As everyone who reads this blog knows, we like gay romance, which made it easy for us to decide to donate a story to the Leather Bound charity collection sponsored by Torquere Press to benefit NOH8. In conjunction with the story collection, we also volunteered to make a post here to help draw attention to this very worthwhile charity. The theme for this “Blog Hop” is “Leather and Love: How Romance Helps Stamp Out Hate.” To read other Blog Hop posts by contributing authors, please click the logo graphic.
The two of us who write as “Ari McKay” have slightly different perspectives on the topic; these views are complementary, but our life experiences help us see different facets of the topic, so we’d like to address the topic separately.
Romance is an important part of most people’s lives, so I do believe that it can be used to stamp out hate. Everyone loves a lover, right? Being in love is one of those fundamental human conditions almost everyone can relate to; the joys, the sorrows, the excitement, and the fear are all things anyone who has been in love has felt. It doesn’t really matter if the object of someone’s affection is of the same sex or a different one, or even if there is more than one other person involved; the feelings are the same.
That’s one reason I think that gay romance stories are an important part of the literary universe. By portraying gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered characters in positive, relatable ways, we can help overcome ignorance, misconceptions, and stereotypes. Since hate can only exist in an atmosphere of ignorance and fear, I like to think that in some way we really are making a difference in overcoming it.
As a parent, I want to do my best to leave my children a world where they never have to live in fear of expressing their love for their partner or partners, no matter who they might be. And I truly think it’s doable, if all of us do our best to break down the barriers to understanding. For me, this involves not only writing what I love, but also supporting marriage equality and never, ever tolerating hatred, no matter where it is or who it is directed against.
I was raised by parents who were both homophobic and racist, and I have fought against that kind of intolerance my entire life. I brought my own children up to judge everyone by their character, not by things like the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, or their sexuality. I was extremely proud when my son told me he was voting for marriage equality in our state, not because he was following a political agenda, but because he believes, as he put it, that “everyone has the right to be happy.”
If everyone thought about how wonderful it would be to make other people happy rather than cling to their prejudices, maybe someday we really could have a world without hatred.
Unlike Arionrhod, I’m not a parent, but I am a teacher. I teach composition and literature at the university level, which means I see a lot of freshmen, many of whom are out on their own for the first time and are being exposed to ideas, cultures, and lifestyles that they’ve never encountered before. I try to help broaden their horizons, especially in my lit classes, by taking a multicultural approach and encouraging tolerance and open-mindedness in what they read, write, and say.
I think ignorance is the greatest impediment to overcoming intolerance, which is why I try to show my students how to develop their critical thinking skills and examine what they’re told rather than passively accepting everything at face value. I also try to show them that “different” doesn’t mean “wrong” or “scary”. If I can get just one student to change their world view or open their mind in a positive way each semester, then I feel like I’ve done my job.
I feel the same way about writing LGBT romance stories. The more LGBT stories that are available, the more resources LGBT young people have to reinforce the message that they’re not alone and their stories are just as valid as heterosexual and/or cisgender stories, which is why I think YA LGBT lines like Prizm are invaluable.
The fact that these stories are being published and that there are now multiple publishing companies just for LGBT fiction makes me hopeful that we’re chipping away at hatred and intolerance bit by bit. I want to be a part of that by telling the kind of romantic stories I love and sharing them with readers who enjoy seeing a happily ever after regardless of gender.
The bottom line is that Arionrhod and I are both hopeless romantics. In our fictional worlds, love always conquers all – even prejudice and intolerance – because we can make it happen. In the real world, we don’t have that kind of control, but hopefully, we contribute to the change by celebrating love.