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Homosexuality in Exalted second edition

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  • #46
    EDIT: I just noticed more spilled onto a page 2 that I didn't see before, but hopefully this isn't too argumentative. I actually do see your point on this and agree with you. As I stated in my first post on the thread, there's only so much benefit of the doubt of innocent self-reference before I tend to think that it is actually on purpose and therefore worthy of calling out of such.

    Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
    I realise it's not meant mean-spiritedly. But, frankly, I find the insistence that a gay man can't have a "biological son" insulting as fuck.

    Gay people are allowed to have kids. Being a parent does not take away your gay card. It's a very hetronormative (and cisnormative) statement to make. And I realise it's being made as part of a critical deconstruction, and I'm not saying it doesn't have value as a statement or that it isn't worth discussing. But it hits, personally, very close to home. (Entirely outside of a magical world with neomah and the whole issue around adding the word "biological" to this story.)

    If your opinion is that 2E made Ophilis Ses straight, then you are entitled to your interpretation of the text. Your opinion is valid and I respect that.

    But it is an opinion. It's one possible interpretation of the material presented, based on drawing inference from social coding and stereotypes. It is an argument you can make, but it is not something explicit in the text. It's you proceeding from the assumption that straight is normal.

    And that's my point. 2E's "broadest possible base" approach was one of starving gay characters of oxygen. Ledaal Kes existed. He was in a chapter comic in MoEP: DB. But he didn't get a write up, let alone a mention of his sexuality. 2E didn't explicitly make him straight, it just sidelined him as a character and threw a veil over his sexuality. I'm not saying that Ledaal Kes and Ophilis Ses got exactly the same treatment, and in some respects, that's probably worse than saying "Ophilis Ses is straight now"... but my sum point is that the book doesn't, out-and-out, say "Ophilis Ses is straight now".

    I have no objection to folks stating "it seems like erasure to me". Because that's exactly what it is. It's quietly sanitising and censoring Exalted to broaden the appeal. The books have limited word count and WW chooses whether to spend those words drawing attention to gay characters or pulling attention elsewhere. Not talking about gay characters is a choice, deliberately made.

    I freely concede that of all the implied and indirect erasure Azure Path and Ophilis Ses got the worst of it. And it's completely reasonable to assume Ophilis Ses is straight from the published text (it's not, in any way, an unreasonable assumption to draw -- no-one is a bad person for making such an assumption). 2E gives exactly the same amount of evidence for Ophilis Ses being gay as it gives for Cathak Cainan liking liquorice -- exactly zero. But that's not the same as the books printing "Cainan doesn't like liquorice".
    Note that is why I try to work around it without saying it means he is. In context of what we are presented in 2e, he has no gay lover, and evidence of at least one straight interaction with a woman, as nothing is stated on sorcery/thaumaturgy/whatever. All we have ever stated in 2e is one result of heterosexual intercourse and what appears to be outright deletion of the thing that says otherwise. This doesn't say he is straight, but in context of 2e, one would have been surprised to find out he was anything but that given what is presented.

    It is retcon via omission and well, outright erasure. Again, his lover is never named or mentioned in 2e. He in effect is erased as he is in effect deleted in an edition that is while similar to 1e in many respects, one that has made enough changes to be its own take and not one that can always copy-over the 1e take.

    I do see the way this can be insulting, but in context of a lot of other 2e stuff, it fits in the patterns the edition was with other things. (See also my comment on how there are all-but-one cis husband-wife pairings for Lunar-Solar pairings save Arkhadi-Leviathan...which is still straight since it was about both of them sleeping with Arkhadi's wife. Or Gerveshin's whole deal.)

    As you note, it's in context of critique, and while gay men can and do have children, in context of the other patterns of 2e, I'm not willing to give it that benefit of the doubt and would argue his having a son is potentially actually an attempt to leverage those stereotypes/biases that lead to erasure, which kind of makes things worse.
    Last edited by Blaque; 04-05-2021, 12:37 PM.


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    • #47
      Originally posted by Epimetheus View Post


      The scarlet Dynasty is a place that churns out dragon blooded, and puts them through the crucible. They have an arduous early childhood, that then moves to teenage life and then adult life. Children aren't even allowed to be raised by their own parents. Nannies and tutors are the ones who raise the dragon blooded, while they coldly look on to check to make sure the child is doing well. When they're children they're forced to be perfect in order for their parents to brag about them, when they're teenagers they're put through the wringer and sent to the most nightmarishly strict schools in the realm. It's only when they're adults that they even taste freedom. They exist as pawns from the moment they're born up until adulthood. It's not all bad. They live in a life of luxury unknown to anyone but the gods of yushan. However, even the marriage is just another power play. Most dragon blooded have no say in who they marry. Sometimes, very rarely from looking at the bios of the dragon blooded, they find someone they like or even love. However, neither factors into it.

      Also, I never said the marriage was unequal. Just that that in a large number of cases the dragon blooded marriage system, the dragon blooded are almost never together. They're off doing their own thing, and then they meet up to preform their obligation. They attend social functions to keep up appearances but for the most part they are usually expected to have lovers. I think it gets lost about the realm but most of it is about obligation over personal freedom. The scarlet empress has to be a tyrant to keep her empire a float. The great houses have to torture their children to make them stand out. The children have to do what they're told or they'll be disavowed or sent to a detention school worse than most prisons.

      This feels like such a dim view of the setting to take to me, reading with a bias to the point that large sections of the actual text are overlooked or overwritten, and isn't really extrapolating from what is present to keep things consistent and functional.

      If nothing else, it just doesn't make for very good sociology; no society can be sustained if it doesn't possess any form of positive feedback to invest members in it, as would be the case with the sterility that you describe. That doesn't have anything to do with whether or not the society's functions are ultimately abusive (which actually is how I would characterise the standard upbringing of Dynasts), because even sustainable abusive systems need to employ methods to keep people on board. As far as the childhood of Dynasts goes, this is conveyed in things such as how they're exposed to family members and narratives intended to make them find the obligations they're being brought up for and the cultural character of their House seem compelling and impressive. House Mnemon does not consistently produce people who are particularly pious, artistic and drawn to architecture solely because it's beaten into them, the sensible household makes sure that some of the earliest things you ever hear about are stories about how cool those things are, often from the interesting people who actually did them (Third Edition in particular focuses on Mnemon herself as a direct and personal source of such things for most of her House).

      So that will go for marriage in particular, given that it's such a significant part of their lives and culture. Boys will be brought up on the idea that one day they'll carry these talents off to be of benefit to a formidable and impressive wife (during an upbringing that will socialize them with a lot of powerful, commanding women). Girls are brought up to expect partnership with a husband who she will be responsible for ensuring effectively provides talents for the glory of her own household and the House as a whole. Smart people will convey these as things to look forward to, and I think it's fair to say that the benefits are significant enough that even where there are people whose traits grate against it, they'll be motivated to overcome. There's probably a spectrum of enthusiasm for these systems, but it should be believable that it's only outliers who are far enough on the personal freedom side that they even exist within it in perpetual misery or actually abandon it outright.

      People in the past lived in similar ways to this or in other ways that are quite alien to the experience of members of modern prosperous liberal democracies, and there's evidence enough that they were actually capable of being happy, or at least satisfied (even some modern people don't regard personal happiness as the highest virtue or accomplishment) within them. As far as marriage goes, spouses may not necessarily love one another romantically, but that doesn't strictly mean they don't love one another in some fashion, nor even that they think romantic love is the highest priority (which I think arguments can be made in support of, even to or by people who don't personally believe in that). This can be a lifestyle in which a person with whom you can unwind intimately actually is ranked lower than your collaborator in achieving great and honourable things and building a legacy.

      To again bring the matter of gay Dynasts into this... I've heard references to real life gay people where they confide how even when they're out and proud, there's something about the narrative of the standard hetero nuclear family that remains compelling, perhaps not least because they'll probably be bombarded with it their whole lives (you might get somebody who fantasised about what their married life would be like before they really knew that they weren't straight). If we take that principle and slot it into the context of the Scarlet Dynasty, where no strict homophobia can also mean no strong impulse towards seeking gay liberation, and where the standard marriage model is intertwined with a lot of money and power and impressive accomplishments, again, there are ways for that to be enticing over a more personal expression of love.

      (And don't tell me I'm missing that the Realm is not about the historical outlier of emphasising personal freedom; I once had to use that very point to argue that being an excellent chef would not be regarded as a fitting profession to the lofty standards of the Scarlet Dynasty regardless of how much they wanted it to a person who would then just not shut up about it.)


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      • #48
        Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post


        This feels like such a dim view of the setting to take to me, reading with a bias to the point that large sections of the actual text are overlooked or overwritten, and isn't really extrapolating from what is present to keep things consistent and functional.
        Perhaps this is because I've read the 1e book over again but what I was saying was practically verbatim. Especially that part about freedom. Children have to be perfect at everything or else their parents can't brag about it. There were situations where tutors were murdered to teach the child a lesson. This was in the 1e fiction. Dynasts don't usually have much freedom in life unless they renounce their heritage. Even if there are slight differences in editions, the tribulations of a dynast's childhood aren't sugar coated. Neither have any of the 4 great schools which all have more then a few casualties. They still kept that line about how teens who are slow and cause the problems for the other students tend to get end up murdered in the house of bells. Just the casual murder that the children have to go through. Even the non-combat focused schools have to deal with other students who kill to succeed. The realm is brutal and it takes a lot of drive to succeed. It's not remotely close to the modern world which is why I don't ascribe modern beliefs to them.

