A reader’s perspective on the missing Mondays in our sexual orientations.
This week was a holiday week in the US. Of course the holiday has completely lost it’s meaning for the majority of Americans and it is just a day off of work and a kickoff for the Summer ahead. Yep. A day off work. No horrible Monday this week. Instead, it becomes a horrible Tuesday. But Tuesday’s aren’t supposed to be horrible. Not like Mondays! That horrible day that starts the mundane work week- again. Think about it though. Mondays really get a bad rap. For me, my week was all over the place starting on Tuesday. I kept labeling all my dates wrong and was on a different mindset for productivity for the remainder of the week. I had to keep reminding myself, “Tuesday. Tuesday. Tuesday.” Half way through my Monday/Tuesday I was already looking forward to next week when everything would be back in order- starting with Monday. So, yeah, Mondays get a really bad reputation of being the worst day of the week, but they create a completeness. A sense of having everything make sense. Stability. They aren’t bad. They are the foundation for what the work week is all about. And when a Tuesday is trying to be a Monday it just doesn’t seem to fit. Right? Hopefully it makes you think of Mondays differently because without that day our work week isn’t the same. I’m not saying you have to fall in love with Monday, but I am saying that you have to respect it for how it fits into the work week. How it makes the work week make sense- gives it a foundation and a start.
Other ideas are similar to Mondays and the work week. Labels for instance. You have to respect them. I’m not talking about labels on clothing that show their worth, I’m talking about identities. For me, they are important and they serve a purpose for creating a foundation for the person. Even the person who says, “I don’t want to label myself.” is kind of labeling themself regardless. But it isn’t for us to like all labels, but we must respect them and how they help a person identify.
Most everyone in our community has a coming out story. Check out Andi Marquette’s awesome coming out story here. And I would hedge a bet that the majority of those stories involve a label. That moment when the light bulb goes off and you realize, “I’m gay!” or “I’m lesbian!” or “I’m fill in the blank.” That is technically a label. A label that helped you accept yourself better. A label that let you know you weren’t weird, or different, or strange, or anything but yourself and how you are supposed to be. A label that let you connect to other people, because, yes, there were other people sharing similar experiences as you and carrying the same label as well.
I’ve had some kick-ass awesome discussions on the topic of labels in regards to sexuality with some amazing authors. I mean, mind blowing discussions! No one should be scared of asking questions, in my opinion. And if you don’t know what questions to ask, check out Ashley Bartlett’s blogs here on Women and Words. I would love to have her insight into sexuality, labels and just accepting people. Another author made a comment about someday the world won’t have a need for labels. And I get that too. Labels can be used for bad or a means of creating another form of oppression. But when my mind was blown, I started to really think about sexuality and how complex it truly is. In a good way. The same way that most of us came out and clung to a label like gay or lesbian, there are even more ways to feel comfortable in your skin now. And that is what life is truly about right? Feeling comfortable? And if you know that you aren’t weird, different, strange, or whatever- you can be more comfortable. So when a reader is wondering why they aren’t experiencing the same feelings and reactions as the protagonist in the story, years ago they may have actually doubted themselves and their lesbian qualifications. Now, it is easier to understand and relate that they may be more pansexual or asexual or demiromantic. They no longer have to feel like they don’t fit or don’t belong. There are means of understanding human sexuality that allow them to identify and not feel like an outcast. I mean check out this website (click on me to follow link) and you may even learn a little bit more about yourself. And isn’t that awesome! Because the more we know about ourselves and the more we feel comfortable in who we are, the more we can enjoy and appreciate life.
And yes, soon there won’t be a need for labels anymore because people won’t think of it as different. Individuals will just be who they are and love who they want to love- if they even want to love someone at all. That will be amazing! In the meantime we have to take away this stigma of labels. All of us have to be ready to just say, “that’s cool!” when someone says they are bisexual, or gender fluid or skoliosexual or however they want to label themselves because it is not our life to judge. We need to be ready to READ about human sexuality in our literature and not judge a piece of work because a character doesn’t fit into our label. Because the same way the LGBTQ community has been telling society that there are more of us among them than they think, the same is true within our own community.
But I am still super new to this concept myself so my list of suggestions is thin. I know that G. Benson does not shy away from this inclusion at all! She places characters with different sexual orientations in her work all the time and doesn’t focus on that. Just makes it a normal part of life. One way of many that the character has chosen to identify- same as being a sister, or teacher, or friend, or Scorpio, or all the other labels we can attach to ourselves. Check out Pieces or Flinging It and you can see what I’m saying. It doesn’t have to be a stop sign in our reading material it can just be one tiny piece of information that is absorbed as we read. And while we are absorbing it, we are accepting it as part of our community. That is important!
I was super excited to beta read an upcoming story by Jae called Perfect Rhythm and explore a whole new sexual orientation within lesbian that I hadn’t considered before. Honestly I’ve heard the word asexual before and knew the definition but it always seemed to be in reference to a joke about not finding the right person so you must be asexual. Perfect Rhythm explores how totally false that is. Being able to connect with someone through sexual identity helped her character Holly be more confident in who she is and how she expresses emotions. It was just one more way to better understand herself so that she could have conversations with friends, partners and family that allow them to know her and ultimately understand as well. Jae does an amazing job with this character, presenting to the reader a woman who has an understanding about self which makes for an amazing woman, amazing friend, and yes, amazing lover. It has a September 2017 release date, so make sure you put it on your list because the story is awesome. And this character reemphasizes that sexual orientation doesn’t make your experience wrong- it just makes up one small label that is you.
I’ve previously raved about Beth Burnett’s Man Enough and think it is a perfect example of labels and how when we are judged solely by them instead of accepting them as a way for the person to identify and feel comfortable we make mistakes. And we hurt people. And hurting people is never a good thing. Along a similar line of not having a label available but how it could help with a sense of balance and understanding would be one of the first stories (ok it was probably in my first 50) I read, Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues. And I’m big enough to say that I cried (a lot!) while reading this story. And if you are still doubting how not having ways to understand one’s own sexuality give this one a shot. And then tell me how labels DON’T help a person find acceptance and comfort in their own skin.
A new author just hit my radar when she posted here on Women and Words and talked about her upcoming title Thaw and that is Elyse Springer. Her brief summary of the story in the Q&A is: ‘Thaw, came out on April 24, and follows the blooming romance between an asexual librarian named Abby, and a gorgeous supermodel named Gabrielle.’ Right there. We need more stories that just offer up a variety of characters, including their sexual orientation. Springer also identifies as asexual and I think it is great that we can pick her brain through her work to learn and understand what that means. I mean I’m pretty excited she was so open in her interview. And again, it is just one of many labels because I would love to also hear about her world travels and why she is a Hufflepuff. Check out the full interview here.
As I’ve said though, I am new to this. Mind blowing conversation and now I’m thinking our genre is missing some important characters. What do you think? Is LesFic too narrow in it’s approach to main and supporting characters? Are there not enough Mondays to go with Fridays maybe? Is it something that we dread as a culture- expanding our sexual orientation labels or does it create a foundation for making us more aware? Do you have stories you can recommend to me that allow me to explore even further human sexuality? I would love to hear about them!
Oh and the title if anyone is wondering, is because on the weekly podcast for the week of Women and Words posts Jove talks about how open and honest her discussions with her kids are and how her kids are in turn asking about sexual orientation. If we could all be that open and free with our conversations this world would be awesome!