Happy endings goddammit
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.