"Do you know that queer people are allowed to have happy stories?"
June 12, 2018 11:38 AM   Subscribe

I’m queer, which is why I always thought I’d be dead by now. I grew up standing just inside the open door of the closet, like a cat looking out the window at a bird and thinking she’s outside. The door was open — my queerness wasn’t a secret, that’s what I told myself. The door was open, but I was tucked between the coats, breathing shallow and hoping no one asked any questions. Sometimes people knew and sometimes people didn’t and often people forgot, forgot for years at a time, forgot even though we were coworkers, parishioners, friends, best friends, relatives, married.
Between the Coats: A Sensitivity Read Changed my Life – an Essay by Sarah Gailey posted by Lexica (40 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Sarah, they asked with excruciating kindness, do you know that queer people are allowed to have happy stories?

What a gut shot. Thank you for sharing.
posted by sciatrix at 12:04 PM on June 12, 2018 [13 favorites]

The part where they describe having their eyes opened by queer friends reminded me of this beautiful poem (YT)
posted by alona at 12:04 PM on June 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

God damn.

Thanks for this.
posted by PMdixon at 12:06 PM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Man, this is so immediately relevant to my interests right now it's like a really good therapist just handed me some good, positive essays.

I just recently parsed something that's been bugging the crap out of me for years and is so internalized and culturally reinforced that it was difficult to even identify what it even was.

And it's this pervasive negative reaction of dismay or sorrow whenever someone comes out, and even really positive people often react with stuff that they think is supportive, but is still actually negative, like "Oh, I'm so sorry for you. That must be so hard!"

Why is the response so rarely positive? Why is it rarely ever just "Fuck yeah! Be you!" and a simple high five and we go on with our lives?

For trans/genderqueer space the answers seem to be deeply uncomfortable and rooted in a whole lot of sexism and gender essentialist bullshit that states "Well it's obviously bad to be of indeterminate gender or in some in between state and you can only have one or the other."

And I've definitely been internalizing that and operating in this sort of apologetic, "I'm sorry I'm this way and being such a bother. I'll just sit over here in the corner out of the way and watch the adults being adults and living their normal adult lives, ok?"

Because being trans is obviously bad, right? I mean everyone seems to think so, such a tragedy.

Well, fuck all of that!

How about my gender is maybe even more valid because I had to build it my own damn self and fight for it and it's mine? How about y'all binary weirdos stop being so weirdly gender essentialist about everything from shaving razors to snack foods and alcoholic beverages and even frickin' guns, for fuck's sake?

How about all you fragile dudes stop being so fragile and threatened because someone else who is dude-shaped wants to wear a skirt? Your own mind is the offender here, and I suggest plucking it out.

How about being happy and joyous? I've brought a few people to this space but it's a deeply weird uphill battle, like I'm not allowed nor supposed to be happy about it.


posted by loquacious at 12:13 PM on June 12, 2018 [86 favorites]

And it's this pervasive negative reaction of dismay or sorrow whenever someone comes out, and even really positive people often react with stuff that they think is supportive, but is still actually negative, like "Oh, I'm so sorry for you. That must be so hard!"

... Or the icky "oh but you seem so straight"

Be happy. Be you. Be happy being you. Everyone.
posted by PMdixon at 12:16 PM on June 12, 2018 [12 favorites]

Thank you for this.

Having taken far too long in life to come out, I’ve now been struggling — I mean really struggling — with the being out part of it for ten years.

My social network and broader world collapsed when I came out, and never recovered, and I don’t feel like I fit well in any of gay social networks now, either. The result is very much a sense of being adrift. It’s gone on so long now, it feels like isolation and loneliness has just become the natural order of things.

So I really appreciate the message that I, too, am allowed to have a happy story. Not sure how to write it. But at least, even if I still feel like I’m some strange creature that lives in some sociocultural no man’s land, it’s encouraging to be reminded that it’s not my requisite habitat, and I’m not doomed to stay here forever.
posted by darkstar at 12:32 PM on June 12, 2018 [21 favorites]

My latest queer writings are about queer liberation through celebration.

This is timely. Thank you.
posted by nikaspark at 12:40 PM on June 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

It's not in the "Previously" links, but Sarah Gailey has lately been writing stuff about cowboys and hippos.

