Does Brony Culture Promote Homophobia?
You already know I have some things to say about My Little Pony. And in that I have already confessed to watching the Brony documentary. We’ve established that: I think My Little Pony is just okay; that my daughter watches it and plays with the toys sometimes; and that I like breaking down gender constructs.
I like when boys and girls play with toys that are typically assigned by society for the opposite gender. I like when those kids’ interests are embraced and accepted. I think I sometimes take for granted that I live in a giant city with sizeable bubble of hip, gender-politicized parents within it. So much so that I’m guilty of getting bored by “my son likes pink” articles. Which is not to say that I’m not still outraged at the “my son was kicked out of preschool for wearing pink” ones. Part of this, for me, comes from having spent as many years of my life in queer and trans communities as I did outside of them, and these stories can be similarly (respectively) boring and enraging in those contexts.
To put it out there: I’m honestly, legitimately happy if your son plays with My Little Pony and you’re into it. I’m into it.
What I am not into is the “Bronies like My Little Ponies but aren’t gay” phenomenon. The movie was really heavy on this. Right down to “see this army dude? He likes My Little Ponies. He is not gay.” (Military Bronies even have their own site—try not to spend too much time on it.) I have no interest in talking about gays in the army, so skipping right over that: remember how being gay is all right?
I’m not arguing that any little boy who likes My Little Pony, or pink, or whatever girl-assigned thing is gay—because I don’t think that. I am pointing out that accepting these reinforcements of “don’t worry we’re not gay” as okay is perpetuating homophobia.
What is a Brony.com tells me “First impressions might be that bronies are creepy or gay, however that’s a typical misconception.” Good job realigning gay with creepy. An ABC News report sites Very Important Research that says, “very few Bronies identified as gay. In fact, 85 per cent of Bronies identified as heterosexual.” The Guardian concurs in another Serious News Piece on the topic. A pro-Brony Examiner article refers to being called gay as a condemnation (I understand they mean when it’s used as an insult and incorrect, but this does not make a queer-positive perspective.) Everywhere from Wired to American Convervative (and Slate, and Jezebel, and The Awl, and more) have written on the topic of Bronies, and this “strange fan base, but it’s-okay-not-gay” line appears in a majority of it.
This random blog tells me the Bronies concur that Rainbow Dash is a lesbian, so are “changing [their] social rules” to avoid using the word gay as an insult. So.Not.Reassuring. Especially given the many Brony sites and message boards are still thick with “I’m sick of being called gay” and “I think I might be a Brony, does that mean I’m gay?” posts.
While the show’s executive producer and creative director, animator Laurent Faust (who has left the show but continues to be worshipped by Bronies) takes a loud stance against homophobia—has she created a culture of fans that reverse her position?
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a writer and editor in Toronto. She’s updating her LinkedIn profile to include “My Little Pony Commentator.”