We Need to Talk About Who Writes Queer Stories
Queer people are very protective of their identities—it’s natural. And can you blame us? Countless little gay boys are coming out to their parents and being met with the terrible response, "No, you’re not gay." "It's just a phase." "You just haven't met the right girl." And those are just the best-case scenarios.
So we’ve decided to own our identity. To cherish it. To treat the story of our lives like a glass castle and build brick walls to protect it.
I like to think this is part of the reason gay men are so critical of MLM love stories written by cis-female-presenting people. Take Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda for example. Or I’ll Give You the Sun. Or We Contain Multitudes. Or The Song of Achilles. Or…you get the idea. As a strong advocate of Own Voices, I once believed this was a sign that our narrative was under attack! It was being stolen from us! It was being told in all the wrong way!
But that couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
Because, here’s the thing: I just named some of my favorite books. Some books that saved my life as a kid, because I saw my authentic self in these stories. I experienced first loves before I even had my first kiss. I felt confident in my identity before I even knew fully what joys it would bring me in my own life.
That’s something I have to be thankful for, regardless of who wrote them.
Today, I’m a writer of queer fiction because of those writers that paved the way for queer stories to be marketable. There are so many gay authors out there now writing the gayest stories you’ve ever read, and it’s largely due to the success of the aforementioned books. Take Ryan La Sala, Phil Stamper, Adam Silvera, Julian Winters…hell, even me!
I want the list to be larger (and it is much larger than that, for certain) but we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re writing books like we’ve got nowhere else to be.
The queer experience is also not limited to gay men. And I think we sometimes need to remember that we’re still living in a time where coming out isn’t possible for everyone. Especially the generation that came before us. Take Becky Albertalli for example—she wrote Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which spoke to a lot of young gay kids’ hearts. It was the story of a queer kid who felt like they needed to hide who they were. And still, people attacked the author for “not being queer and writing a queer story.” Plot twist: Yeah, she was queer, and you kind of just forcefully outed her.
Protecting the queer experience is one thing. Gatekeeping what it means to be queer, that’s a whole other problem.
Long story short: I once thought protecting the queer experience meant I was the only person who could tell it. Now, I’ve come to realize that the queer experience is meant to be shared. Whether that’s by someone like me, or someone who appreciates it, celebrates it, and respects it—I am thankful.
What about movies?
Listen, in theory, I don’t have a problem with a straight actor playing a queer role. What I do have a major problem with is the state of the entertainment industry and its casting decisions. Straight people playing queer roles & queer people playing straight roles—great! Only straight people playing straight roles & only straight people playing queer roles. Okay, hold up!
And that’s kind of where we’re at right now. Love, Simon. Call Me By Your Name. Love, Victor.
Actors are role models, whether we like it or not, whether it should be the case or not. And queer people want to see themselves represented in stories AND in the industry. Right now, that’s not happening and that’s a real reason to be upset.
As good as a straight person may be able to portray a queer person, there are considerations in the meta that aren’t being considered when casting these roles. And they need to START being considered, or else the industry will just be marginalizing the same group of people they’re proclaiming to be lifting up—and profiting off of.
We should not be attacking the actors—they’re just doing a job. But we should be questioning the decisions of large production companies and holding them accountable. And if that’s the gay agenda in action, then so be it.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!