Queer representation through romance

Before Thanksgiving I mentionedĀ the “queering beards” panel, which is not what it’s called but how I keep referring to it in my head. It’s got to be the internal rhymes.

Anyway, above is the link to the post last week. Suffice to say for new readers, I went to World Fantasy Convention and got to listen to a lot of cool thoughts about LGBTQIA+ representation from various industry professionals. So here I am, reporting back to you, my readers, who didn’t get to go listen to this awesome conversation.

One of the questions that came up in this panel was about how queer stories are marketed predominantly through romance. Typically, there is an idea that an adult story with a queer main character, of any orientation, needs to have a romantic or sexual subplot as a way to firmly establish their queerness. Audience members also expressed pressure they had felt in young adult and middle grade writing to include a coming out story, often dovetailing with a romantic or sexual plot element. The moderator, Sara Megibow, asked how this had impacted the current panelists and their thoughts on it. The panelists each had different lived experiences which they articulated. One panelist felt that he had been pigeonholed into these projects as a voice actor; another felt that marketing for her books was sometimes difficult because of her publisher’s reputation for romance, when she herself did not write romance. They agreed that this could be problematic for queer authors trying to tell stories that didn’t revolve around romantic or sexual subplots, though they didn’t use those words.

So I raised my hand and asked how they felt it impacted asexual and aromantic representation in books. The panel felt there was an impact, but it felt to me that they didn’t know how to speak to this issue since none of them identified as such. But when a Twitter mutual who is active in the ace and aro communities posted a thread, I was reminded of that conversation and chimed in.

 

We had a great discussion. Honestly, this is one of my favorite things about Twitter, the ability for me to constantly encounter people who have more experience than me and learn about their expertise.

One of the things the panel didn’t really explore in their answer to my question, and one of the things that I didn’t explicitly tease out, is that there is a difference between asexual and aromantic and that difference could result in differing challenges in the publishing industry. Claudie quickly corrected my thinking here, specifying that, while getting asexual stories published was still not easy, it was becoming more common than aromantic stories because romance-focused publishing houses were uninterested in aromanticism. After all, you don’t necessarily need sex to have a romance that can titillate readers.

I urge you to check out our conversation if you would like to. We kind of went in several branching directions, so you may need to flit about from tweet to tweet to find it all. You also might check out some of her work documenting and recommending asexual and aromantic stories. And you could always buy her a coffee.


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