I don’t read straight fiction now. I used to, back when there wasn’t anything else to read and no such thing as the internet to peruse to find a ton of queer fanfiction just waiting to be devoured. (We’re talking a few decades ago, okay, maybe more than a few to be honest!) It was a lonely read; no one was like me amid the pages so I couldn’t identify with the characters, as much as I’d have liked to. As a lesbian desperate to read about a world where I fit in, I searched for my kind of books, ones written about women who were gay just like me. They were rare finds, hidden away on back shelves, or in bookshops that kept them in the basement as if they were something forbidden and not allowed to see the light of day.
At first I felt like I was inundated by ‘straight woman meets sweet lesbian next door and leaves her husband for her’ tales, which were so not my thing. So I kept on searching and found Chris Anne Wolfe’s marvelous fantasy novels which were much more to my taste. And I can’t tell you how much I rejoiced on finding a Karin Kallmaker story that mentioned “Star Wars” in it…now that was totally me! Because as much as it’s important to find representation for sexuality, it also helps if it’s ‘age’ related too. How the young gay teens searching for their story in print coped I’ll never know. As the years rolled by more books came out and there were more stories for me to identify with. And by then, I’d started writing my own because, if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, write it yourself. Maybe you’ll find there are like-minded people out there who will come to read it because they see themselves in the worlds you write of. The representation for you personally is out there. Keep reading, there is a place for all of us in this world and you can be whoever or whatever you want to be in it.
I needed to find that representation then and I firmly believe we need it now. With the tide turning from our finally gaining some kind of acceptance in the world to us once again being discriminated against, now more than ever we need to have our books prominently displaying us front and centre as the queer heroines/heroes of our own lives – out and proud as always.
“Representation Matters” is a very recognisable battle cry all over social media, calling out to those intent on keeping gay characters in the back ground of their shows or buried six feet under. As writers we get to shape the worlds we write about in our own image. And I’m not talking just about looks here, but identity and sexuality. Because, speaking from my own experience, when I get up in a morning it’s not a straight white male whose face I see reflected back in the mirror! So why should I only get told that one version of a story when it comes to fictional works?
Keep reading! And I hope to see you all in Nottingham this June! Safe travels to the venue.