How would you react if a straight friend faked an attraction to a gay/bi/queer friend for a few months or years just to get something they wanted — and then ghosted once they had it?
That’s the personification of queerbaiting.
Queerbaiting is when creators and studios over-promise inclusion or flirt with queer subtext to hint at relationships they don’t intend to define or depict onscreen. It’s a way of luring an LGBTQ+ audience and benefitting from their investment, without offering meaningful representation in return.
When Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina tease their Birds of Prey characters are “more than likely” gay, that’s queerbaiting. When J.K. Rowling outs Dumbledore long after he’s dead in the books then re-closets him in the prequels, that’s queerbaiting too.
Growing up gay is a prolonged emotional trauma for many young people. Were it not for identifying PTSD in my early ‘40s, I could not have conceived of internalized homophobia, or believed how influenced I was by what I saw and didn’t see of myself on TV and in movies.
LGBTQ+ young people usually reconcile their identity in secret without anyone to mirror their experience. Seeing meaningful representations of themselves in the media during this formative time may be their only opportunity to develop a strong sense of self.
Queerbaiting cons them out of that opportunity.
I was 9 when I kissed Ricky Schroder (in a dream), and 14 by the time I ever saw two guys kiss. When a boy feels that he wants to kiss boys but only sees boys kissing girls, he has no proof of concept to assure him that…