Note: the views in this post are those of the author, and do not reflect the official views of the QRI site or its owners. We strive to provide a safe place where various opinions can be expressed, and ask that all posts and comments be kept civil and on-point.
As of late the discussion about heterosexual women writing gay fiction has gathered some heat – again – and even though I tried to avoid the topic until now, I feel like I should throw in my two pennies…
One of the main – if not THE main – objection some people have is that a heterosexual woman is not able to write about something she doesn’t know, e.g. homosexual relationships. This argument seems to have some validity at first glance, but if you think about it, it’s actually not true. When I read the Dexter series, it didn’t occur to me that the author should have some experience in serial murder himself. Or when I read a thriller about black ops, I don’t expect the author to having been on such missions him- or herself. Fiction is just that – fiction. An exercise in ‘what ifs’ and ‘what would I do’.
Apart from that, who reads romance, even if it’s contemporary and not paranormal or historical or…, and expects it to be realistic? The whole reason I read romance is to escape reality for some blissfully happy hours during which things go right. To all those male authors who think I, as a heterosexual woman, shouldn’t be writing about gay relationships, I dare you: Take a hundred heterosexual romance novels and show me ONE where everything is depicted realistically. You won’t find one, I can assure you. And it’s not because those books weren’t written by heterosexual women. It’s because women like romance. It’s because women like to dream.
Yes, we know the sex scenes in those books aren’t that close to reality. Me and my husband have spent many funny hours trying to re-enact some of the more adventurous positions described in the romance books I read. I have killer abs now, from laughing so hard. The same goes for homosexual sex scenes. Of course I don’t know exactly what’s going on between two men in the sac (it’s none of my business either), but that doesn’t mean I can’t let my mind wander and imagine what it could be like or deduce from my own experiences with sex. (Basically, this is something romance and porn have in common: a more desirable, yet unreachable version of reality. Nobody has as many orgasms as the men and women in romance books, but who cares? It’s nice to think that at least somebody is having them.)
How did I get caught in porn? Ah, yes, I remember. I’m a heterosexual woman and I write about gay relationships. I don’t say what I write is true. I create a new world, in which I hope my readers can relax and have fun. I am willing to adopt the argument about me not writing gay fiction when it comes to topics that are more autobiographical and require personal experience. But even then, I’m convinced an empathic person can tell such a story without having lived it.
That much said, there’s also another, more important point I wish to make. Dear male authors of gay fiction, I hope you’re aware that more than half of your readers are heterosexual women. In my opinion, this whole discussion weakens the community when it should stand together. The LGBTQ movement needs allies. Allies with a strong voice. Heterosexual women have a strong voice. They are valuable allies. So shunning them for taking an interest, for trying to get a feel for the community, to integrate into it, to open it to others, and help it by donating part of their sales to LGBTQ charities (which many of them do) is, mildly put, dumb.
We’re not here to tell you how gay men should be. We’re not here to steal your customers/readers. We’re here because we have either children, or brothers and sisters, or friends, who identify as LGBTQ. Sometimes we’re just here because we’re liberal and truly think everybody should have the right to live their lives the way they want.
We’re not the enemy. If you feel a female writer has somehow wrongly portrayed homosexual reality, if you feel personally insulted, you can always contact her privately, telling her how you feel about it. Don’t lash out at female writers in general. As I said, we’re your friends, you’re allies. Please treat us with the respect you demand for yourself.
PS: Because I just read another post. To those of you who think a heterosexual woman can’t relate to the trauma and violence homosexual people, especially men, have gone through, hello! I’m a woman. Our gender has CENTURIES of experience with being suppressed, sold like cattle, married off to men we don’t know, of being dependent on our fathers, brothers, husbands, not being allowed to vote, being killed because the way we acted brought shame upon the family (‘shame’ being defined by the male members of society), not getting the job we want because of something we can’t change – our gender, having to be careful when we are alone after dark, or just alone. Many women carry pepper spray with them when going out, because assaults on women happen that often.
We should stick together, not tear each other apart.