Beginning of River of Teeth
Beginning of the sequel, Taste of Marrow - both can be bought separately or in an omnibus volume
Worth Her Weight in Gold, a short story in the same setting, online at TOR.com

And not about hippos, The Fisher of Bones
posted by sukeban at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I know this is super 101 stuff, but it really does cut me: when not only is it difficult to imagine happy stories about people like yourself, but any stories about people like yourself. It seems deeply illogical and unfair!

I am deeply grateful to the trans and/or nonbinary writers working to put us on the page so that, perhaps, the next generation will not be so alienated from themselves.
posted by inconstant at 1:09 PM on June 12, 2018 [8 favorites]


I pass as straight. All the time. Every day. Mostly because my queerness is too complicated for people who don't know me. Granted, everyone who I would consider any kind of a friend and all of my family knows I'm not straight, but all of my co-workers, the people at my gym, my beekeeping students, the random person I get to chatting with, it's just too fucking exhausting to explain. And then explain again. And then answer the stupid questions, and the smart questions and the way too fucking personal questions that I don't actually mind answering but that's a lot of chutzpah to ask that question. So sometimes, I erase myself. And mostly I hate myself for it, but mostly I'm just moving through and trying to get home to my dog and my husband, who is a gay man.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:15 PM on June 12, 2018 [25 favorites]

I brought this up in my college creative writing class as a critique of a book we were reading in which the only two queer characters died violent deaths, and said that I strongly condemn books where queer characters die, and straight up will not read books where they commit suicide.

"But brook horse," they said. "All of your characters are queer. By your logic, that means none of them can ever die."

"Yup," I said. "It fucking does." (There is, perhaps, a reason, I decided to make my cast a species of immortal.)

Also in that same writing class, I wrote a story where the drama was centered around Character A avoiding a relationship with Character B because of struggling with the fear of being abandoned again and all the straight people in the class told me it was cliche (while all the queer people stared at them in confusion). In the revision I made it about him struggling with his internalized homophobia instead, and, as I predicted, they loved it. (Credit to the professor: when I said pretty bluntly, "Yeah, I was considering writing it this way the first time around, but I just wasn't in the mood to write about violently internalized homophobia," she basically responded, "...yeah, that's fair.")

I have long felt that no straight person is ever allowed to speak on what's "cliche" for queer characters. The standard tropes are not cliche for queer characters because we don't ever get those stories. This isn't even talking about just happy endings, I'm talking about all the damn angst and conflict that we see over and over and over again in straight romances--that never gets explored with queer characters. It's always about being beaten for being queer, hating yourself for being queer, dying for being queer. Give me the enemies to lovers trope ("bully who turns out to be secretly gay" doesn't count), give me love that's forbidden for reasons completely unrelated to queerness, give me the "I'm afraid to be close to people" character, give me all those plotlines that only straight people are allowed to have. Because on queer people, it's not cliche, it's interesting and refreshing and makes me feel more human.
posted by brook horse at 1:19 PM on June 12, 2018 [53 favorites]

Sarah Gailey is pretty great.
posted by jscalzi at 1:20 PM on June 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Now I'm embarrassed that River of Teeth is sitting unread on my bookshelf; must rectify soonest.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:22 PM on June 12, 2018

I lay awake that night, next to a husband who had spent most of our marriage trying hard to forget that I was queer.

I’m glad she decided to rewrite her own story, whatever that meant to her.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:28 PM on June 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Nice article. Still trying to process it.

I admit that hope is really something I live only vicariously through queer genre fic. I discovered my sexuality, started questioning my gender, and became a statistic and a survivor in the same bedroom and in the same freshman semester in college. Sometimes it feels like it's all about dodging the half-dozen bullets with my name on them that come from untreated emotional trauma and staying closeted in health-care settings.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:06 PM on June 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

this afternoon i got a haircut, which is a small and a dumb thing but it is the first semi-permanent step i have taken in some time towards... i don't even know, Presenting, i suppose, a different way. a realer way. and it didn't come out exactly how i wanted, and i feel self-conscious as heck about it, and everything that was a bad idea in the 1990s is somehow happening on my head all at the same time, and yet... well... it's a Thing, and i did It, and i feel strangely visible and alive, so this is a good thing to read on this day, and thanks.
posted by halation at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2018 [32 favorites]

So, between the personal breakthrough I had last Sunday about what I'm raving about in my last comment, this thread and articles, and the really great therapy and check-in session I just had where we celebrated my wins and I got to fill in my therapist about how cool and crazy my last two months have been...

