Bury Your Gays is a literary trope that has appeared in media across genre since the end of the 19th century. Works using the trope will feature a same-gender couple and with one of the lovers dying and the other realizing they were never actually gay, often running into the arms of a heterosexual partner. This trope was originally used as a way for gay authors to write about gay characters without coming under fire for breaking laws and social mandates against the “endorsement” of homosexuality. However, Bury Your Gays persists today in a time and social context in which it is no longer necessary to give gay characters and stories bad endings in order to be published.
Previous scholarship on this trope has focused on a specific genre or time period, such as Lesbian Pulp or the Production Code Era during Hollywood’s Golden Age. This paper, however, is interested in tracking the trope’s usage across genre and time period It begins with an overview of how queer characters have been portrayed in various genres and the conventions, such as queer coding, that have been (and still are) used to portray those characters and why those conventions were/are employed by creators. In total, eight narratives—2 novels, 2 plays, 2 films, and 2 television shows—are examined using the critical lens New Historicism, taking into account especially the historical and social context in which a given work was produced. Primary sources—such as the text itself, interviews, and introductions and forewords written by the original creators—are used alongside secondary sources (reviews, previous scholarly analysis, etc.) and given equal weight in the analysis of these works and the use of Bury Your Gays therein.