All the Better Part of Me is a coming-out story, a story where a lot of the focus is on sexuality and identity. But it’s probably the only one of that category I’ll ever write.
I have written and will continue writing characters who happen to BE queer (along with straight ones), where the story’s focus is on other things, but it’s true that a focus on LGBTQ issues feels like “not my story to tell.”
Some have told me so. Usually straight liberal friends concerned about appropriation or “getting it wrong”—never my actual LGBTQ beta-readers and friends, who have been enthused and encouraging, while also helping fix my awkward wording in stories dealing with these topics.
I was moved to write a story about coming out and having homophobic parents because of the many, many true stories I keep hearing from LGBTQ folks still being needlessly damaged by the attitudes of others, even in our “tolerant” era, even in “blue states.”
I wrote ATBPOM to say “I see you and I love you and support you” to them, and, sure, maybe to hope I might change a few homophobic minds if they’re open to changing (ha, well, I can dream). But having written it, there, I step back and leave the issue-book field.
I’ll move on to the cheerier scenario: LGBTQ characters getting to have cool adventures alongside the straight cis characters without sexuality or gender identity being an issue. The way things should be; the status quo we can aspire to.
It’s daunting as a cis-het white person to write diversity, even when we long to for the sake of fairness and variety and having more interesting stories, even when we get lots of sensitivity readers for it, even when we get a green light from them. We’re going to make someone mad on book-Twitter regardless.
But I know perfectly well it’s scarier to BE any of those minorities. I want it to become un-scary. I want that shining future. I hope well-written diverse books, no matter who writes them, can help open mindsets so we can get there.
(…Because believe me, if I only wrote characters who matched my own identity—middle-aged white happily-married-to-a-guy stay-at-home writer/mom in Seattle—you’d rightfully gag and then die of boredom.)