...I'm guessing this is what radical self acceptance feels like. I thought I was doing pretty good before and feeling the shackles come off and this fairly well known "it feels like I can breath for the first time." kind of stuff.

But this is huge. So huge. I feel like I just tore off a whole lot of dead weight and chains so much it's nearly unbearable. Like, it almost feels unfair like it should have taken years of intense therapy and hard work.

I feel so comfortable and wholly "self" in my skin right now. My brain and body haven't ever matched this well.

Man, I used to have to drink and smoke myself to dissociated bits to even pretend to feel this at home with myself.

posted by loquacious at 5:00 PM on June 12, 2018 [25 favorites]

I'm out and have been out since I was 19 (which is a very long time ago). Even though my sexuality has changed a bit since then, it has always been some variety of queer. So I really wish, in some ways, that I had that as an obvious thing to do to rewrite my story so that it might have a happy ending. Right now, every day that I manage not to have a rather permanent unhappy ending is a win, even though that win is a hollow victory.

But there's something about this article that makes me wonder how much of my own depression is because I have so deeply internalised the messages society tells me, that I believe I have to be what they tell me I am, I have to have the story they have written for me. Not just as a queer person, but as a woman, as a fat person, as a person with chronic pain.

Do I know that fat, queer women with chronic pain are allowed to have happy stories? No, I don't think I do. I don't think I really believe that.

Why are you erasing yourself? Well, I haven't managed to yet - there's an awful lot of me to erase, after all - but I've certainly succeeded in erasing the happiness from my story. No coincidence, really, that I've had writer's block for ten years or so - I can't seem to write any stories anymore, let alone my own.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:28 PM on June 12, 2018 [13 favorites]

Romancelandia is telling these stories, FYI. (I"m a book editor, and most of what I work on is romance.)

If you want to read stories with queer characters who get their happy endings -- ranging from sweet to angsty, chaste to red-hot, historical to contemporary -- you might want to check out authors like: Roan Parrish, Cat Sebastian, KJ Charles, Damon Suede, Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy, Rose Lerner, SE Jakes...there are a kajillion more.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:12 PM on June 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

"And it's this pervasive negative reaction of dismay or sorrow whenever someone comes out, and even really positive people often react with stuff that they think is supportive, but is still actually negative, like "Oh, I'm so sorry for you. That must be so hard!""

We are 100% in need of an appropriate, culturally agreed upon response to someone coming out. "That must be hard" is wrong; "Congratulations!" isn't quite it. Mazel tov? Blessings? A happy dance?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:30 PM on June 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

We are 100% in need of an appropriate, culturally agreed upon response to someone coming out. "That must be hard" is wrong; "Congratulations!" isn't quite it. Mazel tov? Blessings? A happy dance?

"Thank you for telling me," paired with about as much emotional weight as the person telling you is putting out, is about it. Honestly. You don't stop coming out ever, and you have to consider responding to coming outs in that context--the first one is usually scariest, and then there are millions more, and after a while it all gets fairly routine. I find that straight people who are like "HOORAY" when I out myself now, usually when I'm trying to add context to another point or tell a funny story or whatever, come across as nearly as annoying as the people who stared and went "I don't care?" back when I was more scared about outing myself.

(Honestly, I still get teeth chatteringly scared about outing myself in a few specific ways, even as I'm cheerily open about being queer generally. But how much worry and panic I have about that process depends heavily on how high stakes the relationship I have with the person I'm telling is for me, and in my experience that's more common than not.)

