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Guest Post: Not Your Fairy &@*#% Godmother

Wicked LiesThe following is a guest post from Karina Cooper. Robin will be continuing her series next week.   Karina Cooper recently released Wicked Lies an original e-novella published in Cooper’s Dark Mission world.

Wicked Lies is about Jonas Stone—the brilliant, wounded computer programmer who’s helped countless members of the rebellion break free from the clutches of the Church in New Seattle. It’s also about Danny Granger: a captive of the Church, who’s been beaten and bloodied, in the hopes of bringing down the rebellion. But mostly, as Karina says, it’s a story about humans, and the “wicked lies” they tell one another when they’re too scared to take a chance—and about the chances they take anyhow.

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How many books have we read, how many chick flicks, romcoms, and bro-mantic comedies have we seen that feature the sassy gay friend? You know, the guy who miraculously went to the same School of Styling that every other gay man has been to, graduated with honors and bases his entire sense of self around giving our protagonist a make-over to help him or her find love?

Or let’s talk about the lesbian who is little more than a girl who wants to be a man, the villain whose entire shtick is to be the catty, flaming foil complete with perfect hair and expensive designer brands, the bi-sexual girl who’s a sorority sister.

In short, let’s talk LGBTQ stereotypes.

The Sassy Gay Friend

If there’s one stereotype we know and almost universally embrace in media, it’s the sassy gay friend. In the realm of fiction, our sassy gay friend lives for one thing and one thing only: to advise our protagonist—usually a woman—with extremely biting and extremely well-intentioned guidance.

You know him from movies like My Best Friend’s Wedding or Sweet Home Alabama, from Kurt’s extremely fabulous flair on Glee, the quintessentially queer Will and Grace, to the one-hit-wonder-maker in Bridget Jones’ Diary—although, in BJD’s defense, he operates within a tight niche of supporting characters that all take turns (or don’t bother taking turns) shouting out in-your-face advice regarding the heroine’s love life.

For the most part, the sassy gay friend is denied his own romances—or at least, denied romances that last. Sometimes, he is seen to hop from bed to bed like a troubadour of fashionable one-night-stands, while other times he is content to be sexless—usually meaning gay and uninterested in pursuing his own romances—and guide our heroine through her own hot mess of a love life. In the meantime, through the power of quantum physics and wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey continuum-bending truths, he has also managed to complete a PhD in the art of fashion, hair and make-up. He is always ready at the drop of a hat to completely make-over our protagonist—again, usually a woman, but not always—thereby proving that if you’re having trouble landing a man (or a woman), all you need is a sassy gay friend and some highlights.

My Experiences With the Sassy Gay Friend

I’ve known men like this, gay fellows who actually use the word “fabulous” and truly are some of the most fabulous people I’ve ever met. Some went drag on occasion and looked better than I could ever hope to be, and I’ve had more than my share of gay man crushes.

However, not one has ever suggested that I could “fix my life” by way of a make-over, and while I enjoyed shopping with the occasional sassy gay friend, it was usually me giving them much needed advice on rather rocky love lives.

Look, my experiences may differ from yours, but here’s the point: sassy gay men may be sassy, gay, and men, but they are so much more than your ambulatory stylists. They have hopes and dreams, fears and failures. They want things?some want love, some want careers, some want babies, just like us. Some actually want to be stylists. Don’t discredit them by forcing them into a niche just because you’re more comfortable treating a sassy gay man like a tool.

Notable Exceptions

Suzanne Brockmann is an old-hat at this LGBTQ in fiction ring, and rightfully so. Jules from her Troubleshooters series is a man who is suave, elegant and seem to have it all together. He could have so easily been the sassy gay friend of the series, but delving into his psyche proves to be a welcome relief from the stereotype—Jules is full of surprises.

In the ensemble cast movie Valentines Day, Bradley Cooper (so much heart) plays a dapper businessman in an expensive suit, with adorably and perfectly coiffed curly hair and lots of advice for returning soldier Julia Roberts. In this case, his sexuality is relatively low-key, the kind of detail that clicks into place towards the end in what is probably the sweetest and most heartwarming reveal of the whole movie. It would have been easy to send him over the top, but Valentine’s Day dusted off the stereotype and gave him more depth than most movies would.

