Why I Write Queer Romance

20 July   Heidi Belleau   In personal, writing     No Comments

Once upon a time, I was a teenager. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe, looking at the confident, composed, and mature late twenties woman standing before you now. Yes, once upon a time I was a teenager. I slammed doors and wrote in my diary about my broken heart and talked back to teachers and rolled my eyes at fast food customers.

And, like now, I was a writer and a bisexual.

I wrote constantly as a teenager. Constantly. I’m not saying anything I wrote was very good–because it wasn’t, both in terms of technical skill and the fact that I was a huge weeaboo. But hey, we all gotta start somewhere and practice makes . . . better.

So anyway, I have basically always wanted to be an author and spent a good chunk of my teenager-ly free time writing. I had a couple of “universes” I wrote in, mostly shorts and vignettes, just trying out characterization and attempting to get out the various scenes and scenarios and characters that were gnawing at my brain.

One issue I always had writing was how so many of my characters veered . . . gay, or bisexual like me. I can think of at least four characters from my main writing who “wanted” to be queer. And do you know what I did?

I forced them to be straight, even when it sucked, even when the subtext was embarrassingly obvious, even though it went against what I wanted to write.

Because then, as now, I didn’t want to write as “just” a hobby. (I put scarequotes around “just” because I don’t think writing as a hobby is in any way lesser, in fact, it’s fabulous and I regularly read stuff written purely for the satisfaction of writing and reading and sharing.)

Teenage me wanted to be a published author, and by my understanding of all the books I had ever read or seen, all the stories on television, in novels, in comics, everywhere, everything I had available to me, featured straight people. So I assumed that queer relationships, whether gay or lesbian or bisexual or including trans* or genderqueer people, weren’t publishable. That nobody but me wanted to read them.

Yeah, of course the logical thing to think would be “If you want it, then somebody else must, too,” but it’s hard to be logical when you’re a confused teenager who feels isolated and weird and like nobody cares about their life or their story. Not seeing yourself represented in media hurts, as anyone in any kind of minority, whether it’s racial or ethnic or sexual or related to disability, already knows. It makes you feel like you don’t exist, or that if you do, you don’t matter. In romance? It means you don’t deserve a happy ending.

So I wrote books with queer characters I forced to be straight, or cut queer characters, or sneakily relegated them to side roles thinking that at least that way, maybe people would forgive it because it’s just a small part of the story. It made my writing total shit, and it made me absolutely miserable.

Of course, fast forward ten years and things have changed. Since I graduated, marriage equality is the law of the land in Canada, and is slowly gaining ground elsewhere. My old high school (where my best friend and I got called “dykes” because we were opinionated and not super feminine) now has a gay-straight alliance. Two of my ex boyfriends came out as gay and are now leading super fulfilling lives.

And me? I’m a published author, and I get to leave all the gay stuff in! I love writing M/M: it’s everything I couldn’t allow myself to write when I was a youth and feeling all alone. But more than just my M/M stuff, my ventures into M/F are going to be decidedly queer, too. Because for me, M/F doesn’t have to mean heterosexual, and it shouldn’t . . . at least not always. My upcoming novel The Dom Project features a bisexual hero (who has on-screen gay interaction!) and a heroine who identifies as straight, but has experimented sexually with women for her own fulfillment–ie: not to titillate men–and isn’t ashamed or conflicted about it. My next planned M/F will feature an openly bisexual heroine.

Every book, I write for me, to make up for every compromise I ever made, to thumb my nose at every hurtful, painful assumption I ever had about literature and media. And damn does it feel good to prove myself wrong.

Here’s to you, younger me. Livin’ the dream.



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