Give as much support as context cues tell you is wanted, and ask if you're genuinely unsure. But please do not treat coming out as always an incredibly emotionally salient, high stakes thing--because I swear to God the reaction you'll often get is less 'grateful' than eye rolling.
posted by sciatrix at 9:12 PM on June 12, 2018 [9 favorites]

Piling on the "we need a positive way of reacting when people come out" thing --

I think my older brother handled it 100% perfectly each time I came out to him, first as bi, then as trans (and I think maybe some other stages between those two Big Ones). He basically said two things: "well, cool," or something to that effect, and "I think I already knew this about you," or something to that effect (but without any sense of "and I was waiting for you to hurry up and figure it out for yourself" or "no duh" or any other such condescension).

Of course, this was only the perfect reaction because I wasn't *expecting* a whole lot of rejection from him about it and didn't *need* a whole lot of reassurance, and that would have been very different in a different family, but... yeah. His simple, affirming validation(s) went a long, long way towards making me feel okay about coming out in general -- and towards making me feel a little bit more like my life could turn out to be a happy queer story.

EDIT: I don't think it would have been good for someone other than my brother or a very, very close friend to suggest that they already knew. But the "well, cool" part, and the "this is who you are! that is a thing!" part still hold.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 9:27 PM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

""Thank you for telling me," paired with about as much emotional weight as the person telling you is putting out, is about it."

Yeah, that's what I say. (Or, if it's very intense, "Thank you for trusting me.") But it still feels not quite right. I'm just waiting for society to develop the sort of standard etiquette that comes with normalization, I guess. The phrase we'll use some day that means, "Oh, thank you for that piece of socially-relevant personal information, I acknowledge that we have just briefly discussed sexual orientation and/or gender identity, please carry on with your story, this phrase I am saying now is a socially accepted polite response." Sort of like "Best wishes" or "Sorry for your loss" which don't actually carry any emotional information from the person saying it other than "I am acknowledging this in a socially-acceptable fashion." One day that will be a phrase we have and it'll be written in all of our brains and we'll say it reflexively because it'll have ceased to be a big deal in 90% of situations. In our Ursula LeGuin future. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:29 PM on June 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I wanted to share a tidbit of these fragments that I've been writing over the past 12 days in Berlin. I don't know that anything I write ever make it past a few ephemeral instances and scraps left on bookshelves, in a sense that is kind of the essence of being queer I suppose. Anyway, to say "this FPP is relevant" and not to share feels like I'm letting myself down because I really do want people to read what I write. I believe in it, so here's a sample of the latest thing I'm working on.

...As queer people we don't have the power to manufacture a social norm. We can only mimic them as a matter of survival. I support this tactic being used as needed, you are valid for employing it.

But as a queer person I ask you to be suspicious of this tool. Do not become beguiled by it.Do not think this imposition belongs to you. It is being done TO you not FOR you. The social norms are not yours, they never will be. You may enjoy temporary inclusion but history will revert to the norm and you will be left outside the social norms, the laws will betray you, the society of the spectacle will make you into an alien, an agent of terror, destruction, a force against. When this happens the pageantry of the world will be rendered from our bodies and we will all be once again naked, starving, feral and cold.

So employ the cishetero camouflage, just remember that it does not actually suit you. That under your clothes and under the sheets and crawling in your skin is a queerness that you cannot erase or hide.

So I propose we celebrate that fact.

Cast off the camouflage!

Liberate yourself!

Find in every moment how you are queer. Find in every moment how you are alien, how you create and receive friction. How you antagonize the world and how the world antagonizes you. In that heat, celebrate the exhaustion and the agony and the isolation and the pain until you are worn raw. And when you break like floodwaters tearing apart a glacial dam, I will be here to hold you, to dry your tears, to make a space for you to heal, to be your mommy, your lover, your partner, your flirtatious crush, or perhaps just another wayward queer to enjoy a bite of food with in some quiet and wholly unremarkable moment. Perhaps we may find stillness together in our shared queerness. Perhaps we may give each other the joy of forgetting for a moment that we are these things.

But our attentions invariably drift back towards the ever-present and ever-crushing social norms where we are caught between the calculus of blending versus trespassing.

We navigate that tension internally and externally, but come, let us seek to find a deeper joy of knowing and celebrating who we are in the never-ending dance between the norms that we mimic and the boundaries that will eventually claim us all.

