The Deep Dive

Writing Ourselves Out: Queer Characters Who Rewrite Their Destinies

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Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

Contains spoilers for Gone Home, The Handmaiden, Fingersmith, and Light From Uncommon Stars. Content warning for suicide.

To live in a marginalized identity is to navigate a world where you seem to constantly encounter new threads to ensnare you. On their own, they’re merely irritating. But the more you walk into them, the more they begin to weave together. The more intersecting marginalizations you inhabit, the faster they multiply. Soon they seem to form an inescapable net.

While there are many stories that explore heterosexism and cissexism, there are only a few that I’ve encountered that both contend with this reality and reject it. They paint a picture of a world that is so hostile and suffocating for its main characters that they seem to have no choice but to plod along to their prescribed tragic end. When they find another option, one that turns towards joy, it feels miraculous. It feels like they’ve taken hold of the pen themselves and rewritten their ending. It’s a reminder that nothing is inevitable.

These three stories are different mediums, genres, and tones. One is an exploration video game set in the ’90s. One is a Korean adaptation of a historical fiction book set in Victorian England. One is a genre-blending sci-fi/fantasy story about curses and alien donut shops. But what they have in common is that they all built a world for their queer character that seemed crushing, inescapable. And then — spoiler — they all empowered those queer characters to smash through. Which, incidentally, also made me burst into unexpected tears at the end of each of these stories.

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