I have a concern that has been gnawing at me for some time. When I first started to write I wasposting Uber to the net for the Xenaverse. My stories had some themes to them such as facing breast cancer, child abduction, apartheid and so on, but primarily the stories were a love story between two women. We, as bards, were filling a massive need for books to which lesbian women could relate.
There had been books before. Classics such as Hall’s The Well of Loneliness in 1928 was banned for years in many English speaking nations. Gradually forever, books started to appear as society became more liberal in its views. I would note Guy’s Ruby in 1976, Garden’s Annie on My Mind (1984) and Kerr’s Deliver Us from Evie (1994). All outstanding books dealing with the struggle of being a lesbian in a hostile society.
The rise of publishing houses such as Naiad and Bella Books with a focus on lesbian works allowed the genre to finally move from the occasional book to a small trickle of literature. With publish on demand books, the trickle became a flood not only providing good reads but also helping to solidify, free and define the lesbian communities.
My gnawing issue is that I feel few, there are some such as Jeanette Winterson, authors of lesbian literature have moved their work to mainstream. Part of the issue is mainstream society still has its biases but I don’t think that’s totally the case. I think some of the blame falls on the shoulders of authors of lesbian fiction. I fear we are still writing by and large two types of novels. Those weighty books that deal with the struggles of being a lesbian and those lighter books about two lesbians meeting, facing challenges and generally getting on with it. Nothing wrong with either theme but few of these works are going to grab the mainstream’s interest.
We’ve come a long way in the fight for equal rights and still have a struggle ahead of us. That said, I think authors using lesbian characters need to think more outside the box set. Let’s write books where the central theme is not about being a lesbian. Let’s deal with the contemporary issues that affect all of us as a population. That some of the characters happen to be lesbian should add to the richness of the novel rather than dominating it. If we want to be accepted in society we need to write more books that (a) make the mainstream and (b) show lesbians as, emotionally stable, successful, equal and positive members of the society of which they are apart. There are novels like this out there but we need more, I feel. The more society can relate to us as strong elements within the society and not misfits struggling to establish our identity and a place in the world, the more likely they are to be accepting of us. Authors have a role both to entertain but also to open minds to a greater reality. That’s what art is all about.
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