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Why Same-Sex Romance Is Important

In all of the discussion about RWA and its chapter contests and the inclusion of GLBT in the definition of romance, one thing has been missing: a discussion of just why it’s so important that GLBT romance be included.

The realization of one’s GLBT identity can be an extremely painful, lonely, isolating experience. Some people are lucky enough to have a good support system—family and friends who accept and embrace them for who they are. Others are not so lucky. People who come out as GLBT can lose their families, their friends, their jobs, their homes—their entire lives are turned upside down. For these people, books can play a huge part in making them realize something of profound importance: THEY ARE NOT ALONE.

When a kid has been told all his life that homosexuality is wrong, finding a book about kids like him can literally be a life-saver. And that’s not just true of kids. Adults need that affirmation as well.

GLBT literature, like all literature, appears in all genres and deals with all aspects of life. By necessity, much of it deals with issues of alienation, discrimination, fear of living an openly GLBT life. Authors deal with this differently. Some approach it allegorically; for example, they might substitute paranormal creatures as “the other” in a society. Or they might create a utopian gay society in which there is no discrimination, a fantasy world for readers to escape the reality of living day to day as a GLBT-identified person in our world. Some authors have their characters put up a front to deal with their emotions. Anger, for example. Or humor. Some authors are able to produce heartbreakingly realistic characters, showing us their journey as they realize they’re different and struggle to lead a regular life with no guidance in how to do so.

Is it any wonder that romance, with its defining feature of happily ever after, should be so important to GLBT readers, who are told on a daily basis that their relationships are inferior, that their families are not real, that they are not normal and should not expect to be treated as normal? GLBT romance reminds us that we ARE normal, that our relationships are just as good as heterosexual relationships, that we do have the same possibility to meet the person of our dreams, fall  in love, and have that happily ever after.

GLBT romance tells that kid who feels so lost and alone that there are people out there who understand, who have been through the same thing and have found love and acceptance. GLBT romance tells that kid that it’s not wrong to want to find a loving relationship with a member of the same sex. That others want the same thing. GLBT romance tells GLBT readers that they don’t have to be alone. They’re worthy of love, and their dreams and hopes and fantasies are every bit as valuable as anyone else’s.

That’s why same-sex romance is important. That’s why we need to keep writing our stories. That’s why we need to make sure nobody tells us that our stories don’t count.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Cathy Pegau
Feb. 6th, 2012 05:29 am (UTC)
Well said, Stacia.

I haven't had to face these issues personally, and the world I created may be considered unrealistic by some. But it's my fervent hope that some day (sooner than when my stories are set) no one will question or care who loves whom. If delving into the fantasy gives folks a sense of "rightness" and belonging even for a brief moment then I feel my job is done. And I hope they enjoy the story :)

marygriggs
Feb. 6th, 2012 05:50 am (UTC)
Wonderfully said!
(Anonymous)
Feb. 6th, 2012 05:56 am (UTC)
Validating Ourselves
Stacia, you've addressed an extremely important function of LGBT literature that all too often goes unrecognized. As a clinician in the mental health field for many years, I saw firsthand how vitally important our stories are to people who feel despondent and isolated from mainstream society. Our stories are validating and offer a beacon of hope. They do save lives!

LGBT literature is also a source of enlightenment to the heterosexual world by providing insight into the insidious effects of bigotry. Furthermore, our stories show the straight members of society that we are not so very different from them! We dream the same dreams for a loving family, a decent job, and a meaningful life!
(Anonymous)
Mar. 29th, 2012 12:43 am (UTC)
Grateful for the genre
Thanks for this. I only discovered lesbian romance novels about 6 months ago, a little over a year after I discovered I am a lesbian...in my forties.

This has been a wonderful, difficult, fulfilling, isolating time. I have been gunning through one lesbian novel after another and was concerned that might be a problem. I had decided to just go with it, and your comments help bolster that decision. For some reason, the genre is important to me right now. I need to hear stories of people like me living lives I have never really have a chance to see before.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )