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Gay Panic

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"They are so forcefully ungaying Callie that the incoming Melissa George character, hired as a lesbian Sawyer to Hahn and Callie's Jack and Kate, got caught in the straightwash, went into a straightspin, and ended up taking a straightdive right into the straightway. She's so straight now that they're going to name her character Isaiah Washington."
Isaac_Spaceman, from the blog A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago

Gay Panic is when Moral Guardians object to gay/bi characters prominently dating, kissing, holding hands, or even existing. After this has been airing without controversy for a while, suddenly, Executive Meddling or Executive Veto, or both, will come into play to start appeasing the Moral Guardians.

The result is that The Reveal turns into Bait-and-Switch Lesbians, Hide Your Lesbians, Gay Romantic Phase, Alternate Character Interpretation, Bury Your Gays, Character Derailment into easily-removed Depraved Homosexual or Psycho Lesbian archetypes, or just being Put on a Bus or Dropped a Bridge on Him for the non-straight characters, their love interests, or both.

Not to be confused with the "gay panic defense", closely related to/formerly known as to the Guardsman's Defence, wherein a person who has committed a gay bashing or even worse will aim for a reduced sentence in court by claiming that he didn't want to seem gay and effeminate. And yes, this is an actual defense, and still something that's active in some places, including many US states.

For characters who exhibit gay panic In-Universe, see tropes such as Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?, Not That There's Anything Wrong with That, and Armoured Closet Gay.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Amusingly, .hack//SIGN was originally shown around noon Saturdays on Cartoon Network. Then suddenly it was pushed to midnight, right around the time episodes came out in Japan that revealed that Tsukasa was really a girl, and Subaru has no problem pursuing their relationship in real life.

    Comic Books 
  • Borderline example: Rotor and Cobar's relationship in the Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) story arc Mobius: X Years Later was approved of by Sega, but with the condition that it be kept low-key to prevent public backlash. Sadly, it was made too subtle for readers, forcing the reveal to be made as Word of Gay, and a later change in head writer has pretty much assured the relationship will never crop up again. The fact that Cobar was Killed Off for Real under Ian's pen may come off as Bury Your Gays to some, though Ian said he killed off Cobar for being a scientist character in a book that already had plenty of them, and didn't know Cobar was supposed to be gay until it was too late to change his fate. He later said he would've kept him alive had he known at the time what the original plan was.
  • It's widely believed that Alan Moore's Top 10 prequel The 49ers went straight to graphic novel publication, despite obvious cliffhanger endings for serialisation, because DC was afraid that the serial comics core audience would react badly to the prominence of an m/m romance in the story. Especially a romance between a grown man and a 17-year-old (while the age of consent in the United Kingdom where Moore hails from is 16, it's as high as 18 in several American states). But, thanks to Moore's writing, it comes across as sweet, and the characters themselves address it.
  • Responding to complaints about homosexual subtext between Batman and Robin, DC Comics introduced Batwoman and Batgirl. Ironically, Batwoman would later be written as a lesbian.
    • Ironically enough, after her debut in 52, it took a while for the new Batwoman to get a solo title. Some think it was because of the initial promotion of the character, which consisted mostly of, "Did we mention she's a lesbian?"
  • As noted in Hide Your Lesbians, Jim Shooter is pretty infamous for the fact he instituted a 'no gays' clause in Marvel's books, blocking any writer that wanted to introduce a gay romance. While most examples, such as Northstar, Mystique, and Destiny, were later outed as gay, bisexual, and lesbian respectively, or at least, in the case of Storm and her Pseudo-Romantic Friendship partner Yukio, hinted at incredibly strongly, its notable that Wolverine, a character who was hit with this and went on to become Marvel's poster boy, has never been hinted to being gay or bisexual since (not counting the version of him from an alternate universe).
  • Axel Alonso was accused of this when he insisted in an interview that the Marvel Universe version of Hercules was straight when some classical sources had depicted him having sexual relationships with males and some earlier Marvel comics had themselves depicted him as Ambiguously Bi.
  • While in Wonder Woman (1942) "Hypnota" and their sister only ever refer to Hypnota using male pronouns—though never come out and say Hypnota is transgender or non-binary—all subsequent appearances of the character call her "Hypnotic Woman" and remove all masculine traits from the character. While this might be excused as not wanting a villainous trans character such a reading is very forgiving, and forgets that Hypnota clearly already went by male pronouns before the betrayal and brain damage that led to their villainy.

