If you’re LGBTQ+, and maybe if you’re not, you probably know that coming out is a process that never ends. Sure, maybe your parents, your friends, and your job know, but because we live in a culture that assumes heterosexuality, a lot of moments happen where coming out or going along with a not quite truth are in the cards.
And, no matter how comfortable you may be with yourself, no matter how open you hopefully have the luxury of being, and no matter how safe your community, sometimes, those moments are still really, really nerve-wracking.
I’ve been having a lot of those moments lately, for the first time in a very long time. And no, this post isn’t going to be a metaphor about writing romance — although, yes, people are weird about that too.
It’s just that I’m almost 42, been with my partner for 7.5 years, and don’t necessarily engage in a lot of casual social interaction; that’s one of the beauties of New York. A huge number of my friends are some sort of LGBTQ+, and right there is another reality of my queerness: I don’t actually deal with a lot of straight people.
I think this is a fairly common experience for lots of LGBTQ+ people, although it’s one I’ve had to explain to a few of the heterosexual readers of Starling. Yes, some gay/etc. people mostly have gay/etc. friends, and their whole worlds can, in fact, be a non-stop rainbow of LGBTQ+ magic. I mean, I live in a gay neighborhood and eat Big Gay Ice Cream. Really.
Anyway, lately, because of Starling, I’ve been having to deal with this coming out thing again. Because I’ve been meeting people and networking in the LGBT and general romance communities, both on- and off-line. And in many parts of the broad romance community queerness is not assumed.
I’ve been so visibly queer for so much of my life, that it’s completely weird to have people assume my partner is my friend or my sister. I splutter, and I have no idea what to say. Also weird? Getting nervous before I post to Facebook groups to promote Starling that they might not be comfortable with gay content or that it will be held to a higher ratings standard.
After all, our cover features two men kissing, and to this day there are still publishers that give any gay romance their highest heat rating, regardless of the actual content of the book. Which to me just feels homophobic and like it’s suddenly 1987 all over again.
Yet more and more, I feel surprised that I’m surprised by all this. Progress doesn’t move at the same pace in all places and all communities, and it doesn’t move linearly either. So I’m learning to send the reassuring emails that of course Erin & I can keep a discussion of our novel PG — even though it’s gay! — just as Erin, who has only recently come out, is learning to navigate the maze of Random Verbal Contortions People Will Go Through To Avoid Making Erroneous Assumptions About Queerness That Would Actually Be Correct.
While I don’t believe what we write is political or any sort of blow for equality — they’re just stories we want to tell about screwed up people who have some stuff in common with us (besides, my blow for equality generally looks like giving money to Lambda Legal) — the personal is political. And this weird journey of this book, and future books, existing, includes some very vivid reminders of just how true this is.
You never stop coming out. But man, I never thought the degree to which I’d have to would accelerate because I helped write a romance series about Hollywood and the choices people make about their private lives when they’re on public display.