Even though I’ve got a feeling I’m about to write a long post, I want to make sure the first and clearest thing is this: I’m sorry.
I wrote a tweet recently (or, rather, a quote-tweet). This one:
It hurt people. Specifically: between “normalize” in the original tweet and “that’s not how any of this works” in my own, it came off like I was saying all queer people have queer friends—and from there, it’s a short hop to “if you don’t have queer friends, you’re not really queer.” And apparently, there are folk out there espousing that second opinion quite strongly, which is… well, flat out untrue, to say the least.
Neither of those messages were at all my intent, but impact trumps intent. So, again, I’m sorry. Feeling “not queer enough” is utter shit, and I empathize; one of the reasons I specifically use the word “queer” for myself is exactly that: so many of the other specific labels leave me feeling “not enough” to count.
I can’t un-say (and I don’t want to delete the tweet given the conversations that followed), but if anyone would like to know what it was I was trying to say, it’ll be below. If not, that’s fine, and again, I’m sorry. I hate that I contributed to an impossible “queer enough” message. I’ll do my absolute best not to phrase things going forward to sound like declarative statements about what is—and, by inference, isn’t—some sort of validly universal “queer enough.”
Okay, the second part of the post. The Intent part.
I read a lot of queer fiction, and as I’m sure is clear by now to anyone who’s dropped by my blog, I get frustrated a lot by things that pop up there, and I try to discuss these points in a way that I hope clarifies what they can (often unintentionally) do. Gay-for-you, and how it so often erases bi/pan people, or how every kind of queer romance shouldn’t be shuffled into a single sub-genre just because it’s queer, or how violent homophobia is not a great look for a queer hero, or how the opposite of queer isn’t straight, or how conversion therapy cannot ever be conflated with a caring parent, or—and this is the most relevant piece for today—how queer isn’t synonymous with romance.
I recently read a fantastic book that struck me, while I was reading it, as unfortunately rare in a specific way: it actually showed queer people having queer friends. It stuck out like a sore thumb over a large chunk of the last books I’d been reading, and it stuck in my mind. I tweeted about it, specifically, saying how I loved that author so much because her fictions actually read like my own, queer lived life, and it was—damned annoyingly—so rare to bump into that.
I think it honestly comes from the entanglement with romance queerness has. There’s a huge assumption that queer fictions must include romance, which in and of itself is a problem (not that queer romance exists, of course, but that it’s required for queer characters, but again, link above for how queer=romance is such a bad look).
In queer fictions—and especially queer romance—the more I looked the more I kept finding these fictional queer people who only exist in these future romantic pairs: and around them, elsewhere in the world, there are no other queer people. No mentions of other queer people. Not a lesbian doctor, nor a nonbinary friend, not another single speaking role to a queer person anywhere on-page. Not a tweet, nor an online discussion, no community what-so-ever. Sometimes, there’s an ex. Or two exes. But again, that frames the only queer connection as a romantic (albeit failed) one.
Queerplatonic friendships exist. And for a great many queer people—but not all of us, which is the inference I didn’t intend—they’re a huge piece of the lived queer experience. It might not be daily (I don’t get to see my queer friends every day myself), but entering queer spaces, or hanging with queer people—or even just interacting with them online, reading their words—has a big impact.
I couldn’t personally have made it this far in my life without my queer friends. When I was kicked to the curb, it was the queer people who caught me, gave me shelter, and helped me put my life back together. My neurologist? Queer. My psychiatrist? Queer. My experience is by no means unique—though I also live in a nation’s Capital, and in urban environments, this is certainly likely to be more common, at least in what passes for “accepting” societies of the West.
Of course I have non-queer friends, too. But the thing is I never lack for fictional representation of queer people with non-queer friends—it’s usually framed from the other side, though: here is the straight character, popular entertainment says, and look: there’s the queer bestie. Who, if they have other queer people in their life, will likely have exactly one: their romantic partner. Hello, token-ville. (And don’t get me started on their likelihood to be killed off.)
So when I read what is marketed specifically as queer fiction (be it m/m romance, queer sci-fi, lesfic, etc.), it’s a glaring omission of what is really common (not normal, common): queer people interacting with each other in a non-romantic way. Even be it online. Or in their history. Be it in passing, with a co-worker, a newspaper article headline, or—yes—a friend. So when I said “that’s not how any of this works,” I meant “the world doesn’t only have two queer people in it” not “all queer people have queer friends.”
Whenever I write these blogs about my own queer lived experience through a writing lens, I try to bring it back to the same two points: One is: I absolutely am never going to tell anyone they cannot write something.
The other is: I will ask you to consider why you are choosing to write something the way you are writing it.
If you’re writing a queer story, and the only queer people who ever show up in the story are the two romantic leads, why? It has impact when it’s written that way, regardless of intent, so clarity is going to matter—something I needed a reminder of myself today. I try to queer as best I can—I know I have a lot of you who listen to me specifically for these discussions—but today I queered badly. I’m sorry.