Note: This article was originally posted on Council of Peacocks, M. Joseph Murphy’s blog, and was written by him. Reposted with permission.
My second book, A Fallen Hero Rises (available on Amazon, B&N or Smashwords) features a main character who just so happens to be gay. People I trusted and respected advised me against it. They said it would ruin sales and alienate fantasy readers. I said screw it. I’m telling the story I want to tell because I know there’s an audience for it. I just had to find it. So I decided to research openly-gay speculative fiction writers to learn from them.
Suddenly it felt like I watching an episode of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago? Finding information on successful, openly-gay speculative fiction writers is harder than you would expect. And that’s why I wrote this article.
Here are five reasons we need more openly-gay speculative fiction writers.
1. LGBT Youth Need Gay Heroes
“When I first got this [Captain America] role I just cried like a baby because I was like, ‘Wow, next Halloween, I’m gonna open the door and there’s gonna be a little kid dressed as the Falcon. That’s the thing that always gets me. I feel like everybody deserves that. I feel like there should be a Latino superhero. Scarlett [Johansson] does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie. I don’t care if they make 20 bucks, if there’s a movie you’re gonna lose money on, make it Wonder Woman. You know what I mean, because little girls deserve that. There’s so many of these little people out here doing awful things for money in the world of being famous. And little girls see that. They should have the opposite spectrum of that to look up to.”
If young girls need a Wonder Woman movie, LGBT youth need a Northstar movie or perhaps a Batwoman movie. Fictional allows us to create an internal mythology. It shapes the way we view the world. However, we also need real life heroes, role models young gay men and women can look up to.
2. We Need to Create an LBGT Identity
What does it mean to be gay? That depends on the media you follow. Some view it as an abomination, a perversion. Others view it as a dirty secret. So is it any wonder that teen suicide rates are higher for LGBT youth? (source: here) Gay writers of speculative fiction need to stand up and create an identity. We cannot let the nebulous “main stream media” create if for us.
Don’t underestimate the power of Ellen DeGeneres. Her visibility and acceptance has probably done more to make gay men and women feel safe than dozens of laws. Why? Because she’s allowed to exist. Just the fact she’s on TV every day may help some youth decide not to end it all.
3. Visibility Improves Acceptance
“I’m not straight, and I’m not gay. I’m not bisexual. I want out of the labels. I don’t want my whole life crammed into a single word. A story. I want to find something else, unknowable, some place to be that’s not on the map. A real adventure.” \0x2015 Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Nice try, Chuck. But get real. Imagine the response if a black man stood up and said “I’m not black.” One of my heroes is Sidney Poitier. Seeing an educated, articulate black man helped me realize I did not have to be a stereotype. No matter what racist bull was thrown at him, Poitier always maintained a level of dignity. His success and visibility changed my life.
So where are the gay writers? Do a Google search for famous gay writers. Go on. Do it. The number may surprise you. Then look at how many of them write speculative fiction. Look at how many of them stand up proudly as role models and compare it to those that are dragged out like Chuck Palahniuk.
I’m not going to lie: I’m a little bit in love with Palahniuk. Choke may be one of the best-written novels in the English language. Does it matter that he’s gay? It shouldn’t. But it does. Seeing another gay man succeed helps me realize it’s possible for me to succeed. No one’s tried to kill him or imprison him yet so maybe I’m safe.
4. Being Gay is Still Dangerous
Maybe it seems ridiculous to worry I’ll be killed by standing up and saying I’m gay. If you think that, it’s probably because you’re not reading the same news I am. There are several countries around the world that routinely imprison or kill gay men and women. Also consider the anti-gay law fiasco in Arizona earlier this year and the other states considering similar laws. (Source: here) Times have changed. But not that much
Even the CDC has a page devoted to violence and harassment aimed at LGBT youth. (Source: here)
5. Role Models Change Lives.
Another of my role models is Clive Barker. His writing was fresh and provocative, completely revamping the way I looked at fiction. He also happened to be gay. When I first discovered him, back in the 1990s, I realized that he was allowed to be gay and successful. Suddenly I realized the two things did not have to be mutually exclusive. I didn’t have to hide because he was alive. No one was trying to kill him. He wasn’t suppressed by main stream media. His sexuality colors all his writing but is not the focus of his fame.
Despite all my searching, I still can’t find a list of speculative authors who happen to be openly gay. So I will create one. Stay tuned.