Gay Protagonists, Rob, and I

Two special thank-you’s for this post. First to Rob for not only making me think, but proofing this post and thanking me for it. Also, to Karina, for being braver than I (Plus-ZOMG hot boys!)

The other day on twitter, my buddy Rob was asking about science fiction that featured gay protagonists. Now, I was raised in a household that made no exceptions for people. You either fit within these arbitrary confines that comprise the norm, or you deal with not getting what you wanted. That sounds a little weird, I know, but it’s the best way I can think to describe it. My father was always incredibly concerned with not appearing weird or different from other people and if we were, we were expected to button it down and at least pretend to fit in. For the record, they still don’t like to take me places.

“What does this have to do with gay sci-fi?” you ask, bewildered. The point is that I have found this idea, this “just take what you get” to be incredibly ingrained within my psyche. Even if it’s not actually how I feel, my gut reaction when I see comments like that isn’t the most charitable. So when Rob tweeted, looking for something different, something that meant more to him, my brain short circuited a little. Sorry Rob, but my very first though was “Who is he that he thinks he can ask for something  special like that?”

I don’t know if it helps my case at all at this point, but my second thought tore the first one to shreds. My brain shifted gears straight into, “Of course he’d enjoy reading that, it would be something he could identify more with.” And that got me to thinking about my perceptions of the media I absorb day in and day out. I’m not gay, and I’m in a long-term relationship. Most books, television shows and movies portray my love, my life, and people like me.

Emphasis on the me, because that’s what it really boils down to, isn’t it? Our life experience is the only one we have and the only one we can truly relate to. It only makes sense that we enjoy content that contains more me than you. Since then, I’ve  thought a lot on how weird that must be when there’s not a lot of me content available. Things are always getting better and as a society, we’re more open to you media all the time. We’re definitely seeing more sitcoms featuring gays and lesbians, more movies, and more politicians and big names coming out in support with great frequency. But there’s still a huge expanse between the amount of straight content and characters and the amount of the same featuring any different sexual preference at all.

I thought I was starting to understand, but I made it a point to read Karina Cooper’s Wicked Lies right away. This was a book I’d supported because A. Yay more gay protagonists! and B. Karina donated her sales proceeds to the It Gets Better Project. It had sat unread on my Kindle for a while, mostly because I was drowning in books to read. But I bumped it up after having all these me and you thoughts, just to see how I felt while reading it.

First of all, it was my first Karina Cooper book. Damn that lady can write! But more importantly, I think I do understand pretty well now. For me, it was a one-time, almost novel read. Novel not because I avoid that or am uncomfortable with it, but purely because I don’t experience it very often. I have to say, even being not about my type of sex, love is love. The attraction was there, the sexual tension, the lust and the affection. To that degree, it didn’t matter that the main characters were gay, it mattered that they gave their relationship a chance.

But although these ideas transcend sexual preference, having those me characters, the characters and story lines that capture our specific lusts and loves, make the stories even better. They give us ownership and let us put ourselves into the world and relate to what’s going on. Part of fiction is getting lost in the plot and people involved, and that’s easier if they’re more like us.

I also understand why it can be hard to produce such content, however, but maybe that’s just me being timid. The easiest way to start fixing a problem is to be pro-active, but the idea of writing a book with gay protagonists is intimidating to me. Because that’s not me. Because I can’t relate to that, I’ve never experienced it. What if I get it wrong? What if I fuck it up incredibly and offend a good friend like Rob? Maybe someday I’ll work up the confidence to write a you story, so to speak, because it needs to be done. And, like I said, Love is Love, lust is lust, and bangin’ is bangin’. If I hold on to that idea and the fact that we’re not actually different, that we have all the same physical and emotional needs, that we’re People whether we’re gay, straight, or any spectrum in-between, I can pull it off. Someday.


