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.