I know I’ve declared Saturday to be my post day, but this weekend was the sixth anniversary of my wedding to my wife, Nixie. So things were a bit hectic–especially with her broken toe. During this past week, I received two bits of feedback from readers that deserve a formal response. The first came in an email where a reader stated that she loved everything about my book except for the lack of a male love interest for my protagonist. The second came from a call from my estranged father who somehow learned of my book, read it, and was “disappointed” that the main character was not punished for being a lesbian. So, let’s continue to violate the Hayes Code and talk about lesbians in fiction. I promise to keep this safe for work.
No Male Love Interest!?!
No, the main character of my novel series, Samantha Hain does not, and will not, have a male love interest. She is a lesbian. She makes that clear. Her ex-girlfriend, for whom she still pines and with whom she is still friends, is very present in the book. In my prequel, Blood/Lust (available exclusively on Kindle Vella), she even drinks coffee from a mug that says “I violate the Hays Code,” which I’ll talk about later in this post.
The point I want to stress is that so much urban fantasy is written with heteronormative couplings in mind, to one degree or another. A male protagonist is assumed to have a female love interest, or several. A female protagonist will often have one or more male romantic partners. There’s also the issue of heterosexual writers writing queer romance pairings, which is its own can of worms and problems. I get that this has become an assumption for readers: any romance will be heterosexual.
Well, the LGBTQIA+ community exists. We read books. We write books. We enjoy seeing stories about people who live like us, love like us, struggle like us, and triumph like us. And we enjoy them being told by us because, for so long, we have had to hide who we are for fear of physical harm. For many of us, that is still the case.
This is about representation. We need to read stories where we are the main characters–not just the “gay best friend” or the “butch lesbian who fixes your car” or the “tragic character who takes their own life due to prejudice”. We are not simply a prop or a moral lesson. We are people. We have our own lives to live, and we are the main characters of our own stories. Also, heterosexual people need to read stories where we are the main characters so that they can grow accustomed to seeing us as “main characters” with agency and complexity–not simply stereotypes.
Author’s Note: I will not respond to any “not all straights” comments. If you are not the one being talked about, then move along. If you feel the need to comment “not all straights,” well, it might be that you have to unpack some things yourself.
Gay isn’t Evil
Now let’s get to the Hays Code, or the Motion Picture Production Code. I’m not going to go into detail, but this was established in the 1930s to self-censor motion pictures. While there were many “Thou Shalt Not Shows” in the code, one of the big ones was any form of “sexual perversion”. At the time, this included depictions of homosexuality, which was also criminalized. If gay characters were depicted, they had to be depicted as deviants who were punished for some action so that the audience would link deviant behavior to punishment.
This sets up my father’s phone call. My father, a devout Southern Baptist, has declared me an abomination since I came out of the closet. He refers to my “lifestyle that goes against what I was taught,” how “this doesn’t happen in our family,” etc. My mother tells people I’m not at family gatherings because I’m “sick and may never get better.” To say that this has hurt me greatly is an understatement. My dad encouraged me to write, and I always wanted to share my work with him. I knew he wouldn’t like it, but I didn’t think I would get an angry phone call over not punishing lesbians for simply existing AND loving.
This again goes back to representation. Being gay does not make one deviant, immoral, or evil. Yes, we are different from heterosexuals in some ways, but in most ways, we are the same. We live, we laugh, we love, we learn, we cry, we struggle, we overcome. We are complex individuals with thoughts, feelings, talents, passions, drives, and interests as diverse as we are. In previous posts, I’ve talked about how to use urban fantasy as metaphor for social narratives. But the reason I write characters who are part of my community is so that everyone can see that, at the end of the day, we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re people too. We’re the people in your neighborhood.
Now I know I won’t break through the walled minds of the most ardent bigots. I’m not writing for them. I’m writing for the queer kid who feels alone. I’m writing for the kid struggling to make sense of a love that doesn’t look like what they see on television or read about in books. I’m writing for the kid like me who had to struggle and wrestle and learn on their own, because their family refused to even entertain conversations. And I write for the person struggling to accept a queer loved one as who they are. We’re people. Just like you. At the end of the day, we just want to be treated with love, kindness, compassion, and respect. Just like you.
My debut novel, Liam’s Doom, is on sale at all major and minor retail outlets from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to Bookshop.org. I request that you support Bookshop.org, as their site supports local and independent bookstores. The eBook is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through my webstore.
When you order the eBooks from my webstore, you pay $5.00 instead of the $8.00 at retail outlets, and you receive both the .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (Nook and other e-reader formats) instead of just one file, specific to the retailer. Also, you support the author directly and not a large, faceless conversation