Since season six ended, it's been almost a month without our beloved Game of Thrones. To fill the void that's been left amid rumor of season seven's delay, a few of the GeeksOUT bloggers got together to discuss the queerer aspects of Westeros.
Jon Tully: All righty! Let's kick this off: Which characters would you consider queer or gender-non-conforming (GNC) in Game of Thrones (GoT) recognizing, of course, that the labels we use wouldn't hold the same meaning in this setting?
Stephen Tollafield: I'd say Renly Baratheon, Loras Tyrell, Oberyn Martell, Ellaria Sand, and Lord Varys are the major ones for me.
John Balash: Obviously Loras, Renly (may they rest in peace), possibly Brienne?
Jon: I'm glad you mentioned Brienne, as I would lump her into the GNC category (along with Arya Stark, Yara Greyjoy, and Obara Sand).
John: Oh and of course Yara! Who flirted pretty heavily with Dany, who didn't seem to mind.
Stephen: Yes, Yara! Newly minted.
Jon: And I'm also glad Stephen brought up Varys. I would lump him with Grey Worm as possible asexual characters (although Grey Worm wouldn't be aromantic because of his attraction to Missandei).
John: Yeah, there are a lot of characters who are asexual by no fault of their own. I mean is Theon still sexual? I'm sure he'd like to be.
Jon: Let's tackle that: does an inability to have sex mean that one is asexual?
Stephen: He seemed really tormented by Yara's groping of that saucy barmaid last season.
John: Very interesting. I would say someone who isn't sexually aroused is asexual not because they're missing those parts like in Theon or Varys' case. Varys' may have grown up to be gay or straight; hard to know for sure, but he's asexual because he never developed.
Jon: Given the fact that Grey Worm was castrated prior to puberty, would we say that Grey Worm is sexual? Or are we ignoring the romantic part of the spectrum?
Stephen: I think of asexual as more of an absence of sexual desire. It seems like people could be unable to perform sexually for whatever biological reason but still have desire.
John: He's a Eunuch too right? Sometimes I forget. Yeah Grey Worm seems to be in love with Missandei and would have a sexual response if he could. Castration is different than asexual, yeah.
Jon: I'm struck by the memory of one of the other Unsullied paying a prostitute just to have her sing him a lullaby and stroke his hair. I wouldn't say that's sexual; I'd say it's human need for compassion (or, at worst, romantic attraction).
Stephen: Varys strikes me as different from Greyworm and the Unsullied. In a world driven by sexual politics, Varys seems to be motivated by things other than human contact or desire.
John: I don't remember that but I will say that GoT has done an amazing job of representing so much of the spectrum of human sexuality in addition to war and violence. It's like my friends who have cuddle buddies that they literally just cuddle with. It's less sexual and more like needing human touch. Varys's need is different because he doesn't seem to need any physical manipulations just political ones.
Jon: Right. And that's a good segue: with so much of the spectrum represented by George R.R. Martin, do we see the inclusion of these characters as positive or having potentially positive influence on the audience? Why or why not?
John: Well none of the gay characters have really had much of a chance to have an impact since they get killed or imprisoned so quickly (discussed HERE in depth). Yara could be a positive influence; showing a strong-willed, and powerful lesbian.
Stephen: I think overall the existence at all of non-100%-straight characters challenges the norms of the fantasy genre in a good way. Sometimes the would-be king can have a conniving and ambitious knight whispering in his ear, it doesn't always have to be a lady!
Jon: Good point. But how do you answer John's comment that their treatment (however revolutionary) may give the wrong message?
Stephen: But John is right—the ending of their stories, like many characters in GoT, get cut short pretty quickly and violently.
John: I'm glad the gay characters were strong warriors and not stereotypes. Prince Viserys Targaryen (Daenerys's brother) was effeminate but very much liked the ladies, so it's good to see some breaks from generalizations and stereotypes. I just wished they were on the show longer.
Jon: That seems to bridge the gap into GNC characters: Are we overreaching to say that characters like Arya and Brienne are gender non-conforming? Are we guilty of using a modern lens inappropriately?
John: I'd say Brienne is because she's a very masculine woman and a strong knight and warrior, which is rare in fantasy and even rarely seen on the show.
Stephen: I think they certainly challenge the gender stereotypes that exist in that world. There are very hard and fast divisions between men and women, and females who challenge those divisions to be physically powerful definitely do not conform. Which may just be her rejecting the social baggage that goes along with the title of Lady—of being submissive and non-physical, etc. Or she could be rejecting the baggage of femininity altogether, hard to say!
Jon: As you said, Brienne shies away from being called a Lady...she doesn't want to be called Sir; she just doesn't want to be held in by the expectations that come with the title.
John: She's also seems to be heterosexual, which is a cool twist. Or just into Jaime Lannister.
Jon: Go Brienne! Kicking down doors AND stereotypes!
Stephen: The chemistry between her and Jaime is so fun.
Jon: (If by "fun" you mean hella blue balls-y), Stephen.
John: Maybe she has a fetish for one-handed, incestuous guys?
Stephen: The chemistry (or lack thereof) between Brienne and Tormund is one of the best minor subplots of last season. Hilarious! She's all, NOPE.
Jon: Hell yeah! I was gonna volunteer as tribute for THAT one. Don't worry, Brienne...I got you, gurl!
John: Also of note, one of the biggest stars of the show, Jon Snow, has only had one paramour.
Jon: Interesting point!
John: And he was a virgin until then. He's almost asexual because he's so burdened with his responsibility. Unlike the Cersei Lannisters of the world that are all "we're rich: let's eat, drink and be merry!"