And we certainly can’t talk about the fabulous Lafayette in True Blood, who bucks stereotyping not with his keen fashion sense and over-the-top attitude, but because he can kick the ass of anyone who gives him crap for his sexuality. It’s nice to see a man comfortable enough with his sassy self who can still take care of himself, rather than relying on the big strong alpha male or the understanding sensitive girl to stick up for him.

The Butch Lesbian

This depiction of an aspect of the LGBTQ community tends to be both highly visible and almost completely invisible. On the one hand, the trope of the lesbian who wears men’s clothes, no make-up, and who looks and acts as masculine as possible is widely recognized—and derided—by the everyday audience. The butch lesbian is either exceptionally masculine, often going so far as to challenge the alpha male character for dominance, or extremely meek, with low self-esteem and an often unspoken desire to actually be a man. The latter is usually prime ground for “conversion”, often as a vehicle to showcase the protagonist’s—male or female—kindness and friendship (or, in the case of the male protagonist, how irresistible he is).

I ran into a snag, here. I know that there is a stereotypical depiction of the “butch” lesbian in films and books—I actually remember seeing them and making a mental comment. But I can not, no matter how hard I search, find examples. Even Twitter Fu has failed me, with a few suggestions showcasing masculine women who aren’t, actually, lesbians at all.

This is extremely indicative of the visible/invisible issue. Everyone knows the trope—no one remembers anything that exploited it.

My Experiences with the Butch Lesbian

This is a very real subset of the lesbian community and one that deserves more respect than it gets. I have known exactly one butch lesbian in my life (with enough confidence to say “know” and not “know of”)—self-described, but also easily fitting into the stereotype as I know it—and she was very much into comfortable clothing, no make-up, and short hair. She enjoyed playing up her masculinity, but she never once wanted to be a man.

Butch lesbians are often portrayed in popular media as a kind of “soft” butch—just enough femininity that she won’t threaten the dominant male characters in a story or a setting. They feminize her, soften her edges, make her “cuter”, but still usually cast as fumbling, awkward, aggressive or with low self-esteem. These things can certainly apply to any one person, straight or otherwise, but it does the entire group a disservice to continue to portray them this way.

The most popular lesbian trope seen on TV and in books is the “lipstick lesbian”, which is the reverse—pretty (often gorgeous and sexy altogether), into make-up and hair and fashion, and not at all threatening in any way to the concept of male dominance. Because, you know, they’re pretty. And feminine. And whee.

Notable Exceptions

Christa Faust has a really amazing book out called Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick, featuring a hard-boiled lesbian private investigator and some hard-hitting crime noir. Butch is unapologetically, well, butch, but she’s more than that: she’s a living, breathing, thinking character whose tropes fall more in line with the hard-boiled crime stereotype than within “accepted” butch lesbian boundaries. She’s not at all what you expect from a “standard” lesbian character, but at the same time, she can’t be accused of throwing off the community she represents. As velvetpark.com said, “Faust’s main character is what a small-town butch like myself aspires to be: confident, cocky, masculine, and sensitive all in one package.”

The Gay Villain

This particular trope is not about villains who are also gay, but villains who are villainous because they are gay. This is a bit of storytelling that could provide some unique psychological insights into the make-up of The Villain as a Person, but often falls very short of the mark. Rather than explore the whys and hows, gay villains are usually played up as extremely brutal, cold, unfeeling, and evil because they have, recently or systematically, been rejected by their (usually straight) crushes.

Most notable of these are characters such as Tom Ripley, whose yearning for Dickie Greenleaf provides some suggestion of “emotional investment” in The Talented Mr. Ripley, or American Beauty’s Frank Fitts, who is so deeply closeted that he hinges a murderous decision on a rejected (and fumbled) pass.

A sub-set of the Gay Villain is the Fabulously Gay Villain, who is airily effete and perfectly coiffed, often played by men with the same kind of sardonically delivered panache as Carson Kressley. In many cases—usually permeated through Hollywood satires—the Fabulously Gay Villain is catty, cruel and cutting because it’s “fashionable”, suggesting that living the life of the Fabulously Gay anything leads to bitterness and empty relationships.

