What Writing GLBTQ Literature Means to Me

I grew up a single child in a pretty ordinary family with a mom and a dad. It took me quite a while to figure out I wasn’t raised like other children my age, though.

At my house it wasn’t a big deal to have a lesbian couple at the dinner table, or a gay couple over for drinks. My mother made it so much ‘not a big deal’ that it never struck me as strange until a friend of mine was invited to a dinner party with those friends of my parents and she told me those had been the first LGBTQ people she’d met. I was a senior in high school at the time.

In college that same friend came out to me by telling me she’d told her mother she had a girlfriend and was promptly shown the door. I was outraged. What mother would do that to her only daughter? When I told my mother, she assured me she’d never throw me out if I brought a girlfriend home. That was the first of many times my mother tried to figure out if I was a lesbian.

I can’t blame her. Many people, strangers and friends, have wondered the same thing. Some were rather forward about it (and bless them for being so!) and others only said something years after making my acquaintance, and only because the evidence became too hard to miss (for them). I’ve had to disappoint all of them.  I’ve actually had to come out as straight to at least half the people I call my friends (and all of my family).

I’ve always had an aversion to the labels, though. Again, it took me a long time to figure out why. It’s only in recent years I’ve realized that the reason for this is that I don’t really fit. Yes, technically I’m straight. I identify as a woman (sometimes rather vocally, especially when someone hears/reads my RL name and thinks I’m a guy) and although I’ve dabbled, I don’t really fall in  love with women.  The few times I’ve lost my heart – really, truly fell in love – it was with a man. And he was always gay.

So what do you call a woman whose sexual preference (yes, I also hate this word) is gay men? Apparently, I’m a girlfag…(more cringing from me)

I prefer to label myself as Queer, if I absolutely need to.  And I love that the acronym QUILTBAG(Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual,  Gay) puts us first and not last. I’m probably not what the people who created the label had in mind, but I don’t care.

I probably have more gay than straight friends and among them, I feel accepted and understood.  They don’t judge, and most of them probably think I’m a lesbian, but I’ve never had to ‘come out’ to them. It came up in conversation with one woman (one of my female friend’s girlfriend, whom I’d just met) and when I told her I was into men, she replied: “I don’t care!”  and laughed.

The only drawback is that I need to find myself a gay-acting straight man and I can attest to the fact they are rarer than four-leaf clovers!

Which brings us to my writing.

I’ve always written, in one form or another, and when I decided to write romance, it never occurred to me to write het romance. I just like the look – and the idea – of two men together.
Add to that my inflated sense of righteousness and the fact I feel that more people should be raised like me, and not feel that there’s something even remotely wrong with a man loving another man (or a woman loving another woman) and you end up writing m/m romance.

A small part of me hopes that with every book I write, I can make at least one person say: “Hey, this makes sense. These guys belong together. I can see the love they share and it’s nothing special. It’s just love. ”

Of course love is special.  Finding this person you feel comfortable with and want to spend the rest of your life with, will always be special. But I also know enough long-term, gay couples to know that they are just like all the straight couples I know. And I want to write about them and make other people understand this too. (no guys, I’ll never write about YOU!)

So why do you read/write LGBTQ romance? Inquiring minds want to know!

This post is part of the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop. Comment on their page to win their prizes.

The Hand-me-Down by Zahra Owens Cover By Paul Richmond Out in September 2012 From Dreamspinner Press

The Hand-me-Down by Zahra Owens – Cover By Paul Richmond

If you comment and leave me your e-mail address here, you are eligible to win an eBook copy of my next novel, out September 14th from Dreamspinner Press. (comments are screened)
Want an extra chance to win? Join my mailing list and get a second chance!

The winner will be announced on August 28th!


Comments

What Writing GLBTQ Literature Means to Me — 62 Comments

  1. Why I read LGBTQ? Definitely reading about m/m romance where love that defies a label, the happy ever after. This is because it’s sad that people still say that a gay man are unnatural and undeserving of a happy ending. Hope to see a more open world.

    jessica_klang(at)hotmail(dot)com

    • I’m totally with you. The world would be a much nicer place with a little open-mindedness!
      You’re in with two chances, BTW. Thanks for subscribing!

