Don't speak Latin in front of the books, Xander.

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A Guide to the Care and Feeding of Gay Xander

by James W. and Mad Poetess


Let's assume for a moment that Xander Harris is gay (or bi). To whatever extent, and to whomever he finds attraction, it's possible that Xander harbours the option within him to be in a homosexual relationship. Given the fluidity of human sexuality and the fact that on the show, bisexuality and homosexuality is a fact of nature, this seems at least potentially and statistically possible.

Whether or not it is probable is not exactly the Big Gay Question to be addressed here. The Big Gay Question of the Day (Big Question of the Gay?) is -- when is it likely that Xander would engage, or be engageable, in such a relationship? We'll be dealing with consistency with canon, and not discussing how AUs can alter it. Obviously an Alternate Universe can be written where Xander does anything, at any time -- but this guide is to help writers figure out where in the series canon allows for homosexuality for Xander, and when it seems to make it more difficult.

What season, or what stage of his life, would the Xander Harris of canon find it easiest to act on homosexual feelings? We're not going to cite points in canon where Xander does or says something particularly gay -- those are listed elsewhere, and have been used as slash fanfic fodder for a long time. What we're looking at, more precisely, is when in Xander's life is he more -- and less -- open to the possibility that he might be gay or bisexual. Where are the canonical jumping-off points for a story about slashy Xander?

First season Xander is adorably dorky, and shows an interest in girls. Though Buffy seems to be his main romantic obsession in Season 1 -- to the point where we see him having dreamy teenage fantasies of playing guitar on stage, saving Buffy from monsters, and having her swoon in his arms, in Teacher's Pet -- he's also attracted to, or at least wants to seem like he's attracted to, Miss French, the preying-mantis lady of the same episode. He also makes comments about the hot cheerleaders in The Witch. Like most other 16 year olds, he is faced with an onslaught of hormones which make him act bizarre, even without benefit of hyena possession. He's generally nervous and clumsy around women he has a romantic interest in, which doesn't help in furthering the relationships beyond mere interest, at this stage.

Xander seems not particularly self-deprecating in the first season (as compared to later-season episodes like The Zeppo, and Fear Itself). He admits to a lack of confidence when it comes to whether and how to ask out a girl, as well as admitting to his lack of success rate in doing so. But it comes across as a fairly normal state for an American teenager -- he isn't shown as being consistently depressed, or woebegone about his chances with girls. He does ask, after all, rather than sitting in a dark room writing poetry about his virginal state.

It stands to reason then, that if he felt as though homosexuality were an acceptable option, he would behave the same towards a boy he liked. If Xander feels that Gay is OK, then it's likely that he would nervously ask out a boy and drop his books if he says yes. The only question, then, is whether he feels it is an option. We see no sign of homophobia on the part of any character in this season, though we see no sign of open acceptance, either. It appears to be writer's choice, in this season.

Later in high school, Xander is beginning to show signs of nervousness about the issue of his sexuality. He actively denies being gay when Larry suspects him of it in Phases (thanks to a misunderstanding when Xander was actually trying to grill Larry about whether he was a werewolf) and tries to make sure his friends and schoolmates understand that he is not gay. He is also dating a girl, Cordelia, in Season 2, so his preference for women seems clear.

At least, it seems to be the preference Xander is pushing for himself. He makes out with Cordelia in Seasons 2 and 3, finally realizes and acts upon an attraction to Willow in Season 3's Homecoming, and loses his virginity to Faith in The Zeppo. Xander also seems uncomfortable with the idea of Larry still thinking he's gay when confronted with Larry's proposal of running a coming out advert, and in The Zeppo, when Xander covers for Jack O'Toole by saying that they were "just wrassling" (when in fact Jack was threatening him with a knife), he's quick to add, "But not in a gay way!"

If Xander does feel any homosexual feelings at this point, he is not eager to let anyone know about them. Whether this comes from homophobia at home, or internalized homophobia, or some other sort of teenage angst about a sexuality that refuses to be pinned down and nicely labeled, is anyone's guess (and writer's choice). But canonically speaking, Xander Harris in the latter years of high school is not visibly embracing a homosexual lifestyle.

He may be secretly embracing it, but it is likely that if he were doing so, it would be a Big Gay Secret. His nervousness about being thought gay might stem from needing to keep a specific relationship secret, rather than keeping his sexuality a secret, but even if he accepts his own homosexual feelings, he is demonstrably interested in preventing his friends from finding out.

In Season 4, Xander is actively dating Anya. He is engaging in sexual acts with her -- although whether Anya ever uses a dildo on Xander is open to speculation. Given her proclivity for announcing their other sexual activities such as spanking and Xander's stamina, it seems likely that if they engaged in traditionally homosexual-style sex acts, she would mention it to someone.

Probably in public, over a meal. Possibly even in front of the guy Xander asks Anya to pretend to be.

But -- at least by the time they start more or less living together in his new apartment in Season 5 --Xander seems committed to Anya and his relationship with her. Regardless of his sexual preferences, emotionally he is focused on her. There is no evidence that he is interested in straying from her as he did from Cordelia to Willow. So, during the period that Anya and Xander are dating, and then engaged, it seems unlikely that Xander would have a homosexual relationship.

It's possible that Anya would gleefully allow a threesome, where Xander engaged in homosexual acts (see her request to take the two Xanders home for the night, before returning them to a single person). But if they had ever done so, or if Xander had ever expressed any interest in such, it seems likely that Anya would say something about it in front of Xander's friends, just like she bluntly embarrasses him about everything else. The evidence suggests, therefore, that Xander is not actively engaged in, or talking about wanting to be engaged in, any sort of homosexual acts while he is with Anya.

There's the possible exception of the summer that Buffy is dead, or shortly thereafter, though. Xander's sudden cold feet about the wedding in Season 6 could open up some space for the fic-writer regarding the reasons for his lack of confidence, since he was very self-assured during the proposal at the end of Season 5. There's room among the several obvious issues -- his family, his youth, his fear of commitment to one person -- for questions about his sexuality to be one of the reasons for the pre-wedding tensions. Especially if at some point during Buffy's dead summer, when all of them were raw nerve endings, he'd ended up having misery-loves-company sex with someone who understood his grief over Buffy's loss better than Anya would -- Giles or Spike.

After Hell's Bells, the wedding that wasn't, however, his options are much more open. Xander is no longer dating Anya, and shows no interest in dating any other girl. Even though he has good reason not to -- he's depressed after walking out on his fiancée -- he is canonically not invested in a heterosexual relationship, at least for awhile.

It wouldn't take much of a stretch to assert that Xander was open to sleeping with a man before his first canonical date in Season 7 with a woman (an evil woman, but that's a topic for another essay entitled 'why Xander should give up women'). Xander's self-confidence at this point is irrelevant; he could be engaging in what he sees as a destructive choice because he feels depressed, or he could be determined to try something other than dating women because look how well that's turned out before.

Xander seems much more confident with regard to anyone thinking he is gay, at this point, as he jokes with Willow about turning gay after that spectacularly bad date when his date tries to kill him. Whether or not he believes he is serious when he asks Willow to gay him up, he doesn't act the way he did in high school, when he spazzed out over any gay labeling.

In Season 7, Xander is grown up and self-assured enough that one could argue that, if he were gay or bi, he would not feel hesitation in telling his friends. We don't see any canon at any point in the series for his friends knowing that he is gay -- Buffy's comment in Season 5's Intervention about Xander's awareness of Spike might reveal suspicion but is more likely just sarcasm. Rather than take this as evidence that Xander isn't gay because his friends don't know by the end of the series, though, we can point to the overwhelming apocalypse the gang was dealing with, and say that Xander was distracted by a houseful of girls to look after (in a fraternal sense) and that he shelved his love-life after the one attempt at dating a woman.

There is a remaining argument that once Willow came out in Season 4, Xander would have been encouraged to come out as well -- at least as far as admitting his feelings, even if he was determined to maintain his relationship with Anya. At any point after he discovered Willow was sleeping with another woman, Xander could have realized that his friends would not disapprove of his own homosexual feelings, and could have told them -- thus giving evidence that, since his friends do NOT appear to know, that he never did share his feelings.

This could support the argument that Xander does not have homosexual feelings, but that isn't the point of this essay. ;-) Rather, this could be taken as evidence that Xander never shared his feelings with his friends for other reasons than fearing their acceptance, until after the series finale. For whatever reason he might have -- not being comfortable with his homosexuality, being in love with a girl, fearing his attraction to a specific man might not be appropriate, or just having more important things to do -- Xander may simply not have begun to explore his homosexual feelings until after the world was safe and things had settled down a bit.

At this point, unfortunately, Xander is not only grieving for Anya but believes Spike is dead. But there's still Giles, or Andrew, to whom Xander sent gifts of fish! And of course there's waiting for the following year when the Angel finale leaves us guessing as to whether Spike survives the final battle and, after having done so, runs into Xander and they have hot monkey sex.

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