Why I Write Queer Characters

When I was twelve, I went to see Tracy Chapman live with my best friend. We were twelve and excited, so we were holding hands to avoid getting lost in the crowd. “You shouldn’t do that,” someone said, indicating our hands, “People will think you’re a lesbian.”

patd girls girls boys | Tumblr

MY KING

Look, there’s a lot to break down in this experience. The sexualization of a child. The inherent homophobia of being told not to hold your best friend’s hand. The fact that if I’d been holding a boy’s hand, there still would have been sexualization of a child & discussion about how cute we were together. I think back on this night so often. Mostly because it was the beginning of discovering the homophobia around me, and often directed at me, but also because it’s just fucking gross.

When I was in college, I wrote this insanely long story about Steve Rogers & Tony Stark falling in love over the course of their freshman & sophomore year at college. It was intended to cover all four years, but I abandoned it after 264k words and a little over a year writing it. I met my best friend, Erin, in college. We still talk every single day, we spend our vacations together, I was the maid of honor in her wedding, and she is the reason why a lot of my writing happens. Just for one example out of a million, while we were watching Kill Your Darlings, there’s a scene in the library (you know which one), and we paused the movie to stare at each other in absolute awe. Erin whispered, “Write that into the college au.” I did. Anytime she wanted something written, I got to work. Thus, a lot of my author’s notes featured her, and my regular readers would drop little thank you’s in the comments to her. She was as much part of my fanfiction as I was.

This story was my heart and soul, at the time, and I loved it dearly. So many other people loved it, too. But, of course, there’s always going to be those who don’t understand love, and who want to just tear everyone around them down.

I definitely want to put a warning that these screenshots are heavy on the cyberbullying & homophobia. I’ve also not included everything because some of it doesn’t make sense taken out of context (ie: you need to read the entire 264k word story), but if you’re really curious, well, I posted both the comments & my replies (one & two) on Tumblr ages ago (ffs this was back in 2015?? I feel so old)

Fucking hell, I forgot how bad these were. I knew. I mean, I read them all, I responded to every piece in them, but I must have blocked out the extent of them from my memory because this has put me into a rage going back through them.

I’ve got one last example that sticks out vividly from my memory, and then we’re going to finally launch into the nitty gritty of this post. In August 2017, I decided that I wanted to finally cut off all my hair. HA I wrote heart, not hair, that is the second time I’ve done that this month, CLEARLY I’VE GOT SOME HEART/HAIR ASSOCIATION. I am in no way under the assumption that I was cutting my hair only because I wanted to cut it. I’d just experienced the worst friendship breakup ever, and since the heart/hair association is a pretty common thing, I definitely wanted to chop it all off because, well, my heart had just been broken. But I also have always wanted to cut it off! So I chopped it really short, quickly realized it was terrible and immediately wanted it all back, and then experienced a lot of homophobia over the next several months while my hair grew back.

I started wearing a baseball hat purely because I was upset with my hair and wanted to hide it. But, suddenly, the conversation around me started to become, “You shouldn’t wear plaid today. You already look like a lesbian with the hat, that’ll just make it worse.”

♬ ♬ ♬ | dodieandco: she tastes like birthday cake and... (With ...

Honestly, I don’t even have to get into the actual post. The implications are there. So many people reading this has experienced something similar, have felt that rage afterward, and wanted to turn it into something. And so many of us have turned it into queer stories. But we live in a world where implications are usually just queerbaiting, so I am going to get into it.

My characters are always queer. I don’t have straight MCs. Often, I don’t even have straight side characters. I always joke, “Straight characters are boring to me,” but it’s the truth. Straight is not the only norm, but they dominate all forms of entertainment, and it’s fucking boring.

I write queer characters because I am sick to death of not seeing myself in media. Because I am sick to death of homophobia in all the big and little ways. Because I am sick to death of every goddamn heteronormative conversation and situation that I am forced into on a daily basis. I write queer characters because I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that someone told me not to hold my best friend’s hand because people would think I was a lesbian. Is there something fucking wrong with that? Are you so afraid of people living their honest lives? Does my loving women and men equally do anything to you? Does it effect you in the slightest? Also, STOP SEXUALIZING CHILDREN. When best friends hold hands, that’s it. It does not matter their gender. It does not matter their eventual sexual orientation. Instead, praise your children for being so openly able to love that they’ll hold anyone’s hand that they deem worthy.

