LGBTQ representation in media is often dire and sparse, a truth many know all too well. In an attempt to shield ourselves from this and make it through the day, gay and transgender individuals will often take canonically straight, cisgender characters and imagine them as gay or transgender. Some will even go as far as to insist that these characters are gay and/or transgender, defending their belief against comments to the contrary.
These are known as gay and transgender headcanons, and they are an unfortunate, necessary evil.
I can understand the appeal and, to an extent, the necessity of these headcanons. When you are scrambling to find the barest semblance of representation, convincing yourself that a fictional character is trans and/or gay seems like a viable alternative. I have a few problems with this behavior, however, and I’ve recently begun to resent seeing it online.
The first problem I have is I find it difficult to identify actual gay/transgender characters in media when people assign their own sexualities/identities to characters. When people constantly refer to fictional characters as gay or transgender, I begin tuning it out as white noise. Because of this, however, I don’t immediately realize it when people talk about actual gay/trans characters in media.
As an example of this, I initially thought people were exaggerating the relationship between Haruka & Michiru in Sailor Moon. I didn’t pay much attention to Sailor Moon when I was younger, so I was unaware the two were actually lesbians in the manga. Whenever I saw jokes about people insisting they weren’t gay, I just assumed people were talking about their idealized relationship between the two.
This problem is magnified when people don’t make it clear what is and isn’t a headcanon. It may seem obvious to friends who are familiar with the source material, but to the unknowing observer there’s not an easy way to tell whether someone’s talking about an actual gay/trans character or not. When someone points at any character and starts going on about how they’re gay or trans, it becomes easier to just assume they’re always talking about their headcanons.
The other problem, and arguably the far more pressing one, is when these headcanons end up taking attention away from actual gay/trans characters. I’ll often see people who go on and on about their favorite gay/trans headcanons without ever actually sharing or talking about media containing actual gay/trans characters. While media containing positive depictions of trans/gay characters is hard to come by, it does exist, and it’s disheartening to see people ignore it or pass it up in favor of their headcanons.
People also tend to focus less on encouraging better gay/trans representation in media when they focus on their headcanons, instead twisting things that barely resemble gay and/or transgender characters to suit them. This creates an odd atmosphere sometimes where it’s considered taboo to complain about lackluster or offensive media depictions of trans/gay characters, for fear it would break the illusion that all is well. In doing this, people discourage critical discussion of these characters.
I understand all too well why people make these headcanons. I really do. But I also feel focusing on them overly much can be somewhat dangerous, and detracts from efforts to actually get better trans/gay representation in media. I would suggest people spend at least as much time encouraging real trans/gay representation in media as they do on their headcanons.
We can only hope that these headcanons will one day no longer be necessary.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more like it, please consider donating to my Patreon. Every dollar helps make ends meet, and the more my Patreon makes, the more time I can devote to my blog.