    Film — Animation 
  • The original script for Filmation's Journey Back to Oz originally had the character Tip as the male co-lead to Dorothy Gale when she returns to Oz, with his role being mostly the same in his book debut The Marvelous Land of Oz. However, Princess Ozma, the true identity of Tip, was completely Adapted Out of the character despite Ozma being the more iconic alter-ego in the Land of Oz franchise, and the script emphasized that Tip is Prince Tippetarius of Oz. Then Tip was eventually removed altogether in the final cut of the film, with Scarecrow essentially remaining as king of Oz. Though no official explanation was given, it's evident that the gender-bending nature of Tip/Ozma was too controversial for Filmation, especially if Tip's relationship with Dorothy could be interpreted in a romantic subtext.
  • Lightyear: A kiss between Hawthorne and another woman was originally cut from the film, apparently at the behest of Disney executives. In the wake of Pixar's open letter alleging Disney's systematic removal of LGBTQ content from Pixar features, following Disney's widely-criticized silence over Florida's controversial bill nicknamed by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, however, the kiss was restored to the film. This unfortunately resulted in several politicians and social media personalities starting a campaign against the film, often by claiming Pixar made Buzz gay and painting the kiss as extremely graphic and lewd when that's actually far from the case. This same backtracking would also cause the movie to be banned in 14 countries.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Dracula (1931), the studio did not want the scene where Dracula attacks Renfield to be filmed due to the perceived gay subtext of the situation. A memo was sent to the director stating "Dracula is only to attack women". The first sequel, Dracula's Daughter, was subject to similar Hays Code meddling. Joseph Breen took great issue with how the initial script portrayed Countess Zaleska's attack on artist's model Lili, insisting that there be no "suggestion of perverse sexual desire". Universal knew a good thing when it implied it and advertised the film with the tagline "Save the women of London from Dracula's Daughter!"
  • David Gerrold seems to have the worst luck with this trope:
    • The Martian Child was a semi-autobiographical novel by David Gerrold about a gay sci-fi author who ends up adopting a kid who thinks he's a Martian. When it's finally adapted for the screen and John Cusack is cast as the author, the producers decide to make the main character a widower rather than gay.
    • His proposed Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Blood and Fire," which would have depicted a gay couple amongst Federation forces, was notoriously dropkicked more than once, by Gene Roddenberry's lawyer Leonard Maizlish and later producer Rick Berman, according to the author, even in a bowdlerised version that kept the characters' relationship ambiguous. It has since been made into a Star Trek: Phase II fan episode, with gayness intact.
  • Star Trek (2009) has nearly every main character allude to the fact that they're straight, aside from Chekov and Sulu. Kirk beds a Green-Skinned Space Babe and makes several passing glances at women, Scotty makes a joke about a ship, using a euphemism for breasts, Spock has a scene where he makes out with Uhura, and in Bones' introductory scene, he mentions his ex-wife and their messy divorce.
    • As said in the Plinkett Review, it seemed like the movie was making sure the main cast all had a case of the "Not-Gays".
    • This, however, is later nicely averted with Sulu in Star Trek Beyond who's revealed to have a husband and daughter.note  Granted, it only took two more movies.
    • Most of Chekov's romances appear to be female, human and alien.
  • "Disney's first gay character" has become a bit of a running joke in the LGBT Fanbase. The studio and its subsidiaries have developed a habit of trying to market characters as LGBT before release day, but then either making characters only Ambiguously Gay in the finished product, or having the appearance be so minor it can be edited out for the benefit of the international box office without affecting the rest of the film. Specific examples:
    • Beauty and the Beast (2017)'s directors talked up an "exclusively gay moment" in the film before release, which turned out to be a two-second shot of two men dancing.
    • The Rise of Skywalker has a blink-and-you-miss it female-female kiss by two extras in the background of the victory celebrations. This was cut from some overseas airings.
  • Newsies gives the main character a very blatantly token love interest in a film that's otherwise boiling over with homoerotic subtext between all the males.
  • In Barbarella, a lesbian love scene between Barbarella and The Black Queen was cut. It was rumored to be shown in the International Version, but that's not true.
  • Captain America: Civil War was accused of this for shoehorning in a random kiss between Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter. While Sharon Carter is his canon love interest in the comics, in the previous film Steve had no female love interest, had a Meet Cute with another male character, and spent the movie obsessing over his Brainwashed and Crazy male best friend, making the kiss seem like the film's way of saying "No homo".
  • A longtime aide to John Schlesinger reported that the director wanted to include an overt sex scene between Joe and Ratso in Midnight Cowboy but was overruled.
  • James Gunn revealed on Twitter that he had wanted to make Velma a lesbian in Scooby-Doo (2002), but that the studio had vetoed that — forcing him to make her Ambiguously Gay, then not giving her a love interest at all, and then giving her a boyfriend in the sequel. Additionally, in 2012, Matthew Lillard revealed on Reddit's Ask Me Anything that Fred was gay in the original cut and Freddie Prinze Jr. played him as such.
  • Will Smith refused to kiss Anthony Michael Hall just before their kissing scene in Six Degrees of Separation, so a camera trick was used showing only the back of their heads. In an interview, Smith stated that Denzel Washington advised him not to kiss a man onscreen, for it would harm his career. Smith stated that he regretted not going through with it, saying, "it was very immature on my part".
  • The original version of Spartacus included a scene where Crassus attempts to seduce Antoninus. The Production Code Administration and the Legion of Decency both objected. At one point Geoffrey Shurlock, representing the censors, suggested it would help if the reference in the scene to a preference for oysters or snails was changed to truffles and artichokes. In the end the scene was cut, but it was put back in for the 1991 restoration.
  • Charlton Heston refused to allow scenes from The Agony and the Ecstasy to be shown in the documentary The Celluloid Closet because he believed Michelangelo was straight and played him as such.
  • Steven Spielberg received criticism for omitting the lesbian content from The Color Purple (1985), a decision he would later regret.
    There were certain things in the [lesbian] relationship between Shug Avery and Celie that were finely detailed in Alice's book, that I didn't feel could get a [PG-13] rating. And I was shy about it. In that sense, perhaps I was the wrong director to acquit some of the more sexually honest encounters between Shug and Celie, because I did soften those. I basically took something that was extremely erotic and very intentional, and I reduced it to a simple kiss. I got a lot of criticism for that.
  • In the original conception of The Transporter, Frank was gay. The love scene with Shun Qi was added specifically to draw attention away from any potential remaining vestiges of that aspect in the script.
  • Censorship issues at the time prevented Valley of the Dolls from adapting some of the more risque elements from the book, such as Jennifer's experimentation with lesbianism and Ted Casablanca's homosexuality.
  • Top Gun: The studio forced Tony Scott to shoot additional scenes, including a love scene, between Maverick and Charlie to try and counteract the copious amounts of homoerotic subtext that permeated the rest of the movie. The chemistry between the male actors still ended up being more memorable.
  • Rebel Without a Cause was originally going to contain a kiss between James Dean and Sal Mineo.

