Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender in Fantasy

In the course of reading, one always encounters folks one would generally not encounter, or folks one would not normally want to meet. Witness the enraged moviegoer racists who had to deal with the fact that Rue in the Hunger Games was Black. So what does a Biblical Christian do when she encounters a fantasy book that contains a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender character?

Many of my stories involve interracial romances and I've had experiences where someone reads one of my stories and is unwilling to be pulled into the romance simply because they are disgusted, bothered, or nauseated by seeing two people together who --in their worldview-- should not be together. So, I try to understand. On the flip side, because I know how incredibly complex sexuality can be, I get wary of easy answers or easy stories about homosexuality. Too many of my lesbian friends were raped as children, too many of my male gay friends were seduced by older men, and too many of my gay male friends were adopted or were delivered by induced estrogen-laden deliveries for me to say that people were biologically made gay.

I suppose I can read a book about a homosexual character if I don't feel I'm being subject to propaganda. In my experience, I've known people who were born gay or who have had their sexuality affected by sexual molestation, separation/adoption issues, the hormonal chemicals introduced into the womb at induced deliveries, or became gay after some trauma or hospital stay. So I take gay folks in stories and in real life as I find them.

I have never had a gay character show up and want to have me tell his story but I have had tons of conflicted heterosexuals, and I do have some gay characters in some of my stories who aren't really gay but more characters who are conflicted heterosexuals. I think what bothers me is the vast amount of false history and false biology I would have to accept. In the same way people who study the Druids and the Celts or Native American religions get peeved when they are faced with false "pop factoids" about certain things, I start rolling my eyes when I feel an author is attempting to propagandize.

 The definition of "gay" as an exclusive love of people of one's own sex is relatively new. Back in the day, most homosexuality allowed for loving people of both sexes. It was often supplemental to a heterosexual relationship. Alexander the Great loved his companion but he also loved his wife Roxanne. Oscar Wilde loved Lord Alfred Douglas but he also loved his wife. While there were some rare exceptions, in ancient times, in most cultures (Japan, Greece, Afghanistan, etc), homosexuality was generally frowned upon while pedophilia/pederasty was accepted. One of the most famous Greek tragedies, the curse on the Oedipus clan, --the curse of falling in love with the wrong people (incest, bulls, frigidity, etc) --fell upon the family because Laius would not give up his young lover when the pederasty contract was finished and the boy was fully grown. The gods deemed it so heinous that Laius' descendants were cursed forever. Most people who speak of homosexuality being accepted by the past don't talk honestly about the pederasty factor. So for me it depends on how honest I think the author is. . .

I recently read Kari Sperring's Living With Ghosts, a great book that definitely could trouble the Christian reader. Not only did I have to deal with gigolos, homosexual attraction, and extra-marital sex, I had to deal with someone who dealt Tarot cards.

  • Mass Market Paperback:
     496 pages
  • Publisher: DAW; Original edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756405424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756405427

So what did I do?

Well, I actually read it. My very traditional heart had a few hurdles. For one, although I'm okay with prostitution in stories, I get a bit niggly about adultery. I kept hoping there would be no adulterous encounter I would have to be "on board" for. Generally, I don't watch movies or read books with adultery in it. (This isn't a religious issue with me. My father was a serial adulterer so I have a painful spot there.) So if I read a book with adultery, my biggest fear is that I will be asked to be "okay" with it.

But the reason I made it through this story was quite simply because the story was brilliant. True, I was in the POV of a high class courtesan who happened to be bisexual, but Gracielas was such a noble wounded character and the story was so intriguing and the world-building so solid and interesting that I totally got into the story. That said, once again, I didn't allow myself to feel the homosexual attractions that happened in various characters. First because one of the homosexual pairs was married and I have a problem with being asked to be on the side of adulterers. Plus I've seen so many movies and heard so many accounts where some guy discovers he's gay after being married for twenty years and suddenly divorces his poor wife. So yeah, I kept telling myself "I like these two characters but if I'm asked to go along with adultery I'm not gonna be patient."

So yeah, with me, the issue with me is wariness of being pulled into understanding anything I don't morally agree with. Living With Ghosts had a lot my priggish Biblical mind couldn't deal with but the skill of the author and the beautiful craft of the writing helped me overcome my reluctance. I suppose the best way to make me read a book I don't want to is to make the book utterly brilliant.

Let's see what my other round-tablers think of this.

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Warren Rochelle has taught English at the University of Mary Washington since 2000. His short story, "The Golden Boy” (published in The Silver Gryphon) was a Finalist for the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Story and his novels include The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010. He also published a critical work on Le Guin and has academic articles in various journals and essay collections.

Theresa Crater has published two contemporary fantasies, Beneath the Hallowed Hill & Under the Stone Paw and several short stories, most recently “White Moon” in Riding the Moon and “Bringing the Waters” in The Aether Age:  Helios. She’s also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Colorado with her Egyptologist partner and their two cats. Visit her website athttp://theresacrater.com 

Andrea K Höst was born in Sweden but raised in Australia.  She writes fantasy and science fantasy, and enjoys creating stories which give her female characters something more to do than wait for rescue.  See: www.andreakhost.com

 I began writing professionally in 1982 as Deborah Wheeler with JAYDIUM and NORTHLIGHT, and short stories in ASIMOV'S, F & SF, REALMS OF FANTASY and STAR WARS: TALES FROM JABBA'S PALACE. Now under my birth name, Ross, I am continuing the" Darkover" series of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as original work, including the fantasy trilogy THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. I'm a member of Book View Cafe. I've lived in France, worked for a cardiologist, studied Hebrew, yoga and kung fu, and am active in the local Jewish and Quaker communities.

Sylvia Kelso lives in North Queensland, Australia. She writes fantasy and SF set in analogue or alternate Australian settings. She has published six fantasy novels, two of which were finalists for best fantasy novel of the year in the Australian Aurealis genre fiction awards, and some short stories in Australian and US anthologies. 

Carole McDonnell is a writer of ethnic fiction, speculative fiction, and Christian fiction. Her works have appeared in many anthologies and at various online sites. Her novel, Wind Follower, was published by Wildeside Books. Her forthcoming novel is called The Constant Tower.

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