We all wear masks even if we don’t realize it. Sociologist Irvine Gauffman asserts all interactions are performances which we play. Putting our best face to the world and hiding who we really are behind the curtains. For a long time LGBTQ people have had to hide who they are for fear of violent reprisal, and though things have certainly changed for the better many of us still have to wear masks.
Often in literature and other mediums LGBTQ characters are forced to hide for fear of alienating audiences. Sure they can have relationships and even families, but only in the context of adhering to the hetero-normative dichotomy.
Case in point the current trend in male-male romance written by woman for woman in which a formerly straight male falls for the new effeminate gay guy in his life. For all purposes the effeminate guy is a woman with a dick. He talks about his feelings, is into fashion, and resents his lover isn’t as emotionally open as he.
Sorry but while LGBTQ people run the spectrum of mannerisms the problem with these characters is they play into age old stereotypes. Namely gay guys are actually women trapped in male bodies and that you can choose your sexuality.
Moreover same sex relationships, while similar to their straight counterparts carry with them unique challenges and dynamics that can’t be brushed aside because the author doesn’t know how or care to explore them.
You can’t take a relationship between two guys and map it to a straight one because neither of them is female. You have to address things like how their family and friends will react to them and also the giant issue in the room that’s avoided altogether in these stories.
The main issue with these stories is that they’re not realistic. Most of the plot revolves around them getting together, sharing chaste kisses and spooning. While that’s nice and all it’s not true to life.
Go to any site geared towards guys into guys and you’ll see the meme most repeated is where are decent guys who care about more than hooking up. So to treat sex like it never happens, is something only mentioned in conversation, or happens off screen is ridiculous.
If the issue is ignorance about the bedroom behavior of these couplings than there are plenty of people these authors could ask to get the details right.
However I think this is more a case of but not too gay. They’re fine with reading and writing about same sex relationships, so long as it doesn’t get outside their comfort zone. If that’s their prerogative, whatever.
But these authors should remember they’re writing about a group of people who exist and are still struggling for acceptance and visibility. While I think it’s great we’ve gotten to a point some straight people are cool with reading about LGBTQ characters there is still a genuine lack of diversity in the characters displayed. Not just in terms of their mannerisms, but also their race, geographic locations, worldviews and class status.
The main thing I take issue with is the commercialization of us, as if LBGTQ people are the latest commodity to be packaged and sold to the masses to make them hip and spice up their vanilla lives. Sorry but we are not some exotic novelty for your amusement or curiosity.
Our lives are often wrought with obstacles you couldn’t imagine and it’s belittling when you appropriate our narratives without giving them or us the respect we deserve. This isn’t to say no one but LGBTQ people can write about us, but if you’re going to do it then get it right.
Remember when people read your stories they’re not just looking to be entertained but to find validation in who they are. So when they seldom find characters like them it makes them feel like they don’t matter. The last thing any writer ought to do is alienate readers, especially ones who are already marginalized as it is.