7 thoughts on “Gay Protagonists, Rob, and I

  1. Reblogged this on Untitled*United and commented:
    Govneh expresses some thoughts more eloquently than I could on this subject. I grew up white and straight in a very homogeneous community, and the fiction I read was a major part of how I developed understanding and empathy for different groups. It’s a great read.

  2. Wouldn’t a gay protagonist just be a protagonist until a specifically gay scene shows up? If you write a story with a gay protagonist, it’s like any other story except for that minor twist on a scene or two.

    I’m assuming that the plot itself is one where the protagonist isn’t being blocked from their goals because they aren’t straight. That’s a big assumption, I know. If it were set in a world where that wasn’t a problem, then the only thing you’d have to do any consultation on would be the relationship / romance parts. The rest of the writing is just like you’ve done before. It sounds like Karina did exactly that in her book.

    Am I close to right, or is there more to your reluctance to write a non-straight protagonist?

  3. The Black Dagger Brotherhood has several gay protagonists. Because of the society structure in the series their sexual orientation does have an impact on the plot.
    I have yet to find another series with an openly gay protagonist.

  4. I poked around South Web and to be honest, it looks like a blatant, full posting of my blog post, with little to no credit as the original author, and an insignificant link back to my site at the very bottom. Am I missing something?

  5. Matt asked me to stop by and comment on this being as I am one of his resident lesbian friends. 🙂

    In my opinion, if your characters are solid and interesting to start, then the majority of people won’t care what their sexuality is, or what the sexuality of the author is.

    Here is the best example I can think of this late at night: The show Lost Girl was created by a straight woman. The main character (Bo) is openly bisexual and has had on-screen relationships with both men and women. There’s slightly more focus on sexuality in this show’s case because Bo is a succubus and feeds on sexual energy in order to stay alive, but beyond that, she is simply a well-written character. She has strengths and flaws, does heroic shit and stupid shit, and is recognizably a person, and for me, that’s what invests me in her story. The nicest thing about this show is, in-universe, not a single other character has brought up Bo’s sexuality as either a positive or a negative — it simply is part of who she is, but is certainly not all that she is.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum you have The L Word. Created by a lesbian, there is not a single character in that show, gay or straight, who ever acts, feels, or thinks like a human being. It’s frustrating to watch and impossible to invest in because there is no one on the screen who I can point to and say ‘Yes, I relate to that, I or someone I know would act in a similar fashion’. Instead I’m watching thinking, ‘These are an attractive bunch of robots, out robot-ing it up’.

  6. I have an openly gay character in my Deacon Chalk series. He’s a secondary character but he’s still in most of book 2 and the back half of book 3. Because the series is an action based urban fantasy I didn’t mention he was gay until the end of book 2, not because it was a surprise or because I was hiding it but rather it wasn’t an issue at all and he didn’t introduce himself to the main character as “Hi, I’m Boothe, I’m a were-rabbit, and I’m gay.” because people just do not do that. lol.

    I also have a major supporting character who is bi-sexual and polyamorous but that isn’t the point of writing her, it’s just part of who she is.

    The point is:
    I tried my ass off to write all the characters as realistically as I could considering the off the wall nature of the series. That’s the job of a writer.

    The series is published by a traditional publisher (Kensington) and there has been not one drop of flack about it.

    And I totally agree that Karina Cooper can write like hell!

    1. That seems to be the consensus, and it’s a little weird for me. I understand it. They’re the same as every other character. But it still scares the crap out of me.
      So many of my dear friends are gay and bi-sexual, and if I tackled it, I’d want them to enjoy it. The Rob in the post and I game together and we’ve talked in the past when his PC’s have been gay. The question is “What do you want by having this be a big thing with your character?” And the answer, if I recall correctly, was “I want it to matter.”
      It’s hard to get my brain around. Yes, characters of all sexual preferences are just characters, but how do you tackle it in a way that is meaningful and significant to the real-life people of the same persuasion?
      Thanks for stopping by the blog, by the way!

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