Here's the link to educate yourself, but if you don't want to be bothered with the wiki walk: It begain in the Heteronormative 40's and 50's when people realised that women (a) actually do have sex drives, and (b) those spinsters sharing a house and a bunch of cats were doing way more than knitting and watching television together.
This is around about the time that Tragic Girl Romances began to come out in the pulp zines1 in which the heroine of the peace had a FORBIDDEN ROMANCE with another girl. These were never allowed to have a happy ending and the heroine learned the error of her ways with the Right Man(tm) or her "gal pal" died a tragic and agonising death. The latter happened WAY more often.
The same sort of thing happened with gay men, but the romance side of it is less emphasised.
But dead gays pop up more often than any living in a fulfilling, long-term relationship.
If you're a Queer character on television [here using Queer as an umbrella over all the LGBTIA+ variants] you do not get a happy-ever-after. You do not get to marry your crush. You do not get to sail merrily through all the fictional hazards like the straight whites do.
...I'll be covering Kill the Black Guy later on...
Most recent and annoying instance of this is the way Steven Moffat keeps finding ways to fake-kill the latest Doctor Who companion Bill(and her love interests), who has the double sin of being both black and a canonical lesbian.
Think about it:
- Bill's first episode - she sabotaged one crush and then watched another one die and leave her forever
- Bill's second episode - lived through the whole thing [Moffat didn't write it]
- Bill's third episode - Oh no she's dead! Psyche! She's really okay.
- Bill's fourth episode - Dead but not really dead girlfriend (and then we never hear from her again)
- Bill's fifth episode - Oh no she's dead again! Psyche! It wasn't real.
That's four dead lesbians in five episodes. That's something of a kill streak. If this happens AGAIN, I might just make a stink about it.
The simple way to end this trope is just no do it any more. Kill the straight white temporary protagonist, but not for manpain. It will shock more members of the audience.
Zine (n): Old-school fandom shorthand for 'magazine'. ↩