  • Harry Potter fans liked to interpret both Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks as gay. Lupin was a werewolf—which was treated as an HIV allegory—and was unmarried late in life and had a very close bond with another man (who also had no canon partner). The latter more superficially liked wearing her hair short and spiky, and had a magical ability to freely transform her own looks, which fanfiction writers ran wild with. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince then revealed that Tonks was in love with Lupin. Ironically she later gave Dumbledore Word of Gay when the makers of the film adaptation tried to write a line where he talks about a girl he had a crush on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Inverted when Xander was supposedly in the cards to come out as gay in Season 4. However the character Tara - who was introduced to take Willow's place as a Damsel in Distress since the latter was getting too powerful to put in danger - ended up becoming Willow's girlfriend. This was apparently down to the chemistry that developed between Alyson Hannigan and Amber Benson.
    • Another inversion was the introduction of Kennedy in Season 7. After Tara's sudden death in Season 6, Joss Whedon received massive backlash for seemingly employing the Bury Your Gays trope. So Kennedy's introduction as a new love interest for Willow is a pretty obvious attempt at damage control. It ended up being the only relationship to survive the televised series.
    • In an interview with UK Metro, Whedon was told not to make Willow bisexual in case her same-sex attraction would come off as a phase.
    If I did it now, I'd be like yes she can be bi. Because some people are! But back then, it was like "No, we're not ready for that".
  • This was suspected on Grey's Anatomy when the character of Erica Hahn was dropped from the show entirely (without even an explanation of the character's absence) due to Executive Veto with suspiciously bad timing. However, Callie subsequently got a new girlfriend.
  • The O.C. flirted with Marissa being bisexual. Then Alex, her squeeze, turned out to be a Psycho Lesbian, and she fled back into the bare arms of Ryan.
  • In Alias, the original plan was to end the relationship between Francie and Charlie by having Charlie reveal that he's realized he's gay. This was changed to him having a heterosexual affair with little warning. In the last season, it certainly seems from Rachel's pointed statement that Tom isn't her type that she was intended to be gay, but quickly hooks up with Sark.
  • On Dead Like Me, it was common knowledge (at least, to George) that her college professor dad was having an affair with one of his students; however, in Bryan Fuller's original plan, it was going to be revealed that it was a male student. There are hints of it in the pilot (George questions how close one of her dad's friends is getting when "comforting" him at her funeral), but Executive Meddling brute forced it into being an affair with a female student, one of the many conflicts with the suits that led to Fuller leaving the show.
  • This is why Fox passed on an American version of Torchwood, because Russell T. Davies refused to turn Jack (an omnisexual man last seen in a relationship with another man) straight.
  • Glee:
    • An In-Universe example. Santana manages to throw one of these against herself. When she and Brittany, her BFF and occasional sex-buddy, are necking, Brittany brings up wanting to sing Melissa Etheridge's "Come to My Window" with Santana, who promptly freaks out and hurriedly explains that she is not making out with her because she is in love with her and wants to make "ladybabies" with her; but because her sort-of boyfriend is in juvie and she "needs something warm under [her] to help digest [her] food". Hmm... struck a nerve there, Santana?
    • In "Sexy," Santana reveals that her previous panic and bitchiness was just a way to hide from feelings that scared her. She admits to Brittany that she loves her, but Brittany gently turns her down because she doesn't want to hurt Artie.
    • Karofsky suffers this too, whose Gay Panic drives him almost insane, torn between terrorizing the only person who knows his secret - Kurt - and making disturbing attempts at flirting with him.
  • The first season of Heroes had some issues with this regarding Claire's friend Zack. Zack dropped heavy hints that he has reason to empathize with Claire's "freakishness," and was apparently supposed to come out... at least, until someone (it's uncertain whom) tried to shout that development down, as the actor was up for the part of John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Nothing ever came of Zack's sexuality, and the fact that the actor has now played a bisexual in a Gregg Araki movie is one of life's little ironies. Perhaps even more ironically (or just fitting) actor Thomas Decker later came out as gay. Although, Dekker later claimed that series creator Tim Kring tried to out him, so the Terminator story may have just been an excuse.
  • In Britain back in The '80s there was a whole sorry slew of panic, including a Sun banner headline It's East Benders! after two males kissed on Eastenders.
  • In Batman (1966), this was also a long-standing rumor behind the invention of Aunt Harriet, who was actually invented two years prior for the comic but was actually included for this reason. Given that her inclusion resulted in stories in which Bruce and Dick are constantly making excuses to her as to why they're always disappearing together since she doesn't know about their secret life, including her backfired rather spectacularly.
  • Despite being so progressive in every other aspect, Star Trek was somewhat infamous for not featuring an openly LGBT character until 2017. This was the initial reasoning behind the character of Ziyal on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—Garak was just a little too into Bashir for the executives' comfort (this was absolutely deliberate, by the way - Andrew Robinson, who played him, said he played Garak as omnisexual and very into Julian). He never got together with her, and seemed frankly baffled by her romantic feelings toward him, so the jury's out on how effective she was.
  • In the early '80s, All My Children attempted a gay storyline when a character seeking counseling after her divorce became attracted to her therapist. Negative fan reaction forced writers to abort the storyline and have the woman's counselor help her realize that she wasn't really gay, just lonely and displaying something known as transference (a phenomenon in which one develops feelings for their doctor). Later in 1996, teacher Michael Delaney experienced this in- and out-of-universe when he had to fight for his job due to his sexual orientation. After he won his case and the furor settled, while he gained a boyfriend, no intimacy between them was ever witnessed.
  • On The City, a revamp/Spin-Off of the Soap Opera Loving, the gorgeous model Azure C. was humiliated when a tabloid magazine revealed that she was a trans woman. Negative fan reaction and the actress's poor performance nixed the storyline very quickly, though the character was given a happy ending, Riding into the Sunset with her boyfriend who had initially freaked out upon learning her history, but eventually accepted her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering's Chandra Nalaar pivoted from being an out-and-proud bisexual woman to suddenly describing her love of another woman as a "phase," complete with description of how much she loved manly muscles.

    Western Animation 
  • In American Dad!, one episode had Stan be completely against the mere idea of a child being raised by a gay couple that he went on the deep end to ensure a baby wouldn't be with their gay neighbors. This becomes even worse when an understanding female gay couple tries to show him things can work out, but he completely shuts them off and kidnaps their children behind their backs. Ironically, the two children he kidnapped sounded just like Steve and Hayley, except with the roles reversed, and this is what finally makes Stan realize what their mothers were talking about.
  • Supposedly, the creation of Joker's "girlfriend" Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series was to still any fears that The Joker might have a bit of a crush on Batman. The fact that he completely ignores the attractive woman throwing herself at him to focus on his obsession with Batsy-poo, and Harley and Poison Ivy's implied Les Yay, actually made the situation more ambiguous.
    • Paul Dini and Bruce Timm later clarified this. Harley was originally created due to a plot which would have involved the Joker attacking a police gathering by Jumping Out of a Cake. The writers thought the network would object to the scene (given the sexual nature of the "girl jumping out of the cake" trope in real life), so they decided to give the Joker a female sidekick who could replace and impersonate the real dancer inside the cake. However, this all ended up moot as the network actually ended up okaying the original idea for the Joker to be the one to hop out.
  • Steven Universe contained a Fusion Dance between two female characters that was censored in the UK, with the most intimate parts of it removed. Cartoon Network UK revealed the reason for the edit was to ensure that it was "more comfortable for local kids and parents"
    • Also planned against it being possible in a later episode, which has the masculine Ruby and the feminine Sapphire getting married. They figured that countries that would want to avoid their romance would change Ruby to male, so they had Ruby wear a wedding dress and Sapphire wear a tuxedo, preventing it from being hit by this in a number of angles.