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Happy endings goddammit

by Theo on August 11th, 2011
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I’ve been talking with a couple of my beta readers on Google+ about queerness and my characters, and I mentioned that a big part of why I read fan fiction is that I want to see queer characters included in stories I love. My friend Bex responded:

What I want is fiction, ANY FICTION, with queer couples having happy endings goddammit.

This sentiment is so perfect I want a framed cross-stitch of it to hang on my wall. YES, YES, A MILLION YES.

Here’s the thing I’ll say over and over again until you are sick of hearing it: fiction matters. Fiction is one of the big ways that we, human beings, explore the world around us. We look to stories to show us what’s out there and what other people see, to offer an escape when real life sucks, and to bond over with our peers. We get invested in fiction for good reason. Seeing people like us in the stories we love is important because it confirms that we are a part of this world, that we matter enough to be written about, and that we’re not alone.

This is why it’s important to have queer characters in fiction. This is why it’s important to have any minority group represented in fiction. The world is a big place, folks. There are a LOT of kinds of people. That we should stick to straight, white, cis-gender men as the character default and treat any other group as a a “special interest” is stupid.

Returning to queer characters in particular – because that’s the bent I’m on today and it’s sort of a pet topic – we’ve seen a lot more of them show up in mainstream books, movies, and TV lately than, say, ten years ago. And that’s awesome! But the representations still so often tend toward treating queerness as an obstacle instead of a character trait. There’s the classic coming out story, there’s the hate crime story, there’s the story of how two boys or girls love each other but their gay love gets them in trouble with the outside world in ways that straight love wouldn’t. These are the dominant narratives I keep seeing. They’re important, but they’re overdone, and so many of them end in tragedy. They’re better than the previous dominant narrative of gay characters as sexless comic relief and a big damn step up from the early cinematic narrative of characters being killed off for even appearing sort of queer, but still.

It’s important to see ourselves represented in the stories we love – representation in itself is HUGE – but it’s also important to see ourselves getting a fair shot.

You know what I want to see? I want to see queer characters given the same story arcs as their straight counterparts. I want to see them fall in love, get their hearts broken, and struggle with relationship issues. I want to see characters who are gay, bi, trans, ace, and all the other letters in the alphabet soup given prominent roles where their queerness isn’t their defining quality. I want to see queerness treated as a null trait, like straightness is. And goddammit, yes, I want queer couples to have happy endings, because I don’t just want the stories I love to tell me, “Hey, you aren’t alone” – I want them to tell me, “You aren’t alone, and you deserve happiness just as much as anyone else up here.”

That is not too much to ask.

As a writer, I can promise my beta readers (and with any luck, one day some strangers who pay for my books) that I will always try to tell those kinds of stories. I will include queer characters just because I can. I will write them having adventures and saving the world and getting their hearts broken and glued back together, and unless I feel like I’ve got something new to say about it, I won’t make their queerness an issue.

And I will give them happy endings.

(Goddammit.)

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7 Comments
  1. 'Lista permalink

    Do you happen to read any Rita Mae Brown? She’s probably not your genre, but she writes a mystery series I love, and it’s the first place I’ve seen characters who are REAL and not just queer stereotypes. Probably because, if I remember correctly, she’s queer herself and can write it without turning everything into a tragedy or a comedy. Much love to you, sweets! You’ll change the world with your writing, just wait and see!

    • Nicole permalink

      I haven’t, but I’ve been more interested in mysteries lately, so I might have to pick her up!

      I’m honestly not terribly idealistic in my writing. I’m not out to change the world. Mostly I just write stories that *I* would want to read as a teenager. But I was a weird, lonely teenager who never saw people like myself in the books I read, and I’d love to write books that make another weird, lonely teenager somewhere feel included. That’s the goal I’m working under.

      That, and manipulating my readers’ emotions. *tents fingers* Oh, yes.

      • 'Lista permalink

        Yeah, but how many brilliant minds out there are weird, lonely teenagers right now? That’s my point. If these kids realize at a young age that it’s ok to be who they are, and are able to skip some of that awkward, self-doubting phase, the world WILL be a better place purely by default. And then they’ll be out frolicking and I’ll have SO many more to chase off my lawn! ::tents fingers, too::

  2. Gypsy-Maria permalink

    Yes, this, please.

    I also pledge to write/comic about gay characters that aren’t just part of the trope list. And to give them happy endings whenever I can.

    FTLY reboot may or may not end in tragedy, but it sure as hell won’t be because of the characters’ sexual orientation. That’s not going to be the biggest roadblock for any of them by a long shot. Quasi-Immortal/mortal romances don’t tend to work out for other reasons, though…

    • Nicole permalink

      Maria, dear, you are KILLING me. Write more of this damn comic and send it to me! I need to know what happens next!

  3. Anna permalink

    Nicole, I know we talked about this on Wednesday, but I just wanted to shout yes! again while reading it. I’m so tired of Hollywood thinking That the audience will refuse to relate to anything but a white, straight man (or, you know, Will Smith). I’m sick of living in a world where I am forced to identify solely with this man, because none of the women are fleshed out enough and hardly anyone else even exists on screen. I’m sick of outmoded social constructs being forced upon the world because producers are afraid of losing their bigger pay-off (I’m also sick of 3-D movies since they are scientifically proven to be worse than regular 2-D films, but that’s a separate argument).

    Let’s just say I agree with you 100%

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