And perhaps,

In that macabre dance, let us celebrate who we are.
posted by nikaspark at 5:31 AM on June 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

"It didn’t occur to me that queer tragedies like that are part of an agenda, and that the agenda had been working on me for a long time.
Somewhat apropos, last night I saw Velvet Goldmine again for the first time in 20 years and I was disappointed by the degree to which a movie I generally remembered with affection now looked like a trite story of tragic queers who aren't even permitted the pleasures of glitter, or makeup, or pretty clothes without someone leering or sniggering at them in the background. Maybe it's the moment or maybe it's Maybelline it was just a bad mood, but, despite the clever bits, the whole thing just felt awful. I walked out sorry that I'd devoted an evening to it. Queer cinema my ass.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:12 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

(In contrast my experience of seeing My Own Private Idaho again several weeks ago was that it still felt fresh and powerful, despite its tragedies.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:18 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Some corners of Romancelandia are telling some of these stories. Not nearly enough. I was talking to a friend just yesterday about her experience in Romancelandia publishing where the publishing house she worked for would cheerfully publish queer male stories but refused to publish more than a token scattering of queer women's stories or to put any effort into promoting the ones they did publish. (I didn't think to ask how that publishing house felt about trans or non-binary stories but I suspect I know and it isn't good.) More of those too, please!

On the coming out front, if I come out in a professional setting honestly I want as little reaction as possible. Just take it in stride and move on with the conversation. I've sort of forgotten what it's like to come out to a straight friend because I really only cluster with fellow queers these days, but "that must be hard" would be totally inappropriate and I would probably laugh. I expect it to be no bigger a deal than if I tell you I have a cat, or used to live in New Jersey, or like Danish movies. It's a fact about me, that's all.

(But also if I have to go out of my way to come out to you, you probably weren't paying attention, because I live my life draped in rainbows including some of the tattooed-on-my-skin variety.)
posted by Stacey at 6:30 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

That essay is amazing. I'm a straight white dude, and it still hit hard.

I've been increasingly enjoying Gailey's online presence, but was kinda disappointed in RoT -- it seemed more like a superficial gloss on a world than an actual complete story to me. Clearly, though, I'm gonna keep following her work, because holy damn is she great.
posted by uberchet at 6:45 AM on June 13, 2018

would cheerfully publish queer male stories but refused to publish more than a token scattering of queer women's stories or to put any effort into promoting the ones they did publish

This is because the vast majority of romance readers are straight women. WLW stories -- let alone trans stories, or NB stories -- do not have the audience to be consistently profitable, particularly in the few-hits-subsidize-the-many-misses publishing market.

It's not just a problem in romance, obviously. Our minority status is reflected in the broader culture at large. But this most likely isn't the publishing house being deliberately discriminatory; it's the publishing house trying to survive. IMO the only way for stories about minorities to get the representation they deserve -- i.e., not written for a voyeuristic majority market -- is to publicly subsidize them in some way. Arts programs, etc. You know, like in a civilized country.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Even in spaces where many readers and writers are queer, like many corners of online media fandom, there is much more attention paid to m/m relationships and romances than there is to f/f. It's really alienating and exhausting, and I say that as someone who literally went on a furious rant about problems in f/f writing both published and fan-made--because there's a lot of crossover! I've read more than one published piece that's clearly a serial-numbers-filed-off fanwork--both in m/m and f/f, of course, but if anything more frequently in f/f. Which is deeply fucking irritating if you don't like a particular house style that is really common in femslash communities, as I happen not to, because it makes it difficult to escape.

There's a distinct subgenre or maybe tradition of fanfiction (including femslash, dudeslash, and gen!) that I tend to think of as "queerfic" because it's not particularly focused on anything I read as voyeuristic--for one thing, like I said, there are stories in it that are more gen than anything else, and for another thing there's a heavy emphasis on culture, experience, and often negotiating happy endings. Sometimes there's a lot of focus on history. There are a few fandoms I associate with the subgenre--old-style Stargate Atlantis, for example, and now I find a lot of it in Captain America fic--but it's clearly, clearly not aimed at a voyeuristic and heterosexual market, even if it's being produced and consumed largely by women and nonbinary people. And even that subgenre nearly always focuses on cis gay men unless authors actively choose to create an AU that twists a character into a different experience. I am not sure I've ever seen it in femslash, although there are some beautiful f/f pieces I can think of that fit into my mental model of this subgenre--they're just all stories that start with a m/m pairing that the author has cheerfully decided to write AUs as "they were always girls!"

