Everyone thought I was crazy. Seriously.
I suppose that's not an unfair reaction to the news I planned to move halfway across the world to work for a woman I'd met online and a company no one in my, then limited, circle of acquaintances, had ever heard of. Bold Strokes Books, an LGBTQ publishing company located in snowy upstate New York, was a far cry from the sandy shores and baking heat of Australia's Central Coast. I'd planed to become a social worker and had the degree to prove it before I met surgeon/publisher/author extraordinaire Radclyffe and decided to turn my life around.
So, yes, perhaps I was a little crazy. But I didn't feel crazy. I felt exhilarated, and also nervous. And also, like I wanted to puke in case this whole intercontinental move thing turned out to be a huge mistake. Did I mention there is snow in this part of the world? Knee deep and dirty grey by February. But in the end, my heart overruled all logical objection because BSB offered me something priceless and something I value every single day: the opportunity to work with LGBTQ people and to be part of the literary legacy of the LGBTQ community. I have the privilege of going to work every day and helping our authors craft stories from the heart, that speak not only to the wonders and woes of falling in love but the unique and compelling struggles and triumphs of LGBTQ people.
At a recent romance conference, a panel of experts posed the question "Do we live in a post gay world?" Can and should we write stories where the characters who fall in love just happen to be LGBTQ? After much discussion the panel decided, and I agree, that no, we don't and we couldn't. The LGBTQ community has made remarkable progress in the last decade, but marginalization and discrimination still exist. More to the point, no one just happens to be queer. Being queer is about more than whom you get naked with, or even, who you fall in love with. It's about identity, and yes, it's also about difference. We're different. Not abnormal or less than, but not just the same as the approximately 90 percent of the heterosexual population either.
Our perspective and experience is filtered through the lens of our difference and exerts itself in ways we may not even think about consciously. We talk about coming out as if it is an event rather than a lifelong correction of the, often perfectly understandable, assumption that we are heterosexual. We can't just walk into any random bar or club looking for a date; we need to be more intentional in our choices. We seek locations and build communities based on our difference and our desire to be understood. Not merely accepted or welcomed, as the nation is taking steps to do, but understood, gotten, known in a way only the LGBTQ community's shared experience can give us.
So everyone thought I was crazy to leave the safety of what I'd grown up with and become accustomed to. I was fortunate enough to live in a country that did not persecute me for being a lesbian and born into a loving family that came to accept me, but it took Radclyffe, BSB and a 10,000 mile plane ride to the coldest damn corner of the earth for me to find home. I am grateful every day and I hope that by doing my small part working to publish our stories, others may find the courage to make their own crazy decisions and live their dreams.
Queer Romance Month runs throughout October, and celebrates love stories in all shades of the rainbow and in all shades of romance. Join us, and over a hundred LGBTQA+ authors and allies, for essays, flash fiction and much, much more.