Pride in Diversity Should Include All Kinds Of LGBTQIA+ Stories
Queer stories go far beyond the often expected coming-out or trauma tales. Audible editor Michael Collina shares a few that have resonated with him on his journey.By Michael CollinaJun 27, 2019 9:54 AM
I've always found my interest in LGBTQIA+ stories to be a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it only seems natural that I'd be drawn to stories that reflect some aspects of my own lived experiences. The validation and comfort of hearing stories that are so familiar that they feel like home--or conversely, so unsettling that they feel like your very own thoughts and experiences--are hallmarks of belonging to any community. But on the other hand, these stories can often feel like they're trapping me in a box because so few explicitly acknowledge the totality of their LGBTQIA+ characters' lives. They are, more often than not, coming out stories, controversial or forbidden romantic trysts (let's face it, those never end well), or about accepting or overcoming the difficulties of a marginalized identity. These are all stories that need to be told. But that doesn't mean they're the only stories that need telling.
At this point, we've all heard tragic coming out stories, as well as some happier ones. We've heard about the AIDS crisis and forbidden relationships that were doomed from the start. But where are the stories about typical, run-of-the-mill LGBTQIA+ characters? As we begin to encounter more queer characters and stories in the media that we all consume, I find myself ravenous for even more. (I am using the word "queer" as an umbrella term for the LGBTQIA+ community because it is a word that I, like many others, choose to reclaim in celebration of the diversity of the community rather than to use it as the pejorative it once was.) I'm eager to move past the usual queer story tropes. Let's hear stories about a gay baker, or a lesbian artist, or a pansexual astronaut. I'm ready to hear stories that explore the lives of normal, everyday people (even if they don't always find themselves in normal, everyday situations) who just so happen to be LGBTQIA+. I want more stories that might sound mundane or boring at the outset, but represent a little bit more of the LGBTQIA+ experience. Of LGBTQIA+ life beyond coming out. Of lives where one's queer identity isn't the only interesting thing going on.
Now, that's not to say that coming out stories shouldn't be told. They're compelling in their own right and serve to validate many on their own journey, inspire those just beginning the process, or allow others to look back on their own experiences. Yes, there are plenty of worthwhile coming out stories still to be told, but queer books can and should include the spectrum of experiences. While it's true that the process of coming out doesn't truly ever stop, books can be queer or contain queer characters, while dealing with different aspects of the LGBTQIA+ existence--because there are many different lives and experiences within a community this large.
I'd like to see more from characters after they've already come out and had a chance to live life out and proud. Or even from those who might not be ready--a story about life in the closet. A coming out tale should never be the end-all or be-all. It's simply one slight aspect of an overall story, in the same way it's just one small sliver of a queer individual's life. To capture a little bit more of the totality of the entire LGBTQIA+ experience, here are some LGBTQIA+ stories that manage to take it that extra step beyond coming out.