy in charge admired Bill and the other gay Roman in the room settled on a preference for a single gender.
  • June 21, 2017
    lakingsif
    ^it is something to note, but it's not relevant to this trope as it's just a nice fact about history.
  • June 22, 2017
    Basara-kun
    Anime and Manga:
    • In Outlaw Star there's Fred Luo, a Camp Gay who has a crush on Gene Starwind, The Protagonist of the series, who's the one who provides weapons, ships and all they could need for their missions... but especially he offers discounts to the crew if Gene treats him nicely.
  • June 22, 2017
    Orbiting
    Webcomics:
    • Neo Kosmos takes place in the distant future, where Earth had been destroyed and the only remaining humans are children raised by alien scientists for their research. Those aliens are a One Gender Race who use gender-neutral pronouns in most situations and leave the children to identity however they want. Most of them settle on being agender and use neutral pronouns as they have little interest in the whole "gender" thing, except for Iris. She, after research into old Earth culture, realizes that she's a girl; everyone, including the aliens, respects this. The fact that she's a "human type XY" and by modern standards transgender is a non-issue for them.
  • June 22, 2017
    Getta
    The easy reason this happens is that "it's not supposed to be the real world".
  • June 22, 2017
    lakingsif
    ^that's the laconic, do you think it needs specifying in the text?
  • June 22, 2017
    intastiel
    The argument that LGBT themes are well-suited to speculative fiction because the genre features the unfamiliar and uncomfortable could probably be phrased more neutrally. After all, LGBT folks and relationships are somewhat more common in real life than space aliens and dragons [citation needed]. While some speculative fiction works project LGBT themes onto alien civilizations in order to explore them from a comfortably safe conceptual distance (especially a few decades back, when censors were a lot harsher), or exaggerate them to have fun with weird speculative space sex, others frame them around their hopes or thoughts regarding the progression of real-world civilizations. If anything, the latter group tends to present LGBT themes as relatable or commonplace, rather than as a matter of spectacle.
    • Theodore Sturgeon's 1953 short story "The World Well Lost" is a Gay Aesop featuring a pair of inhumanly beautiful alien refugees from Dirbanu who gain brief popularity and sympathy on Earth, but who are then promptly deported when Dirbanu identifies them as fugitive criminals. The copilot of the ship deporting them learns that the refugees are a same-sex couple, which is illegal on their home world; helps them escape extradition; realizes that the Dirbanu's distaste for humans comes from Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism that makes all human couples look same-sex to them; and is revealed to the reader as a deeply closeted Straight Gay man himself.
  • June 22, 2017
    Getta
    ^^ Of course, and mention how this works in fantasy, SF and other variants.
  • June 22, 2017
    TrueShadow1
    Can you make sure that the sexuality of the character actually has something to do with the setting? Otherwise this would end up as "LGBT characters in sci-fi settings".
  • June 23, 2017
    Getta
    ^ More like "speculative fiction settings allow LGBT story and/or society".
  • June 23, 2017
    lakingsif
    @intastiel - could I use your words, then? Add this paragraph:

    Also note that, while some speculative fiction works project LGBT themes onto alien civilizations in order to explore them from a comfortably safe conceptual distance (especially a few decades back, when censors were a lot harsher), or exaggerate them to have fun with weird speculative space sex, others frame them around their hopes or thoughts regarding the progression of real-world civilizations. The latter group tends to present LGBT themes as relatable or commonplace, rather than as a matter of spectacle.
  • June 23, 2017
    lakingsif
    [[strike]]@Getta - I know what you mean by mention how it's used in fantasy/sci-fi/etc., but I can't think how to write that up. A paragraph on how fantasy elements lend themselves to LGBT, another doing the same with sci-fi, another with alternate earth stories? Or just one paragraph with the differences might be better - Could you help write this/these?[[/strike]]

    EDIT: Actually, I'm thinking it can be done in the same way across the SF types, and doesn't really need something to go over what would be specific examples (like, "in fantasy, the magical creatures might X, like in Y") — it seems unnecessary. I think you'll agree the current write-up satisfies descriptive purposes for the use of the trope.
  • June 23, 2017
    SolipSchism
    • Greg Egan likes this trope, frequently either using it or at least paying lip service to it. His stories are rarely if ever entirely focused on LGBT+ issues, but rather they're folded into a larger concept of humanity and society. Overall, Egan's stories tend to advance a progressive viewpoint, with LGBT+ characters treated very sympathetically by the story. More often than not, the LGBT+ demographic in question has been completely normalized in the setting.
      • In Distress, the concept of someone being "traditionally" transgender has become a complete and utter non-issue; in addition, five entirely novel gender identities exist: ufem, ifem, asex, imasc, and umasc. Asex is what we would today refer to as gender neutral, but the others refer to varying degrees of femininity or masculinity, ranging from "comically exaggerated gender-specific traits" for the u-genders to "extremely understated gender-specific traits" for the i-genders.
      • The main character of Teranesia is a homosexual man. Evolutionary development is a core theme of the novel, so of course the novel examines the question: If facilitating reproduction is the purpose of evolution, and homosexuals don't reproduce, then why does homosexuality occur naturally? The book doesn't offer a definitive answer.
      • A lot of the characters in Diaspora and Schilds Ladder are gender-neutral, although to be fair, that's because most of those characters exist as software and were created as such, having never been in an actual homo sapiens body.
      • Most of the Orthogonal trilogy is unusually silent on the subject of LGBT issues and characters (the trilogy instead examines issues of gender equality and women's rights), but by the end of the trilogy, the protagonists' initially two-gendered, male/female species has undergone a Singularity that has resulted in, among other things, a single-gender race that is explicitly considered neither male nor female.

    There are others, but I haven't cracked open an Egan book in a long while.
  • June 23, 2017
    tyrekecorrea
    This is so esoteric. People use art to portray the world as they see it or want to see it. Is this supposed to send the message that LGBT sexualities can only exist or find a stable community in settings which stray as far from real life as possible. There's nothing to buttress the idea that all people will be bisexual in the future. This doesn't add anything to culture or the conversation on the LGBT community. It's shooting in the dark. It's lampooning.
  • June 23, 2017
    lakingsif
    ^ or it's as much a trope as any other, and doesn't suggest anything about LGBT people in the real world. Because it's about fiction.

    (I also don't think you're using lampooning quite right)
  • June 23, 2017
    intastiel
    I really wouldn't call it lampooning. Lots of speculative fiction creators use their works to explore real-world social issues — to imagine how they might be expressed in possible futures or alternate cultures, and how new forms of technology or magic or whatnot could influence and be influenced by social structures. Star Trek loved to do that, for example. And we have here a fair number of examples of queer sexual identities being explored in such a way — sometimes in caricature, sometimes with more careful consideration; in human, transhuman, and non-human societies.
    @lakingsif Be my guest!
  • June 23, 2017
    Getta
    I'd like to help with description but I'm not with my computer right now.
  • June 23, 2017
    lakingsif
    ^ it's OK. If you find anything to add, please do — I did just edit my comment to say that I just realised how trying to describe the uses might get too specific and is probably unnecessary. If you meant in a different way, or have any additions, feel free to post them! There's probably some history and variation that can't hurt, right
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=12mjolftbrpgbvvh9chexj9k