I had a rather difficult exchange the other day online.
Yes, I know, I shouldn’t invest so much energy in the ramblings of a single person. But it really got under my skin and occupied far too much of my brain power that day.
But first, some history.
In a book forum, I had posted my book cover, along with an offer of a free eBook copy in exchange for a review. Then I posted the book blurb, along with the tags and content warnings. I do that for some obvious reasons – in a general book forum, I want to be fair and upfront about what the book is about, and its content so that folks aren’t surprised by what they agreed to read.
Devid Khandelwal desperately wants to experience the supernatural. After years of studying everything from crystals to tarot to spellcasting, nothing has happened that would tell him the Shadow Realm is real. And that kills Dev. As a last-ditch resort, he purchases a summoning board, an occult tool that will grant him his ultimate desires.
Cameron Habersham is Dev’s best friend. Cam loves Dev like a brother and will do anything for him, as long as he looks good doing it. So when Dev asks him to perform the summoning board’s ritual, he reluctantly agrees, but he knows nothing will come of it. Nothing ever does.
However, within a day, Dev and Cam’s lives are turned upside down as wishes begin to come true. They discover the existence of a supernatural world beyond their imagination, but peace between the species is tenuous at best.
Dev finally gets to see the Shadow Realm, meets the man of his dreams, and is inducted into the local male coven. But for all the desires that were summoned into existence, Dev soon realizes the magical community dances the line between good and evil, and Cam ends up on the wrong side of everything.
The old adage is true: Be careful what you wish for.
I didn’t get any takers. I found that odd – I mean, hey, it’s a free book, right? All you need to do is a leave a starred review and a couple of words. Not hard. So, I was a bit surprised.
I have no idea why no one wouldn’t take the opportunity to snatch up a chance at a free eBook – I’m sure there are many reasons – but then a single commenter decided to drop a bomb into my day.
“Don’t care if it contains LGBTQeieio whatever. If the story is about gay/les/whatever then I’ll pass.”
Hmph. Okay – fair enough – not every book is for every one. I know this. And to boot – this type of a response from a reader probably means I wouldn’t really want them reading my book and leaving a review. But I couldn’t get past the bastardization made against the acronym we commonly use for the queer community. In fact, even looking at it now enrages me.
It’s a huge deal. This really offends me.
Their reference is to the song “Old MacDonald Had A Farm.” The song is about listing off all the animals the farmer has. It reduces the queer acronym to something childish, and almost draws a comparison of queer folk to animals.
I write queer fiction for a reason. I don’t have to. I could write stories about people and just leave it at that – who cares how they identify – except I CARE. When I was a young person, struggling to understand why I was different and where I belonged in the world, I had very few examples. And back in the 80’s when I was coming to terms with my sexuality, any examples that might have existed in mainstream media (TV Shows, Movies, Books, etc.) were less than stellar displays of what life as a gay man would hold. If anything, I was looking at an unhappy existence, stereotypically pigeon-holed into specific jobs, limp-wristed, with a lisp, depressed, sad, alcoholic, a substance abuser, or a sociopath with criminal intentions.
There weren’t ANY EXAMPLES of healthy, well-adjusted, successful, happy, paired with a loving companion, gay guy. (There are LOTS of articles on this. But this should suffice. Click HERE.)
Now it’s also very true that this has/is changing, a lot – but it only did so because the queer community stood up and advocated for a change. We had to fight for better representation. And we’re getting it! But we still have not achieved complete success. Name me ONE show where the main character is queer, successful, happy, and has an open, accepted, cherished relationship. ONE. Just one.
Go ahead. I’m waiting.
You can give me examples in the comments. If I’m wrong – show me – I’d love to watch that show, or that movie! I am still desperately waiting for an Urban Fantasy, TV Show, where the queer main character is the action hero. Like – give me a gay Supernatural. I want a Trans Sabrina. Show me a lesbian ghost story.
So, there you go.
This is why I write stories where the main characters are queer and are the heroes. And then I try to market my stories to the queer community so that they have something to read where they are represented – and not represented as the Gay Best Friend, or the Charming Side Character. I want to make stories where someone says, “There! That’s me! OMG. I AM THE STAR IN A NOVEL!”
It gives validation to who we are. It builds us up. It celebrates us and tells folks – “Yup, you are okay. We like you. We want you around.”
And then I market my stories to non-queer spaces because frankly, the REST OF YOU need to see that we can be the heroes. You really do. You need that. We need to start stepping out of what we are comfortable with, and slipping on the pair of shoes belonging to people who are not like us. We need to see other peoples’ perspectives. We need to live their lives. We need to see the world in ways that are different than our own.
It’s only by doing this – removing yourself from your comfort zone – that we actually begin to feel empathy for other human beings. We can start to understand what life is like being someone else.
And if you belong to a population that has been privileged (Yes, I’m looking at you my straight, white friends) it is even more important that you read LGBTQ+ and BIPOC stories. Especially if they are written by queer and people of colour.
Problem is – getting Queer and BIPOC books into spaces where they get adequate visibility is increasingly difficult – as there are lots of books to choose from. Bigger problem is that queer and people of colour don’t get the same exposure with their books as other authors (Yes, I’m looking at you, straight, white authors – you could start by recommending and advertising our books on your platforms – that would be nice.) CLICK HERE to see how diversified the publishing industry is, or isn’t I should say.
The commenter who managed to stoke my hellfire went on to say other things like how being “gay” now-a-days isn’t a big deal. No one cares. Move on.
They were right. No one cares. Well, I shouldn’t say no one – as there are lots of fabulous and wonderful organizations that are out there caring for, and advocating for queer rights. Problem is – we NEED ORGANIZATIONS TO ADVOCATE FOR QUEER RIGHTS?!? For all the gods’ sakes people, really? It’s 2021 and we’re still fighting.
Check this out:
I see now that the commenter has deleted their responses to my post. That’s probably a good thing. But to anyone who ever challenges me, ever again, why I continue to write damn good stories about queer people – this is why.
Because we deserve it.
And because the rest of the world needs to read it.
I’m still looking for reviews…so if there’s any interested parties out there who now feel like they probably should be reading some AMAZEBALLS queer Urban Fantasy – hit me up.