Terrible Tropes: Bury Your Gays

**Warning for queer character death mentions**

“Good morning, sweetheart. What can I do for you today?”

Well, ma’am, I’m a lesbian you see and-

“Sorry to hear it, dear. Let me see what we have for that… oh!”

Is everything okay?

“It seems as there’s no hope for you, pumpkin. You see, in this world, people like you don’t seem to last very long. Have you written your will yet?”

Okay, pause.

Hello, dear reader, and today we’re talking about the topic of Dead Lesbian Syndrome, also known as Bury Your Gays. This is going to be the first post in a series revolving around tropes in popular media that treat LGBTQ+ individuals a little unfairly. In the future, you can expect these posts to be categorized under the “Terrible Tropes” tag. 

Now, Dead Lesbian Syndrome may not be as dramatic as I made it out to be in the situation above, but it is a problem that should be addressed. If you aren’t familiar with the term, here are a few examples to get us started in the right direction: 

Image of Denise from The Walking Dead that reads "Dead Lesbian Syndrome" in blog letters next to a satirical symptom list of characteristics related to her death and sexuality, similar to the other dead women
Denise, The Walking Dead
Image of Lexa from The 100 that reads "Dead Lesbian Syndrome" in blog letters next to a satirical symptom list of characteristics related to her death and sexuality, similar to the other dead women
Lexa, The 100
Image of Poussey from Orange is the New Black that reads "Dead Lesbian Syndrome" in blog letters next to a satirical symptom list of characteristics related to her death and sexuality, similar to the other dead women
Poussey, Orange is the New Black

Starting to get the idea, yet? Three characters from three wildly different shows were killed off in situations that seem unrelated but with a closer look, the patterns come into play. Both Denise and Lexa were “accidentally” shot by projectiles meant for other characters. All three of the women above had recently entered relationships and had some semblance of happiness that was immediately taken from them with a graphic murder. 

Why is it that any time a gay woman in media seems to finally be in a good place in her life, that the writers want to end it?

Excuses for this behavior include the genre of the show. “Well, it’s the apocalypse. What do you expect?” Fair point, but have these defenders considered that there aren’t many queer characters to begin with? Maybe if there were more queer women in the show, it would easier to believe she wasn’t a target. 

Additionally, these deaths were largely devices used to move the plot forward rather than well-written emotionally satisfying send-offs to the characters. Using the death of a “poor innocent cinnamon roll” to incite a war, introduce a big bad, or start a rebellion is not only patronizing, but also just lazy writing. If they have to be written off, why not at least make the end of their lives meaningful for something other than making other characters upset enough to fight for something? 

Admittedly, there are quite a few queer women depicted on Orange is the New Black, and to say the unfairness of Poussey’s death was more related to her blackness rather than her queerness is a very valid point. It was a racially charged move in an attempt to seem “woke” about the topic of police brutality in an arch that went nowhere good. That said, Poussey is still a lesbian, and the fact that she had just found love after seasons of struggling only to be killed off was gross and needless. 

This trope is stale. It’s demeaning and overused, and there’s no reason for it to be a viable option for writers. If you can’t keep lesbians out of the grave, then keep them out of your stories. 

That’s my opinion, anyway. I’m happy to hear what y’all think, though, so whether you agree or disagree, leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Sincerely yours, 

Nyla Linn (She/Her)

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