My Experiences with the (Fabulously) Gay Villain

I’ve been on the receiving end of some rather nasty verbal assaults from people I would—in the social drama that is my movie—classify as “villains”. I have also seen the full force of the angry gay villain unleashed upon others. The thing that I came to understand was this: gay villainous types are no different than normal villainous types. They are lashing out for reasons that could be as deeply personal as a bone-deep hurt or as unreasonable as a bad day.

There are any number of serial killers who they’d say after, “We found some gay paraphernalia”—heaven only knows what they’re classifying as “gay paraphernalia”—“and so that explains it,” which pretty much makes me insane with rage. Look: Sexuality struggles repressed long enough can and often does lead to long-term imbalances in the same way that anxiety issues too long repressed can and often does lead to long-term imbalances. Anything can be the reason for behaviors we don’t understand, and to pigeon hole “the gay thing” as the singular reason for villainy is to take the lazy writer’s way out. Don’t be lazy.

To be perfectly blunt, gay men and women are people, and people do shitty things for shitty reasons. Some people—straight, gay, questioning, whatever—are simply awful people. There are always reasons. Delving into those reasons is what makes a character come to life. Villainy for the sake of villainy gets treated in fiction the same way it gets treated in real life—we stop caring.

Notable Exceptions

Surprisingly, it’s an old 1955 classic that wins this round. Diabolique features a villainess who conspires—with her abusive lover’s wife—to murder the man abusing them both. In this movie, the closeness and affection between the strong, dominant Nicole and the quiet, meek Christina is not the reason for the crime, but a by-product of it.

Following Diabolique is Omar Little from The Wire. This guy is seriously badass, a Robin Hood kind of villain—and possibly even arguably a “villain”—who can literally clear the streets just by walking into a corner store. He’s gay, but he’s not a robber, thief and stick-up man because he’s gay. He is who he is for reasons that span the gamut, and that’s the way it should be.

Karina CooperThe Sorority Sister

Every movie and TV show that references college or college-aged characters includes references to the freaky sorority sisters who engage in “college lesbianism”, then come out as bisexuals before they graduate—only to, often, “revert” back to straight-ness once they become “adults”. Drinking and drugs are often aids to this sexuality “discovery”, thereby prolonging an unfair stereotype that all bisexuals are a) female, b) college-aged, and c) faking it.

Bisexuals in books and media tend to hover around high school or college-aged, are most frequently women, and spend more time cozying up to the opposite sex save when the occasional fan service is called for. Witness the yo-yo’ing of Britney and Santana in Glee, or the antics of Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body—which was a decent enough movie (seriously!) but still managed to “excuse” Jennifer’s sexuality as “all because of the thing inside her”.

The overwhelming theory behind bisexuality—one that infects even the LGBTQ community—is that bisexuality is just a fancy way of saying “I haven’t decided yet”, and this tends to  color most characters who are painted with the same brush.

My Experiences With the Sorority Sister

I dropped out of (community!) college three times and never even got near a sorority sister, much less pledged to a house. I am bisexual. Yes, I happen to be female, I am married to a man, and I figured myself out around college-age, but I am really very comfortable with my sexuality—which happens to include perving on all genders; yes, you’re welcome for that.

I know and know of men who are bisexual—who can forget possibly the most famous bisexual man of all time, Mr. David Bowie?—and I know women who are bisexual, in and out of college. All of us are amazingly complex, wonderful people. Our sexuality is as much a part of us as yours is of you—sometimes a bigger part, sometimes less so (no innuendo intended, shush)—and to discount the bisexual man or woman out of hand as a “phase” or as “undecided” is a massive disservice to people who aren’t any different from you. While I may joke and call myself “greedy”, I am much deeper a person than that, and bisexuality in a character should reflect this: bisexuality is more than just a reason to screw everything in sight.

Notable Exceptions

Can’t touch this one without looking at what is shaping up to be my favorite show on TV—Lost Girl. The thing I love most about this series, which features succubus and bisexual Bo as the titular lead, is that Bo’s sexuality is simple present. There is no message hammered over your head multiple times, there’s no constant nod to it, there’s nothing. It simply is. It’s a part of who she is and it’s generally accepted by the other characters with no sly wink, no raised eyebrows. Nothing that may suggest that there’s something wrong with it but that it’s okay because the others accept her. Such a refreshing change.

