Duh, You Don't Have to Be Gay to Attend LGBTQ Talks

Or have a gay character in your book.
Or plan to have a gay character in your book.
And come to think of it, it's not required that you read books with gay characters before you attend the LGBTQ mixer.
(Though, I highly recommend one, if not all the above, just for personal growth.)

With a little urging from Ara and the chance to hear agent Jennifer Laughran speak again (Love her!), I went to my first LGBTQ mixer. I don't have a gay character in my book.  Nor was I planning to write about a gay character. (That is prior to this meeting.)  And come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever read a book with a gay main character. Shame on me.  It's not out of protest or avoidance or [insert whatever reason here] that I have not read a book with a gay character.  It's just that I am drawn to "girl meets boy" (preferably over the summer at a beach) type of stories. And the unfortunate part, there aren't a ton out of LGBTQ YA book options out there.

Imagine my fear when Lee Wind (El Moderator) asked everyone to put their favorite book with a gay character on their name tag. O__O  Needless to say my name tag stayed blank.  The sheer awkwardness of being the only one who didn't fit in struck me hard.  Haha! Nice isnt' it?  How life has a way of turning itself around on you.  I was sure a giant lighted arrow would drop from the ceiling and point its blinking finger at me and scream STRAIGHT WHITE GIRL IN THE ROOM!

Well, none of that happened.  But let me share with you what did.   After the editors and agent and Ellen Hopkins--did I mention she was there?  She's one hell of a woman.  Ballsy, bold and absolutely fantastic!  Anyway, after they chatted the floor opened up for questions/discussion.  Eventually a young woman made a comment that...well...how do I say this delicately...she ticked me off.  (Dear young woman, I am not mad at you.  Your statement was generalized and I only felt the need to point that out to you.  In no way do I wish to offend you.  As to your statement, it actual stirred something wonderful inside me. So essentially, though you pissed me off, you gave life to something greater.  Thank you.)

I know, what the heck did she say already?!? She made the comment (and I'm paraphrasing) that why is it people say, "I'm not gay.  So I can't write about a gay character.  You're not a vampire either and you wrote about vampires."  Collective chuckles and grunting agreements rumbled around the room.  And this is where my southern roots/my mother tone kicked in and I said "Let me stop you right there."

I'm cringing now, because that is my classic you're-about-to-get-a-mouthful-whether-you-like-it-or-not phrase. Thankfully, I got my point across without coming off offensive or angry. I simply stated that I'm a heterosexual who grew up in the south, a close-minded bible belt where negative opinions on black and gay people abound. It took moving to California before I understood it's one-sided position.  I don't write about gay characters or people of race because I'm scared of writing them in classic stereotypical way and offending an already overly offended group(s) of people.  And what if something I wrote made it worse.

Then Ellen Hopkins jumped in and said, "And as far as offending, that's where CP's can help you.  Write what you know, from true experiences...from the heart.  If you do that, you won't offend them."

That's when Jennifer Laughran pointed her finger at me and said, "Now that's the story I want to read." She went on to to say, most gay or racial stories are set on the east and west coasts and hardly ever from the south.  Writing from that perspective, using what I experienced growing up there would be they "unique perspective" the market just doesn't have right now.

And then a seed was planted.  Inside me this seed grew from my excitement....and fear.  What if I did write that book?  What if I shared my experiences growing up and how they affected the gay people I knew?  I'd probably piss off a lot of people back home.  I might even shame my mother with my candid approach.  But I could also enlighten a few people.  Show them that there is more to life than the bubble they were raised in.  And what if...what if my story could open the mind of one teen.

Currently I have an urban fantasy that I want to see published.  So I plan to query that puppy.  But while it's out in the world, waiting for the right agent, I will need to be working on something else.  May this, this other side of the rainbow perspective will be what I work on next.

Do you have a LGBTQ character?  What LGBTQ book do you love and think I should read?