Labeling Gay Lit

Is Winter Seedlings a gay novel?

The stereotype of gay lit is this: a story about gay sex.

What it really is: a story involving LGBTQ main characters and LGBTQ issues.

How are LGBTQ characters different from characters in traditional novels?
They aren’t.

How are LGBTQ issues in gay lit different from the issues addressed in traditional novels?
Gay characters deal daily with oppression and judgment to which traditional characters are not subjected. So, take a traditional novel and add a few specific hurdles, and you have a gay novel.

Why the hurdles?
Because our society creates them. The hurdles are imaginary things others believe should be there, so therefore they are. Once our society stops inserting these hurdles, we will finally be able to see love as love and life as life.

Which brings me back to Winter Seedlings.

When I asked my gay friends, “Is Winter Seedlings a gay novel?” They answered emphatically, “Yes.” They reasoned that the characters are gay and the book highlights important issues within the gay community. They felt it was important to market it to the LGBTQ community because there would be such a benefit there.

When my straight friends realized Winter Seedlings had been labeled as a gay novel, they had difficulty processing why it had been labeled as that. Winter Seedlings had moved them to tears, and they were straight. If straight people enjoy a book and can internalize it, identify with the characters, and appreciate it for more than a book about sex, it should be labeled as traditional.

And I understand both sides. I understand the frustration of knowing a book would be universally loved if only it didn’t have a label attached to it which made people shun it. But that isn’t just the fate of my book. It’s the fate of many human beings. They really are equally beautiful, equally complicated, equally intelligent. But they are put in a corner with a label and expected to only be about sex.

The problem with the gay lit label is how it is perceived, not what it actually is. As with all stereotypes, those holding the prejudice also hold the responsibility of changing it. If more readers accepted that people in the LGBTQ community live their lives just like everybody else, and allowed them out of the “taboo and kinky sex” box, straight people wouldn’t have a problem with the category. And this is why I almost didn’t label it gay lit. I wanted straight readers to get comfortable reading about gay characters.

Winter Seedlings was written for gay readers. It was also written for straight readers. I held them both up throughout the process of creating this story which I hoped would bring them together. I will consider the fact that both my gay and straight friends insist this book was written mostly for them as a sign that I succeeded. Regardless of what it is labeled, I hope it finds its way into the hands and hearts of those who will find it most meaningful. Ultimately, the book is about abuse and how to overcome self-hatred. It’s sadly a universal pain, recognizable to all.


2 thoughts on “Labeling Gay Lit

  1. You could also argue that having a separate “Gay lit” genre (implying there’s also a “straight lit” genre) is further separating and alienating two groups of people, implying an “us and them” mindset. I think it’s good you avoided doing that.

    Liked by 2 people

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