[Note: This is a slightly rewritten version of an entry I wrote in my LJ on 10 March 2005. Anna made me, so yell at her if you don’t want to read repeated material.]
I’ve become rather burnt out on Queer Literature in recent years. Not that I don’t still love to read about boys loving boys and girls loving girls and either loving both, but I’m starting to feel a bit … ghetto-ised, I suppose. It’s not that I want Queer Literature to go away, it’s that I want more gay characters in “mainstream” lit. And on TV. And in movies. And fuck, in songs, in advertising, in the street, in every part of everyday life. But I’ll limit myself to books, and the general media to some extent, because if I get started on the rest I’ll just never shut up.
I’m a voracious reader, but I pretty much read only fantasy and some science fiction (with a peppering of True Crime and non-fiction when I’m feeling like reading brainless trash and brain food, respectively). You’d think in these genres if not in any other genre, or in “mainstream” lit, you’d see more gay characters being generally accepted. Hell, I’d settle for seeing gay characters, period, whether they’re accepted by the other characters or not.
In fantasy, you have the opportunity to set up a society where same-sex relationships are accepted the way opposite-sex relationships are. Yet very, very few writers do this. Why? If nothing else, it’s a perfect way to set your novel apart from the gazillion other fantasy tomes on the shelves. Because there are people out there, people like me, who will give anything a chance if it has two boys or two girls touching in sexy ways.
For once, I want to read a book in which there are queer characters other than the by-now-cliché effeminate gay mage or the lesbian mercenary (especially if she “turned gay” because of rape-HATE!). I want to see the macho mercenary fall in love with a bloke. I want to see the hero walk into a bar and get hit on by the waiter instead of the waitress, and not freak out. I don’t care if he’s straight and just politely turns him down, even, though it’d be even better if he flirted back, of course. I want to see the beautiful witch fall in love with the heroine rather than the hero. I want to see the kitchen boy go on a quest to prove himself worthy of his True Love, and have that True Love be the prince rather than the princess. I want to see a society where same-sex relationships are the norm, and procreation is the only reason for m/f sex, if it happens at all. (Turkey basters, anyone?)
Science Fiction is marginally better about this, but not by much. In most science fiction worlds, sexism (and, usually, racism) are things of the past, yet queer people are still not even acknowledged most of the time, and when they are, well … See above for the usual clichés. I’m tired of it. Show me the hero saving the guy instead of the girl, and falling in love with him. Show me the women settlers raising a child together. Hell, show me the people falling in love with aliens whose race has more than two genders, or no gender at all — though that’s getting into genderqueer territory somewhat.
And once genre fiction gets with the program, let’s start fixing “mainstream” lit. Let’s start seeing queer characters in contemporary books, and let’s start letting them have actual relationships. Let’s start letting the protagonist have a gay or lesbian friend, and allow that friend to be more than just “the best friend”. Let’s start writing about queer characters, and have a plot beyond the main character’s sexuality. One in ten people are queer, and that’s not even counting the bisexuals, and a whole lot of us are out and proud, so let’s start seeing that in books that are supposed to take place in the here and now. Let’s start seeing an accurate picture of what (especially urban) life is actually like in this day and age.
I’d especially love to see more queer characters in YA novels that aren’t coming-out stories. Not that I dislike those, and I’m sure they’re a great help for a lot of queer teens, but not every queer person had to struggle first with themselves and then with their family and peers to come out as queer (I didn’t), and putting queer characters in “straight”/”non-queer” YA novels may help make people, especially teenagers, realise that we are everywhere.
I’m sick and tired of being “accepted”. I don’t want to be “accepted”, as if I’m some sort of embarrassing relative you’ll put up with for the sake of blood ties but who you’d rather not be seen with in public. I want to be acknowledged as part of society. Because I am, and I’ve had it with being invisible to the media, with seeing queer people trotted out to show that look, aren’t we progressive? I want to see “my kind” in books, on screen, in ads and in the street, and have no one bat an eye the way no one bats an eye at straight couples.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask, but apparently, it is.