by Pat Nelson Childs
As we progress into a new millenium, I sometimes reflect sadly on how little has been done to "normalize" gayness in our society. Of course, I mean American society, because Europe and even our neighbors to the north are light years ahead of us in this respect. To be fair, our government doesn't execute gays (if you ever saw the video of the two gay Iranian teens being executed, you might think twice about how bad things are for us here), and we've reached a point where even most conservative pundits support legal rights for gays, though generally more in theory than in practice (and no, Ann Coulter doesn't count. The only "value" she represents is the size of her royalty checks). Even President Bush has come out (sorry poor choice of words) in favor of civil unions. I point this out simply to illustrate how far we've actually managed to come in the past 20 years in some respects. A sitting Republican president (and staunch Christian Conservative) publicly expressing support for civil unions? If that isn't progress, I don't know what is.
But these things are more in the nature of political progress. What I've always been more interested in (and think is far more important) is achieving the "normalization" of alternative sexualities, a state in which the sight of two men sharing a kiss on a bus or in a TV commercial doesn't immediately produce waves of indignant outrage and endless punditry about the decline of Western civilization. Does it strike anyone else as odd that gays can adopt children in most states with the blessing of the majority, but that same majority goes absolutely ape shit if two girls hold hands on the bus? Gays can adopt children as long as they don't show any love for one another? Isn't that going to produce a way more fucked-up kid than one who just happens to have two mommies?
This, in my opinion, is where the real work needs to be done. Anyone who has heard me tell my teenaged fans to "be good ambassadors" knows my feelings on this issue. While I don't advocate abandoning our fight to obtain our legal rights through whatever means works, we also need to keep in mind that not everyone in that fight necessarily has all our bests interests at heart. There are those out there who want, or rather, need gays to remain a fringe, counterculture (and unequivocably far-left) minority, and who will do anything to sabotage what common ground we might find with god-fearing, family-loving, middle-American heterosexuals (in other words, just about everyone else with whom we share this country). Many of them, like many of the old guard in the civil rights movement, have made a comfortable (if not obscene) livelihood by selling us the culture of victimization, and are not likely to let their gravy trains pull out of the station without a fight. Others are simply afraid of losing their "specialness" (think men in nun drag). These people do their best to make mainstream America think that they represent some kind of monolithic "gay value system". What they really are in a sub-culture with a hard left agenda in which ALL traditional American values, social norms and moral judgments are evil and wrong. They firmly believe that everyone who dwells in the grim wasteland that lies between New York and San Francisco is a gun-totin' bible-thumper, and they insist that every good, self-respecting gay person believe it too. For this group, the assimilation of gays into the mainstream is unthinkable, and anyone who doesn't share their view, gay or straight, is the enemy.
Before you start the hate mail, this is not meant to depict every gay activist out there. People like Wayne Besen, Executive Director of "Truth Wins Out" (www.truthwinsout.org) is just one example of a GLBT advocate, of whom there are many, who regularly seeks to engage rather than simply vilify those who oppose gay rights. Does this mean that we have no enemies? It absolutely does not. Someone is buying up millions of copies of Ann Coulter's diatribes, after all, and there are plenty more people out there just like her. The nuns in drag, however, would have you believe that she represents the mainstream, just as they pretend, with the blessing of Ms. Coulter's ilk, to represent the "gay community" (an oxymoron if ever I heard one). Essentially, they are two sides of the same coin, and equally savage toward anyone who challenges, or even questions, the legitimacy of the war they're propagating.
Now what, you may ask, has any of this to do with "The Chronicles of Firma"? If you're not asking that, give yourself a gold star. If you haven't read the first two books of "The Chronicles of Firma", let me 'splain. COF, as several reviewers have mentioned, is not a "gay" Fantasy series. It is a Fantasy series in which the lead characters are gay - a meaningful difference. Although the heroes deal with prejudice in their world, Firma is a land that has progressed several steps ahead of present-day America on the issue of sexuality, and so prejudice comes mainly from idiots and thugs. Even the villains don't care that Rokey and Flash are "samers". Their reasons for wanting them dead have nothing whatsoever to do with their sexuality. As the vast majority of the denizens of Firma have come to believe, whom one chooses to love is largely a non-issue. I chose to create such a world because I wanted my books to reach beyond the gay niche market - to be entertaining and engaging for anyone with an open mind about alternative sexuality (as well as the legitimacy of the Fantasy genre in general, but that's a whole other blog). Though my two lovers battle ratmen, harpies, evil necromancers and numerous other bizarre entities, I wanted their romance to be normal, i.e. one that anyone, gay or straight, could identify with and root for. This is also what I want for the next generation of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. I want them to be able to hold hands with their significant other, even (god forbid) share a kiss in public, without it being touted as another example of "the gay agenda" at work. I want them to feel free to be liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious, political or apolitical without being made to feel like a traitor to the "gay community".
These may seem like small, insignificant things, but they make a huge impact on people's everyday lives, as well as their sense of self-worth. Equal rights under the law is a laudible and necessary goal, but another, and perhaps ultimately more important one is the right for "gay people" to become "people who happen to be gay" - able to appreciate the many things that all people have in common, while being appreciated themselves for all the other qualities that make them unique and special individuals.
Pat Nelson Childs
“bringing strong gay & lesbian
characters to Sci-Fi & Fantasy”