The Swinging Pendulum in Lesbian Fiction
I love reading lesbian fiction, and have been reading it for, well, without giving away my age, let’s just say I’ve been reading books for and about lesbians for a few years now. There was a time when I’d walk into a bookstore like Antigone’s Books in Tucson, a bookstore that describes itself as a zany bookstore with a feminist slant, and wander around sneaking peeks at the book jackets to see if there was anything even remotely about women loving women.
When I’d find something promising, I’d buy it, then go lock myself in my room and quickly scan cover to cover to find “the good parts.” Back then, “the good parts” usually consisted of a stolen kiss, a brush of the hand — you get the picture. While those books allowed for a vivid imagination, they were oftentimes disappointing. Fast forward to today and wow, not only has the pendulum swung the other way, if it were housed in Big Ben in London, it would have swung completely out the window and landed in the River Thames! Lesbian fiction today can be fun, bawdy, erotic, and pornographic. I do like the fact that the pendulum has swung, but I sometimes wonder whether its having swung so far the other way is actually more damaging than beneficial for the GLBTQ community.
There is so much excellent gay fiction out today that I don’t want to generalize. I’m going to narrow my comments to the type of lesbian fiction where the book follows the life of the lesbian character as she lives the life of a lesbian. What I mean is, the story line takes the lesbian/gay character and plucks them out of the mainstream of life and deposits them into a totally lesbian mindset. The character is no longer a “person”, they are a “lesbian.” She is on the hunt, on the prowl, thinking sex, having sex, defending her sexuality, coming out, staying closeted, every iteration of being a lesbian that your imagination can conjure. In my mind, this type of writing tends to distance lesbians from their heterosexual neighbor next door rather than bringing the lesbian community closer to being accepted by mainstream society
I envision a world where gays and lesbians aren’t labeled, they just are. I enjoy books about people, who as an aside, happen to have a same gender partner. In my world, as a matter of fact, same sex couples with children are invited to barbecues or hold dinner parties for the parents of other children, and no one bats an eye. I’d like to see more of that in GLBTQ fiction. I always enjoy reading a book and having no idea the character is homosexual until the woman goes home after work and kisses her wife. No fanfare, no “gee whiz, look at this.” The scene is treated like any other scene, and if the character just happens to tear off her wife’s clothes and…well, all the better.
In my writing, I always try to have characters who, as an aside, happen to be lesbians. One of my favorite compliments came from a woman who was uncomfortable with anything to do with the gay lifestyle. She’d grown up in a very closed-minded family who believed same sex couples were tainted and bad. She approached me one day and very hesitantly asked if I had just made up the “normalcy” of the relationship between two of the characters in my book “The Door at the Top of the Stairs.” Blushing, and very shyly, she told me she wished she could have the same type of love with her husband that Morgan had with Ryland. I wish I could report that she left immediately praising the lesbian lifestyle. She didn’t and I can’t, but I think my writing and our subsequent conversation may have opened a chink in her anti-gay armor and I like to believe that day by day that chink may one day open into all out acceptance.
Thanks for listening, and of course, I’d love for you to visit me at www.alisonholtbooks.com to give me your opinions of the subject.