Like most bearers of bad news, I want to start with an apology.
Chances are you haven’t gotten too many of those. The men who took pictures of you in your cosplay without your permission at that one convention never gave you one, and the guy working the arcade who stared at your sixteen-year-old chest as you walked in didn’t either. What about the boy who told you that girls should stick to playing healing classes, or the one who quizzed you on Fallout because you wore a Vault Boy shirt that day?
Instead, it was always you who felt apologetic somehow: for wearing that shirt, for playing that game, for liking this thing, for just being you. But none of that is important.
What’s important is that they all owed you, at the very least, an I’m sorry. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it doesn’t matter. If there’s anything we’ve learned from our comics and stories, it’s that the victims deserve justice, and even if those two words are not enough (and they rarely ever are), justice always begins with an apology.
We tend to be empaths and escapists, living vicariously through our fictional characters, our Storms and Black Widows and Peggy Carters who would brush those boys off without a care. We’re both creator and consumer, taking the media we enjoy and transforming it for us, filling archives with art and writing and cosplay and subculture…so why doesn’t it feel like enough?
Why do they feel like they’re trying to bury you?
The media has had a bad case of Dead Lesbian Syndrome for over eighty years now. The Hays Code, established in 1930, shaped the way media developed through the 20th century. Part of it required that “deviant” characters (including gay, lesbian, transgender, and other same-gender attracted people) can never be shown in a sympathetic light.
And so the “Bury Your Gays” tradition started in full effect, with LGBT characters constantly depicted as villainous, untrustworthy, or mentally ill, and their attraction always represented as innately toxic or disastrous.
“Even if they do end up having some kind of relationship,” according to TV Tropes, “at least one-half of the couple, often the one who was more aggressive in pursuing a relationship, thus ‘perverting’ the other one, has to die at the end.”
Usually, these characters suffer their tragic ends soon after coming out or consummating their relationships. Though the Hays Code fell before the 1960s, the pattern still continues today with a recent surge in lesbian character deaths (most of which have been violent and abrupt).
If you’re a nerdy girl and you might like girls, then you probably watched yourself die on The 100 that night, and again on The Walking Dead, and again on Xena: Warrior Princess, and again on Orange is the New Black, and again, and again, and again…and there it is. It’s the fact that these stories and universes and characters that we are so ardently in love with were never created for us, that these women we love and admire were never supposed to be our heroes, that the creators we devoted ourselves to only ever saw us in measurements of shock value, disposability, or tit size.
The bad news is not, and will never be, the fact that you like girls—there’s nothing more natural and pure than love between women.
The bad news is that being a nerd and liking girls is so (so!) hard and no one else is going to tell you this. You deserve the truth as much as you deserve an apology.
So here’s one from me, which will never make up for the combination of misogyny (including transmisogyny), homophobia, and compulsory heterosexuality that you’ve fought tooth and nail to get to this point today where you are brave enough to consider that you might have love for other women: I’m sorry.
I hope that you don’t wonder if, like Lexa from The 100 or Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who were both violently killed after having sex with their female partners, that you also deserve to be punished for acting on your natural feelings of attraction. I hope you don’t wonder if you’ll ever find happiness when every story about you magnifies your pain and misery. But if you do then that’s okay—like most bearers of good news, I saved the best for last.
There’s no Joss Whedon penning your life’s twists and turns, and no executive decision that can get rid of you with a flick of a highlighter. You exist and take up space and fill it with glorious purpose. For every Sad Dead Lesbians tragedy there are a thousand real-life romances about women like you, happy ones and sad ones and in-love ones and content ones, but most of all, living ones. Whether with their wives or with their girlfriends or alone, they’re living and they’re thriving.
Yesterday I played Rhythm Heaven Fever with my nerdy girlfriend in our apartment that we live in together. I watch horror movies in bed with her and make toast for her in the morning.
These stories are real and beautifully mundane and you’re lucky enough to experience them.
The myth that our existences can only be angsty and tragic has been crafted to keep you from realizing that you have a strength that scares people, a story too loud to suppress, and a heart too strong to bury.