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LGBT Stigmatization in Avatarverse
Edit: I gave it a freaking title…

So, I know people are likely going to hate this, but it’s been really bugging me as of late. 

Recently, I’ve been reading LOK metas in which it’s said that there’s most likely no queer stigma in the Avatar world. I don’t mind if other people have this belief, but the idea of this really kind of personally bothers me, and I kept waiting for someone who felt similar to discuss it, and I haven’t seen that. So I’m doing it… ¬.¬

I understand that it was likely never any of the creators’ intention to create a world where there would be stigma, but I strongly believe that a world without queer stigma would not look like the world presented in the Avatar verse. 

I understand that there are constraints on the creators, and I’m of the belief that they probably didn’t even consider this aspect until they started considering Korrasami as an actual endgame. But as a queer woman myself, the Avatarverse as an example of society without LGBT stigma is a… weird and sad one. If the stigma were removed, there would be so many more queer people than their world presents. 

I mean, just given the amount of characters we see within the two shows and how many different places the show take us, we should be seeing more representation if this is the case. I don’t even mean full out relationships. Even harmless flirting from secondary characters would be useful in determining this. 

For some perspective on why this is my personal believe, I want to quickly lay out some of my experiences. My direct co-workers (same shift as me) are two women I had never met before I got the job. Questions on sexuality were not asked during the interviewing process, and most people didn’t know I was bi until well into the first couple months of working there (I’m very open but in a heterosexual relationship, so it doesn’t come up quickly). Of the three of us, we are all bisexual. We have all dated and loved both men and women. A male co-worker in the work shift just before me is gay. 

I have more distant co-workers I see and work directly with regularly. I worked regularly with a gay man. He has since switched shifts. I know on my shift two women with wives. I know another woman who just switched shifts on us who has a child. I worked with a woman whose wife also works for the same agency (on a different shift), and they have a child together. Where I work, the stigma has largely been lifted and LGB intolerance is largely unaccepted as a norm, and I am constantly meeting more people who are LGB. It comes up in conversations, it comes up when they talk about their significant others, it comes up in random harmless flirting. 

Of my friends in high school, at least two of them came out as transgender women—one of whom I was really close to for a while. I crushed on a bi girl for a long time though we never got to date. And I really didn’t have a huge group of friends. LGBT people are literally all around, and if you remove the stigma, it becomes more and more and more noticeable. 

So in a world without the stigma? I just cannot see it looking like that, and the idea that it would is depressing and kind of horrifying to me. 

ATLA and LOK are not shy about showing relationships; otherwise I’d just say that they aren’t talking about such matters or depicting them. ATLA and LOK are also not shy about showing harmless flirting. Bolin and Uncle Iroh come to mind. 

ATLA would have great opportunities to show representation without being obvious. They explored a country torn and broken by war, where it wouldn’t be unfathomable for people to come together out of convenience of poverty and strife. Two women or two men living in the same home with no obvious talk of them being together but talking about working a farm together or just trying to survive should have easily passed any ‘not too explicit’ warnings. And the amount of orphans running around that part of the world? LGBT families would be taking those kids in fairly happily. 

Another method would be to show our chronically single characters as making random flirtatious comments with members of the same sex or not being flirtatious althogether; instead, all we see or moments like this:

or like this… though it’s also really freaking creepy…

Or moments like these where crushes are established in otherwise consistently single characters:

To which, when she finds out is Suki, she asks to be let drown. Of course, she’s embarrassed on a several levels, so it’s understandable, but it was a missed opportunity for some ambiguity.  "Oh, well, thanks for saving me *blush*"

Or there’s this chronically single character who has a previousy established relationship with a man but shows no flirtation with anyone else at any point, leaving the interpretation to be straight: 

And, if we go with what the creators said for Korra and Asami’s relationship—where their romantic relationship is beginning at the ending moments of the show—they are showing the only canonical queer couple literally leaving the human world to begin the only canonically queer relationship.  

Both of these women are strong women who are clearly willing to risk hardship for those they love, so it doesn’t say to me that them doing this in a stigmatized world would be unbelievable. To me, it actually makes it feel more real that there’s probably a stigma. The first person we see ‘coming out’ in this universe is the freaking Avatar (who’s supposed to be individualistic and a force of change) and the woman who’s helped her along the way for four freaking years. And while I totally understand Asami’s desire to see the spirit world, she still was the one to chose a world mostly without humans for the beginning of this journey, which could show some hesitancy in coming straight out to the world right away. 

To be honest, I haven’t been thinking on this long, because I don’t think Bryke ever intended that their world would have a stigma against LGBT people, but they did shape their world in many ways off of ours, and our world does have that stigma. 

I know my favorite LOK meta writer will mention that the world is certainly heteronormative but that she doesn’t imagine the stigma exists, and I suppose this is fair. I’ve tried to imagine scenarios where a world would be heteronormative while lacking stigma to make that line up, and I can’t do it. That is likely a personal limitation.
Regardless, that world still bothers me, because I imagine it would still require this idea that Heterosexual is the ‘normal’ and everything else isn’t ‘normal’ but still okay. To me, that strikes me as still a stigma, but maybe that would look different in a different world/different society. 

I just don’t like the idea of a world where LGBT isn’t stigmatized but they are still so utterly absent/unseen. I would rather see a world that’s actively coming to figure out it needs to fix something and working toward that recognition. 

But maybe that’s the next story:

Tenzin: Korra, you’ve transformed the world more in a few years than most Avatars did during their lifetimes. (I couldn’t freakin find this gif of him O.o)

Maybe being an LGBT advocate will be her next step as Avatar?