I honestly think that the huge disparity between the comparative glut of m/m and the much smaller f/f market is less about straight women and more about the simple fact that women will read stories about men, but men will not read stories about women. Combine that with the reality that fanworks often rely on canonical characters and relationships to build off of, and female characters have a pronounced tendency to appear only to be the love interest of some dude, and even when you have them their relationships are less likely to be fleshed out on screen...

Either way, I personally find it exhausting even as I'm starting to write more of the f/f I'd like to see in the world out of pure frustrated desire to see stories about someone like me even if I don't pretend to be a cis dude first. It just... doesn't exist! I can't find it! It's enough that just seeing a background character who looks something like me is a rare feat to be savored and cherished, let alone getting an actual focus on a f/f romance that doesn't end in sorrow. (Cloudburst, dammit, I am looking at you.)

Bluntly, the situation for queer stories between queer women and queer men is like night and day (and don't even get me started on the other letters of the alphabet!), and that is not something I think I've ever seen a queer man comment on. And you know, possibly that's because a whole lot of these writings and conversations are happening in slash fandom, and because there are spaces within slash fandom that are very much about creating happy stories so that we can share them with one another--but these things all build on each other, and it can become deeply frustrating to feel passed over for stories over and over again.
posted by sciatrix at 7:56 AM on June 13, 2018 [8 favorites]

Find in every moment how you are queer. Find in every moment how you are alien, how you create and receive friction. How you antagonize the world and how the world antagonizes you. In that heat, celebrate the exhaustion and the agony and the isolation and the pain until you are worn raw.

This is beautiful. Thank you.
posted by PMdixon at 8:23 AM on June 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

The story issue is tough. I admit that I've been turning a lot more to LGBTQ-authored original SFF or stuff that's been reviewed by LGBTQ-centric critics lately, much of which is written by people closer to feminine than masculine.

I admit a pretty conflicted relationship with fandom right now. I've been on the bad end of the unicorn/problem dichotomy multiple times, and I know from experience that consuming "gay" or "lesbian" media can mask interpersonal homophobia. On the one hand, I see a lot more effort spent trivially transforming media about straight dudes to have them bang than supporting either queer or commercial LGBT work. On the other hand, shifts in the social media end of fandom supports increased harassment over interpretations that don't really mean that much in the big scheme of things. I'm just not convinced that production of M/M stuff is as queer-positive as everyone says it is, but as I've said, that likely comes from bad experiences as the unicorn/problem in relationships.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:59 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

It also doesn't help that it's really hard to talk about issues with M/M fanfic and low-budget romance without ending up overshadowed by the "dirty fujoshi" discourse. So I find it better to just broadcast my fave of the month than try.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:03 AM on June 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Extremely this, but especially for trans stuff. Even every trans erotica anthology I've read has a pretty high percentage of stuff that's about the heavy parts of transness, and, like, I can confirm that a lot of it is a bummer, but definitely sometimes we get to be in love, and have hot sex, and have a nice time, and I desperately want to read more of that.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:08 AM on June 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm just not convinced that production of M/M stuff is as queer-positive as everyone says it is

This was what I was trying to get at. It’s not queer positive because it’s overwhelmingly produced by straight women, for straight women. That’s who buys books, and that’s who reads regularly for fun.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:24 AM on June 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I'm not arguing that straight women who are consuming and producing m/m exist , nor am I arguing that they don't drive a whole lot of content--I'm describing a subset of work within the larger whole. (And I'm definitely thinking about the gift economies of fanfiction, which don't support creators at all, and thinking about that point by GenderNullPointerException, too. I don't have a lot of interest in traditionally or nontraditionally published m/m, especially that which goes through the gatekeepers of romance publishers. I don't actually know what you mean by the unicorn/problem thing, either--I associate the term 'unicorn' in this context with bisexual women who might want to sleep with both halves of a heterosexual couple, which seems unlikely.)

