10 things I wish someone had told me (as a queer person) before I started writing LGBTQ+ romance

Writing_in_LA1. If you want to understand the genre you need to read and socialize in M/F romance spaces too.

2. There are fine, and hotly debated, distinctions between M/M romance, gay romance, and gay lit. These discussions are interesting, relevant, involve constantly shifting borders, probably matter less than you think, and are a huge time suck.

3. Some readers will care that you are queer — both in positive and negative ways. Most, however, won’t care at all. Your queerness brings you a certain sort of expertise, yes, but we’re not writing non-fiction here, and the degree to which your audience cares will vary pretty widely.

4. You can’t make assumptions about the identities of other writers in the genre. People are complicated. They have narrative, not labels.

5. The same generational divides that exist in LGBTQ+ social and activist spaces exist in LGBTQ+ writing spaces.

6. People will offend you.  Whether that’s “I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body” uttered by cis-gendered straight women; people who say “family-friendly” to mean M/F romance only; people who assume you can’t be gay and a person of faith; people who insist all LGBTQ+ romance is erotica; or people who use “coming out” to talk about their reading habits versus their identities — there will be days when you feel bruised and damaged. None of this stuff is in the majority; some of this stuff has reasonable contexts you can’t quite see (i.e., people still working on coming out to themselves); all of it is probably a little more prevalent than you suspect.

7. People’s hearts are mostly in the right place.  Everyone is just trying to get by, keep their audience happy, and figure out how to navigate this world we live in. True hate, versus conversations people just haven’t had yet, is pretty rare.

8. Conventional wisdom says people don’t buy paperbacks, both because they’re more expensive and because “people don’t want to be seen reading gay lit!”  My experience is the opposite.  Some people want paperbacks.  They want a visible queer library on their bookshelves.  The number one question I get about every release I have is “when will it be in paperback?”

9. Being queer is more than being an urban sophisticate (whatever that is). In fact, as a queer person from NYC who has been out since she was a teen, the LGBTQ+ romance space has done more to expose me to queer people outside of the coasts than anything else in my life.

10. Your readers are diverse.  No, they are not just gay men.  No, they are not just straight women.  And yes, Virginia, bisexuality is real!  The T isn’t just there for decoration. Lesbians do read romance! And the + means things — I meet ace readers all the time who are desperate for their stories. Whatever/whoever people tell you your readers are, they are probably leaving someone out.

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