Chasing Amy happens to be another favorite. Although the Kevin Smith film begins the movie with the female protagonist, Alyssa, as a “verified lesbian”, she falls in love with the male protagonist and gives this speech that stuck with me for years:

 You know, I didn’t just heed what I was taught, men and women should be together, it’s the natural way, that kind of thing. I’m not with you because of what family, society, life tried to instill in me from day one. The way the world is, how seldom it is that you meet that one person who just *gets* you – it’s so rare. My parents didn’t really have it. There were no examples set for me in the world of male-female relationships. And to cut oneself off from finding that person, to immediately halve your options by eliminating the possibility of finding that one person within your own gender, that just seemed stupid to me. So I didn’t. But then you came along. You, the one least likely. I mean, you were a guy. … And while I was falling for you I put a ceiling on that, because you *were* a guy. Until I remembered why I opened the door to women in the first place: to not limit the likelihood of finding that one person who’d complement me so completely. So here we are. I was thorough when I looked for you. And I feel justified lying in your arms, ’cause I got here on my own terms, and I have no question there was some place I didn’t look. And for me that makes all the difference.

 

in the end, what it comes down to is this:

I am a member of the LGBTQ community, and I am not your #&@% fairy godmother. I am not your fabulous villain with perfect hair, I am not your easy lay sorority sister, and I sure as hell am not your butch lesbian in serious need of some deep dicking.

Conversely, I have days when I’m all for helping a girl out with her hair, or go shopping with a fellow for just-right jeans. I can do make-up with the best of them and I love dress shopping—when I’m in the mood. So, yeah, I’ll hit those tropes. But I don’t live there.

I have hopes, dreams, and desires, and I have flaws like whoa. Every decision in my life is not shaped by my sexuality, but there are decisions that are. I am, like you, just like everyone else. And I deserve to have the same shot at love, at trials and victories and adventures, as every other character out there. We all do.

Obviously, there is a remarkable shortage of three-dimensional LGBTQ characters in fiction, each falling upon tropes that depend on lack of depth to achieve the goal, and the disservice this does the LGBTQ community is ridiculous—because we are people, too.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for tired LGBTQ stereotypes that need some serious refreshing in the comments. Pony up, y’all. What are you tired of seeing, and what would you like to see instead?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

25 Comments

  1. Amitatuq
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 05:43:04

    Thank you! My sister is a good example of refusing to fall into those stereotypes…maybe because she’s a 3D person in addition to a lesbian? She’s fairly butch, but such a fashion snob. And she spends more time and money on grooming than I would ever bother with. She never wears women’s clothes really, but she likes to be treated as a woman. Basically she’s as human and multi-faceted as anyone. And it would be nice for books to treat her that way.

  2. Patricia Eimer
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 07:12:22

    Well dressed gay men. I’m sorry but my brother and his man are both terrible dressers. There is so much plaid in that closet and hiking boots (they live in a city and its not Seattle). Being gay does not immediately make you fashionable.

  3. Kathy Coleman
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 08:05:32

    The Androgynous Lesbian. She’s not butch — but she usually wears men’s style clothes (often cargo pants/shorts and a button-down or polo shirt), wears her hair cropped short and spiked up, but doesn’t act like or pretend to be male. Of ten she’s very straightforward and aggressive, outgoing and confident… and I’m not sure if she’s a stereotype, since I know so many women like this! It’s a look my own wife would love to achieve, but she was gifted with so many curves she can’t quite make it.

    I know some “fabulous!” men and some who are just guys; I’ve met the tattooed bull dykes and the lipstick lesbians. I know stereotypes are “wrong,” but sometimes they do exist out there. I guess it does all boil down to everyone is an individual, and some of their acts or actions might make them somewhat stereotypical, but NO ONE is “all that”!

    I was recently pleased to see them “out” Harry on Mike & Molly — a less stereotypical gay man I’ve never seen on television!

  4. Aleksandr Voinov
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 08:05:51

    Next one up: Trans* people as 150% Saints (or the Holier-than-thou character/mouthpiece); trans* people as victims (humiliated, raped and murdered, ideally, giving cis people the opportunity to reflect on those poor trans* people), and trans* people who are unhinged, crazy, psychopathic and murderous.

    Any takers? :)

    (Thanks for the post. These sterotypes are driving me batty.)

  5. Ros
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 08:22:13

    One more Notable Exception. I thought Kelly Hunter did pretty well in The One That Got Away. It’s hard in a category book to have any kind of secondary romance going, but she manages to give her gay character a really sweet one.