Anyway, put it like this: I sit here squirming as I write this comment because within my own curated experience with slash fandom, I genuinely can't think of anyone I currently know who is straight. Of course that's massively self-selected--I strongly prefer that subgenre I just referred to as 'queerfic,' and porn qua porn is never going to be my thing, and I get hideously uncomfortable and say so when something feels off.


Look, the closest I have found to straight women in my own social fandom networks are women who present very much as Gailey describes: bi women or ace women who are in relationships with men (or no one at all) and who feel like they can't exist as they are, can't find happiness as they are--and feel like they can't dip into queer community as they really are, either. People who feel disconnected. There are an awful lot of them. Bi/pan women especially, and especially femme women.

They get called straight an awful lot, too. Which just makes it harder to actually let their hair down, as it were, and engage with their own actual queerness without feeling like impostors or thieves--not helped, of course, by the fact that they often get told that this is exactly what they are doing when they try. I wonder a lot about how you represent that and give it happy endings.

Anyway, I'll drop the m/m derail--I'm just--I would like to hear even a few men point to or engage in f/f the way I see a lot of queer women in my networks caring and thinking about m/m. I'm not talking or thinking much about straight women at the moment.

I just want to see relationships and experiences that look like me.
posted by sciatrix at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I see unicorn as broader and not entirely gendered either. I suspect the numbers differ because more straight women than straight men reject bi partners outright, but straight men are a lot more physically violent when expectations are not met.

In my experience, my acceptance within straight relationships has often been conditional on satisfying my partner's fantasies regarding queer sexuality (the unicorn). Threesomes are the most common, but that's often been bundled with pressure regarding porn, consent, gender expression, and kink as well. It's assumed that because I'm bi I'm open to doing just about anything on my partner's terms. There's some research on bi survivors of intimate partner violence to suggest that I'm not unique, although those were small-cohort case studies.

The flip side of this is the problem. And sometimes I was the problem from the start. Sometimes I became the problem when a partner got freaked out when the fantasy didn't play out as expected. Sometimes I became the problem because I started expressing messy boundaries and limits.

But this stuff depresses me and I'm a bit of a crank when it comes to bi people and relationship violence, which appears to be consistently double the rate for straight people.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:38 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am not involved enough in fandom anymore to really comment on the issue of m/m vs f/f, but I was reminded of a post by a queer artist I really respect, that has stuck with me ever since I read it. This is the part that I remember most clearly, and still think about a lot:
I can not personally speak for the queer men’s experience, so I won’t, as they are more than capable of speaking for themselves so of course their expressions are worth reading, listening, and digesting, but I will speak for the queer woman’s perspective, which is: in my experience, why so many queer women are attracted to media with queer men isn’t the fetishization of men, but rather the fetishization of the power of being a man. Which is to say, it’s a wish-fulfillment/power fantasy to exist in a queer space with full societal humanity without the exhaustion of dealing with gender politics.
(full post here)

I still haven't decided how that fits into the whole dynamic that we're discussing here, and I couldn't really articulate how I feel on the issue, but. That concept is one that I do think is important to the discussion, so I thought I would bring it up for consideration.
posted by brook horse at 8:13 PM on June 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah, this hits home.

One of my most significant hurdles/realizations to get over in coming out as trans was in actually being able to imagine or visualize a future for myself. Not in a "I don't want to keep living" way, more just that (pre-transition) any intention I could set for myself more than a few months ahead felt vague and not-quite-real. Now that that part of my own identity is actually plain to me and more comfortably seated, thinking about who I want to be a year, ten years down the road actually holds salience to me.

It's usually the small things that have provided the fuel for that sort of thinking.

It's going out shopping, not even dressed in a particularly feminine way, hearing a tiny kid yell out WOW! SHE'S TALL! and being reminded that prejudices are learned, not innate.

It's seeing the reveal of Stevonnie from Steven Universe and having a chance to revel in the simple expression of a nonbinary character delighting in themselves.

It's seeing projects like Dates spring up with the intent of filling in little pieces all of these overlooked happy moments.

Outside of the small circle of people we actually know, this is the raw material that we use to assemble knowledge of our future selves. Storytelling is powerful.
posted by cwill at 8:28 PM on June 13, 2018 [8 favorites]

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