  2. I read it because I enjoy reading about the people our society puts outside the “normal” category. I know there are some people out there that hate me because of who I am without even knowing me or what I stand for. I like reading about people like me finding happiness, love and acceptance. Their stories make me happy.

  3. i read LGBTQ romance simply because i often find the stories more compelling than regular HET romances. A LOT of HET romances i find are very stale and safe where as LGBTQ romance are more dynamic talk about REAL issues and often feature charctures that seem more REAL and more relateable

    parisfan_ca@yahoo.com

    • I can’t deny that us LGBTQ writers generally don’t shy away from real issues. It’s all part of this “let’s torture our characters a little, because the reward will be so much better in the end”.
      You’re in with a chance for the draw!

  4. I love to read – so I appreciate anyone who is talented enough to write. I also grew up where is was not different or strange to be with people who were considered ‘not the norm’. Many many friends who are gay, and the first – non white – family on the block moved into the other half of our duplex. My mom sounds like yours, she never treated anyone differently, so I did not realize until later in life that it wasn’t ‘normal’ to not care who loves who!!

    • It’s strange, isn’t it? Like reverse culture shock. I was appalled to find out some parents actually taught their children to hate. Either by example or literally, by telling them to walk the other way or not talk to a person because they were a different color, wore ‘strange’ clothes or lived on the wrong side of the track.
      I just count my lucky stars! And I’m glad I’m not alone ;-)

  5. I began because I love men, and I see a broader range of male personalities than I do in het romance (which always seemed so cliched and sexist to me).

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

    • Oh yes! Great point! It’s so much easier to play with stereotypes and go against them. Het romance writers can’t seem to get away from them!
      You’re in!

  6. Glad I found you through this hop. =)

    In all honesty, I read GLBTQ romance because it doesn’t make me feel lonely and depressed like het romance does. I never understood why other single girls were obsessed with het romances. As soon as I read my first m/m romance novel I was instantly all, “I don’t care if I end up forever alone, I freaking just found heaven.” =)

    stashlab at gmail dot com

    • From one single girl to another: YAY!!! I think we’re on the same page. Add to that (for me) the fact men in het romances don’t do it for me and the women are not the type I can relate to and I won’t get caught reading one!

      You’re entered into the draw!

  7. It’s always a shock to discover that the attitudes you learned as you grew up aren’t universal. I just wish I’d grown up with such an open variety and not had to spend a lot of time and effort changing my own attitudes.

    I read and write m/m romance because I was so irritated by the generally pathetic females in m/f – and I find men more interesting to read and write about. M/m has a lot more varied plots as well.

    mara.ismine “at” gmail.com

    • Hey Mara!

      Great to see you here!
      I do feel like a lucky girl when it comes to the open-mindedness of my upbringing. And it’s great to hear that there are people who find their way on their own as well.
      See you soon at the UK Meet!

      One more entry written down!

  8. Always loved to read,it has been several years since starting to read m/m books.It woke me up to how badly people were treated for wanting to be treated the same as anyone else.There is no reason for the discrimination and hatred.Thanks for your post.
    cvsimpkins@msn.com

  9. I love reading LGBTQ because sometimes we need to read about what’s actually happening to other people on the other fence. It’s not always greener or bed of roses for those people. It’s sad to know about that but it also shows that people should not discriminate love whether it’s m/f couple or m/m couple or f/f couple or even m/m/f because I always like to read characters that love people regarding of the gender. Of course happy ending are what motivate me to read till the end because of all the sufferings there’s always the sweetness at the end to savour.

    Loh.

    lohahmooi(at)hotmail(dot)com

  10. I will never forget the first time I read a book with a m/m couple in it. I found I was much more interested in them than the het couple the story was supposed to be about…lol. I have been hooked on m/m romance ever since. I just love to read about men and their relationships. Now I also take an interest in GLBTQ rights and voice my opinion whenever possible.

    I love your books and can’t wait to read The Hand-me-down. Thanks for the giveaway!

    lkbherring64(at)gmail(dot)com

    • Like you, I didn’t know what hit me the first time I read about an m/m couple in books. Despite my open-minded upbringing I was still surprised to read about it and I loved it more than the main (f/m) relationship.
      Glad you like my books and of course, you’re entered into the draw!