Stephen: The emo is strong with that one.
John: I would love if he was bi but I don't know if it would fit his character.
Jon: Oo! Oo! Let's talk about sex now! What are you feelings about the disproportionate amount of hetero sex and female nudity to queer sex and nudity?
Stephen: Honestly? My husband and I clap at the beginning of GoT if they give the "Nudity" disclosure, and make sad trombone noises if they don't. Either way works for me as a viewer, does that say too much about my standards?
John: I applaud you for noticing that Stephen! That used to be how I decided which movies to watch on HBO when I was a teen.
Jon: Sounds like you two play the Game of...BONES! Wa-wa!
John: Ha ha. I play that game on Grindr, Jon.
Jon: Shhh! We didn't give the right disclosure banner!
John: Some of the depictions of sex are actually really disturbing. I almost didn't make it past the first episode after Dany was raped. That really bothered me, as did Sansa's off-screen rape.
Jon: Agreed. And I don't care for the argument that "that's just how things worked back then."
John: However (on the queer side) there were some hot scenes with Renly and Loras.
Stephen: It was super annoying that they covered Jon Snow with a ridiculous little towel when he was dead but they show women full frontal all the time (discussed HERE in depth). Hollywood's nudity double standard strikes again.
Jon: Well, Stephen, that's because we're still a slave to the male gaze. That's why it's okay to show Yara sucking the breast of a prostitute but not okay to show Loras sucking on Renly.
Stephen: Sigh If only we were slaves to the male gays, things would be very different.
Jon: Were there ANY depictions of gay sex (other than after shots of naked men in bed)? And for that matter, ANY depictions of queer requited love that didn't end in tragedy?
Stephen: I can't think of any depictions of gay sex to the degree that straight sex is depicted. Just cuddling and so forth.
Jon: Why do you think that is, Stephen (if Martin is the progressive thinker we attribute him to be)?
John: Yeah definitely, Renly and Loras definitely got it on and Oberyn Martell had some bi sex. Loras went down on Renly. Can I say "went down" here?
Jon: Went down where (hyuk)?
John: (Rolls eyes) Also Loras was in bed with a guy when he was in King's Landing after Renly's death.
Jon: Yeah, but those were just before or after shots, right? No steamy make outs and slow camera pans to show gyrations of nasty bits or anything that would hint that penetration was happening?
John: Hmmm... Some steamy bits but not like humping like we've seen with the straight couples.
Jon: Right. That's my point.
Stephen: The books actually are much more coy about homosexuality than the show is. Overt homosexuality on HBO is an exaggeration of mostly subtext in the novels. My theory is that the books read a lot like contemporaneous records of historical events, and like in real world histories, accounts of homosexuality were obscured or ignored or suppressed.
Jon: But present, which I'm glad the show brings up. That queer folks have been around in every civilization as long as there was civilization.
John: I'm also betting that, while I know little about him, George R.R. Martin doesn't really love writing graphic homosexual sex scenes. He’s stated that it's just not his interest.
Jon: Wha?! Who WOULDN'T (twelve year old me cries)? So, overall, is this show a GOOD thing for the queer community? Why or why not?
Stephen: As a queer fan of the show, I love the representation. I'm rooting for an LGBT character to "win the game," or at least make it to the end in one piece. My money is on Yara, at the moment. Like you say, the representation challenges the invisibility of LGBT characters in fantasy stories, and I think that's great.
Jon: You mean Yara and Daenerys? There sure are a LOT of queens going into the next season…
Stephen: I'd love that! But even if Yara's and Daenerys' relationship winds up purely political, an out lesbian protagonist who wins at the end would be cool.
Jon: I nominate Ellen Degeneres (Ellen Degaryan, Mother of Drag-ons?).
John: Haha. I'm sure she would appreciate your inclusion as a queen. Yeah, I'd say the show is good for queer representation overall. Any show where gay characters aren't stereotypes seems positive to me; although, it's definitely been far more empowering for women than gay characters I'd say: this season was especially packed with girl power, which I mentioned in my last few recaps.
Stephen: I think these three queens right here will certainly be tuning in to see what happens!
Jon: Too true! So, for the parting shot, who is your favorite queer GoT character and why?
John: While the gay characters got the shaft (so to speak) the hetereosexual men have been mostly neutered as well. Hell, even Jon Snow would've lost the Battle of the Bastards without Sansa's help. She called in the cavalry!
John: Dead or alive gay character? I'm Team Renly and was heartbroken when he died. I liked that he was sort of coy about his sexuality and, even though he was closeted, I liked how he played the game for his gain.
Stephen: I had an unreasonable fan crush on Oberyn Martell. I'm pretty sure a lot of it had to do with his accent. But long term, I get very excited whenever Varys pops up to manipulate everyone else. What about you, Jon?
Jon: I agree with you about Oberyn, Stephen. BUT, I love Ellaria more. She will Cut. A. Bitch.
John: Hard to know if Arya will be gay. She's still going through puberty. I think Bran is just into crows and tree people.
Stephen: Are you calling Bran a crow-mosexual?
Jon: Haha! Zing!
John: Cersei is a bromosexual, as in she's only into her brother.
Jon: Ooo... Too far, John! (Does that mean she only gives bro-jobs?)
John: Edit my comments! Redacted! Haha! Yes, Jon.
Jon: Well boyos, it was a pleasure.
Stephen: So fun!
John: Me too! It was fun, glad we had that chat.
Did we leave out any of your favorite queer characters? Give them a shout out in the comments below! And follow us all on Twitter by clicking our full names at the top of the interview.