24 May '15

LGBTQ Event : Writing Outside the Binary by Ray Van Fox

Posted in LGBT 2015 / 0 Comments

Hola and a big smushy WELCOME to our LGBTQ event which is here for the month of May. We have reviews, Guest Posts, Top Ten List and lots and lots of prizes all with a LGBT theme. The posts will be indexed on the side and I do hope you hop through … I have been so lucky this year!

This post epitomizes why we need diverse romance. I am so lucky to have the wonderful Ray Van Fox with this post and it shows that, although romance is starting to become more inclusive, there still is some work to do. There should be a romance for everyone, no matter what gender they identify with or what their sexuality. This post is truly personal and I am so glad Ray shared it with us all 🙂

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I never read romance growing up. I never identified with the women characters that were supposed to represent me, and I didn’t recognize the men characters in any of the men around me. I couldn’t believe that the stories being told were what I was supposed to find attractive, let alone that they were what would happen to me. This was way before I recognized the fact that I was a huge queer, both in my gender and sexuality.

But just because I couldn’t find something recognizable to my life’s experience in the genre didn’t mean my story wasn’t worth telling — or that someone like me didn’t deserve a happy ever after.

A lot about queerness has evolved since I was growing up in the eighties. Recognition of transgender, asexual, and pansexual identities is more prevalent — at least within the community. And yet, within published romance I haven’t been able to find stories where people like me grapple with the everyday dramas of life, love, and happiness. They don’t really exist — not in book form, anyway. Hell, there are still only a handful of trans stories out there, let alone the ones that represent me more fully.

You see, I’m genderqueer. I was assigned female at birth, but from a very early age I presented as — and felt most comfortable as — a somewhat masculine person. Back then I was a tomboy. Now, I’m a transboi. Sort of. I’m somewhere under the trans* umbrella, in a sometimes invisible, sometimes recognizable place on the gender spectrum, feeling the pull of masculinity without making any physical/permanent changes to my body. I prefer masculine pronouns, but I have a lot of friends who choose to go by ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’. And once you start getting into the grey areas of gender, whether it’s a presumed disconnect between body type and pronouns, or simply hanging out in the androgynous parts of the spectrum, putting a recognizable label to the type of love we seek gets difficult.

‘Opposite gender’ doesn’t make sense in this case, though neither does ‘same gender’. Not fitting easily into either het or gay/lesbian categories makes life interesting, but it also complicates the stories we want to tell. Where do you categorize a story between two people who use the pronoun ‘they’ no matter whether their birth-assigned genders look similar or different? Because it’s not what’s in their pants that matters when they fall in love, it’s how they see each other and how they feel seen.

I’ve heard talk about pronoun issues when writing two men in bed. Try using ‘they’ in both singular and plural ways for two genderqueer characters together! I once tried to write a story about three people without using any gendered pronouns for two of them, and let me tell you the grammatical acrobatics I went through to keep things clear were exhausting. But to me, that work was more than worth it to be respectful to my characters.

I’ve heard people say they find it freeing to write M/M romance instead of M/F because when there are two men interacting, the pull of societal gender roles isn’t as strong — the characters are on equal footing and the power dynamics involved can be chosen instead of enforced from the outside. The problem I see there is that the men in romance novels may be equal, but they are still tied down by their masculinity in the ways society prescribes for them.

This gender trap is why I want to write outside of the binary completely. I think it’s important for people who have been socialized as either women or men, and who want to break free of society’s expectations, to have a chance at feeling that equality with their partner no matter what either of them have been taught about how their bodies should interact.

Not a small feat, I know, but a challenge I’m willing to accept.

About the Author

Ray Van Fox spends way too much time in front of a computer, but at least thirty-five percent of it is spent actually writing (links and excerpts at rayvanfox.com). Ray grew up in Chicago, came out in Iowa, changed pronouns in Seattle, and finds family in queerdom.

He just finished writing his first original novel, Foxhunt, an FTM/M shifter romance, with good friend and co-writer Kara Braden who has published two het romances so far.

 

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