Lit Gaps: Don’t Put Me on the Half Shelf

So I have the same conversation about books all the time, just with different people.  I look at the publishing industry and for all of amazing, brilliant work that I love dearly, I rarely find books that do LGBTQ stuff in a way that satisfies me.

A few things:

  1.  There is really not much out there…at least comparatively
  2.  Lots of authors who do LGBTQ characters are telling a “coming out” story. I don’t  want that.  I might have as a teen.  Not now.  But hey, at least it is something.
  3.  The premise of the book is that someone is gay.  So what?

What interests me are great stories in which somebody happens to be a lesbian or bisexual, whatever.  I don’t want the book to explain the identity to me or to reassure me.  They don’t have to be a brave hero toiling for their rights.  They can be an asshole.  That’s fine.  They just need to be an asshole as part of being a person, not as a result of being gay or trans, etc.

The simplest way to say what I want to read is to say: name your favorite book.  Now make a character queer.  Resume story as usual.  My precious Wuthering Heights could have been Catherine and Heather, as opposed to Heathcliff.

Books about what it is like to be a lesbian or how it feels to be bi are usually written more for the benefit others.  They are most beneficial as a sort of minor epiphany for those who have trouble conceptualizing what it would be like to have a different orientation, etc.

We could certainly be having this conversation about other types of diversity too.  I’m not attempting to ignore the lack of representation for any number of races, ethnicities, religions, etc.  I’m not prizing one fight over another.  The fights all overlap anyway.  I’m not just a lesbian.  I’m also an atheist.  I’m also lower working class.  Oh, and I have a master’s degree.  I’m all kinds of things.

When I write fiction, my characters tend to be lesbians.  I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about “representing” them.  They are just people bumbling through the world and (hopefully) keeping readers reading.  I don’t want to be ghettoized on some half shelf for a niche market.  I don’t want to hunt for representation in a cobwebbed corner.  I want diversity to be mainstream.  And literary.  And in genre.  And in local.  I want diversity to be:  DIVERSE.

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