        To again bring the matter of gay Dynasts into this... I've heard references to real life gay people where they confide how even when they're out and proud, there's something about the narrative of the standard hetero nuclear family that remains compelling, perhaps not least because they'll probably be bombarded with it their whole lives (you might get somebody who fantasised about what their married life would be like before they really knew that they weren't straight). If we take that principle and slot it into the context of the Scarlet Dynasty, where no strict homophobia can also mean no strong impulse towards seeking gay liberation, and where the standard marriage model is intertwined with a lot of money and power and impressive accomplishments, again, there are ways for that to be enticing over a more personal expression of love.
        Sure, personally, I've never felt like that but many people have different opinions marriage and kids. However, I don't know why, you'd want to explore that in the grinder that is the realm. Especially in 3e, where there are much freer places to explore love and romance.

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        • #49
          How the setting portrays childhood in the Dynasty has changed every edition. And how we, as fans and historians/sociologists/gamers, might wish to portray the Dynasty is rife with different interpretations of the texts.

          I think we really need to nail down what we're talking about here, because this is ostensibly a 2E thread. 1E grimdark and 3E helicopter mom Mnemon are kinda irrelevant to the discussion.

          I think you both make some great points, but I have no idea how to respond to either of you when you seem to be talking about different things.


          Hi, I'm JohnDoe244. My posts represent my opinions, not facts.

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          • #50
            JohnDoe244

            I get what you're saying but I also think you're being overly dismissive to the concept of gay erasure. Yes, gay men can have biological children and often do. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be mentioned that they're still gay men.


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            • #51
              Originally posted by CTPhipps View Post
              JohnDoe244

              I get what you're saying but I also think you're being overly dismissive to the concept of gay erasure. Yes, gay men can have biological children and often do. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be mentioned that they're still gay men.
              I don't know if I can restate my point more clearly, but I'll try.

              2E did not explicitly decanonize gay characters in the way that 3E has out-and-out replaced problematic characters and had the devs state that they will not write about such characters.

              John Chambers never went on RPG.net and said "Azure Path is no longer canon and Ophilis Ses is straight now".

              Now what 2E did was refuse to write about gay relationships and dynamics.

              Some people have suggested that this wasn't a "refusal" so much as an assumption that folks would be familiar with the 1E lore. This is a suggestion I specifically contest. I have, since my first post, actively accused WW of deliberately sidelining gay characters and I've spelled out exactly how they did it and I've voiced conjecture about why they refused to write about gay characters.

              If I've communicated that poorly, then I hope this post helps. But I sincerely don't see how that can be construne as "overly dismissive of the concept of gay erasure".

              ****

              At risk of derailing my clarification post:

              ("Ophilis" isn't even given as Ses's name in 2E until Return of the Scarlet Empress. The comic that introduces his son just calls hm "Ses". Likewise, Ledaal Kes is right there in MoEP: DB playing Gateway with Mnemon... but he doesn't get two words describing who he is outside of that comic. Lioness is right, there is a clear expectation that one be familiar with the 1E material, but I don't think that's enough to justify not writing about them in 2E. I think that's a travesty and I'm glad 3E has devoted page space to talking about this.)

              (And, again, nowhere does it even say that Ses's son is his 'biological' child.)
              Last edited by JohnDoe244; 04-06-2021, 04:34 PM.


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              • #52
                I think it's a tricky one for me; on the one hand I'm fairly certain the writer thought he'd added a counter-intuitive humanizing twist to 'Ses, Villainous Snakeman Crimelord', as an Easter Egg, and on another he's not explicitly gay in 1e, rather than someone who has a male lover and may be bisexual, and that maybe our cultural assumptions led to the idea he is gay (possibly this 'Male bisexuals don't really exist' type stuff?). But... Given where things are and were and that representation (non-stereotyped representation particularly) seems deeply valued and important to many gay folks, I can empathize that going from someone 1e's audience identifies as gay->possibly bisexual and sexually "occluded" could feel bad and like 'a loss' to some folks (although it didn't come up at the time!) and so might be a thing that writers should avoid or else handle more skillfully and using more space to communicate than the 2e comics did.

