The following is a dramatization of an event and should be taken lightly:
A person with genuine intentions asked once, “LGBTQ+ people what is the difference between writing straight romances and queer romances?”
The queer people in the writing room said, “[The characters] Dealing with queerphobia mostly”.
The person explained that in the world they were creating there would be no bigotry to be found.
“In that case, pretty much the same,” this queer people said and everyone went back to their homes."
However I am here because I don’t think that the difference between straight and queer romances is as simple as that.
We have this framework of the different ways a cishetero (sexual & romantic) romance looks like, that has been develop through hundreds of ages. To name a few in Hollywood media we have: Bad Guy/Good Girl, Man Child/Capable Woman, Sad Guy/Manic-Pixie Dream Girl -which all deserve their own article and deconstruction. However because of the erasure of queer stories, not only in literature but in history and censure guidelines like the Hays Code there has been less chance to develop what a queer romance framework could even look like.
This has brought its pros and cons. On one hand it gives the writer relative freedom to create other relationship dynamics: What about two Good Girls falling in love? Or a bi man and a bi woman being disasters while crushing and shipping Leia and Han Solo? On the other hand it often falls into a homonormative narrative.
“Lisa Duggan terms homonormativity, the political effort to portray gay life as essentially normal – almost the same as normative heterosexuality. The central demand is that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should be able to love on the same terms as straight people.
It also comes at a high cost in terms of presenting the queer community as essentially ‘normal’, that is, essentially desiring a good life through the promise of redemption through love. To fit the heteronormative model of sociality, we are also asked to make invisible everything that is particular about queerness. The terms of acceptance within the straight community require that we abstain from everything that makes us different from them.” (maifeminism.com)
Homonormativity is when the straight lifestyle is imposed unto the queer person -some might be able to accommodate while others can’t. This has been a hot issue in a lot of queer activists groups in regards to LGBTQ+ rights and to be more transparent my opinions lay more in the liberation aspect than of the assimilation.
In the area of storytelling homonormativity might look as two cis gay guys marrying, buying a house and adopting a child, just like any straight couple is supposed to do (minus adopting, it’ll be having). Even though marrying and having children are very valid dreams that anyone should be able to accomplish regardless of identity, when talking about fiction if often gets portray as the narrative that redeems or excuses the queer aspects of the characters.
Also the literary canon might be lacking but queer people have been developing their own relationship frameworks and archetypes for years. Boston marriages, matelotage, Butch & Femmes, Chaplistick lesbians, Bisexual Disasters, Bears etc. Which are not excluded from criticism but are indeed worth writing about and examining.
If we erase queerness from queer representation, as in making them so bland they become the straight gay teen like in Characters Welcome does it continue to be queer representation? I feel more connected to Ursula (a queercoded disney villain) than Simon (from Love, Simon: The Movie) because at least Ursula didn’t have so much emphasis on what made her normal. She died, but she died being the fat drag queen of the seas (quite literally).
It is true that queer people come in all colors -the pride flag is a rainbow- and we shouldn’t be put to pick between the “perfect” desexualised romance or the demonized oversexualised one. It’s true that queer romances should have other types of conflict that aren’t around queerphobia. But replacing them with straight ideals and problems doesn’t seem authentic.
My idea is this, let’s make everyone queer! Help the Gay Agenda ™ by shooting your WIP with the rainbow beam and have multiple queer romances.
You can have couple a) with the very homonormative lifestyle, couple b) being the open relationship in which one characters is an ace lesbian and the other heterosexual biromantic like in Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (2020-) and couple c) being two very damage souls which only find some structure to their lives through BDSM like in Helluva Boss (2019-).
However you might want to go with the Token Gay Couple, because you’re straight or the publishing house can’t handle that much queerness. An example for me that does some things right is in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. I know, disney doing queer rep well!? But here me out.
In the show (run by a gay man) the Token Gay Couple has an interesting conflict. As with any tv shows they introduce so many aspects and sources of conflict that are never further explored however the one that is the insecurity that can appear when you start to think: What happens if the reason they’re with me is because I am the only other out kid at school? Which isn’t confronting explicit homophobia (more like confronting heteronormativity) and is a source of conflict that can’t be shared by the straight counterparts.
Explore queerplatonic relationships, aro/ace het peole that are willing or would like to enter a romantc/sexual relationship with someone. Just don’t be that straight woman that writes m/m romance.
In the end, for me, to say that queer identity (as something other than cis straight) is just defined by our pain and if there was a lack of it we’ll be just the same…sounds a bit depressing, you know?
Ari Ochoa Petzo
is a Mexican-Venezuelan bi genderfluid writer. They like dancing to old music and history. In their free time you can find xem trying to coerce their friends to participate in another of their crazy projects.