In all of the discussion about RWA and its chapter contests and the inclusion of GLBT in the definition of romance, one thing has been missing: a discussion of just why it’s so important that GLBT romance be included.
The realization of one’s GLBT identity can be an extremely painful, lonely, isolating experience. Some people are lucky enough to have a good support system—family and friends who accept and embrace them for who they are. Others are not so lucky. People who come out as GLBT can lose their families, their friends, their jobs, their homes—their entire lives are turned upside down. For these people, books can play a huge part in making them realize something of profound importance: THEY ARE NOT ALONE.
When a kid has been told all his life that homosexuality is wrong, finding a book about kids like him can literally be a life-saver. And that’s not just true of kids. Adults need that affirmation as well.
GLBT literature, like all literature, appears in all genres and deals with all aspects of life. By necessity, much of it deals with issues of alienation, discrimination, fear of living an openly GLBT life. Authors deal with this differently. Some approach it allegorically; for example, they might substitute paranormal creatures as “the other” in a society. Or they might create a utopian gay society in which there is no discrimination, a fantasy world for readers to escape the reality of living day to day as a GLBT-identified person in our world. Some authors have their characters put up a front to deal with their emotions. Anger, for example. Or humor. Some authors are able to produce heartbreakingly realistic characters, showing us their journey as they realize they’re different and struggle to lead a regular life with no guidance in how to do so.
Is it any wonder that romance, with its defining feature of happily ever after, should be so important to GLBT readers, who are told on a daily basis that their relationships are inferior, that their families are not real, that they are not normal and should not expect to be treated as normal? GLBT romance reminds us that we ARE normal, that our relationships are just as good as heterosexual relationships, that we do have the same possibility to meet the person of our dreams, fall in love, and have that happily ever after.
GLBT romance tells that kid who feels so lost and alone that there are people out there who understand, who have been through the same thing and have found love and acceptance. GLBT romance tells that kid that it’s not wrong to want to find a loving relationship with a member of the same sex. That others want the same thing. GLBT romance tells GLBT readers that they don’t have to be alone. They’re worthy of love, and their dreams and hopes and fantasies are every bit as valuable as anyone else’s.
That’s why same-sex romance is important. That’s why we need to keep writing our stories. That’s why we need to make sure nobody tells us that our stories don’t count.