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Are there any openly or identifiably gay characters in Terry Pratchett's Discworld?

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  • 8
    There's a bunch of inference throughout the series, and some is open to interpretation, such as female dwarves "transitioning" to being openly female. I think the closest we get to an open gay relationship is Lofty and Tonker in Monstrous Regiment, but I'm pretty sure there's only one sex scene in the whole series (the bed went gloink), and only a handful of truly romantic relationships. Then again, if Pterry had been able to continue, we'd have seen true gay or transgender characters on Discworld.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 13:32
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    To be clear, Pterry said that Rincewind "would like to announce he was gay" - but that was because he wasn't getting any and it didn't matter what any he wasn't getting. This was to mock JKR.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 13:44
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    Tonker and Lofti. Maladicta and Polly (but they could just be good friends) from Monstrous Regiment. Pepe and Madame Sharn from Unseen Academicals. Although they are both dwarves, Pepe is acting like a male but gay fashion designer, while Madame Sharn is acting quite masculine but is also fashion designer and, again, is self declared female dwarf. In fact, as a pair both act like a stereotypical gay couple to drum up their fashion business. Bengo Macarona from the same book is strongly implied to be bisexual. As in, rumour is he ran away with his wife's male lover!
    – jo1storm
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 14:33
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    @AndresF It's significantly more subtextual than anything else, but the vibes are there. Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 14:50
  • 4
    @Mazura The Watch is not a good reference for Pratchett's Discworld: twitter.com/rhipratchett/status/1314630960860803074
    – HorusKol
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 10:32

5 Answers 5

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Tonker and Lofty, from Monstrous Regiment

Tonker and Lofty, for example. It didn’t matter which of them was on guard, the other one would be there as well. And there they were, sitting side by side on a fallen tree, staring down the slope. They were holding hands. They always held hands, when they thought they were alone. But it seemed to Polly that they didn’t hold hands like people who were, well, friends. They held hands tightly, as someone who has slipped over a cliff would hold hands with a rescuer, fearing that to let go would be to fall away.

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Aside from Tonker and Lofty (and arguably Jackrum) in Monstrous Regiment, there’s also Pepe the dwarf fashion designer in Unseen Academicals, who was quite definitely intended by Pratchett to be gay. In a public interview at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne in 2014, Pratchett discusses his research for Monstrous Regiment, and describes Pepe as being “as gay as a tree full of monkeys”. (See the answer to the question asked at around 16m30s.) In the same book, Professor Bengo Macarrona is said by Ponder to have had an affair with a married man, making him at least bisexual. This leads to Ridcully mentioning other Unseen University professors who were similarly inclined (it’s all very euphemistic), and Ponder seems about to say some of the students are too, but is cut off.

In addition, in a discussion of gentlemen’s clubs in Thief of Time, it’s mentioned that there is another club for “that kind of gentleman” which is “better decorated” and has “much more going on”.

In 2007, in response to J K Rowling declaring Dumbledore was gay out of the context of her books, Pratchett jokingly wrote on the Discworld Emporium forums:

Rincewind would like to announce that he is gay. Since he never gets any, it really doesn't make much difference which any he doesn't get, and at least he might get a brief reputation for social awareness :-)

This one probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously, though.

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  • Your link does not back up this assertion. Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 18:51
  • Ah yes - I forgot I’d used that link here. The Wheeler Centre removed the audio recording but the video is still on YouTube, I’ll update the link. Thanks @DJClayworth. Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 23:11
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Saw someone mention Mal and Polly though I do see Mal as a man, partially headcanon partially based off the fact that in thud, it’s established that female vampires lose their clothes when they turn into mist or bats and then turn back while male vampires, like Mal, keep them. He definitely kept them when he turned to mist.

What’s not personal headcanon is Jackrum, who, though he’s revealed to be biologically female, quickly reverts back to being a man. I think it’s safe to say that’s what he is, in which case himself and his boyfriend, who he followed to war, are a gay couple. Otherwise I can only really think of Tonker and Lofty. Monstrous Regiment is just a treasure trove when it comes to queer characters.

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    I think, though I'm not sure, that Mal actually admits to being female right near the end of the book (long after the rest of them) - that seems like a fair point about the clothes though, although things like that are not always consistent between Discworld books, e.g. the dragons in The Colour of Magic versus the ones in Guards! Guards!. Even if Mal was female, though, I'm not sure Polly knew that.
    – A. B.
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 8:28
  • @A.B. What Maladict says is My name is Maladicta, which certainly implies that she (?) is female, but it doesn't confirm it. I know that many readers see Mal (and also Polly) as non-binary (Polly's musings on gender suggest that being female isn't particularly meaningful to her, and she sees gender presentation as clothes she can put on and off). In that case, I might say that Mal is non-binary trans masculine, but that's very much guessing, and many other readings are also valid.
    – TRiG
    Commented May 3, 2023 at 13:12
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    That's a point - it seems like, it at least rules out Mal being a cis man, but might still be what in our world (and our time) might be called a trans man or trans masculine, or even a trans woman, if the name is self-appointed (which might explain the clothes) - Mal only adds, "There! I've told somebody!" and doesn't elaborate, and we're left to guess exactly what kind of Uberwald social dynamics are behind whatever has just happened.
    – A. B.
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 13:02
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Two other characters who aren't actually gay, but who are gay-adjacent:

  • Cheery (later Cheri) Littlebottom. Although not actually gay as far as we know, Pratchett used her "coming out" as female to satirise sexual politics and the associated culture wars.

  • Pepe in Unseen Academicals, a male dwarf fashion designer who affects an effeminate style as part of the job, but is actually straight.

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Reaper Man, character Schleppel, aka the boogeyman. The character needs to hide, preferably in closets. When closets are not available then under a bed or chair. At one point there is a need to be mobile so he carries around a door to hide behind. In truth, Schleppel is not sinister, bad, shame-worthy, or shameful. But he feels the need to remain unseen. On page 299, upon making himself visible for the first time his companions are really bored. Schleppele says:

“Hey, look at me!” Says Schleppel “You’re right. A boogeyman needs a door like a fish needs a bicycle! Say it now and say it proud, I’m-“.

Some more matter of fact discussion and a few lines later another character comments:

“He’s come out of the closet,” said Red Shoe proudly. “And he’s found himself.”

Followed by more discussion how bored his compatriots are with this revelation.

The implication and metaphor is clear.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. While this character is obviously lampshading the "in the closet" idiom, it doesn't mean Schleppel's gay. In fact the way such allegories are usually done, it would be far more likely for Schleppel not to be gay.
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 17:44

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