  6. tangodiva
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 08:26:08

    OMAR! Yes, great example. I don’t view Omar as a villain at all . And I loved how his sexuality was treated in that series – just a part of him.

  7. AnimeJune
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 08:31:21

    Interesting that you mention Kurt from “Glee,” because he’s one of the few gay characters I’ve known who started as this trope (in season 1, although he had his moments of utter brilliance), then developed into an actual character with storylines, agency, and a devoted love interest (seasons 2-3), only to be demoted in the season 3 finale and the season 4 hot mess train wreck back into a gay sidekick who’s SO LONELY he buys a special body pillow called “the boyfriend arm.”

    I really loved Kurt and how his character developed and was pretty pissed off with the So Bad It’s Not Even That Good Anymore Fourth Season’s treatment of him as an object of tragedy and pity (in the Christmas episode alone – he’s reminded of His Mom’s Death, his Dad gets Cancer, and he shares an awkward duet with his Cheating Ex).

    And don’t even get me started on the show’s treatment of lesbians (Santana was outed, then “saved” by a white dude singing Cyndi Lauper) and bisexuality (tee hee, Brittany’s a moron who is depicted as comically promiscuous and can’t even SAY the word bisexual [she says bicorn or bilingual, because she’s a dumb blond you see]).

  8. Tina
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 10:19:24

    Omar, FTW! Yes, great character not only because he is a bad-ass because because of the intersection between sexuality & race and the racial politics that underlie street-cred.

    I would also add Max from Happy Endings as a notable exception — a criminally under watched ABC sitcom that is hysterical. Max is sloppy, unemployed, schlubby, a schemer and a great friend. And manages to get hot boyfriends that he promptly alienates through various schemes and neuroses.

    ETA: An example of a Butch lesbian in film is Queen Latifah’s character Cleo in the movie Set It Off. Which features four women of color as the main characters so it automatically comes with its own invisibility issues.

  9. Karina Cooper
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 10:28:19

    @Aleksandr Voinov: Thank you for bringing up the trans* stereotypes! I can’t believe I forgot to include them from the bulleted list I had written down prior to writing this. I hyperfocused myself right off topic! I appreciate your addition. <3

    Thanks for all the great tropes that need a filleting, everyone. I know there's meat under all this fluff that we tend to stick by, and I really can't wait to see what we come up with.

    And I'm going to go read that Kelly Hunter book. She hasn't disappointed me yet! Thanks for the recc! :)

  10. lawless
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 10:33:55

    I read a lot of m/m, and even though there are stereotypes galore, there are also a lot of non-stereotypical characters who are allowed to be three-dimensional. My biggest pet peeves (other than bad craft) are seme/uke conventions and the sassy het female friend.

    I’m more interested in shows that do it right than shows that do it wrong. In addition to Bo of Lost Girl, Tim Bayliss of Homicide: Life on the Street and Kalinda Sharma of The Good Wife are examples of characters whose bisexuality is an aspect of who they are, not all that they are.

    As for gay characters, I’m more interested in those who happen to be gay than in those whose gayness is the whole point of the character. Unfortunately, this often means that they’re recurring or side characters rather than main characters, but I still treasure them: medical examiner Morales on The Closer and Major Crimes, Dr. George Hwang on Law and Order: SVU (although he didn’t “come out” until later in the series), Det. Greggs on The Wire, and Tom (the composer — I forget his last name) on Smash. Dr. Hwang’s presence on this list is particularly important because he fights the stereotype that gay men are pedophiles. Instead, he’s a profiler and psychiatrist who’s devoted his life to, among other things, combating the effects of pedophilia.

    I also loved Willow and Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer even though their gayness defined them more than with the foregoing because they were three-dimensional, important characters. In fact, a case could be made that Tara was the most psychologically healthy of the main characters.

    I will start watching shows with gay main characters when they’re no longer huge honking stereotypes.

  11. lawless
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 10:42:31

    Argh, I was editing my previous comment and closed the window by accident. I wanted to add that trans characters are pretty much invisible in the media. The only ones I can think of who are genuinely trans, as opposed to drag queens/cross-dressers, are Brandon Teena of Boys Don’t Cry, a fictionalized version of a hella depressing real life story, and Carmelita from Dirty Sexy Money, who was a great character but whose lover — a politician running for the US Senate — insisted on calling her a tranny.

