In this context, I am using the word “queer” as an umbrella term for gay, bisexual, pansexual, trans*, and gender-variant people. I recognize that it is not ideal, and I am sorry for that.
For those of you who don’t understand the concept of queer-baiting, allow me to explain it. Queer-baiting is what happens when a series wants to attract a queer audience without alienating their homophobic/transphobic audience. They introduce a character that queer people can relate to. They use the details and feelings common to queer people’s lives to make it very obvious to anyone who is queer, that the character is also queer. They know that because there is very little queer representation in media, queer people are going to latch onto this character, and therefore latch onto the series.
However, they never let the character actually come out. When the homophobic/transphobic part of the audience starts to realize that the character is queer, the writers add something to reassure them that no, of course the character is straight. Often, this takes the form of a character who is clearly portrayed as gay suddenly entering a straight relationship, but that is not the only way it can play out.
What this does, is tell queer people that their stories are not decent or important enough to be told. This tells queer people that their stories are only acceptable if they’re changed to be the stories of heteronormative people.
Additionally, when queer people say, “I identified with this character as a queer person,” or “I think this character could have been queer,” the heteronormative parts of the audience are encouraged to tell queer people that they should not be saying that. The heteronormative parts of the audience are encouraged to tell queer people, “stop projecting,” and “stop dragging respectable heteronormative characters into your weird issues.” Queer people are told that they should be ashamed of themselves for thinking that the character was being portrayed as queer.
Queer-baiting is even more painful than erasure, because it dangles fair and equal representation in front of your eyes, and then snatches it away. And then it tells you that the whole thing was in your imagination all along.