Sunday, January 17, 2010

Gay Relationships in Books

I was writing about a book I just finished by Malinda Lo called Ash, and it got me thinking about the difference between the way straight relationships are often written about compared to gay relationships.

And from what I’ve noticed the difference is pretty huge.

For a while I was kind of fixated on books that featured gay protagonists because the characters and relationships are usually much more fleshed out. There is just something so much more real about the romances in most of the fantasy books I’ve read when the protagonist is gay. I don’t know why, but it’s as though these relationships are treated with a more delicate hand and it makes it feel much more authentic to me. One of my biggest pet peeves is stories where the characters appear to have no say in their relationships. Rather then have to make the hard decisions and grow into their love a little day after day, a lot of books just throw two people together and that’s that. A lot of the time it’s hard for me to even find a reason why the two characters should be together. Of course authors don’t seem to care too much about compatibility or authenticity when it gets in the way of the clichéd love affair between the beautiful introvert and the sensitive teenager hiding being a smoke-screen of angst. (Twilight and Evernight come to mind.)

So far I haven’t really experienced this kind of two dimensional plot devise when the two characters are gay though (or bisexual usually). Instead the budding relationship is treated as something delicate and fragile. Rather then the group orgy/instant humping that finds its way into every Anita Blake book, these romances are much more emotional rather then physical and seem to grow through out the book rather then culminate in one hot fuck after a night of drinking (though those scenes serve a purpose as well I suppose).

It makes me wonder why the relationships are handled so differently. Is it out of the need to make the gay relationship more palatable for some people? Is it out of the hope people won’t disregard the relationship as something trivial or as simply an attempt to be shocking on the part of the author? I don’t know the answer but it is kind of interesting. Some of the most tender and touching relationships I’ve read have been between two men (hello Kirith Kirin and Magic's Pawn). And though some are more touching then others, I can’t think of one fantasy story where the characters treat their relationship with the same disregard as a character like Anita Blake.

Has anyone else noticed this? Keep in mind this is only my opinion based on the books I've read so far, but it does seem like a trend.

-Oh and Ash is a re-telling of the Cinderella fairy tale. I really loved the book and if you're interested you can learn more about it here.


  1. Romance writer Suzanne Brockmann includes a gay couple in her Troubleshooters series. Her son is gay, and she is very, very active in educating people that gay people are normal and deserve to find love, too.

  2. Have you ever read this book, "Keeping You a Secret"? I read it when I was like ten and it was about these two girls who fall in love with each other and all I remember thinking was "why is everyone so upset, they're so sweet..." I agree, of all the gay-romance books I've read (not a lot, as it would seem), they are much sweeter then hetero-mance.

    I should pick up Ash as well...

  3. I haven’t read anything by Suzanne Brockmann since I mostly read fantasy (obviously). I will have to check her out though.

    Dannie: You should definitely read Ash. I think you’ll really enjoy it.

  4. Oh and I haven’t read Keeping You a Secret. I will have to look it up. Even if it’s a little young for my taste, I've started a book shelf for Holden in my Goodreads. That way I have an idea of what I want to read with him as he gets older.

  5. Oh, I don't think it was for children. I was one of those kids who snuck into the GLBT section at the library while their mother was checking out cheap romance novels. Looking back, I'd say it was definetly more of a mature teen one.

  6. lol I will definitely look in to it then. :)

  7. I'm so glad to hear you liked the book.

    I haven't read it yet because a) I generally dislike fiction, and b) I love Malinda Lo (became familiar with her when she was an editor at AfterEllen) and didn't want to hate it. I'm going to pick it up now, for sure!

    Unrelated to the post, but book related, you know we've been doing the bloggy book club, right? Which I thought would be so up your alley, so I hope you join in. This month, It's "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn, which is also right up your alley I think. Have you read it? If so, please participate in discussion next week. If not, read it! SO YOU!

  8. Brit: I just put it on hold at the library. Hopefully I will have enough time to finish it. :)


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