For whatever roleplaying reason, I've decided that my Male Human Wizard is gay. After an exhausting week of dungeon crawling, he's heading down to the nearest medium to large-sized city for some R&R with a pocket full of hard-earned gp and would love to try to pick up a date.

How common is homosexuality in the default 5e setting? Yes, I know the practical, in-game answer is to ask my DM, but maybe he doesn't have much information either. Is this covered anywhere? Can a typical resident, or even adventurer, just expect to ask around for directions to nearby gay bars or hangouts and have a decent chance of getting help, or is this something that would be significantly difficult and/or dangerous to try? For comparison, in our world, this would probably not be an issue at all at a bookstore in Boston. Riyadh, not so much.

  • Is homosexuality common and practiced openly?
  • Is it common, but hidden, such that successfully making the appropriate contacts, knowing the right signs or lingo or whatever might require a lore check or an underworld contact?
  • Is homosexuality rare or vanishingly rare, such that most people would be shocked to even consider such a thing?
  • Are there specific backgrounds or places where this is more common? (e.g. followers of a certain god, members of specific races, etc.?)

If this is covered better in previous game editions, I'm open to them as long as they don't blatantly contradict 5e.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – mxyzplk Oct 20 at 22:50

What the Player's Handbook says

In Chapter 4, "Personality and Background", the Subsection "Character Details" has a header titled "Sex" that makes the following remarks (emphasis mine):

Sex

You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture's expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your character to leave society and come to the surface.

You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon's image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character's sexual orientation is for you to decide.

So it's fair to say that, at least by default, non-heteronormative gender expressions and sexualities are the normal in Forgotten Realms Lore, at least as established in 5th edition. Some races/cultures are canonically established as having looser, more progressive attitudes towards Gender and Sex, with Elves as a notable example, though Drow are also singled out as possibly having more repressive attitudes towards gender and sex. Other races and cultures are generally left unspecified in this regard—I'm not personally aware of any race or culture in 5e that explicitly is more conservative/oppressive in this specific regard, but I haven't exhausted every last detail of every worldbuilding guide provided by 5e sourcebooks.

Ultimately, this comes down to your DM, who gets to make these kinds of worldbuilding decisions, especially with respect to the degree to which your setting is accepting or tolerant of non-heteronormative representations. The degree to which your DM can dictate your own character's preferences, attitudes, and/or identification is limited (and I would probably avoid a DM that tried to make demands on this aspect of character building) but it can inform upon your character's expression nonetheless.

With respect to your more specific questions:

Is homosexuality common and practiced openly? Is it common, but hidden, such that successfully making the appropriate contacts or whatever might require a lore check or an underworld contact? Is homosexuality rare or vanishingly rare, such that most people would be shocked to even consider such a thing?

This is up to your DM, but 5e establishes that the answer can be assumed, short of conflicting evidence provided by your campaign, to be yes, homosexuality is generally regarded as accepted, and no, you wouldn't have to go underground/off the radar to find support.

(Aside, I don't want to downplay the agency the DM has in making these kinds of worldbuilding decisions, but just as a matter of practical guidance: as a DM, if you're unsure whether to make Faerun a "Progressive" or "Conservative" society by default, you should prefer "Progressive". There's a lot of reasons for this, which I think might be off-topic to get into here, but the short version is that you don't always know everything about the players you're playing with, even if you've known them a long time, and creating a setting that replicates the discrimination/prejudices they may be facing in their own lives may end up being harmful to them. If you are going to make a society that's more hostile towards non-heteronormative sexualities/identities, you should ensure all your players are supportive of that decision, and you definitely should not go ahead with that decision if you get any pushback on that decision.)

Are there specific backgrounds or places where this is more common? (e.g. followers of a certain god, members of specific races, etc.?)

Like mentioned in the PHB, Elves are one such example. Some Elves, as established in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (page 45), are even established as being able to alter their physical sex at will (mechanically, once per day, when they wake up) by virtue of having been blessed by Corellon.

Your DM also has the freedom to make additional examples or stipulations to these practices.

  • Yes, I had a feeling that elves might be more open to this, but couldn't recall a specific example. That helps a lot! – Robert Columbia Oct 18 at 17:41
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    PHB != any specific setting. FR is a decades old setting with tens of thousands of pages of setting lore and novels and whatnot set in it, it existed before 5e and will exist after. I think a good answer should cite that setting canon. – mxyzplk Oct 19 at 12:46

It certainly exists in the Realms, but the sources don't give a reliable sense of how commonplace it is.

In a quote in this article, Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood says that there are gay characters in Faerûn:

Folks, the Realms have ALWAYS had characters (mortals and deities) who crossdressed, changed gender (and not just to sneak past guards in an adventure, by way of shapeshifting magic or illusions), were actively bisexual, and openly gay. How underscored this was by TSR and later Wizards varied over time, and was always softpedaled, because D&D wasn’t a sex game, and we generally don’t rub the reader’s nose in sex unless there’s a good in-story reason for it.

In other words, the number of gay people who exist in the setting is hard to determine from the existing sources. A character who might be gay goes unnoticed because the stories often don't explore their relationships. Another Greenwood quote confirms this:

I have included several gay characters of both genders in past Realms books, but not advertised their natures because it just wasn’t part of the story (not surprising, given the formal codes TSR and Wizards use, and the sort of stories we’re telling).

Sources

From the few sources, we find that acceptance of homosexuality in the Realms varies between cultures, and perhaps by status.

According to the 2015 novel Ashes of the Tyrant, the dragonborn warriors Arjhani and Mehen of Clan Verthisathurgiesh in Tymanther were in a gay relationship, and Mehen was exiled for it. It appears that in at least one culture, homosexuality exists but is taboo or forbidden.

D&D 5e's Waterdeep: Dragon Heist features Jalester Silvermane, a man who previously had a boyfriend.

D&D 3e's Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (p.143) implies that the female human rulers of the city of Elversult are a gay couple, suggesting that it is not taboo in that culture, (although it's possible that their high status affords them acceptance uncommon to others):

Centuries of smuggling and intrigue cannot be undone in a decade, but those seeking dishonest deals now think twice before taking their business to Yanseldara's city, particularly since she leaves law enforcement to her consort and adventuring companion, Vaerana Hawklyn (CG female human Rgr20 of Mielikki).

D&D 3e's Faiths & Pantheons, p. 100, describes the goddess Lliira having a relationship with a female mortal:

The murder of Selgaunt's High Revelmistress Chlanna Asjros (whom Lliira had taken as a lover while in mortal form during the Time of Troubles) by forces of a local cult of Loviatar has deeply affected the Joybringer.

In the novel Spellfire, it is suggested that gay men are considered of lower status in parts of the Realms, although this confirms that the concept of homosexuality is at least generally known:

"Narm, Shandril— I make known to thee Lhaeo, my scribe and cartographer. Outside these walls he's counted as a lisping man-lover from Baldur's Gate. He's not, but that's his tale."

Some setting-agnostic lore could apply to the Forgotten Realms. The D&D 5e Player's Handbook states "your character's sexual orientation is for you to decide". The Philter of Love (DMG p.184) applies to the "species and gender you are normally attracted to", specifically different to its AD&D 2e version which applies to a creature "of similar race and of the opposite sex". The D&D 3e adventure The Secret of the Windswept Wall (2001) describes an openly gay man, Tilloch, and his former lover Sionaas, although this information is hidden behind a DC35 Gather Information check.

In summary, much like the real world, homosexuality canonically exists in the Forgotten Realms, but acceptance of it varies by time and place. Many books set in the Forgotten Realms were limited by the social standards of their day, and depictions of gay relationships were often intentionally vague in their wording (e.g. "consort"), omitted where they might be more openly detailed today, or their depictions were influenced by attitudes of the time.

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    "In summary, much like the real world," is, I think, a sentence fragment that can be used a lot with Wizards and even TSR. People may be swinging swords and throwing spells, but the social issues, particularly on gender and sexuality, reflect the current thinking rather closely. Civilizations that are more or less accepting than your average American/Western society seem to be the exception, not the rule. – Michael W. Oct 18 at 19:03
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    @Quadratic Wizard -- The current release, "Waterdeep: Dragon Heist" has at least one main NPC that is openly gay. I've read it myself as I was glancing through the product to see about purchasing it, else I would've put in my own answer. If you own it I believe I was browsing the appendix that covers the main characters the PCs are expected to interact with. – user23715 Oct 18 at 19:50
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    +1 An answer that cites FR setting canon to answer a FR setting question! – mxyzplk Oct 19 at 17:51
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    Looking through all the NPCs in Dragon Heist, I was unable to find one that is "openly gay". I found a transgender drow and a Jalester Silvermane, a character who's stated to have been in a relationship with another man, but nowhere does it state that he did so openly, or that he's even gay, he could just as easily be bisexual. – Theik Oct 19 at 21:55

This answer is going to try to answer your actual question; where is my character going to be able to go for a relationship in a major city, and what should he be aware of. It is not going to try to answer the sexualities of each and every nation and species in the Forgotten Realms, as I feel that is far too large a scope and not entirely useful for your wizard anyway.

First the bad news. There are no gay bars, as far as we know. It is simply not a subject that Wizards of the Coast ever got into when discussing their lore, which makes sense because sexuality isn't truly the focus of your average D&D campaign.

There are homosexual characters in the lore of the Forgotten Realms, but the books do not go into a lot of detail. So I instead did some digging for you, and managed to find some quotes from Ed Greenwood, the original creator of the Forgotten Realms setting.

He mentions that:

As to sexual attitudes in the Realms, there is indeed local prejudice against individuals who have “different” or “unusual” sexuality—bigotry and a dislike of change and “what’s not usual” is everywhere and is (unfortunately) part of being human.

So as far as the original creator is concerned, there is 'local prejudice'. If we then look at how different races are treated, I think we can draw a distinction. In the rural villages of the Sword Coast, an half-Orc is something unusual and scary, and most citizens would sooner see them leave than visit again. In metropolitan areas, people are a lot more welcoming to those of different species. If this kind of sentiment is also followed for sexual orientations, your character will likely face prejudice and discrimination in the smaller, rural places, but should largely be fine in the larger cities, where relationships with other species are considered fairly normal; so why shouldn't same-sex relationships?

A large reason for this is that sexuality is also tied largely to religion, both in the real world and in D&D, and the larger cities tend to have more different religions. In reality, Abrahamic religions are fairly strict on same-sex relationships. The same holds true for some faiths from the Forgotten Realms.

Another quote from Ed, which further shows that smaller communities will be problematic for you, and how faith ties into this:

Shiallia wants all creatures to reproduce and multiply, which means fertile females should engage in sex with partners of their choice, regardless of their marital state (and all devout worshippers of the goddess should help in the feeding and rearing of said offspring); it does NOT mean those fertile females have to accept the advances of every passing creature.

In general, “anything goes” in the wilderness, the settled status quo is most valued (and adhered to) in small villages and towns, and as places get larger and have more contact with the wider Realms (market towns, being on caravan routes), the more tolerant and varied sexuality can be found and is tolerated/ignored.

As you can see, Shiallia wouldn't be a very good fit for your character, as he has no interest in reproducing with a woman. So followers of her faith would likely view you as unusual or 'strange'.

Luckily for you, your wizard is looking for love in a metropolitan area, so you should be fine in terms of tolerance. Next comes the part where you actually find love. Gay bars don't exist so far as we know, so once again, religion can play a role here.

Sune is the goddess of love and she has temples in most major cities, being a Greater Diety. There are dozens of stories about the many relationships Sune has had with other gods, both male and female, so adherents of Sune shouldn't consider homosexuality any sort of sin; their own goddess seems to be bisexual after all.

I quote, from Faiths and Pantheons:

Beauty is more than skin deep. It issues from the core of one's being and reveals one's true face to the world, fair or foul. Believe in romance, as true love will win over all.

This sounds like the kind of temple where your gay wizard could get help in finding true love. Luckily enough for you, several temples exist on the Sword Coast dedicated to Sune.