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                • #53
                  Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                  How the setting portrays childhood in the Dynasty has changed every edition. And how we, as fans and historians/sociologists/gamers, might wish to portray the Dynasty is rife with different interpretations of the texts.

                  I think we really need to nail down what we're talking about here, because this is ostensibly a 2E thread. 1E grimdark and 3E helicopter mom Mnemon are kinda irrelevant to the discussion.

                  I think you both make some great points, but I have no idea how to respond to either of you when you seem to be talking about different things.
                  My point was that even between the editions, dynasts from birth to marriage have very little say in much. Very little has changed in terms of how dynasts childhoods go between editions. Their family determines what they do, where they go and who they are. If they have aptitude towards something the family will guide them towards that, if not they'll control where they learn and who tgey become. Even marriage is just a tool and most dragon blooded have lovers because marriage doesn't have anything to do with what the dragon blooded wants unless they're willing to be spurned or they run away and forsake their heritage. That some couples love each other is a happy occurance rather than the norm. Regardless of sexual oriantation 90-95% ofrealm dragon blooded will never marry out of love. I think a lot of people just like to sugarcoat the realm but it's a very rough place to be unless you can handle the kind of toxicity an overbearing family and ruthless peers can be.
                  Last edited by Epimetheus; 04-06-2021, 04:55 PM.

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                  • #54
                    Originally posted by Ghosthead View Post
                    I think it's a tricky one for me; on the one hand I'm fairly certain the writer thought he'd added a counter-intuitive humanizing twist to 'Ses, Villainous Snakeman Crimelord', as an Easter Egg, and on another he's not explicitly gay in 1e, rather than someone who has a male lover and may be bisexual, and that maybe our cultural assumptions led to the idea he is gay (possibly this 'Male bisexuals don't really exist' type stuff?). But... Given where things are and were and that representation (non-stereotyped representation particularly) seems deeply valued and important to many gay folks, I can empathize that going from someone 1e's audience identifies as gay->possibly bisexual and sexually "occluded" could feel bad and like 'a loss' to some folks (although it didn't come up at the time!) and so might be a thing that writers should avoid or else handle more skillfully and using more space to communicate than the 2e comics did.
                    I can agree but as others have pointed out that 2e does take a radically different approach to the setting then 1e. It's hard to believe it's on accident or by mistake.

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                    • #55
                      Originally posted by Epimetheus View Post

                      My point was that even between the editions, dynasts from birth to marriage have very little say in much.
                      Nah, it's changed a lot. Like, a lot, a lot.

                      Take What Fire Has Wrought page 91 onward.

                      A military graduate has a commission in the legions if they want it, or they can or take post in the House forces, or join the Wyld Hunt, or goof off on sabbatical. Sorcerers can do whatever they want. They're all free to travel on their stipend and never take a job.

                      On marriage there's some discretion on spouse ("The Dynasty accepts these marriages because it understands that the passions of the Terrestrial Exalted run hot. History records many tales of Dragon-Blooded who, when pushed, chose their beloved over house and tradition — quite a few of these tales are bloody affairs.") and spouses are usually of a similiar age. There's clear concern shown that the partners be compatible in the text.

                      Some parents even show affection to their kids.

                      Heck, some kids are even allowed to flunk out of secondary school and take a decade to go "find themselves".

                      3E has explicit support for transgender Dynasts compared to the 2E sidebar about acting "effeminate".

                      1E had Mnemon assassinate her children for disappointing her. That's not something 3E Mnemon does. The presentation of childrearing and life in the Dynasty has drastically changed between editions.

                      (The Realm you're describing sounds very apropos for 2E though.)

                      Originally posted by Epimetheus View Post
                      I think a lot of people just like to sugarcoat the realm but it's a very rough place to be unless you can handle the kind of toxicity an overbearing family and ruthless peers can be.
                      Yeah, I mean, your wider point is fair and I agree. The Realm is a terrible place to grow up (regardless of edition -- even if 3E is significantly less terrible than 1E). It is all about the overbearing family and ruthless peers (and the crushing burdeon of expectation).

                      But the specifics? Highly variable between editions.

                      (Nowhere in the 3E text does it say that 90-95% of Dragon-Blooded don't marry for love. That's your inference from where the actual text says "The vast majority of Dynasts accept these arranged marriages". 51% is a majority. But a vast majority doesn't have to be 95%: 66% would mean that twice as many accept it as refuse it, that's a pretty vast majority. Your interpretation of the text is valid -- it could well be 95% -- but it's your interpretation of what the book says. It's not what the book actually says. Which is my point: not that you are wrong (I agree with you -- I think at least 90% of Deebs don't marry for love), but that we need to be clear what we're talking about. Which edition are we talking about? Are we talking about what the text actually says or our own headcanon?)
                      Last edited by JohnDoe244; 04-06-2021, 05:34 PM.


