Real Visibility: Writing Queer Women into Mainstream Fiction
Updated: Aug 30, 2020
Before I jump into this post with both feet, I feel like it requires a disclaimer. Now I’m gonna argue in the post below that we need more queer women in mainstream fiction. That is, we need more stories about characters who are queer, yet that facet of their identity isn’t the main focus of the story being told. Now, every time I think about this, I hear a little voice in my head shouting, “But queer representation matters! Telling our stories, stories that are unique to being queer, about coming out, surviving physical threats to our lives, struggling past the discrimination in our jobs, our homes, our lives, matter and deserve to be told.”
No argument here. The fact is, even in today’s world, there aren’t enough of these stories out there. Not enough agents willing to read and represent queer authors and their queer stories, not enough publishers willing to take a chance on the same. There are some exceptions, particularly in young adult, romance, and genre categories but, still, they are exceptions. Thankfully, with the advent and increasing ease of self-publishing, it is easier to publish these stories and get them out into the world.
“Even in today’s world, there aren’t enough of these stories out there. Not enough agents willing to read and represent queer authors and their queer stories, not enough publishers willing to take a chance on the same.”
I read all sorts of novels and non-fiction, including LGBTQ stories, and I appreciate them. I really do. On the other hand, I’ve been out for 33 years, since I was 14 years old (guess you know how old I am now). While I remember coming out (and let’s face it—you never really stop coming out), that hasn’t been a tribulation in my life for a long time. While I still deal with comments and discrimination (I do live in one of the most conservative counties in Texas, after all), I have methods and techniques to deal with that sort of trash now. I don’t lose sleep over it. Know what I do lose sleep over these days?
Keeping my job, paying the mortgage, marriage. Mundane? Maybe. I’ve been with my wife for 21 years. Do you know how hard you have to work at a marriage to last 21 years (it can’t be just me, right?) Really hard. My wife lost her father in 2004. She lost her mother last month. These things are hard, painful, even life-altering. There are wonderful novels written about such things. Soul-searching, insightful, brilliant stories sharing heart-breaking tales of resilience and strength. I’ve read many.
But I want more. I want to read these types of stories with a queer woman at the heart of it. Your everyday queer woman facing the extraordinary circumstances many people face at some point in their lives—the death of a loved one, caring for an aging parent, battling an unexpected disease, or even mundane (is there such a thing?) midlife crises.
“But I want more. I want to read these types of stories with a queer woman at the heart of it.”
My reason is simple. The story itself may not focus on the main character’s queerness, but the queerness does help shape who that person is. The person I am today is shaped in so many ways by being queer—the time period in which I came out, the events that occurred because I was out, the discrimination and harm I experienced in my younger days. All of these events helped form the person I am, even if I experience few of those things today. Ergo, writing a queer woman into these types of novels offers yet another unique perspective that can broaden the reader’s mind and world. The more unique perspectives that authors can bring into the world, the clearer it becomes how much we all have in common.
Writing queer women into general fiction is another form of representation that matters, or should matter, in the literary world.
Tell me what you think in the comments below. C’mon, don’t be shy!
Also, if what I wrote above resonates with you as a reader, be sure to sign up for my mailing list to be alerted when my novel, Secrets My Mothers Kept, goes on sale!