She was, and still is, my best friend, and I still hold her hand because I love her more than anything in the world, and showing that to the world is not a fucking crime.

I go visit Erin for days at a time because she is my best friend, and I love her, and I miss her when we’re apart, and expressing our mutual desire to be in the same goddamn physical space is not a fucking crime.

I snuggle into bed with Jen and read books together because she is my best friend, and I love her, and I don’t get to see her a lot, and taking a selfie of us hiding behind the same book, snuggled close, is not a fucking crime.

I write queer characters because I have been made to feel like my existence is wrong for my entire life, and I am over that noise. You really want to know what the “gay agenda” is? Acceptance. Love. Honesty. Openness. Freedom. Maybe instead of shaming people for who they love, we should shame the “straight agenda” of intolerance and violence.

eugene lee yang | Tumblr

Okay, that got angry real quick. I’m not going to apologize. But honestly? I write queer characters because I’m angry. Really, I write queer characters because I write characters. That’s it. I write stories that are realistic, and thus, there are queer characters. I write queer characters to say fuck you to every single person that has ever come at me with their homophobia.

Well, here’s to you, queens. I love you for being queer. I love you regardless of whether you’re queer or not. I really don’t care what you’re into as long as you’re not awful. And if you’ve got a harmful phobia or ism issue, well, move along. We don’t have anything to talk about.

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Mary RYT 200 Tibetan Buddhism Gryffindor Part-time witch, full-time novelist. Lover of words, planets, dragons, and mountains.

8 thoughts on “Why I Write Queer Characters

  1. Mary, I absolutely loved reading this post, and I’m so sorry about all of those horrible comments directed at you. And I completely relate. I remember when I started writing queer fanfiction in high school and how freeing it felt, even though I wasn’t even out to myself at that point. Then discovering books like Simon vs. and Aristotle and Dante, which got me back into reading YA after years of barely reading anything. Reading and writing about queer characters has absolutely changed both how I interact with fiction and how I think of my own identity.

    Like, I remember when I had recently Realized that I was not straight, and soon after, I decided to make the MC of my WIP at the time bi. It was a moment of “huh, I guess I can do that??” And ever since then, I haven’t gone back. The MC of my current WIP is ace, which has allowed me to explore my own ace identity in new ways, and the thought of someone someday reading my work and seeing themselves for the first time is so important to me.

    “You really want to know what the “gay agenda” is? Acceptance. Love. Honesty. Openness. Freedom.” YES ABSOLUTELY. Love, love, love this. Wonderfully written, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you! I’ve been asked time and time again why I have no straight characters in my books, and I’ve just gotten so fed up with it that I figured I could just throw this post at everyone who asks from now on. Or maybe the better response is, “Why are there only straight ones in yours?”

      Books are so, so important, and not just because they give us creativity and imagination and new friends, but because so many people don’t get to see themselves in mainstream media, but then we’ve got books, which are the weird little corner of the world where anything can happen. Obviously, we’ve still got a lonnnnnng way to go, but I keep imagining my high school self coming across a queer book and how life-changing that would have been.

      Thank you so much! ❤

      Like

  2. What the hell is wrong with people???? Ugh, I am so so sorry the people have acted like that, it’s totally unacceptable. I didn’t get into fanfic until I was in my early 20’s (which was still a really long time ago) but now thinking back I wrote a lot of queer stories as well. I didn’t think about it at the time, it just happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeahhhhh, I ask myself that a lot. I honestly blocked out so much of those comments, I hadn’t even realized until I was going back to grab screenshots and was like “oh right these were actually pretty horrible.” I feel like the majority of fanfiction is queer, and it’s just so wonderful. I love that we’ve got this little corner of the internet to celebrate in!

      Like

  3. Wow Mary, this post is really powerful. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to endure such disgusting homophobia. Since joining the wonderful book blogging community, it’s really hit home how much I, as a straight cis woman, take for granted the representation of people like me in books. Thank goodness we have dedicated, passionate and rightfully angry writers like you to challenge this harmful status quo. Happy pride and keep doing you!!! Take care 🌈❤️ X x x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, thank you so much! I’ve definitely not experienced the kind of homophobia I know some people go through, that’s really just horrible and detrimental, but even a little is enough. Thank you for reading, and always for the support! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

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