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                      • #56
                        Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                        Nah, it's changed a lot. Like, a lot, a lot.

                        Take What Fire Has Wrought page 91 onward.

                        A military graduate has a commission in the legions if they want it, or they can or take post in the House forces, or join the Wyld Hunt, or goof off on sabbatical. Sorcerers can do whatever they want. They're all free to travel on their stipend and never take a job.

                        On marriage there's some discretion on spouse ("The Dynasty accepts these marriages because it understands that the passions of the Terrestrial Exalted run hot. History records many tales of Dragon-Blooded who, when pushed, chose their beloved over house and tradition — quite a few of these tales are bloody affairs.") and spouses are usually of a similiar age. There's clear concern shown that the partners be compatible in the text.
                        The Sabbatical was a thing in 1e. It was the part where I said adulthood was the first time they tasted freedom. These things haven't actually changed between editions. It might sound a little more softer but when you actually read the text, like how teens in the house of bells will just toss a cadet into the cliffs below to get dashed on the rocks. Or how, a dragon-blooded parent expects perfection of their children so they can brag about it. There's clearly very little difference in that case.

                        (Nowhere in the 3E text does it say that 90-95% of Dragon-Blooded don't marry for love. That's your inference from where the actual text says "The vast majority of Dynasts accept these arranged marriages". 51% is a majority. But a vast majority doesn't have to be 95%: 66% would mean that twice as many accept it as refuse it, that's a pretty vast majority. Your interpretation of the text is valid -- it could well be 95% -- but it's your interpretation of what the book says. It's not what the book actually says. Which is my point: not that you are wrong (I agree with you -- I think at least 90% of Deebs don't marry for love), but that we need to be clear what we're talking about. Which edition are we talking about? Are we talking about what the text actually says or our own headcanon?)
                        Vast is vague but at lowest I'd still say at least 80% would be a pretty vast majority. 66% is just a majority.

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                        • #57
                          Originally posted by Epimetheus View Post
                          It might sound a little more softer but when you actually read the text, like how teens in the house of bells will just toss a cadet into the cliffs below to get dashed on the rocks.
                          Which is nothing compared to Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded talking about the House of Bells's "high mortality rate" saying students are "killed with some regularity".

                          Pasiap's Stair used to kill off 65% of its student body over its ten year curriculum. Two out of three found eggs who took the coin died in school.

                          Again, I agree with your wider point -- it sucks to live in the Realm -- but the presentation has distinctly changed between editions.


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                          • #58
                            Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                            Which is nothing compared to Exalted: The Dragon-Blooded talking about the House of Bells's "high mortality rate" saying students are "killed with some regularity".

                            Pasiap's Stair used to kill off 65% of its student body over its ten year curriculum. Two out of three found eggs who took the coin died in school.

                            Again, I agree with your wider point -- it sucks to live in the Realm -- but the presentation has distinctly changed between editions.
                            I don't think that's changed.

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                            • #59
                              Originally posted by JohnDoe244 View Post
                              If I've communicated that poorly, then I hope this post helps. But I sincerely don't see how that can be construne as "overly dismissive of the concept of gay erasure".
                              It can be read as you defending the erasure as a necessary evil to grow the fanbase and a product of its time.

                              For example, the part you chose to bold in your original post was emphasising how long ago this all was and in a different context could've gotten you kicked for thread crapping.


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                              • #60
                                There was a funny thing about how some people tend to forget, sometimes, that the Realm's Dragonblooded are awful people.

                                On RPG.net there was a fun little thread exchange that went like this:

                                Poster: The Dragonblooded of the Realm may be haughty and terrible but they're genuine nobility. A Dragonblooded may kill a peasant for disrespecting him but if that peasant's village was threatened by the Fair Folk then he would give his life to defend it.

                                Developer: Actually, most Dragonblooded of the Realm would gladly sacrifice the village to save themselves. Those who wouldn't tend to be PCs.

                                So yes, the Realm should be full of terrible assholes who don't care about your interests. Though being Exalted, I imagine marrying men to men and women to women is just as common if it benefits the house. That's what demons stitching together a child is for.

                                Mind you, I don't think forcing PCs into unwanted marriages should exist unless its a backstory of, "And then I slew my intended spouse and ran away as per traditional PC background."
                                Last edited by CTPhipps; 04-06-2021, 10:13 PM.


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