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!
Today, we have the wonderful Tibby Armstrong. Tibby always writes the most wonderful posts and today she has decide to write a very personal piece, demonstrating the need for LGBT fiction. I love this post. She is also giving away an audio book copy of No Apologies when it is released from Audible later in 2015 to a commenter.
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A few years back I had an interesting discussion with some acquaintances about gay romance and coming out themes. If you know my fiction (most notably, the Hollywood series), then you know where I landed on this argument. The people with whom I chatted felt that coming out was rendered irrelevant by marriage equality, pro-gay films, news media tolerance and coverage of sexuality issues, and the general uptick in societal acceptance of homosexuality.
I remember wondering one thing in this conversation, and that question has played over and over in my head ever since. What’s wrong with me that I still feel I need coming out fiction? The themes and questions coming out stories explore are my own. They reflect my struggle for acceptance, and my struggle to understand society’s treatment of me when I was a teen and young adult. Even now I have trouble holding a woman’s hand in public for fear of recrimination. Every time I do, I feel as if I’m coming out all over again. The ironic thing? These women are my friends. I’m not even dating them. I’ve never so much as kissed them. Yet I have a hard time displaying affection for them publicly because I’m terrified of being outed. Yes, you read that right. Terrified.
I don’t think I’m a coward. I mean, I’m pretty open that I’m bisexual, was in a relationship with an FtM for most of my teen and adult life, and have dated both men and women. I only opened up in a public way, however, once I wrote No Apologies in 2011. I had never, ever said, “I’m bisexual.” Why? Well, mostly because I was “read” and “outted” with my lover in junior high, and was bashed enough then to last a lifetime. I’ve been thrown against walls, felt up, put down, manhandled by male relatives, and jeered at in the street. I’ve been threatened with rape, and had a “friend” give Sally Jesse Raphael’s staff my phone number when I was in my twenties. They called and wondered if I’d go on her show to out my FtM lover. (hashtag, WTF)
Every time I behave in a way that labels me as sexually different I feel Other. Outside. Freakish. Abnormal. Ugly. AFRAID. When I write coming out fiction? I feel Empowered. Aware. Connected. Beautiful. Sexy. Understood. I can’t be the only one, can I? Just because the media is willing to print stories about marriage equality, just because I won’t be bashed if I remember not to go where I’m not accepted, and just because my uncle is no longer a part of my family, doesn’t mean that my mother doesn’t blanch every time I make a comment about a lovely woman. It also doesn’t mean that the hateful words and actions don’t still echo in my head.
I write gay romance predominantly for myself. I explore my past, my experiences, my feelings, and my psychological hangups through my characters. They argue with me constantly, have loads of the same fears I have, and are a great substitute for therapy. Thankfully, they also happen to tell what I think is an interesting story. I deserve to be able to reflect on these issues, and other people deserve to have fiction that allows them to ask all the questions and explore the fears we’re apparently not supposed to experience anymore.
I defy anyone to tell me that coming out isn’t still a frightening prospect for the majority of LGBT youth. Even if coming out weren’t a big deal anymore, we still need coming out stories to help us remember how much harder coming out can be (and was) without support of our communities, media, families, and friends. True, my stories were set in the mid-nineties–the time period just after my own teenage years. It was indeed more taboo and scary then to be LGBT. You didn’t so much come out as get outed. You had few choices about where to live and how to live and with whom who to live. Society HAS gotten better. Better, however, doesn’t mean perfect. There are still fights to be fought and battles to be won. I’m proud of how far we have come as a society, but I’m not complacent. Not for a moment.
Call it PTSD, and it probably is, but I will never be able to hold my best friend’s hand in public without wondering when someone will attack me verbally or physically. The only place I truly feel safe is in my fiction. I can explore my feelings there. I can be brave there. I can connect with others there. I can heal my old hurts there. I can also write myself an extraordinarily happy ending–the kind of ending I wish my partner and I had been able to create for ourselves.
If during all those explorations I manage to help someone else understand how to love and who they love? If I help them connect with a family member or themselves, then I’ve put back one of the bricks that was torn out of the foundation of my own life. I want to build people up, and sometimes that doesn’t involve pretending all the hard work has been done. Sometimes it involves showing just how hard we’ve fought and just how much we’ve won. In the end, it does get better, but it can be better still.
So for all of you who write and read coming out fiction and LGBT romance? Thank you. In you, I’m no longer alone. You’ve healed some of the old hurts and helped me brighten the darker parts of my world. I am not even one fifth as brave as many of you. Through you, and with you, however, I can muster the courage to stand up and admit that I think, for all its hardships, my journey has been really amazing. I wouldn’t trade a moment of my life, for all its ups and downs, because it led to where I am now. With you. Making it better.
About the Author
On the terrestrial plane, she dreams of springtime in Paris, and has journeyed across the pond to London, Oxford, and Bath. She travels more extensively, through worlds both strange and familiar, via science fiction, urban fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, and travel memoirs.
Tibby’s favorite authors include Connie Willis, Elizabeth Moon, C.E. Murphy, Maria V. Snyder, Karen Marie Moning, Charlaine Harris, and Jane Austen, to name a few. To see the rest, and read some reviews, find her extensive reading list on GoodReads.
Having recently completed her MLS, when she’s not writing, Tibby works toward defying librarian stereotypes; yet, she lives with her cat Cassandra, four laptops, and enough books to collapse a poorly engineered house. Most weekends you can find her in a local coffee shop with one of the laptops and a full-fat mocha. (She’s working on getting the cat to come along.)
Cheerful and friendly, Aaron Blake has never met a puzzle that intrigues him more than brooding Greg Falkner. He wants to get to know his roommate, but it seems the only way past his shell is through it. When a reluctant friendship turns into a budding romance, can the two keep their feelings secret from their classmates? Or will their newfound love destroy them both?
So goes the story screenwriter Greg Falkner spins for audiences and his longtime partner, Aaron Blake, in No Apologies. Loosely based on their lives together, the film rocks Hollywood with its blatant portrayal of two teenagers falling in love and coming of age in a world that struggles to accept them, while they in turn struggle to accept themselves.
At the end of the evening, will Greg’s risky venture break a relationship that’s already foundering? Or will the real life Greg and Aaron also find their happily ever after with no apologies?