Uncategorized, Writing romance

On Pride and Writing

Related imagePride month is drawing to a close. Here in the States, we memorialize the fight for equality, and that fierce riot led by trans women, lesbians, and gay men—Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Storme DeLarverie among so many others.

We celebrate Pride because we have to–because there are so many policies and places and people that still deny us, erase us, stamp us down.

I wanted to take a moment here to talk about the two reasons I write queer romance. My current work in progress is historical fiction with a trans protagonist, for example, and I’m writing it for two reasons. First, because historical fiction too rarely tells the stories that we know happened—the lives of non-gender-conforming or trans people. (Okay, some cultures have better track records than others when it comes to recognizing different genders and sexualities, but not my traditions–I’m European and Jewish ethnically, Christian by faith). But queer people have always been, well, queering things up in the church, the state, and the home.

And second, I want stories that don’t just pathologize who we are or were but tell our stories in ways that embed our lives into the vibrant fabric of human history. I want to write stories about queer and trans people loving and living.

That’s all; that’s what I wanted to say. Let’s all celebrate who we are, that we love, and that our love and our lives matter.

Just for fun, a scene from my work in progress, a historical novel about a trans inquisitor and the young lord who falls for him:

“You believe in it, don’t you, my lord?” The inquisitor looked at him. “A higher love, the beauty of the rose, the test of the true knight’s heart.”

Adhemar tried to make his face as stern as the inquisitor’s when he wasn’t bloody laughing. “You say you don’t? But you know the songs. So you must’ve heard or read them too.”

The inquisitor clapped a hand to Adhemar’s shoulder. His pale face was flushed pink with hilarity and his eyes were a thousand diamonds. “You are an innocent,” the inquisitor said. “And the church is sworn to protect innocents. So I cannot answer you.”

Adhemar swatted at him and the man slipped away like a vapor, laughing again. Adhemar found himself, against his will, grinning. His breath frosted in the air as he laughed at the absurdity of it all. And the most beautiful man he had ever seen laughed back at him, shaved head turned to gilt in the fresh sun, a creature of light and dark, a warrior’s heart in a monk’s robes and humble, mud-stained feet.

Uncategorized, Writing romance

Writing and Empathy

The last time I visited New Zealand was several years ago. I am scheduled to return there this year for work.NZ - Hobbiton and Bree

Hearing about the mosque shootings by a white supremacist terrorist this week broke my heart.

I don’t want it to be true that the horror of this past week hit me so keenly because it happened to people and places I’ve seen. But to a certain extent, it’s true.

It can be difficult to experience empathy for others with urgency or depth of conviction when the others are different from us, and different to the extent that we don’t have a way to imagine them, to imagine their ordinary lives. Martha Nussbaum, in Poetic Justice (1995), 226712explains that one of the most dangerous realities in “today’s political life” is that “we lack the capacity to see one another as fully human.” Reading novels can intervene in our collective empathetic dullness. Novels are “disturbing in a way that history and social science writing are not,” she says (5).

Why? Because when we can easily imagine a person’s ordinary life, disruption and pain to their beautiful and utterly human self is more shocking, more devastating.

More specifically, I read romances because I want to walk into the worlds of others to learn the most fundamental truth about them: who they love, and how they love.

This week, I want to give a shout out to romance authors who I love who draw us into beautiful worlds that aren’t just telling the same happy ending-story for the same privileged white, cis-het white folks.

Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole, and KJ Charles are burning up my bedside table with their wonderful romances. I could talk about them forever. Go read them. For a place to start, Milan’s Hold Me (Cyclone #2) is one of my all-time favorites, and a really nice romance in which the girl being trans is part of the story, as who we are is part of all of our stories, but it isn’t “the story,” because being trans isn’t a plot device.

And let’s talk neurodivergent–an issue that we just can’t seem to figure out how to talk about like humans on public media. Read Glitterland by Alexis Hall, whose hero has bipolar disorder and depression, and the Mnevermind series by Jordan Castillo Price whose hero is on the autism spectrum (and makes brilliant use of futuristic technology to discuss digital media and possibilities for neurodivergent-neurotypical communication).

I want to fall in love with places and people all over the world, in my own community and others, and I want to walk around with pieces of their stories in my heart so that every human tragedy in this world can break mine in an instant.