Well, hello there, I’ve been invited to add my drabbles to Ars Marginal. I will try not to break their most excellent space, but I make no promises, with me and technology and all.
So before I start rambling about all and sundry I’m going to indulge in a little preaching to the choir, if I may, and answer a question people have asked me over and over before they ask me again (not that they won’t ask, but I live in hope).
Why do I do this?
And why do I care?
In a world where people lose jobs, homes, families and even their lives due to anti-GBLTQ prejudice, why oh why oh why does Sparky care about books of all things? And why is he so gleeful about being invited to add to a site that is dedicated to analysing the various fuckeries arts and entertainment pulls?
Well, here’s the thing.
I’m a gay man. I’m also currently sat in what I call my study. I like that word, it makes it sound serious and studious where Important Work Happens rather than the big room where I keep my books and junk.
Because of the wall to wall shelving, I am surrounded by most of my immense book collection. I’m not going to count them (gods preserve me from ever being that bored!) but I would guesstimate on there being… oooh… 400 books? Maybe, discounting the actual worky type ones (also discounting my White Wolf books for that matter). Yes, I love being in my paper fortress (or deathly fire trap as my husband likes to call it).
By my right hand is my Kindle which I am now utterly incapable of living without (and it is never more than a foot from my body – ever – or I wither and die from lack of books. Yes yes I do). I don’t have to count the books on there, it does it for me and tells me it has 655 books in its memory.
So, that’s over 1,000 books, works of fiction all (rather cheesy fiction at that, I must admit). Wow, maybe they’re right, maybe I do read too much. Still, I sit here and wonder, of those 1,000 books, how many of the protagonists in these stories are gay men like me? In all this fantasy and sci-fi and superheroes and urban fantasy and murder mysteries – how many gay male protagonists are there?
And totting up in my head I think I come to less than 60. And that requires a rather generous definition of “protagonist” in some cases.
Ok, how many of them contain any gay men at all? Hmmm maybe 200. Maybe. And, again, this is probably counting victims, bit parts and slight references rather highly. Both of these numbers are highly generous.
And are all of them decent portrayals? Well, some of them are written by Ann “you can become gay by being anally raped by a tent peg” McCaffrey so no, most definitely not. In fact, I have to say that most of the books with gay men in them are the least read – because they’re so utterly and irredeemably dire.
There’s something wrong with this picture, methinks. This isn’t just some random collection of books. This is the collection of books belonging to a gay man who is an avid and voracious reader and who talks (somewhat interminably) repeatedly about GBLTQ rights and the importance of representation in all forms of media.
Yet there’s almost no gay protagonists in my library?
Yet there’s almost no gay portrayals at all in my library?
Yet of those portrayals I do have, I avoid reading because they’re so flawed?
That is not just wrong, but it’s also frightening. I expect to be treated as fully human by a society that’s more eager to write fascinating stories about aliens than it is to write about people like me? I expect to be treated as fully human by a society that can commonly write in-depth, nuanced and fully fleshed characterisations of vampires, werewolves, orcs and elves but can’t write me except as a gross caricature? I expect to be treated as fully human by a society that can envisage a world with demons and angels, faeries and spirits, aliens and interstellar spacecraft, time machines and light-sabers, magic and mayhem – but cannot imagine that same world with GBLTQ people in it?
Because, y’know what? I don’t think any of that stuff at the top of the post – the end of bullying and violence and discrimination and all the other fucktons of shit – is going to happen in a world that is happier to accept a sparkly vampire than a non-sparkling gay man. Society both shapes and is shaped by it’s popular culture – our prejudice creates these gods-awful portrayals (or erasures) and said prejudice is then encouraged, reinforced, justified and perpetuated by these portrayals (and erasures). Or, to put it another way – so long as our culture is so fucked up that most gay portrayals will send me screaming than bring me running, then the various fuckeries in our society are unlikely to be diminished.
I’d also kind of like to read a book that has me in it that doesn’t make me want to break my kindle. I want my cheesy escapism without sporks please – extra me, hold the sporks. Thanks.