It seems that every time I post about equality and diversity it’s for a negative reason. So I thought that today, on Bi Visibility Day, I’d change it up a bit and be a bit more positive.
A couple of weeks ago I was at Empire LRP and (as often happens) I was asked to tag along and photograph one of the quest encounters that had been written especially for the kids. They were saving a farm from some… I don’t know… gribbly monsters or similar… and that was great. The kids love that. They really love going out and killing monsters, but more importantly they always really buy into the story.
When I heard one of the NPCs shout the words ‘My husband! You have to rescue my husband!’ (or something to that effect) I was pleasantly surprised. Firstly because in fantasy tropes it’s usually the wife that has found herself in perilous danger and requires expert extraction, but secondly because it was a male NPC saying those words.
Now I don’t know about your world, but in my world there are quite a few men who like other men as more than platonic friends. Gay men, bisexual men – there’s loads of them on my Facebook friends list. But all too often fantasy storytelling misses them out of entire works of fiction. I don’t remember the last time I read a fantasy book or watched a fantasy movie where there were gay or bisexual male characters. In fact I struggle to remember the last time I watched a mainstream movie with gay or bisexual male characters. (I suspect Capote, although Truman Capote isn’t a fictional character, and Brokeback Mountain were the last ones. And I can’t remember any other than that. But naming movies with gay/bisexual characters just leads us through a Linda Nochlin style argument and nobody needs to do that here. Oh – Captain Jack! How could I forget him!)
So it was great, if a little surprising, to experience plot writers and NPC’s just treating a gay marriage as if it were a totally normal and every day occurrence. I don’t know how many NPCs leaving the monster room at Empire are assigned a sexuality other than straight (I suspect it generally doesn’t matter much or isn’t thought about) but it was great to see the kids quest feature that kind of character background.
The more I interact with kids the more I am convinced that they just accept adult sexual orientations and relationship styles with absolutely no problem – until they are told otherwise by someone that they trust. So I feel like LARP encounters such as this one are doing an important role for the young people that attend our games. It’s teaching them that men who marry men are an entirely normal part of society – even if perhaps their trusted adults are telling them otherwise outside of the game. It also teaches them that there are options other than ‘straight’ when they’re old enough to understand – something that even people my age (er… 31…) weren’t taught when they were younger.
So the more we can normalise these kind of characters into our fantasy world then we normalise them in the minds of young people – and that’s a powerful weapon to have against the bigotry of the outside world. LARP really can help to enact social change.
I guess the point of this post is to try and encourage plot writers to write more characters that can be played by either gender when the plot hits the field and they’re looking around for NPCs to play the parts. And for NPCs to be open minded to playing a sexuality other than their own. And, of course, for more reoccurring NPCs to have richer backgrounds that sometimes include sexualities other than ‘straight’ – when it’s relevant. Lets populate our fantasy worlds in a way that is much more akin to the real world. With all kinds of different people.
And of course – this post is a big shout out to the plot writers and NPCs who made the encounter happen. Because I’m sure that they made an impact on the kids that went on the quest – even if it was only a little nudge in the right direction. And even if the kids didn’t even realise.