For much of culture, we’re at a crossroads for storytelling and – as it relates to LGBT experiences – I keep asking myself one question: which story is needed?
Yes, all stories are important. I get that. But with so many experiences, so many truths, so many thoughts, you would think that the precedent would yield to more interesting or untold stories. You would think this. Yet, here we are, with The End Of Eddy and What Belongs To You, books that feel unrelentingly white and like they have been repeated, an echo of a distant story that originated some time ago. They go on to get raves and PR pushes and all the accolades associated with really well done works. But are they? Not really, no: they are been there, done that nonsense.
On the flip side, there are works like Guapa, a story that is untold and captivating but mired in “first novel problems.” It sinks under itself and a need to cram so much in. Perhaps this is related to a “one shot” mentality or some sort of literary respectability politics but, regardless, the book suffered in finding its truest form. Still: it was a book that was unique and unlike anything else read. It was of interest. It was something that at least tried
Others try, too. Desert Boys was an alternative take to a white boy tale that was complicated by America cum California race relations and political struggles amidst a coming of age dynamic. The Argonauts wove memoir with critical study to share the story of a woman transitioning to motherhood as her partner transitioned toward maleness. Even the grating and twee I’m Special delivered something different – a gay disabled story – although mired in millennial ennui. These were new enough stories, ones that reminded of Moonlight and Spa Night in their being delightfully different.
This is saying what we all know: we need less white dude stories in our art, particularly in our queer art. We’re almost certainly there in music, we’re approaching this in television, and movies keep surprising us by making room for these new stories. But in books? This simply isn’t being seen. I don’t want to read another The End Of Eddy because I’ve already read it ten times over.
I want something new or interesting or exciting. Yes, much of LGBT works is for non-LGBT eyes but – Please! – can we not stereotype ourselves by defining every experience as the same? Perhaps this is a challenge to publishers, perhaps this is a challenge to writers: I’m unsure. Regardless, the answer to “Which story is needed?” is very clear: the ones that have not been heard before, the ones that are there, the ones that likely are being overlooked in exchange for some same-old-same literal and figurative vanilla business.