When I started writing this novel years ago, I had an internal conversation about whether or not I was ready to commit to having gay characters play a prominent role. It wasn't because I was ashamed of being gay myself, but rather more of a concern that my book wouldn't be well received because of the content. After all, would an 18 year old straight guy want to read a novel if the main character were gay? Or, if gay characters showed up throughout? It was something I actually spent considerable time thinking about.
I was a late bloomer and "came out" at 27. Being the eldest of three children, and the only son, I felt this weight on me to live up to other people's expectations. And, for as much as I love her dearly, I have a Jewish mother who expected me to marry and give her grandchildren. No pressure, right? I eventually grew comfortable with my decision to be myself, and now I'm an "out and proud" teacher in my school, sponsoring the Gay/Straight Alliance, but this isn't what I wanted to talk about here. I'm mentioning this because it took me some time to feel comfortable telling people who I was. As a gay writer, I never wanted to write strictly gay stories. Rather, I wanted to write about people, and if some of them were gay, then that's the way society is.
Token characters for the sake of including them never felt right to me, whether in my own work or other's work, so I had to think how I wanted to approach this in Task Force: Gaea. In two distinct places in the novel, two male characters identify as gay, although without saying as much openly. One has an experience where he encounters a man who has feelings for him, and the other is dating a man. No fanfare. No "out-n-proud" moment. To say more about them would probably be too much and ruin things in the story. In the sequel, though, the latter's relationship plays a little more prominently, but insofar as I explore the relationships of the main characters. I think, nowadays, books (or movies or TV shows) with gay characters don't raise the eyebrows they used to, unless there's blatant sexual behavior. In fantasy fiction, where boundaries of reality tend to be hazy, having characters of all types becomes the norm: werewolves, witches, vampires, gods, etc. But, men and women can still be who they are—gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, or transgendered—without any problem at all. Why should there be?
If someone chooses not to read my book, or any one else's book, with gay characters, then that isn't a fan I want to have anyway. We live in a colorful world, and people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and orientations exist. Even as I have been writing this post, I am wondering if I shouldn't pursue gay fantasy fiction avenues for promoting Task Force: Gaea. I honestly hadn't thought about it, since the gay characters don't figure as prominently right now. But, how much "gayness" does a book have to have before people in the GLBT community would read it? Perhaps, this is enough to broaden the spectrum a bit.
I'm curious to know what you think, reader, but bear in mind that comments are moderated here. Be appropriate, please. Do you care if your books have gay characters? Does it matter which genre?