I went to lunch today with a friend and reader of my first novel, Venus in Love. I've known her a while, as we are coworkers of a sort, and while we've had plenty of benign conversation and a handful of group lunch interactions, today it was just the two of us. I reckon it was like a date, but without the added stress of having to shave first. Gorgeous as she is, she is beautifully and happily married. This is utterly irrelevant to my story but you know me, I can't avoid a good (and awkward) tangent. So anyhoo...
She read my book. Sweet! And she wasn't even one of the people I hounded for six months with daily reminders of my publication date and availability. Extra sweet! So, she read it and while I assume she liked it (she wanted my autograph- still weird), she had one question. A question that, until that moment, I hadn't given much thought outside of my passing decision a few years back to avoid it. She asked why I hadn't gone into more detail about who they were as individuals, more specifically why there wasn't any emphasis put on their sexuality and the struggles LGBT's face as we search for who we are.
At first I didn't understand the question, but with clarification I realized she meant why had I left out the social awkwardness, stares of disgust, and fight for acceptance? Basically, where’s the hatred, the misunderstanding, and the inequality that we unfortunately see far too often in our real lives? I've read many beautiful and poignant works by fellow authors who present and overcome those very struggles with bravery, heart, and truth. Sadly, I don't know a single LGBT, including myself, who hasn't experienced one or more of them in their lifetime.
It is with conscious choice and purpose that I don't include those themes in my writings. Not because I don't feel they are important, but because I don't think they should be important. Wait! Now, don't you go and take that the wrong way.
What I mean is this. When we look at a person with love we don't see gender, do we? No. We see a smart, funny, and beautiful person who may or may not have the same reproductive organs as our own (unless, of course, they're standing in front of you buck-nekked performing a vigorous Irish folk dance). Otherwise, we see love and life, right into the very heart and soul of them and we do it without thinking twice. Like my life, Venus in Love and my forthcoming novels, have main characters who are lesbians. (Spoiler alert! Oh wait, I should've said that first... oh well, too late now.) They don't hide from it, or struggle with it, nor does any other character in the book, gay or straight. They are who they are, female art professionals looking for life, love, and happiness. And they do it as freely and as awkwardly as any other person would regardless of their gender or sexual preference. It is simply a non-issue. It doesn't keep them from success, cost them any friends, or lose them their family's love. They are openly and unapologetically human, and no one thinks twice about it.
For me, whether reading or writing, there is a freedom in fiction and even more so in romance that allows us to run away with dreams and experience a world wholly different than the one waiting for us outside our front door. With everything else that authors throw at our characters to keep them down and apart, I prefer that bigotry isn't one of them. I want the love between people, regardless of sex, to be the most important thing we see both in and out of books. I want us to experience a place where who we love doesn't matter to anyone but ourselves. I want to show everyone just how unremarkable and irrelevant our sexual orientations can and should be. Because we all know, real life is hard enough when some kooky, sleep-deprived, caffeine-addicted author isn't writing our story.
All my love,