It’s a question I see a lot. Sometimes it’s bandied about as a badge of honour. In any group dedicated to the reading or writing of queer fiction, there’s a thread somewhere asking who’s ‘out’ and who’s ‘closeted’ about what they do. Most people don’t seem to think it’s a big deal, but I do and here’s why.
Firstly, it’s appropriating the language of oppression and spinning it into something positive. It’s turning the experience of being closeted, which is understood as negative, into something positive. The closet becomes a layer of protection: it allows people to lead their lives without facing any awkward questions or nudges about reading or writing queer fiction. It gives them the freedom to do what they like in private without having to make a public statement of support. Thus the closet becomes liberating. To those of us for whom being gay or bi or trans* is an everyday reality, the closet is stifling. We want to come out of it, even though the abuse we risk facing as a result is a thousand times greater than anything someone who simply enjoys reading about queer experience will ever face.
Here’s the thing: people’s minds don’t just change overnight. There are plenty of folks who think they don’t know anyone who’s LGBT, or who really gives a damn about LGBT rights. They’re aware that out there somewhere in the hypothetical realm this stuff matters, but they don’t think it matters to them. That’s why we keep coming out, to show people that they do know queerfolk. We are the human faces of a heated political debate. Just look how many Republicans have changed their minds about same-sex marriage since their children came out.
Coming out is a hell of a lot easier to do if you know people beforehand who’ll support you. We need our allies to be vocal in their support because there are millions of kids still terrified that if they tell the truth about themselves they’ll lose everyone they love. The last thing we need is our allies to hide behind pseudonyms and snigger online about the fact nobody in their everyday lives knows they read LGBT fiction. What we see, every time one of those debates arises, is people who claim to support us admitting that really all we are to them is fetish.
I’m not saying there aren’t real and valid reasons why people would want to keep their interest and/or involvement in LGBT fiction quiet. Prejudice still exists, and in places where it’s illegal to be queer or you can lose your job for it I understand why people don’t want to be tarred with that brush — especially when they aren’t queer themselves. They don’t have to take a bullet for us; we understand. But there’s a world of difference between a few friends raising their eyebrows at your reading habits, and being kicked out of your parents’ house at fourteen for being gay. Between losing your job because you slip up and mention a same-sex partner (completely legal in 29 states), and getting side-eyed from the guy sitting next to you in the cafeteria who saw a line or two over your shoulder.
Mostly what annoys me is that by accepting anti-LGBT prejudice exists, by hiding from it rather than tackling it, and by joking about it, those people are perpetuating it. It’s not a laughing matter if you’re ‘in the closet’ about your interests. It royally sucks. You’re a victim of the same oppressive culture as us, whether you realise it or not. You should be angry about that, not amused. And you should be doing your damnedest to ensure you aren’t perpetuating that oppression by kowtowing to it.
So let’s make a pact to agree not to assume prejudice exists. I know from speaking to people who’ve read my books that they come from all manner of backgrounds — from LGBT folk to fundamentalist Christian ladies (I shit you not), from mothers and grandmothers to even the occasional straight guy. What all of those people have in common is not a prurient interest in what men get up to between the sheets (okay, well not only…) but the understanding that love is love, in whatever form it takes. And love is something too beautiful to ever be hidden in the closet.
Brandilyn · May 28, 2014 at 8:32 pm
I don’t think anyone could accuse me of hiding my support, and this is why I don’t.
Kate Aaron · May 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm
Lili · May 28, 2014 at 10:14 pm
Kate Aaron · May 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm
Thank you 😀
jackiemckenzie · May 28, 2014 at 10:49 pm
I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this article. I am an ally and I am completely “out” about what I read and who my friends are that some people in my life get sick of hearing about it. (not that I care if they are sick of it) I just wish everyone would do the same. You never know who might need your shoulder and they might not know it’s available.
Kate Aaron · May 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm
Absolutely. You never know who’s listening who might just need to hear what you have to say.
Darcy "Pomma/Pommawolf/Wolfweep's" · May 28, 2014 at 11:22 pm
What a great post! You are so very right.
I love the stories, the authors and their magnificent work. They make me love, laugh and cry for these wonderful characters they create. I would never hide what I read…it’s an addiction that feeds my soul. 🙂
Kate Aaron · May 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm
Thanks for commenting!
amelia bishop · May 29, 2014 at 12:30 am
You are so right, Kate. I am guilty of this, myself. I am “out” about what I read, I’d never be ashamed of that. And I am super vocal in my support of my LGBT friends and family. But I don’t tell anyone what I write.
To be honest I don’t tell anyone that I write at all. It’s not about being closeted about the LGBT aspect, just the writing in general. Honestly the thought of my friends and family reading my writing is terrifying.
But your points are great. I should be more brave, and not hide what I do for any reason. Who knows what results being open and honest would have? Might be great. Or I might find out a lot about the people I think I know.
Very thought provoking post <3
Kate Aaron · May 29, 2014 at 3:03 pm
Thanks Amelia. I understand the reasons for keeping writing quiet — and for keeping the LGBT element specifically quiet. I know plenty of people who have work considerations, children, etc. But I do think the more discussions are opened up, the better for everyone 😀
Anna Butler · May 30, 2014 at 5:44 pm
I’ve been thinking about this quite hard. I do use a pseudonym, of sorts – my married name, as it happens, but not one I ever use in RL or professionally. I started using it when I was working and needed to keep a separation between the fic I was reading and writing, and work. Believe me, there would be nothing the some parts of the press would like more than finding that a senior officer in the Education Department, and then the Cabinet Office, was a reader/writer of LGBT fiction. Not so much for myself, but to bash the government/ministers. She writes porn! She works for the department responsible for our schools! Minsiter X is so lost to morality he allows perverts to be employed there! Will no one think of the childreeeennn????
Of course the connexion is ludicrous and the likelihood of being outed was miniscule, and even if I had been it would have been a two second wonder. Still I liked my job, needed to be paid and didn’t fancy being hauled up for bringing the department into disrepute (rolls eyes) so I took on a pseudonym. I just kept it when I retired. Perhaps I should have reverted then to my own name, but now whatever I have published is in the pseud name and it’s too late to change now.
But yes. It’s something I’m conscious of and something I regret.
Kate Aaron · May 31, 2014 at 12:31 pm
There’s plenty of reasons why people use pseudonyms, particularly if they work in fields like education or government. Sadly there’s still an element of scandal attached to romance, and to LGBT romance in particular. One day I hope it won’t even be a consideration.
Becky Black · June 1, 2014 at 6:27 am
I do use a pseudonym, but not really for any reasons of keeping a secret identity. You wouldn’t exactly have to be a great detective to trace my real identity and my old fandom online identity.
The guys at work found out about my writing and mostly they just tease me about it. (Being British the first reaction to something like that is naturally to take the piss. :D) I was quite pleased with how much it didn’t matter to have the old secret identity exposed like that.
But I suppose I’m lucky to live somewhere and work for an employer where it’s no big deal.
Kate Aaron · June 1, 2014 at 10:48 am
Heh, I understand that reaction — before I wrote full-time I worked as a construction project planner, and my tradesmen thought what I was writing was hilarious. However that didn’t stop some of them reading my books, and two of them are utterly convinced — wrongly — they were the inspiration for Christo and Damien from What He Wants 😉
Becky Black · June 1, 2014 at 12:31 pm
Yeah, if any of the guy ask if they’re in the books I say “Don’t flatter yourself.” 😉
Kate Aaron · June 1, 2014 at 8:24 pm
lmao, that was pretty much my reply!
Comments are closed.