  12. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 11:29:40

    I remember you asking about butch lesbians on twitter. I immediately thought of two examples that didn’t fit: Vasquez from Aliens, whose sexuality isn’t specified, and Brandon Teena from Boys Don’t Cry, who is trans, not lesbian. So I came up empty. I’m also uncertain about using the word “butch” and even “queer.” I don’t know the etiquette on this. :)

    What I’m tired of is just the invisibility of every group except gay men in the romance community. The gay male experience is hot, interesting, romantic, championed. It’s great to see support of LGBT by romance readers/authors, but I sometimes feel like the only gay love that is seen as beautiful is between men.

  13. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 11:56:49

    Here’s an example of my discontent. Roni Loren just finaled in the RITAs with a m/m/f erotic romance. I really like her and I like her writing. It’s great to see a menage romance nominated. An erotic romance, period. Good on you, RWA judges.

    But I can’t stop thinking about a moment from last year’s RWA conference. On my way to the ceremony, I met Radclyffe in the elevator. She’s probably the most successful, prolific lesbian romance author around. When she found out I was nominated, she congratulated me graciously. She mentioned that she doesn’t pay attention to the awards because of the exclusion of GLBT and we both expressed hope for change.

    Is this what change looks like? Is the nomination of an erotic romance with m/m scenes going to pave the way for GLBT? I just…don’t know. And I feel kind of jerky for saying that.

  14. cleo
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 12:17:07

    Hmm – butch or non-feminine lesbians. That’s tricky, because at least in the movies I can think of, you see characters that fit the stereotype but whose sexual identity is implicit, not explicit.

    I’m thinking of Fried Green Tomatoes – it’s been a long time since I’ve watched it, so I have no idea how or if it holds up. There is a lesbian couple at the center of the movie, but iirc, it’s never shown or stated as such, just implied that they’re a committed couple. And one of them is more feminine and one is more butch.

    The Queen Latifah character in Chicago kind of reads (at least to me, iirc) as a butch lesbian, but I don’t think it’s explicitly shown.

    Sometimes you get a female character who reads as a stereotypical lesbian, until someone puts a dress on her and/or gets her drunk and finds her a man. Frex, one of the secondary characters in A League of Their Own.

    And don’t get me started on the “just once in college, but it was a mistake” portrayal of women who “experimented with a woman” but who identify as straight (aka LUGs). (Not that every woman who kissed another woman has to identify as bi or lesbian, it’s just that I get tired of seeing woman after woman portrayed as denying this part of their sexuality or calling it a mistake.) I’d love to see a woman character who says that her sexual identity is fluid.

  15. Karina Cooper
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 12:26:17

    @Jill Sorenson: There’s nothing jerky about that. It’s good to want to see more LGBTQ-related material out there. The thing to remember (which I know you know!) is that by and large, the industry is run by what sells. It’s a business thing. But it doesn’t have to—and doesn’t always—stop there.

    If m/m paves the way for more LGBT-related material, then it’s a good step. A fine start. What I think we’ll have to work on is making sure that it doesn’t stop at just a step.

    The thing is, you’re absolutely right about m/m getting more love. When Lure of the Wicked came out, very few people commented on the fact that the hero had lesbian mothers and no father. I don’t know if it was simply accepted or regarded as unremarkable, but it didn’t seem to matter. With Wicked Lies, everybody’s buzzing about the gay leads. Is it because it’s leading characters? Is it because they’re men? Is it just a matter of timing? I don’t know. Hard to quantify. But it adds just one more piece to the puzzle.

  16. Jayne
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 12:34:04

    @lawless: I reviewed “Different for Girls” last fall which features a trans character. http://dearauthor.com/features/film-reviews/friday-film-review-different-for-girls/

  17. Jane
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 12:50:16

    Amanda Quick had very low key, not stereotypical lesbians in several of her historicals.

