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Idle musings and rabid speculation

One man's term is another man's choice.

One of the many new terms I assimilated as I ventured onto the web was “Gay Okay”. I have to admit this one puzzled me, as well as quite a few friends that happen to be GLBT.

While my understanding may be flawed I’ve since come with further research to accept that in this context it refers to a writer that has chosen to present their story in a world in which the characters are surrounded only by GBLT characters, and only by GBLT situations.

I have come across this comment being used in what is commonly a reproving manner. The underlying impression I’m left with is that presenting a story in a “Gay Okay” setting negates the struggles and/or real life experiences of those that have dealt, and continue to deal with the opposite.

I’ve thought about this in the framework of my own life experiences – those being most readily accessible to me, and I can only conclude that in real life, as in fiction - like seeks like.

As a young woman in my very early 20’s one major criterion when apartment shopping was that I wanted to live in an apartment complex filled with young singles of comparable age and attitude, rather than in one filled with families and small children.

This choice was made for purely selfish reasons as being awakened at 7:00AM on a Saturday morning by the sound of a big wheel being ridden back and forth across the small strip of sidewalk under my apartment window after a festive night out at the bar was not my idea of a good time. (Trust me; it only has to happen once.)

When I hang with those who happen to be GLBT I observe a similar pattern. I visit apartments and houses where the majority of their neighbors are GLBT. When we go out to eat we usually patronize cafes and restaurants owned by and catering to those in the GLBT community. We visit bookstores and shops owned and staffed by those that are GLBT.

It’s not that these individuals are living their real life in a fictional “Gay Okay” world; it’s simply that they have chosen to surround themselves with people and places that contribute in a positive manner to their comfort level and their daily life much as I did as a young woman and still do now.

So when I write a fictional episode in a GLBT character’s life and I pull from my interactions with friends and acquaintances I have to wonder. Am I committing the “Gay Okay” trespass? Am I contributing to and perpetuating a stereotype despaired of by those that coined the phrase to begin with?

I remind myself that this is where skill needs to come into play. I need to continually develop my skills as a writer so that I convey the impression that it’s not that character is living in a “Gay Okay” world, but that they are living in the real world filled with outcome of the choices they have made for their own comfort.

My constant goal is to write a believable and interesting piece. One in which the sexual preferences of the characters are always secondary to the events of the story.

Sometimes I might even succeed.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 19th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)
Interesting post, Chrissy.

I have read a few books where gay characters have just discovered that they are gay, come out to their parents and friends and everyone has been OK, even supportive of them. I usually scoff at those and think "that's not how it would be in real life". Then I spoke to a gay friend who came out when he was 21 - I'd known him about 4-5 years at that point. He told me that when he came out he had no problems with his family or his friends and that everyone had been very kind and supportive of him. So duh! What do I know, eh?

Since then, I've pretty much accepted that all people's experiences are different, some will have an easy time because they choose to live and work in a gay friendly atmosphere, some will still do that and face prejudice.

Literature is in many ways fantasy, even if it does mirror real life, and as readers we sometimes have to go with wherever the writer is taking us.
Feb. 20th, 2009 11:57 am (UTC)
Literature is in many ways fantasy, even if it does mirror real life, and as readers we sometimes have to go with wherever the writer is taking us

It's amazing how sometimes that seems to be forgotten.
Feb. 20th, 2009 09:06 am (UTC)
I think you and Jen confirm what I think myself - there is no 'must be' or 'always is' in life, and therefore it shouldn't be in fiction. For all the people who've had a horrendous struggle, who are still in the closet, who still feel alien in their own town, there are ones who have a loving family, a supportive environment, who live life as a person not a label.

I agree that some tropes get very very old (am I using that word correctly?!). Like movies, there sometimes seems to be a 'batch' of stuff, all using the same premise. Like the 'gay for you' debate etc. So I assume that people who complain about the trope itself are reacting to a weariness. Or maybe from the POV of what they've personally experienced in life. Or because they have a political agenda that they're afraid the fiction is trivialising or undermining.

IMO the skill is in writing a story so that the characters are plausible and sympathetic. That doesn't mean you have to like them, just that they appear real, so does their situation and the fictional world they inhabit.

Just my three penn'orth.
Feb. 20th, 2009 11:58 am (UTC)
Nice three penn'orth. I view this as just another reason for me to stay away from the debates. LOL.
Feb. 20th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
I think it always makes me roll my eyes a little when someone universalises their experience in order to invalidate someone else's. It's especially bad when they think they have a reason to know. Such as, gay people who are like, "This isn't a realistic situation/reaction/etc. for a gay person," and I'm like, "Oh really? 'Cause I'm gay, too, you know, and I think it's perfectly valid."

Or like the person I talked to the other day who scoffed at the need for helping people transition out of the closet. He said, "Oh please, like anybody's even IN a closet anymore," and this was in context of law enforcement and military individuals. I just boggled at him and said, "You DO know they can still fire you for that in some states, right? And some people like their jobs?"

So. *shrug* I think you make a good point - a lot of people live in communities that reflect who they are. You see it when there are ethnic neighborhoods within a city (Chinatown or Little Italy, anyone?), age groups, etc. Basically anyone who lays down a law and says "This never happens" is being unscientific and furthermore unrealistic.

Besides, most of fiction is all about, "Well, what if this DID happen?"
Feb. 21st, 2009 03:36 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I feel that just because a character is GBLT that suddenly the piece is less about enjoyable fiction and more about *being meaningful*. Not a bad thing necessarily, just sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Feb. 21st, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
Very, very much agreed. We're people, not a political point that needs to be made. *g* Even if we do continually have to make political points sometimes.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )