Authentic queer representation in literature

This post comes about from a thing I’ve noticed about LGBTQIA+ people and relationships, and how it is reflected in literature…

Being isolated, introverted, and disconnected with society is in most cases a learnt behaviour. Having a frank conversation with a plethora of members of this community from all genders, races, and ages have brought to life something that I find alarming. It’s like a double edged sword – a form of self-abuse and self-protection. And it’s not something that I see discussed frequently or represented in literature. I mean, I’ve read novels where this is touched upon (and it is usually in #ownvoices tomes), but the mainstream tend to overlook this kind of behaviour in favour of trending coming out stories. Coming out isn’t necessary for any LGBTQIA+ person, and their issues do not magically disappear as soon as they do; in most cases you get handed a different set of complications to navigate.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community face rejection of some form so regularly that when it comes to friendships and familial relationships, many individuals will let go of these relationships, not because of discrimination, mircoaggression, or flat out rejection, but because it just petered out. Any type of friendship or relationship is a two-way street, but LGBTQIA+ people face bigger hurdles in fostering these types of relationships to cis-gendered straight members of the community.

The sad reality is that LGBTQIA+ people are less likely to continue putting themselves in a position where they can get hurt by being the one to initiate contact. Even with members of family or their friends which they already have an established and safe relationship with. Rejection can be tiring. It can whittle away at your psyche until you just can’t be bothered anymore. So when I asked about these types of relationships, and why they had ended, it was a sad realisation that having a relationship of some form with a LGBTQIA+ person is a little more than an even exchange of pleasantries.

“LGBTQIA+ people are less likely to continue putting themselves in a position where they can get hurt by being the one to initiate contact.”

LGBTQIA+ people require you to do slightly more work. Be the initiator of a conversation, reach out on social media, send a text, make a call. Make them feel safe. Wanted. Valuable. Don’t get complacent… otherwise you will be replaced, forgotten, pushed further out in their circle of friends/relatives.

Now, every person is different, and their relationships are different too, so this is not a blanket statement applying to all LGBTQIA+ people. It was just a trend I noticed in talking to these particular community members and how they wished things hadn’t gotten so awkward. Should they initiate contact after all this time? Had things gotten so bad because that other person was too polite and didn’t want to say outright that they did not want them in their lives? Did that other person fear reprisal, or being branded homophobic, or something similar? This was the kind of internal monologue running through the heads of many of the LGBTQIA+ people I talked with. It comes from a place of fear and rejection. A tone that is always underlying many of LGBTQIA+ relationships. It doesn’t go away.

An extra burden the community carries.

I think that is where movements like #ownvoices is important. They live through the nuances of the LGBTQIA+ experience that cis-gendered, straight author’s commonly overlook (or, quite frankly, don’t even register as something that exists) especially now in a publishing climate where the LBGTQIA+ community is getting greater representation. While I feel like any representation is a plus, we still need to ensure that we are having a positive impact on the community. And yes, I understand that people read for different reasons, and that it is all well and good to make this statement and yet M/M romances written by cis-gendered female authors is still leading that sub-genre market. And straight, cis-gendered authors are penning popular YA novels… I’d like to see fiction take the opportunity to explore real issues the LGBTQIA+ community face and not use sexuality or coming out as a plot device.

Some outstanding writing I feel that does the LGBTQIA+ community great service includes these authors (with links to their Goodreads pages):

Becky Chambers, Alice Oseman, Michael Barakiva, Alison Evans,

Bill Konisberg, C.B. Lee, Shaun David Hutchinson,

Casey McQuistion, Graeme Aitken.

I’m sure there are many other authors out there, but this is all I have personally read that bring that authentic LGBTQIA+ tone with their writing. Feel free to add more authors down in the comments that you feel deserve to be on this list.

I love that we are seeing allies, out and proud, bolstering the community. Actions of these people is the exact kind of social movement that helps to tear down the walls of fear and rejection that has subtly affected the way LBGTQIA+ people relate to others – especially outside the community.

This article is not an answer to an issue. A diagnosis. Merely a discussion from social interaction and conversations that I feel is important to consider, and start to make readers aware of the issues a marginalised community face – and not something to be romanticised as a plot device. LGBTQA+ people isolate themselves, whether consciously or not, and it is up to the community at large to reach out. Make safe spaces. Because some LGBTQIA+ people are less likely to do so. Yes, there are people standing up for a marginalised community and making changes, bringing awareness to issues like this, but not everyone is a trailblazer, or can stand on a soapbox and fight for an issue. Many are broken. Scared. Or just plain fed up with everything being so hard. Not to mention facing fear for their lives, physical abuse, ostracized from their families, religious communities, neighbourhoods, or workplaces.

So take a little time and patience with your friends and family. Check in on them more often. You never know who is in that mental space, protecting their heart. Hearts are built to share and spread love… even if they are a little shy.

Start reading critically, support #ownvoices authors and make the publishing landscape an equal opportunity industry. Representation matters. Authenticity matters. And this issue is much larger than LGBTQIA+ communities as the current national political landscape has shown recently with movements like BLM, WomenUp, StopH8, etc..

I feel fiction with realistic, relatable characters engaging; stories with relevant issues interesting; and bringing in these types of mechanics in storytelling can add complexity, richness, and lead to the ultimate reading experience.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Luminous Dead’ by Caitlin Starling

A claustrophobic sci-fi psychological thriller to bury them all.

Genre: Science Fiction, Psychological Thriller, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 415

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

A phenomenal read, I was glued to the page from start to finish. I was a literal zombie trying to stay awake and read til the end because I could not put ‘The Luminous Dead’ down.  This was an outstanding novel that I want to recommend to all my friends. It’s been a long time since I have been both compelled and repelled at the same time when reading.

There is a creepy suffocating ambience that penetrates the story to have you feeling the little hairs on the back of your neck raise. In the last half especially I was squirming, pulling my feet from the floor and taking twenty second breaks to run around the room and shake the hee-bee-jee-bees from my limbs.

The only minute thing that held me back from giving this a perfect score was how the plot felt too long, and kept back-tracking on itself. It did add an air of desperation that enhanced to the reading experience, but left ‘The Luminous Dead’ feeling a snatch too long. Juxtaposing this was an incredible talent to keep the pacing from start to finish. It was carnage to me, each chapter left me wanting more. I am an instant fan of Caitlin Starling and eager to see what else she has written. Anyone who can keep me this engaged and creeped out at the same time is a 5 star author in my books.

The concept is out of this world too – exploring underground caves on alien planets (essentially in a space suit) with all manner of dangers to face, with a psychological thriller aspect – where do I sign. It was an easy add-to-cart for me. I most definitely was not disappointed.

Our protagonist, Gyre is a battler, she’s working hard to provide better opportunities for her life. Coming from nothing, she is not afraid to take risks for that life… and that’s how she ends up deep underground in treacherous territory, finding dead bodies and hiding from alien tunnellers that could either crush you to death as they make the tunnels collapse, or eat you for a morning snack. Gyre’s grit is amazing, yet soft and compassionate. We see her constantly measuring risk and reward with each new challenge.

Em is what I like to think of as a definition of ‘book smart.’ She has no qualms in chemically controlling Gyre to achieve her goals, is not chatty over the coms, treating Gyre much like a tool. It was in interesting journey to see Gyre’s influence (through need) in deconstructing Em’s clinical nature and become more than just a stoic, sparse voice over the com.

Lack of control, human connection, suffocation, creepy alien creature stalking you in the dark, and dealing with loss.

Enthusiastically recommend ‘The Luminous Dead’ to everyone.

Overall feeling: Outstanding!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.