Monday, March 28, 2016

Why I Don’t Write Lesbian Fiction

Several days ago I received an email from a heterosexual woman. She said she started reading Book I of my trilogy without realizing there would be lesbians in it, and she almost stopped reading, but the story and the writing wouldn’t let her stop. She ended up reading the entire trilogy. Twice.

This was my reply to her and it may answer some questions for some of my other readers as well:

I realize I am being premature, but white people will now read Toni Morrison and Amy Tan because they—well, most of them—recognize that those authors are not writing about black people or Asian people, but people, and people who are not so very different from themselves. I hope someday gay people will be seen as just people too.

I market my books to the mainstream because I did not write them for gay people. I wrote them for young people, male and female, and for women, because I believe women are finally coming into power in the real world and we need to do a much better job than men have done.

I wrote them for everyone open-minded enough to see love and not just sex in same-sex relationships. Frankly I have never understood why a straight person would believe their own experience of love (and sex) is any different from a gay person’s experience of love (and sex).

And I wrote them for the not-so-open-minded folks, because they refuse to get to know gay people, so perhaps they can get to know us in a book and see that we are not monsters.

I market to the mainstream because teenagers and young people who are questioning their sexuality will not look in the gay ghetto for things to read. They won’t look there because they’re terrified that’s where they belong. And for many of them it’s the worst thing in the world. So if they can find a book that shows them their own hearts, and that their hearts are beautiful just as they are, it may help them build their self-esteem. And when the world tries to shame them, perhaps they won’t feel the need to shame themselves. I correspond with young people who tell me my book saved their life. Possibly not an exaggeration.


I would add to the above that the reason mainstream readers haven’t encountered many gay people, especially gay protagonists, in traditionally published fiction is that traditional publishers have been reluctant to publish those books. That’s easing up a bit now, perhaps because of the success of indie authors writing LGBT fiction.

But several years ago I asked a traditionally published author if her publisher would have allowed her to make her protagonist gay. Her reply: Absolutely not! Gay supporting characters were OK, but not the hero. She later clarified that traditional publishers feared alienating their mainstream audience, that they believed a mainstream audience would not be able to identify with a gay protagonist.

It has always been difficult for the LGBT community to find ourselves represented in mainstream media. At the moment, some popular TV shows (The 100, The Walking Dead) are facing a backlash from gay fans because they have employed, yet again, the Lesbian Death Trope™. Anyone who has read Vito Russo’s book, The Celluloid Closet, or seen the film of the same name, knows that because gay people were considered either sick or sinful until quite recently, any representation of a gay person had to end with their downfall. Sometimes it was death. Sometimes they turned heterosexual. Sometimes they went mad.

The point of those endings was to express the disapproval that society felt for gay people and to reassure their “normal” audience that “immoral” people never prosper. So we were portrayed as immoral people who would never deserve a happy ending. The tragedy in that is that so many young gay people choose to leave a world where they are assured that although they might have a moment of happiness, they will never have a happily ever after.

#clexa #the100 #twd #lesbiandeathtrope