Part of the 2016 Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up Keynote, “What is your queer romance dream?”
The question was presented to me: What is your queer romance dream?
I have so many dreams for this genre, that I almost didn’t know where to start. Where to begin when you have all of queer romance to dream for? So I decided to start where I started, and where so many of us start dreaming: when we are young.
When I was young, I dreamed of having something to read that truly reflected who I was. Most young kids like me had the same dream, but the search was more difficult for some than others. I didn’t know then that I was genderfluid, but I knew then that I was something different, and I searched for the answer in books. But no matter how much I read, and I read a lot, I never found the answer.
I wonder now how many of us did the very same thing that I did, searched for the answer, only to find that it wasn’t there. How many of us couldn’t find ourselves in the books we read? How many of us found maybe one or two characters to look up to, only to have them murdered later on in the book? I’m sure you remember the feeling that it gave you.
That’s one of my queer romance dreams. I want young adult and teen fiction that has queer characters from across the spectrum, so that young questioning people can find their answer in the books they read. Not only that, but I want those queer characters to be leading exciting, adventure filled lives, just like straight cis characters do. We deserve that, to have our space pirate adventures, to be the main romantic pairing, to live fulfilling lives. I love all of our young queer children, and I want them to grow up knowing that they are accepted.
That leads me to the rest of us, those of us who are no longer children, because we need queer books as well. My next queer romance dream is that our genre grows and flourishes. I want to see our queer romances on the shelves in bookstores and in libraries. I’ve already seen this happen in small independant bookstores, and in tiny libraries dedicated to LGBTQIA fiction, but I want to see it everywhere, from the smallest bookshop to the largest chain. I want to see our fiction on the best sellers list, because I know for a fact that our books are just as good, if not better than mainsteam books.
To be honest, I find most of the mainsteam culture books boring and lacking in imagination. And why is that? Because queer books are so much more fulfilling, with more interesting characters and more imagination put into plotlines. So yes, I want to see our books everywhere. I want to be walking by a big bookstore and I want to see my favourite author’s book on display.
It’s not just for us that I want this. My third queer romance dream is that I want everyone to read our queer romances. I want it to be just as acceptable to have a queer romance in our reads as a straight romance. Not only acceptable, I want it to be normalized. So very often, queer romance is seen as an “adult” genre, not because of the sex, although there may be much love-making going on, but because of the fact the characters are queer. Queerness is seen as inherently sexual, and I want that to stop.
The genre has already changed since I was a young teen who had maybe one queer character to look up to – and they always died or had something tragic happen to them. The genre has already grown and become prevalent in the last few years, more than I had ever dreamed as a young teen. Now I can find books with bisexual protaganists, with genderqueer and trans protaganists, with asexual protaganists, which is amazing, because I couldn’t even find a novel with gay or lesbian protaganists when I needed them so so much in my youth.
That’s not the end. I may be a dreamer, but my ultimate goal is to see all of our queer romance dreams become a reality.
How can we do that?
One of the things that you can do is something that you are already doing. Read queer romances. Read as much as you can and then more. Authors like me need people out there to read our work, because we would be nowhere without our readers. Read things that you love, with tropes that make you smile. And maybe, read something that you haven’t tried before. Read something that makes you just slightly uncomfortable, and maybe you’ll end up loving it.
What else can you do? Review our books! Spread the word of how queer romances have changed your life, or made you smile, laugh, and cry. Tell all your friends to read queer romances, lend them your copy to give them that little push to try more.
Don’t stop there.
We’ve discussed this before at previous conferences, but you need to ask libraries like this one, “Where is your queer romance section?” Ask your local library for more queer romance books, put in requests for your favourite author’s books to be put on the shelves. Ask your favourite bookstore the same questions.
Questions like this might make people uncomfortable, but we need you to be brave and ask, just the same.
You see, we are not powerless! More now than ever before, queer voices have raised up and been heard. People know about queer issues, they see it on TV and read about it in magazines. So what I need all of us to do is raise our voices and let them be heard. All of us are counting on you.
Can you do that for us?
GRNW 2016 Keynote
Listen to the GRNW 2016 Keynote
Alex Powell is an avid writer and reader of sci-fi and fantasy, but on occasion branches into other genres to keep things interesting. Alex is a genderqueer writer from the wilds of northern Canada who loves exploring other peoples and cultures. Alex is a recent graduate of UNBC with a BA in English, and as a result has an unhealthy obsession with Victorian Gothic literature. Alex has been writing from an early age, but is happy to keep learning to improve on their writing skills. Feedback and comments as well as any questions are appreciated! You can reach Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org or at their website alexpowellauthor.com. Alex’s work includes Rangers over Regulus and All the King’s Men.