“I’m not homophic, but I just don’t get why people keep shoving LGBT characters in my face!”
“Does everyone have to be gay nowadays?”
“Why do I need to know a character’s sexuality? It doesn’t matter! This isn’t romance!”
The above statements are all things I have heard or seen in response to articles and blog posts about representation of LGBT+ characters in books, television and film. The number of people I have had lodge complaints to me about this very subject, especially concerning Hellbent Halo, has increased with the release of the third book.
As I sat down to start working on the 4th book in the series, it occurred to me that I could and should address the question. I’m in a unique position to do so as someone who is a part of the LGBT community, and as an author who does not write romance or reverse harem.
Why does genre fiction—horror, science fiction, and fantasy specifically—need one more LGBT character?
My gut response it to ask…Why do we need another cisgender straight hero? Going back, western literary tradition is chock full of straight white men falling in love with women. Every aspect of western storytelling has literally thousands of examples of cis hetero relationships, from film to books to oral traditions. As a friend of mine put it on Facebook, “Imagine if I stopped reading books about straight people. I’d never have anything to read.”
To be honest, it’s actually fairly easy to find lesbian or gay fiction outside of romance in 2019. There are lesbian and gay couples everywhere. I’ve been able to have same-sex romances in most of my video games for several years now. Gay themes and gay coming out stories are everywhere.
But what about the bisexuals?
The B in the LGBT is so often overlooked when it comes to representation in the media, but that’s especially true outside of romance. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to see more bisexuals being represented in niche genres like reverse harem, but something about that just makes me a little uncomfortable too. It’s as if bisexual characters are only allowed to be bisexual in a sexual setting. None of these stories—at least none of the ones I’ve picked up—have talked about the bisexual experience, coming out as bi, and the unique challenges and struggles of bisexuals in a world that’s sometimes very binary.
Sadly, this is particularly true in the indie urban fantasy market, which is painfully full of toxic masculinity tropes, and where I’ve put down far too many series for making fun of anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender and sexual norms.
When I started writing Hellbent Halo, there were other authors actively discouraging me from writing in what one reviewer called “the unnecessary gay element” of Josiah’s past relationship with a man. Even the reviewer got it wrong. It’s not a gay element. It’s a bisexual element. We are invisible even to our readers, even when we put characters like us right in front of them.
But I’m not offended. I didn’t write Josiah as a homoromantic bisexual for them. I wrote it for me and people like me who didn’t grow up knowing bisexuality existed, for readers who grew up without an open dialogue, or who felt like they had to hide their attractions because they didn’t fit in a prescribed binary. Growing up, I often felt like a rectangular peg trying to fit in either a circular or square socket. If I twisted just the right way, I could fit in with one side, but that still meant being squished, contorted. Unhappy.
We need more bisexual characters in non-sexualized roles. More bisexual stories. More representation. It’s not an unnecessary element, it’s stories that haven’t been told, voices that have yet to be heard. Voices that should not be silenced because they make others uncomfortable.
Why do we need more LGBT characters in genre fiction outside of romance? Because we exist and we have all sorts of stories yet to tell.
Josiah Quinn is the lead character in the Hellbent Halo series. You can read the books for free with Kindle Unlimited by clicking below: