How do you know? That is often the crux of my stories– how do you know if someone is gay? Most of my stories involve (at least partially) the characters having to answer this question. They look for clues, the word or gesture that might tell them if that pretty girl they just met is a lesbian. It’s hard to know in real life, as in stories, if you are attracted to someone who would like you the same way.
We’ve made such strides in my lifetime. It’s never been easier in America to be out and proudly queer. Growing up in the 70’s in South Carolina I didn’t have any gay role models. I didn’t know any gay adults. My best friend Brian and I had to muddle through high school as best we could. He had it worse – I was able to hide. I wish I’d been stronger. Some kids still have to hide, and I can’t quite imagine a time when coming out to yourself won’t be the hardest thing you ever do, but we’ve made strides. With all of our victories though, there is still the fundamental moment of How do you know?
In the 60’s and 70’s lesbians were invisible on television, while gay men were prancing queens to be laughed at. Our first glimmer of light was at the end of the 70’s. Billy Crystal’s character on Soap, Jodie, an openly gay man, was revolutionary. My family watched the show, and Jodie’s roommate Alice was certainly the first “lesbian” I had ever seen. She wasn’t a main character, and I’m sure she never even touched another woman on screen (that would have been too provocative!), but she was there, and for the time, that was enough.
I am honored to be able to tell our stories. Ultimately a lesbian story is a human story since everyone struggles for love, honor, acceptance, and purpose. To be able to tell it from our vantage though, to be able to have two characters find each other, fall in love, and grow as a couple – those are the stories I love to tell, and it’s because those are the stories I love to read.
Some lesbian fiction is concerned with coming out, and I love coming out stories. It’s something that the whole queer community has to do; it’s a shared moment, a rite of passage that we each undertake. And, of course, in some ways we spend our whole lives coming out. I’m working on a new story now — sort of a hard-boiled fantasy — and I think there will be a coming out scene. Nothing like telling your mom that you’re gay to really ratchet up the stress level.
Capturing that spark, that crystalline moment when the voice inside says, “You have to tell her” is rewarding as a writer because a character can come to that juncture from a million different roads. Did I say a million? Make that a billion because each queer person walks his own road, her own road. And I love lesbian love stories for this very reason – often the impetus for coming out is a desire for romantic love.
Although I write in the fantasy and science fiction genres, at heart I write lesbian fiction, and by that I mean I write stories about women who love other women making their way through the world. I’m a hopeless romantic, so many of my stories are lesbian romance stories – whether they are two female aliens, as in my Earth Hypothesis science fiction short stories or a female thief and a female cleric, as in my upcoming fantasy novel The Soul Thief.
I’m truly blessed: I live my own lesbian love story – I’ve been happily married (now legally married!) to the same woman for 25 years – and in many ways the stories I tell are retellings of our romance. I’ve never been a huge fan of romance novels, but lesbian romance novels? I might give that a try. At their heart lesbian novels are real lesbian stories, but more than that they are simply real stories – stories of the heart. They tell a story of two people coming together to find love, to fight for a cause, or right a wrong, or solve a mystery.
Writing within the fantasy and science fiction genre allows me to play with more than just sexuality. I can explore broader themes of conquest, imperialism, social justice as they play out against my imagined landscapes. Those are human themes, human stories told in a lesbian voice, and I am honored to be able to share them with you.