  11. Picture me spewing out a mouthful of water when I read “When a volcano erupts in Iceland…”

    Haha, never thought Eyjafjallajökull would ever be mentioned in a m/m novel. That’s my mountain right there ^.^ Or a mountain in my country anyway. Besides, that little eruption was based on a misunderstanding: The Brits and Dutch wanted cash, not ash – sorry!

    I write/read m/m because I love it ;) Simple as that.

    Erica Pike
    eripike at gmail dot com

    • Oh yes, it’s an integral part of the plot, although we never go near Iceland! That little mountain of yours brings my men together. Who would have thought! LOL!
      And your reason is the best one in the world. Because it’s also mine.
      Entered the giveaway!

  12. I read LGBTQ books because they bring out emotions which no other genre does.

    Thanks,
    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  13. I read it for the good stories. There probably was a bit of tiltillation because of the “newness” (didn’t grow up like you) when I came across the first m/m books I read, but I really can’t say it’s “because two men are hotter than one”. :p Heck, sometimes I skip the sex scenes cause I’m too impatient to read the rest of the story…

  14. I’ve decided one of the reasons I read m/m fiction is because I just don’t want to read about women in sexual situations anymore.
    Not sure what that makes me, but I avoid books with F/M interactions now.
    I enjoyed Isali Dreams recently, and Diplomacy, so I’d love a chance to win your new book :)

    Sue
    corieltauviqueen at yahoo dot co dot uk

    • So do I, Sue. My mother reads f/m romance and sometimes she gives me the books she really likes, but I can’t read them. So whatever that makes us, we’re in this together!

      Got the addy!

  15. I’ve always figured I was a gay man in a past life (I like that SO much better than girlfag). I have always been attracted to gay men. I have also had people (friends, family and strangers) who assumed (and still do) that I’m a lesbian. My vocal support of LGBTQQ rights and issues has added to that assumption. When people find out I’m writing gay romance, they immediately assume f/f, not m/m. Oh well. I agree that love is love, no matter the gender of the couple. Keep doing what you do. :)

    • I don’t like the term girlfag either. Although I admit my life would be marginally easier if I were a guy (for one, the guys I fall for might like me back!), I don’t feel like “a gay man in a woman’s body”. that said, if I were a guy, I’d definitely be gay, LOL!
      Glad I’m not the only one who’s had to come out as straight (although I don’t do that very often)

  16. Well, I’ve written my thought about why I write it on my blog as part of the hop. As to why I read it? Hmmm. I have no idea. Honestly, I just finished reading a book by Melanie Rawn in which the two main characters are men, and apparently both straight. I’m not buying it. If these two don’t end up together by the end of the series…Well, I guess I’ll be disappointed and I’ll have to re-write it in my mind to end my way. Which is utterly weird, because otherwise, it’s a great book, rich world building, complex characters and all. I don’t even know why my heart is sold on two guys together. Its just the way I’ve always been.

    • Well…it sort of was. I’m still not sure my mother totally believes me. I think she feels that any partner would be good as long as I didn’t stay alone and maybe that’s a good thing as well.

  17. Quite frankly I read GLBTQ because I was bored with mainstream romances. I took chance and found out I love reading them. Their stories were so different from I usually read and I think that is why I liked them. Thank you for sharing your story.
    kaylyndavis1986@yahoo.com

    • You are the kind of reader I hope to persuade. The ‘accidental’ one. The person who isn’t against the idea, but through reading about these characters develops an understanding for the LGBTQ community and maybe becomes an advocate.
      THank you! You’re entered into the draw!

  18. I started reading M/M by mistake actually. I bought a book online with some other books from Ellora’s Cave and one of them turned out to be M/M. To my utter surprise I loved it. Even more so than the regular M/F romances. I’m not sure exactly why but I think it is because the dynamic is different. I found it refreshing. Now I read it almost exclusively. Still loving it. :)

    moriamccain at gmail dot com

  19. I wish everyone was raised like you!!!

    And maybe I need to “come out” straight to my family…not because I was raised like you and my openness has people wondering, but because my family made the decision when I hit my 30′s, was still single, have never brought a boyfriend home and was living with another woman who was single…yes, that is the “connection” that brought them to what they thought was a logical conclusion!!!

