HOW IMPORTANT ARE QUEER CHARACTERS IN FICTION?
Many authors are reluctant to label themselves as “queer authors” in the fear that they become pigeonholed into a certain narrative, expected to write exclusively about LGBTQ+ characters and storylines. But does “queer author” refer to the content these writers produce? Or is it simply a description of their own sexual orientation or gender identity?
Do we in fact need more, or less, queer fiction? How important is it to have representation for LGBTQ+ people in 2019?
I believe that the queer genre is very important but that assertion comes with certain conditions. We do not need more stories portraying the tragic lives of LGBTQ+ people.
Drug addicted Transvestites, Gay men suffering with HIV related illnesses, or Lesbian football hooligans etc. are not particularly helpful stereotypes and not even grounded in modern reality anyway.
Romantic fiction is an obvious choice for authors hoping to portray gay men and women in their stories since it is a defining characteristic of the gay identity itself. But minority characters (and I include women and BAME people in this too) need to be more three dimensional, reflective of our real lives. I’m not just a gay man who has sex with other men. I’m also a student, a musician, a Buddhist, a friend and family member. Why do we not see more stories about Transgendered astronauts or pansexual soldiers fighting for their homeland?
Queer fiction has the potential to open minds that would otherwise be closed, but we need to avoid the stereotypes that plague our community.
The subject of Transgendered people has recently made headlines as it becomes more known, yet still little understood. People’s concerns are of “confusing our children” or of “being raped in a public bathroom”, but do these people even know any Trans people and have they talked to them about their gender identity? Do they in fact know several Trans people but simply have no idea? This seems more likely yet their prejudiced views would lead them to believe that they could instantly tell should they come face to face with them. They may be surprised to know that they couldn’t.
So queer fiction could in fact help break down these prejudices by normalising the LGBTQ+ community. We are not monsters, perverts or Devil Worshippers (Well, some of us are Devil Worshippers, no doubt) but we are ultimately just normal people with families, jobs, hobbies and interests the same as everyone else.
There is little point in writing a novel about an LGBTQ+ character who does nothing with their life except BE LGBTQ+. There are certainly enough of those and it does nothing but further alienate us from CIS/HET people. Let us hope we have a flurry of new queer fiction, but that it pushes our community towards further acceptance and to ultimately gain equality for us all.
There is no excuse for hatred but unfortunately it is a reality experienced by many LGBTQ+ people. The fight for justice and equality has progressed better in some parts of the world than in others, but queer fiction, and particularly in children’s books, holds the promise we could one day eradicate the fears and suspicions people have against us by educating the generation that stands to inherit the world from us. One day, I hope the genre won’t even exist. There will just be Science Fiction that happens to have a gay character, or a Fantasy novel where a Trans man encounters some gnomes or something. (Haha. I’m actually laughing at that one). But let’s support queer authors and hopefully break the genre into more mainstream audiences. Indeed, you don’t need to be queer to read a story about us after all.
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