“Just Friends”

[Trigger warning: homophobia]

It’s been a while since I’ve posted something that wasn’t VIDEO GAMES YAY!, a review, or tumblr shenanigans, so let’s talk about queer issues, shall we? Specifically, I want to talk about the “just friends” thing.

I’m currently in the process of writing chapter six of The Tithe-Boy but I wrote up rough character sketches while I was working on part four. One of the characters you will meet in chapter six is Lord Danik, who is very good friends with Lord Fulgaris, and by “very good friends” I mean that they share food and occasionally cuddle a bit.

However, Lord Fulgaris and Lord Danik are not lovers, they are very good friends who come from a culture where good friends can do things that we would term “intimate” with each other without anyone assuming that they’re lovers (and, to be honest, no one would really care if they were). I should take the time here to say that both of them have quite active sex lives (and Lord Fulgaris, as you’ve seen if you’ve read my Tithe-Boy stuff, has a healthy, kinky, and queer relationship with Ser Karios)–just not with each other.

Although, I personally would not object to a Fulgaris/Danik slash fic, not that anyone’s ever going to write slash fics about my characters.

Anyways, that’s how I roll with my characters, but much of the “just friends” idiocy occurs within slash fandom or, (more broadly, within fandoms whenever someone even suggests that a character might be anything but heterosexual and cis.

As much as I have issues with slash fandom, and as problematic as queer relationships as written by heterosexuals tend to be (though not always), there is definitely a place for slashy works in queer culture, especially given the dearth of queer representation in media. It’s important for us queer folks to write our own stories, create our own awesome headcanons, and take familiar characters and imagine that they…,go through the same things we do.

But, inevitably, there will be those who are uncomfortable with even the slightest suggestion that one of their beloved characters is anything but heterosexual and cisgender. This is where the “just friends” thing comes into play.

The “just friends” thing can be rendered thusly:

“But X and Y are just friends! Two people of the same sex can be friends without being gay/lesbian!”

Leaving aside the implicit assumption that being gay or lesbian is undesirable, I don’t think anyone would argue the basic point. Of course two people can be very good friends without also being involved with each other. In some cultures, it’s perfectly acceptable for two men to hold hands or two women to share a bed, and no one cares (these are the examples that are trotted out over and over again, so I’m using them).

I don’t know of anyone who would argue otherwise, but I mean, why can’t that same couple be “more than friends”?

Oh, right, homophobia.

So, while I think that it is important not to assume that things like holding hands is OMG GAY!  (because, as we all know, there’s more to being queer than physical/sexual aspects) and to portray close friendships, I also find this “just friends” thing to be particularly annoying and silencing. especially when you have people saying that real life same-sex couples are just “lifelong friends” or some bullshit like that.

In short, this is one of those things that can be pretty harmful in the wrong hands, on the other, yeah, we need characters who are friends and characters who are friends with benefits and characters who are best friends and lovers and all different ways of exploring intimacy and relationships and such. But, on the other hand, with so few amazing queer characters in the media (not just side characters, I’m talking main characters) we kind of need more than “just friends”.

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2 thoughts on ““Just Friends”

  1. Wouldn’t it be far more challenging to our heteronormative culture to have ‘just friends’ characters of opposite sexes?

    The ‘just friends’ thing has always bothered me when it comes to fanfiction. Fanfic, as you said, is riddled with problems – misogyny (usually internalized, since so many of our writers are young women), fetishization, and just so many problems – but whenever I see people yelling that we shouldn’t ship queer relationships because ‘characters are “just friends”‘ I always get frustrated/confused. I like writing and reading a wide variety of relationships, and I’m pretty sure no one writes fanfic because they want to stick EXACTLY to the canon. Even people that keep all the ‘canon’ pairings and such are usually adding their own details to the world or to characterization…

    But, yeah, it’s definitely veiled homophobia (usually). I definitely think fanfic could use, as a whole, more friendship stories in general. I say that partially because I think fanfic could use a little less porn focus but, I doubt I’ll see that happen any time soon.

    Anyway, this post gave me feels and makes me want to write fanfic again >.>

    1. I would say that both are definitely needed.

      In Urban Fantasy, for instance (one of those genres I just love to hate) particularly the kind of urban fantasy with a female protagonist with special abilities and love triangles (how I hate love triangles) you have to look for protagonists with female friends, close female friends, female friends who don’t become super jealous because protag has speshul powers/protag has man candy and join up with the antagonists. Usually they have a few male friends (because they’re “one of the boys” and of course they’re not like “other girls”) but female friends are just…not there…usually.

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