I’ve been getting back into submitting short stories and I am struck by the number of queer* journals and magazines handwaving their, well, queer content with phrases like “we don’t just publish queer content” or “it doesn’t have to be about that”.
Okay mate, if you want to wuss out, be my guest. Because that is exactly what these magazines are doing. If I want to read queer content, I look to queer magazines and journals. Hello. By basically “watering down” their content, they betray the very reason they are supposed to exist, and they betray their core readers. And that last thing, to me, is one of the gravest sins a publisher or writer can commit. You do not dis the reader. Ever.
If you publish queer content, publish queer content. Gleefully rub it in people’s faces. Don’t give a shit about people who squawk, queer or no. Just be out and proud about it. Like, “yes, we just published an explicit story about rimming, and next issue we have lesbian lovers working through parenting!” People haven’t died in a myriad of ways, from murder to AIDs, so you can wuss out and publish content that “doesn’t have to be about that” or whatever.
* Queer because it is the best all inclusive term, has been reclaimed since the ’80’s, and hints at radicalism.
ETA: I wrote a much more eloquent blog post on pretty much the same topic here. I guess it’s been bugging me for awhile?
Some Dude, reading my book: It’s so nice to read a book about dudes being close.
Me: Oh, thank you. I wanted to discuss emotional and sexual intimacy between men.
Some Dude: What’s better than this, two men being bros and getting boners around each other.
Me: Uh, yeah . . . ?
SD: Or two bros being bros while kissing. That’s so awesome. Bros can be bros and kiss.
Me: Uuh . . . ?
SD: And that whole chapter where the one dude gets on top of the other and there are orgasms? Totally bros just being bros and having a little fun.
Me: . . .
Me: One of them is gay and the other is questioning his sexuality. It says that in the text. Everything is an overt expression of sexual desire between them. The orgasm scene — they are having sex! Not “bro” sex! Sex-sex! They even argue about the definition of sex before agreeing what happened was sex! There are graphic descriptions of sex acts . . . They touch penises for god’s sake, do you need any more evidence to prove this wasn’t just bros being bros???
SD: But they were touching penises in a bro way.
Me: . . .
SD: When the one guy starts doing the butt stuff to the other, that’s not sexual, it’s just bros being bros.
I wrote this because some people have the special ability to erase or ignore queer relationships and sexuality in literature and media, even when it is presented in a blatant, explicit manner.
To be honest, I am always angry when people say they’re are publishing work by queer authors, but that the topics of the stories therein are not “limited” to LGBTQAI etc topics.
I know they mean well, but what they are saying is that somehow, our unique identities and experiences are limiting. That somehow being queer does not touch and infiltrate every aspect of our lives in meaningful, profound, and rewarding ways. That talking about aspects of our lives which are particular to our queerness is limiting. Because, yaknow, those topics could only be of interest to, and relevant for, other people like us. We want to go beyond our queerness somehow – as if cisgender, heterosexual people were beyond their particular experiences of gender or sexuality. We have to scrub ourselves clean of our queerness so we too, can be accessible to cisgender, heterosexual audiences, rather than challenging that, and the way heterosexual, cisgender experiences are privileged and seen as “normal”. So that we can align ourselves with that normality in order to be seen as worthy, and human in some ways. We are just the same as everyone else – as long as we deny our queer lives and experiences.
So yes. I know people mean well when they say that. But what they actually mean is that we should not be queer.