Tara. Adam. Lexa. Dumbledore. Clémentine. Angel. These characters and so, so many more have fallen victim to what is known as the Bury Your Gays trope. The methodology may change— some had violent deaths, some died suddenly, and some died of diseases— but the fundamental message stays the same. GRSM (that is, Gender, Romantic, & Sexual Minorities) characters must die.
But how has this insidious trope entrenched itself in our media? The short and sweet answer is homophobia. However, it’s a little more complicated than that. It’s not a simple hatred of GRSM folk that finds us murdered by our writers time and time again. It’s the way this hatred has caused us to view GRSM people and their stories.
Because GRSM people have lived tragic lives in the past, writers have this notion that GRSM people must have tragic stories. Except, the reason our predecessors (and some people today) lived those tragic lives is because of the horrible treatment they received by homophobes, transphobes, and the like. Tragedy is not an inherent part of a GRSM person’s life. Without persecution and hate, we actually live pretty normal lives.
There’s also this notion that people can only feel empathy with GRSM people if they are suffering. Why else are so many GRSM stories about GRSM kids getting bullied, disowned, and worse? Even when these characters don’t die— even when they go on to live happy lives— writers still believe tragedy is necessary to a GRSM character’s story.
Why is this? Because the GRSM community has been othered for so long, people outside the community have forgotten that we’re just people. They need to see us suffer in order to remember that we matter. Otherwise, our representation wouldn’t be killed off at every turn.
However, that still doesn’t answer one question: where did this concept come from? What caused people to view GRSM folk in this way to the point where Bury Your Gays became this pervasive? Again, the answer is simple: Evangelical Christianity.
Whether people want to accept it or not, these particular branches of Christianity have long dictated what our culture finds acceptable or not. Even for those of us who didn’t grow up religious. Between their proselytizing and lobbying, the Evangelicals have shaped Western culture’s views (especially in America).
While not all Christians are homophobic, the fact is this hatred of the GRSM community is rooted in how certain sects interpret the Bible. And, because Christianity is a proselytizing religion, they spread those ideologies to others. The next thing you know, everyone’s standards of sexuality, identity, gender roles, and modesty are all shaped in part by Evangelical Christianity.
And, if these ideologies impact our culture, they also impact our media. Thus, any character who doesn’t fit an Evangelical Christian’s idea of a “godly person” must be punished. It happens to promiscuous female characters, non-believing characters, and, of course, GRSM characters.
So how can we combat this? Well, we have to keep fighting against these harmful ideologies and decide not to support media that uses the Bury Your Gays trope. Speak out against the use of this trope. And, if you’re a writer, write stories where the GRSM characters don’t die.
Someday this trope won’t matter at all. But right now, there are so few GRSM characters as it is. Killing them off takes that representation away from us. It tells us we’re worth more dead than alive. It tells us our pain is the only thing that makes us valid. And so we must keep our gays— keep all our GRSM characters— alive and above ground. The story— and the world— is better with us in it.