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Coming Out, Equal Marriage, Life and Fiction

October 12, 2014

This weekend I’ve been preparing to attend the Gay Rom Lit retreat at the end of next week. This now-annual event brings together writers and readers of gay romance to talk about and celebrate the stories and the genre. We have discussions, parties, book readings and more. I’ll have an Author’s Lounge event on Thursday at noon, and a Question and Answer session on Friday at 9 AM. I’m looking forward to all the events (mostly, with a little nerves added.)

This week is also one in which we support and celebrate being out and LGBTQ, with Coming Out Day yesterday, Oct 11. Then on Thursday Oct 16th, it will be Spirit Day. On that day, we wear purple to bring attention to the bullying of LGBTQ youth, and express support for everyone who stands up for the right to be yourself in every setting including our schools and in sports.

I’m hoping the first day of GRL will be awash in purple, in support of Spirit Day.

In addition, there have been significant events on the gay marriage front in the US. Those court rulings, and temporary stays, and lifted stays, have produced both new freedom to marry for many couples, and a nasty backlash of rhetoric from those who want their personal views to be the only option for their state and nation. We’re seeing both progress and reaction.

As I pack the swag I’m bringing, that says “Real men, real life, real love” and “Love is Love”, the timing of GRL together with these events makes me think about how the stories we write and the community of M/M romance readers and writers fit into the larger world.

I think this genre is unique in combing pure entertainment and escapist fun with a strong sense of moral purpose. The readers of gay romance are a growing advocacy for LGBTQ equality. I hear from first-time readers who are surprised to find how much they empathize with the story of two men falling in love. I’ve had reviews, particularly for “Into Deep Waters”, that say “Now I believe that everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.” We are changing minds with our fiction.

And I love hearing readers discuss how they feel the need to speak up more with each story they read. How loving Ty with Zane, or Whyborne with Griffin, or Tony with Mac, makes it harder to just stand by in the face of injustice. Our community of writers and readers volunteers, contributes and advocates. Slowly, gradually, as we gain comfort in the world of our stories, we put up bumper stickers and wear rainbows, and purple. We write to politicians, sign petitions, donate books to LGBT teen libraries. And we teach our kids. Whether they are going to grow up to discover themselves LGBTQ or straight, we talk to them about acceptance. We tell them that love is love.

One of the great things about going to GRL is that it is a world of acceptance. Suddenly, one location is filled with 400 people who will smile when two guys kiss. People are open and eager to embrace the rainbow. It’s not perfect, but it’s damned sweet to be a part of.

And every year, I think, “This is what we’re working for. The day when the world is like this, when you can say, ‘He and his boyfriend are getting married next month’ and know that everyone who overhears thinks that’s something to celebrate. Even when you’re not at GRL.” Will it happen soon? No. But we’re making progress, year by year, and it’s wonderful to know that the fiction I love has a small role to play in helping that to happen.

Now I have to go pick a purple shirt to wear on Thursday…

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