    I have both gay and straight friends, and I do read some het stuff, but the idea of two men together is incredibly hot, but more importantly, I just found there was a broader range of characters in the LGBTQ lit, and I found I connected to the stories on an emotional level, I laugh, cry and cheer for them, and I love that about the books!

    Thanks for sharing, I’ve really been enjoying reading everyone’s stories!!!

    diall(at)shaw(dot)ca

    Diane A

    • I think that’s why my family drew the conclusion as well. That and losing a few close friendships (with women) that left me very heartbroken.
      I cheer for the characters in the m/m books I read too and very rarely do that for ‘straight’ romance characters, so you’re right!
      Got your email for the draw!

  20. I love all kinds of love but i think I like M/M because it is full of love but without all the girl parts I don’t like reading about. And whiny females, as a female I hate whiny females!Thanks so much for participating in this hop!I joined the mailing list!
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

    • Oh, I so hear you about whiny females…
      I like my women butch and my guys, well, they can run the gamut, but in real life, I sort of like my men with a feminine side, I admit.

      Thanks for joining the list. You’ve got two chances to win!

  21. Hi Zahra, just signed up for your newsletter, and wanted to say I love your books but Facade is my favorite! And to answer your question:
    First let me preface my answer by saying I can’t type for beans. So I’m answering short and sweet and then copying and pasting at other stops on the hop! Why do I read LGBTQ fiction? Cuz I like it! And it opens my eyes, ears and mind to the trials and tragedies of this community that I had been blind to previously. And it’s made me a better person: it’s made me re examine who I am and what I believe in. It makes me think. And it’s made me step up and speak out for people who are treated as less because of who they are and who they love. And, in the interest of full disclosure, the gorgeous men on the covers don’t hurt!
    seritzko AT verizon DOT net
    (Yup, copied & pasted!)

  22. I’m participating in the hop as well, so I’ll direct you to my post for my answer about why I read and write GLBTQ fiction. :)

    My mother started asking if I was gay while I was in high school, several years before I had any idea. Mother’s intuition? Well, she wasn’t too happy about it but it’s been okay. She didn’t kick me out, just accused me of lying (why??) and didn’t want to talk about it.

    All of my friends are gay men or straight women with a lesbian and bisexual here and there. Among the gay men, when I first meet them, they all think I’m straight unless I tell them otherwise. I don’t know if this is because of the stereotype that lesbians and gays don’t get along, or they expect straight women to hang around them, but I have to come out all the time. I find it interesting that you don’t.

    • According to some people I have the right look to be thought of as a lesbian and my gay friends simply feel I’m ‘one of them’ because straight people don’t ‘choose to hang around with them’.
      One of my gay friends apologized profusely after introducing me to every lesbian he knew (at a party) because I’d told him that I was single, but didn’t feel the need to tell him I was also straight. They just assume… I explained to him that I choose to hang out with gay guys, because I happen to like hanging out with guys, but I can’t stand how straight guys feel this need to try to impress you all the time, even if they’re NOT interested in you.

  23. I love things that are different than “the norm”. I like controversial things. I like things that are like me. For me, m/m romance has that, and so much more. I’ve always been an open person, so reading m/m romance just clicked for me. I got tired of the “damsel in distress” heroines, the “I need a man” heroines, etc. You get where I’m going here? I also didn’t agree with the “men don’t show feelings, they don’t say, I love you” belief/mindset. So m/m romance went against both of those. There were strong “heroine” figures, and the guys actually confessed their feelings! To each other! And it was something different and unique. I can’t fully explain why I first start reading GLBTQ romance, but I know why I still do :)

    I’m on your mailing list :)

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

    P.S. Thanks for using QUILTBAG. I’m not a huge fan of being labeled either, but I identify as asexual, which most people don’t even know about or even recognize as an “orientation,” so it’s nice to see it being mentioned. :)

    • Totally with you!
      And yes, I love QUILTBAG too. It sounds ‘innocent’ and it’s a lot more inclusive. It also says ‘homey’ and ‘warm’ and ‘diverse’ so it works for me on a lot of different levels. There were times in my life I identified as an A as well, but the last few years that’s definitely not true anymore. So I know about that ‘orientation’!
      Two entries for you Emily!

  24. Nice post. I’m enjoying all the different answers everyone is giving to the same question. Thanks for participating :)

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>