Marriage equality, queer fiction, and Starling

The federal court in Indiana overturned that state’s ban on same-sex marriage today.  Some counties are already issuing licenses, and weddings have taken place.  In other, they are waiting to see if a stay is put in place in the next few days.

Alex, from Starling, is from Indiana, and the plot of the book begins in August 2014.  We know a tremendous amount about Alex’s life before that opening.  A lot of that is stuff you’ll learn about.  You’ll meet his mom in Starling, and his best friend, Gemma, that he found on the Internet and moved to L.A. with, although they never met in person until they both arrived there.  Alex also has a sister, and a lot of secrets.

But what we didn’t know until today, is when this moment would happen for him.  We worked hard, because of the rapidly shifting political landscape, not to talk about just where marriage stood on the national level at the time of the book.  With most of the action taking place in jurisdictions with marriage equality, it was easy for us to navigate around.

What to do about marriage equality in LGBTQ romance is a huge issue right now.  Does the march of marriage equality mean that people will expect a wedding at the end of our novels like they often do of many M/F novels?  Will addressing the issue date our work? Or place a veneer of heteronormativity over it that will make it unappealing to LGBTQ readers?  Is marriage part of our culture?  Will it be destructive of our culture? Can we really ignore politics when they are, so brutally, our landscape?

While I don’t believe my writing gay romance is going to change the world, or even any one individual’s mind, it isn’t apolitical, because nothing is apolitical.

I am 41 years old.  I have been involved with marriage equality activism since the early 1990s.  In the last several years things have happened I thought I would never live to see (that is both political pessimism and the result of growing up queer in the 1980s). I think marriage and military service are in some ways our least important issues, but ones that offer excellent legal and rhetorical gateways to getting the really critical stuff around housing and employment discrimination done.  And I’m both someone who loves a wedding, and has romantic feelings about the institution of marriage, but also worries about its impact on queer culture.

So I pay attention to what happens with marriage in every state.  Every state matters.  On a personal level, some states matter more than others.  I used to live in D.C., so I liked that one a lot.  New York, where I live and right before Pride a few years ago, was a biggie.  I didn’t realize Indiana was going to feel quite the way it has today.

Two months before Jasper Alexander Cook’s life changes forever, marriage equality apparently comes to Indiana.  His mother calls him to offer her congratulations.  But he doesn’t live in Indiana anymore and hopes he never does again.  He’s also not dating anyone. And other than the moment he whispered, “I’m gay,” in her ear before he got in his car and drove to Los Angeles three days after graduating high school, he and his mother have never spoken of this topic.

The whole conversation makes him a little miserable.  He works 14-hour days, doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be celebrating, and doesn’t know how to do this.  He doesn’t, in a lot of ways, know how to do anything.

Marriage equality, every time it happens, is thousands of tiny stories, not just of couples in love, but of individuals, trying to deal with the very weird experience of a world that doesn’t know them talking about them like collective nouns instead of individual people.

One day, this battle will be won, here, and hopefully, eventually, around the world.  Along the way, we might even figure out what it means to us as individuals and as a queer culture and the way in which we tell our stories, fictional and non.

For today, it’s just a big, big congratulations to Indiana, and Utah, which also got good news, and all the states governed by the 10th Circuit, which may also have marriage equality now in the wake of today’s Utah decision.

It’s not just the coasts anymore.  And it hasn’t been for a long time.

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