Capitalizing off the LGBTQ+ community

Natasha Aragon, Staff Writer

“And they were just roommates.” Quite literally. In fact, you were tricked into believing there was something going on between them but it never happened, nor is it canon. The term “queerbaiting” was originally made to describe the implication of LGBTQ+ relationships or attraction as a marketing strategy to gain consumers, despite said relationships and attraction never actually being pursued. While this term was originally aimed at TV shows and movies, today it is being applied to actual people and relationships. 

Queerbaiting was first discussed on Tumblr and other social media platforms in the 2010s when fan communities became tired of shows like “Supernatural” and “The 100” for supplying characters with sexual ambiguity. Prior to this, the Hays Code, introduced in the 1930s, limited filmmakers and directors in the portrayment of queerness in entertainment. Directors were only able to put vague traits widely understood as LGBTQ+ to allude to the community. However, that is not queerbaiting as it was to include the LGBTQ+ community rather than attract their wallets. 

While at first the term “queerbaiting” was used to seek justice for the community, after some time, it has been commonly overused and misused. This is evident today as the term is often used towards celebrities and other real individuals rather than fictional characters or companies. These accusations initially kept straight individuals accountable for capitalizing off of queer culture and ensured that LGBTQ+ opportunities and roles were rightfully given to actual LGBTQ+ individuals. However, today it’s used as an excuse from audiences to demand an explanation from the said individual on their sexuality. Recently, Kit Connor, the actor for Nick Nelson in a Netflix show called Heartstopper, was forced to come out publicly after being accused of queerbaiting for simply holding hands with his co-star Maia Reficco. After the image of them holding hands spread over social media many claimed that Connor was a “cis-straight white male giving the show a bad name.” This is not the only case of harassment from fans. In fact, Harry Styles was often accused of capitalizing off of “queer aesthetics” as he often wears “women’s” clothing without clarifying his sexuality. Please note that these are just two examples out of countless accusations of queerbaiting on celebrities.   

While many students and staff members at Dulaney High School have never even heard of queerbaiting, it’s important to recognize its existence and the actual definition. Doing so can prevent individuals from coming out of the closet because of accusations and harassment on social media or in-person. Celebrities and other individuals do not owe you an explanation of their sexuality. Your assumptions are not always true and having no label does not mean someone is queerbaiting.