We've gotten two questions in the past few hours that ask if a character in a TV show is gay:

The former is currently upvoted and has two well-received answers; the latter was swiftly closed. However, I'm not seeing the difference between the two. Is there a difference between them? Why or why not?

There's also this question from a few months ago: Does Star Trek ever allude to Sulu's sexual orientation? –  Wipqozn Nov 1 '12 at 22:46
Another one: Is Ianto gay in Torchwood –  user366 Nov 2 '12 at 23:46
Unfortunately, even on the Internet, homosexuality is a touchy subject. It's sad Society can't just grow up. –  chharvey Nov 3 '12 at 14:30
It isn't the subject of the question that's the problem - but the quality and intent. The Sulu question is quite well-written, whereas the Torchwood and McCoy seem to be nothing but trolls. –  HorusKol Nov 3 '12 at 23:07
@HorusKol I disagree with you about the Sulu question. The only basis for the question is that the actor is gay, which is not a basis for asking a question about a character. Do we want to allow users to ask if a character plays chess because the actor does? If a character is a democrat because the actor is? It's not a good basis for a question, and falls under "Not A real Question" imo. –  Wipqozn Nov 7 '12 at 0:38
hmm... I didn't really take in the second paragraph when reading the question - maybe if that was dropped and the question asked without the allusion to the actor's orientation then that would be better? I don't see a problem with the question beyond that –  HorusKol Nov 7 '12 at 1:35
@Wipqozn wow - as the author of the Sulu question, your comments here give me real pause. –  zipquincy Nov 12 '12 at 22:46
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2 Answers

Hmmm, difficult. One of these sets off my troll vibe and the other one doesn't. However, one was posted by a new user while the other was posted a known and respected user of the community. I can't be sure that this doesn't influence me.

I can objectively see a difference in the presentation. Both questions present flimsy clues, but what they do with them is different. The Major Nelson qeuestion asks the question in a neutral tone. The Dr McCoy question is more of a case of “your answer is provided along with the question” and “it is a rant disguised as a question” — some of our signs of questions not to ask (it starts with “There is plenty of evidence to conclude”!).

So far the Dr McCoy has had several flags in addition to the visible close votes. The Major Nelson question has a single close vote.

I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with asking about a character's sexual orientation, like you might ask any other question that has some bearing on understanding an SF work. It is of course a sensitive subject, bound to attract both trolls and overreaction against them, so we must tread with caution.

@Wipqozn Oops, yes, I did, thanks. –  Gilles Nov 1 '12 at 23:17
If you want a bias check - I fully agree with the fact that the later was a troll. And you know that I'm extra-unbiased against new users and anything that can be borderline non-awful question. +1. –  DVK Nov 1 '12 at 23:21
I genuinely thought it would be really neat if Major Nelson was a serious attempt at showing the unfortunate reality of being gay in that era. But the evidence doesn't support it, it seems. –  DampeS8N Nov 1 '12 at 23:36
The McCoy question read like flamebait. Never thought it was serious question. –  Kyle Jones Nov 2 '12 at 0:16
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I don't think there's anything wrong with asking after a character's sexual orientation at any time. If we can ask if some character wears a hat, then why not sexual orientation? Regardless of the topic, our community is pretty good about shutting down trolls.

... pondering if one can finagle a research grant to study relationships between characters in hats and sexual orientation –  DVK Nov 1 '12 at 23:34
Probably. Try the University of Woo-Woo. :D –  Slytherincess Nov 2 '12 at 0:15
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