I honestly didn’t think I’d see a day where my country would legalize gay marriage across all fifty states. That we have finally, officially, recognized that you cannot legislate love. I am so happy that all of my friends, straight and gay, can now be with the ones they love and make that commitment, if they choose. And in a year that has been so dark and rough for America, it was a much-needed positive step.
So in honor of the SCOTUS ruling, I wanted to put together a little list of some of my favorite QUILTBAG* characters in literature.
As a straight woman, I have a certain, somewhat voyeuristic love of gay men that is not exactly uncommon, but can certainly be seen as problematic. In many cases, the characters on this list fall into the stereotype of the Tragic Homosexual. Reader mileage will vary. While some of these stories did not end well, perhaps the future will bring happier tales celebrating love in all its forms.
*acronyms abound, of course. I choose to use QUILTBAG because it includes Asexuality, which is often ignored or glossed over, and it is overall a more memorable and inclusive term. I also use “queer” as an umbrella term, because that works for me, although I know some people object to it.
aka my babies I love them so much. I’m not sure exactly what it is about these two characters, alone or together, that resonates with me, but I do know they are very important to me, not just because of their sexuality.
2. Sammy Clay- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
I haven’t read this book in years, but oh God, the World’s Fair, I cry just thinking about it.
3. Robert Frobisher- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My favorite version of the soul.
4. Lisbeth Salander The Milennium series by Stieg Larsson
I like that Lisbeth’s relationship with Miriam is actually integral to the plot and her character arc, it isn’t just thrown in there to make her the cool bisexual hacker chick.
5. Nijiri- The Dreamblood Duology by N.K. Jemisin
I have a lot of feelings for Nijiri. On the one hand, I’m very sad for him. But on the other hand, I’m actually really thankful to Jemisin for writing a belief system where people who take vows of celibacy actually take those vows seriously. Too often in fiction you see the holy/celibate characters who just kind of throw around their words and treat their vows as completely meaningless
6. Clovis- The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
Clovis is 100% stereotype, the gay best friend you’ve seen in a million romcoms, and I don’t care because he’s the best damn character in that (wonderful) (fantastic) book (which I am gearing up to talk about in another post).
7. Maurice Hall- Maurice by E.M. Forester
I think I’ve talked about Maurice before. I love that book (and the movie), particularly because it has a happy ending. Sure, if you think far beyond the last page things get implausible for a number of reasons, but who cares? Maurice and Scudder get to be happy.
8. Tamir/Tobin- The Tamir Triad by Lynn Flewelling
Here is how obtuse I am (alternatively, how hard it can be to see something when it’s not a fight you face): I did not recognize Tamir as trans until this year, when I read someone else commenting about it. As a baby, Tamir’s soul is literally put into a differently-gendered body, and she struggles with that both before and after she knows the truth, and yet I never recognized it as a trans narrative. To be fair, this might be because I first read it when I was sixteen, and I didn’t know a single thing about trans issues, and the book came from that section under the big old FANTASY sign. To date, she’s the only trans protagonist I can think of that I’ve come across in literature.
So that’s a small sampling of characters. As you can see, there seems to be a dearth of women on this list. I know I have read fiction featuring lesbians and other queer women, but it’s not something that comes to the forefront of my mind.
If I included examples of queer characters from short fiction, this list might never end. There are a lot of fantastic, layered queer characters in short speculative fiction these days. I think the field is all the richer for it.