This is a difficult post for me to write, but I have to write something. I’ve been starting and stopping it all morning. Some friends of mine have been talking lately about writing outside your comfort zone, and now I’m taking a deep breath and stepping out of mine. But this isn’t about me. This is about something else.

I have never been comfortable talking about my sexuality. And I’ve been even less comfortable writing about it. Which is to say that I don’t. I mean, I’ve always had ideas for stories with gay themes or characters, and my notes are filled with the sort of secret histories that I never expected to share until after the last book in a best-selling series was released. I chose to write differently. I chose to write to the market. I didn’t want to muck up. I kept my head down.

Gay Fiction” is an odd sort of genre because it is about being gay. About being different. About all the ways the world has to hurt you. And sometimes the protagonists rise above, and sometimes, they don’t. Of course, there is also gay romantic fiction, but there isn’t a lot of data that gay men read romance novels, and straight women do. So, good luck finding a story for YOU, gay male reader. This is the principle of yaoi, two beautiful men for women to objectify. And if you’re a man and that’s what you’re into? Bonus. This is the kind of deep and real same-sex relationship you find after midnight between two female prison inmates on Cinemax. These are the sorts of covers featuring a nude 120 lb blond model, his frame coquettishly twisted at a three quarters view, holding a football helmet and looking whistful. But romance is not a genre I’m interested. I like fantasy. I like science fiction. I kept quiet. I kept my head down.

And in my genre of choice, there are some GLBT characters. Sometimes they even have romances. Sometimes they even live to see the end of the book. But what conflicts do these characters wrestle with? Discrimination in the magical kingdom. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in Star Fleet. Coming out to their father the King. Space-AIDS. Their struggles are the same struggles. That is, assuming they’re the good guys. Want to steam up your villain? Give him a sexy lesbian dominatrix for a minion. Want to show how virile and masculine your hero is? Why not have the super-villain make a pass at him while they’re duking it out. Bonus points if he says he ‘likes it rough.’ Slow bit in the plot? Maybe the scheming queen could be bicurious for a couple chapters. But publishers are risk averse, and getting more so all the time. I don’t even have a novel out yet. Don’t make waves, I thought. Don’t get known as a ‘gay’ writer, I thought. I kept my head down.

I’ve always kept my head down. It has been my survival strategy for as long as I can remember. I didn’t come out until college, and even that was a long and difficult process, helped immensely by the love and support of my boyfriend, now my husband. I was quiet and shy in high school. I kept my head down.

In 2011, Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself. He was a student at Williamsville North High School, just like I was. And he died because he was bullied, because he was gay. And no one stopped it from happening. It was the kind of thing that I never expected to happen in a place like North. Some distant school in the bible belt somewhere, sure. But those were the same halls I walked through. Where I kept my head down.

I realized that we don’t change the world by observing it. We change the world by getting up and fucking changing it. It is an easy thing to say, ‘hey, it get’s better.’ And then turn our attention back to our real lives and the real problems we face as adults. The mortgage, the job, this short story that just isn’t working, the podcast deadline. It’s easy to forget that you’re still keeping your head down.

But you can’t whisper ‘yes’ when the world shouts ‘no.’ You can’t hope a You-tube video will carry the same weight as the bully, or the teacher that doesn’t see the problem. You can’t hope a 30 second story on the news will be heard over a 2.5 hour movie that says you’re better off staying in the closet.

I recently spoke with a colleague about her ‘New Adult’ novel. And I’m taking the opportunity of the next month to write one of my own. Because I feel like I can address my sexuality without framing it as a problem. I can have a main character be gay and have it not be the overriding focus of his life, to say nothing of the book. He can be the hero of his own story. He can fight off monsters and save the (other) guy. He can save the ship and not lose everything else.  The YES has to be louder than then no. I can’t wait for the world to be ready for a three-dimensional gay male lead in speculative fiction. I can’t keep my head down anymore.

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