  18. JL
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 12:52:45

    @Aleksandr Voinov:
    a million times yes to this!
    This whole post is great, thanks for putting it out there. I feel that the adoration of cardboard cut-out LGBTQ stereotypes by people who consider themselves ‘progressive’ is almost as harmful as overt homophobia and transphobia. It reifies them as ‘non-people’.
    I love Suzanne Brockmann, but I hate that Jules never got his own book. I assume that wasn’t Brockmann’s fault because she still told a beautiful romance story over a few books and (I think – my memory is failing me) a novella, probably her publisher’s decision. But it just felt like such an obvious statement that his romance was not as important as any of the other straight characters in her bazillion Troubleshooters novels.

  19. Kate Pearce
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 13:25:43

    Great post!
    I have to say that I’ve met every LGBTQ stereotype and a million other variations because when it comes down to it, we’re all just people, aren’t we?
    I’ve had readers and reviewers tell me that characters in my books ‘wouldn’t do that if they were gay/Bi/straight, but I don’t write to stereotypes, I never define a character within a specific gender identity because I don’t believe we’re that easy to define. I want to write about complex relationships and people falling in love, not conform to labels.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. :)

  20. Cecilia Tan
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 15:23:25

    Thank you for this!! This should be required reading for all writers (not just romance writers!). And I know romance does depend on some cliches for familiarity and favorite tropes, but at least writers should be aware of the stereotypes before they cast a character in a role.

    I wrote a somewhat-sassy gay friend into my first romance, Mind Games, because I needed a way to, for my own peace of mind, have some GLBT visibility in a heterosexual romance that had a very small cast of characters. Someday maybe he’ll be the protagonist of his own book.

  21. Fiona McGier
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 16:08:43

    For a really different book try “Static” by L.A.Witt. It’s kind of paranormal, an alternate reality where it’s not just your sexuality that can be fluid, but your very body. Believe me, I started it expecting it to be your usual M/M romance, but it’s so much more! I laughed, I cried, it became something I talked about, and I gave copies of it to my friends. There are straight characters, gay characters and even trans characters, all of whom are self-confident and interesting.

  22. Joopdeloop
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 17:22:20

    Loved this essay and the comments. I just finished reading Anne Stuart’s Shadow Dance – picked up bc I had just read a comment that mentioned the delights of the cross dressing main and secondary characters. Wound up feeling disappointed and tired of the heavy handed gender and sexuality stereotyping that ensued — I think I was hoping for some of the freshness and lack of stereotyping I found in Painted Faces, a DA rec that I really enjoyed (het romance w/ cross-dressing hero, thankfully no automatic paint by numbers on straight v gay). Trying to think about portrayals where sexuality is just one characteristic, instead of an instant one-stroke portrait: Lois Bujold comes to mind- Captain Bel Thorne was who popped into mind for a trans character not made of cardboard (tho Thorne’s actually a hermaphrodite) Aral Vorkosigan had a same-sex relationship with Vorruyter (who exhibits some hallmarks of Gay Villain, but gets enough characterization so that being gay is not what makes him the villain). Also, in Laura Florand’s chocolate series: book 1 the hero takes the heroine to his uncle’s civil union and in book 2 the heroine Magalie is raised by her Aunt Genevieve and her lover ‘Aunt’ Aja. In Bujold, I love how her world building skillfully reflects complex and diverse sexual politics and attitudes. In Florand, it’s wonderful how matter of fact her inclusion is.

  23. Raven Ames
    Mar 26, 2013 @ 18:12:05

    Louisa Edwards first three foodie romances contains a secondary story of two gay men falling in love over the course of the three books. While I liked all the hetero couples who each got their HEA at the end of each book, I loved the secondary storyline – these two men, one who is bisexual and one having just come out, were “real” and so much more than all the raging stereotypes out there! It’s definitely on the “sweet” side as there are no explicit sex scenes, but the falling in love and all the joy and despair that love causes, was genuinely well-told.
    The titles in order:
    Can’t Stand the Heat
    On the Steamy Side
    Just One Taste

  24. Aleksandr Voinov
    Apr 02, 2013 @ 07:12:21

    @Karina Cooper:

    No problem. I’d write a post on the trans* stereotypes, but first I need to get some blood pressure lowering medication, which appwrently they’re not handing out to healthy people on a whim. :)

  25. April Links | Becky Black
    Apr 06, 2013 @ 01:06:34

    […] Guest Post: Not Your Fairy &@*#% Godmother Karina Cooper on Dear Author about how LGBTQ characters are used as “accessories” in some books. […]

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