Homosexuality in Mainstream Fiction

By Persephone

I consistently run into a large (and I mean humongous) amount of people who like to tell me how I feel about being gay.  These are generally the people who consider themselves quite the progressives.  Their hearts are in the right place, so I feel guilty about resenting them, but the feeling remains regardless.

For instance, when I was in college, a few of my fellow students and even a couple teachers referred to their spouses as their “partner” rather than their “husband” or “wife.”  Now, remember, this was long before same-sex marriage was legal, and it was their way of making me feel better that homosexuals couldn’t call their spouses that yet.  Yet, every time I heard the word “partner,” my ears pricked up.  I love my friends and family very much, but everyone I know seems to be depressingly straight.  I’m always on the lookout for other homosexuals to talk to.  Then, inevitably, I discover that these are heterosexuals trying to be politically correct.  Well, you know what?  Stop being so damn PC.  If I had a wife, I’d call her that.  Be proud of who you are, whether that’s gay, transsexual, asexual, bisexual, hetero, or whatever else is out there.  I don’t care, but please.  Own it.

It also doesn’t help that I’m a writer.  You might not see the connection, but hear me out.  For some reason, everyone suggests that I show the despair and rejection inherent to being gay.  It’s as if, as a lesbian and a writer, I am now obligated to demonstrate my tragic history.  I don’t really feel my history is that tragic.  My family is very accepting—hell, my Mom would set me up if she could find another lesbian within a two hundred mile radius of our house.  While I’ve had to hide this part of me for more than one job, I’ve never really felt closeted.  I’m gay, but that’s only one part of me.  I’m also a crafter, a big fan of chocolate, a mother of two corgis (don’t ask how the heck that happened!), an aunt, a sister, an individual with OCD, a grad student, and…you get the idea.  I’ve got a lot of stuff going on in my life, and none of them include losing the love of my life because she couldn’t overcome societal pressure or killing myself.  That’s just dumb drama, and I’m sick of it.

Brokeback Mountain is a great example of this stereotype.  Can I just say that I loathe this movie?  Other than seeing Michelle Williams’ and Anne Hathaway’s boobs, it had nothing going for it.  Talk about a love story that made all its characters completely miserable.  Those poor wives…I know the guys were hurting, but they knew going into their marriages that they didn’t love their spouses.  That just wasn’t cool.  Then, after all those years of remaining closeted and careful, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character was killed for being gay anyway.  What was the point of that stupid movie?

Then, of course, there’s the recent film Carol, which followed Cate Blanchett’s character in a historical setting as she fell for a shopgirl.  While they did end up together at the very end, I didn’t find it a particularly joyous story.  Not only did the main leads have a nonexistent chemistry, I felt that it was yet another gay drama showing all the straight people out there just how much it sucks to be gay.  That sucks.  Carol even had to give up custody of her daughter to be with the one she loved.  How is that a happy ending?

Big-screen and independent films alike seem to follow this protocol.  Gay main character?  Check.  Horrible treatment from friends or family?  Check.  One or both of the love interests already married?  Check.  Suicide or easily avoidable murder?  Double check.

Then, there’s the comedies.  I am so sick of seeing gay best friends as the comic relief.  Yes, there are sassy gay men out there, but most of the ones I’ve met (and I’ve met hundreds) are normal.  Same goes for lesbians.  Not all of us shop at Home Depot.  I much prefer Lowe’s or Ace Hardware, thank you very much.  We’re just people who are attracted to our own gender.  Any sassiness or lack thereof has to do with our own personalities, not our sexual orientation.

There are a few good gay flicks out there, but they’re the exception.  Not the rule.  Instead of straight people telling us what it’s like to be gay or telling us gay writers just what our themes should include, let’s remember E.M. Forster.  He was a gay man who wrote six novels in the early 1900s.  Being British during a very difficult period in history, one would think that his words would reflect a high level of bitterness.  Most of his work criticized the class system more than anything else, but he did write the book Maurice.  It wasn’t actually published until 1971, a good five decades after being written and after Forster died, but that’s largely due to the content.  Maurice tells the story of a privileged man who falls in love with a fellow privileged man.  After years of self-loathing and being rejected by his platonic boyfriend, he runs off with the gardener.  E.M. Forster, even during such pessimistic times, wrote exactly what every gay person really wants.  A happy ending.

So…seriously, would someone go out and make one?


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