These ones have been named in the lore, but there are certainly more, so your DM should have no trouble adding a temple to whichever major city you visit:

  • Dawndancer House in Silverymoon
  • The Temple of Beauty in Waterdeep

It will vary by region and race/species

The first thing to note is that if you accept some of the novels then homosexual characters definitely exist. The War of the Spider Queen series of novels avoids ever being explicit but heavily implies that homosexual liaisons between males is at least somewhat common in the academies of Menzoberranzen and very heavily implies at least one homosexual female liaison during the events of the stories. It suggests that such things are relatively common and accepted in Menzoberranzen.

However, as noted, those deal mostly with the Drow of Menzoberranzen. The Forgotten Realms are huge with numerous distinct species and cultures on the "main" continent of Faerun alone. Each of these cultures and even sub-cultures is likely to have their own views on homosexuality, courtship, and every other related topic.

The practical answer for your character is that it depends on where he is.

  • True but doesn’t help. “Attitudes vary” in the real world but the range of them is different, say, in 2018 vs 1518. As a result I consider this a bit of a non-answer, a good caveat for a more expansive answer. – mxyzplk Oct 19 at 12:48
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    @mxyzplk I'm not sure the range of attitudes is that much greater in 2018 than in 1518. It's certainly much easier to be gay in London now than then, and there are certainly places which are now as hostile as London was then - but are you sure there was nowhere then that was as accepting as London is now? – Martin Bonner Oct 19 at 14:20
  • @MartinBonner that's a fair point. We have a tendency to assume the progress of western society is the progress of the world and forget that other cultures have sometimes held more enlightened attitudes on subjects than their european contemporaries. – Carcer Oct 19 at 14:33
  • That is irrelevant to the point at hand. And note I didn't say "better." You prove my point by being able to say "well in London vs..." That's what a good answer to this question needs to present. And comments are for improving answers, not debating irrelevant points. – mxyzplk Oct 19 at 14:50
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    Sure, all I'm saying is a better answer will reflect better knowledge of FR lore. – mxyzplk Oct 19 at 17:39

I really feel like you're looking in the wrong place for an answer. The books through successive editions have always been general and vague, and for good reason: each of these worlds—whether Færûn or Greyhawk or wherever—are starting points. The whole point of D&D is to expand one's imagination, thus if you have something in mind that you would like to explore from the stand point of character development, that's up to you with the assent of your DM. I can't imagine a DM saying, "No" unless your character either is unbalancing in its powers or if the way you play that character becomes a distraction.

Sometimes we, as players, look too hard for hard and fast rules to follow. That's good from a combat sense, but from a role-playing perspective—the real marval of Gary Gygax's invention all of those years ago—is the ability to assume an alter-ego. Thus, the answer to a question such as "What if Frodo was female?" is answered by your imagination and gaming experience rather than anything written down as strict rules. You and your DM could easily agree that most Elves (or Dark Elves or whatever) are Gay, for instance, as long as it doesn't upset the overarching game balance.

Lastly, under 3.x rules, that very topic was explored generally in The Book of Erotic Fantasy. If sexuality in general is something that you would like to explore further in your game(s), I'd suggest looking for that particular tome.

That's my two coppers for this discussion…but remember that imagination is supreme in D&D, not some rule. IMO.

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    Thanks. This might be the best answer, but I really was hoping for something more substantial in the existing lore that could be used for immersion. This could even be a neat plot hook - maybe there are rumors of an LGBTQ-friendly monastery somewhere near or possibly in Neverwinter that keeps their exact location and member identities hidden for fear of persecution, but maybe a quest could uncover substantial clues leading to its location.... If my PC succeeds, he can make contact and try his luck socially. If he fails, he could end up losing quite a bit of gp, reputation, safety, etc. – Robert Columbia Oct 23 at 19:54
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    Great answer! I was pretty worried with that lead (maybe you should change it), but your answer was very well thought out and reasonable. – NautArch Oct 23 at 20:00
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    Keep in mind that LGBTQ+ issues could be the basis for your own plot points, too. "This Kingdom is highly restrictive, so <your hero> seeks to redress…" – Shifty-Eyed Oct 23 at 20:28
  • I don’t think “Faerûn” as ever been officially spelled with the æ ligature. That stands out as a small oddity in this post. – SevenSidedDie Oct 24 at 0:50
  • Always a rules lawyer. 😛Therefore, everything I say is a lie. – Shifty-Eyed Nov 1 at 22:25

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