Please help us welcome author ‘Nathan Burgoine today to celebrate TNA’s 5th Blogiversary. During the time of year when so many of us are getting ready to celebrate the holidays with our families, ‘Nathan’s article rings as an important truth as well as a reminder of the importance of positive LGBT representation. He’s also offering a great giveaway, so be sure to check out those details below.
It’s the holidays, and it’s the five year blogiversary of The Novel Approach, and both of those things are fantastic things, and yet I’ve re-written post after post trying to find a happy and fantastic vibe, and the thing is…
This year? I can’t find it.
For a lot of queer folk—myself very much included—the holidays can be a reminder of just how very queer we are. The holiday stories on the front-page of the websites, the holiday movies suggested by Netflix and playing in the theatres, the holiday commercials, the holiday songs on the radio…
We’re not there.
On the one hand, it’s not unusual. It happens every day, really. Finding ourselves has always been a problem. We’re written out of history, we’re not discussed in classes, we’re just… not there. But there’s something about the holidays that really hammers it home. It’s relentless. It’s exhausting.
And, yes, it’s changing.
Now and then friends will send me links to the latest commercial that shows a queer couple kissing, or two dads feeding their kid, and it makes me smile. Of course it does. Sometimes we appear in the television shows, sometimes even a mainstream movie, where we’re not just the goofy side-kick there to fabulous the place up without having any actual life or plot of our own, or the punchline reason why she’s not all that into him. Those tiny steps? They’re glacial, but slow or not, they do matter.
Do I want more, to find more? Of course. A gay action hero? Bring it on. Lesbian rom-coms? Sign me up. Bi detectives working with trans FBI agents to uncover a global conspiracy? All the yesses.
But—big but—every time we get that one step forward, with one more piece of representation, someone tells us we have an agenda. They tell us to shut up and accept how they want to represent us (if at all). Even our well-meaning allies will sometimes tell us to be calmer, or not to argue, or to please pick a fight another day so we can have a nice dinner today.
Our inclusion—let alone something as scandalous as a kiss—means we’re “flaunting.” People are upset they have to see us, claim we’re corrupting, claim we’re evil, claim we should be cured, claim our names, identities, love, and genders are not our own.
None of that really works well on a Christmas card.
For queer youth, especially, that mix of “not there” and hateful rhetoric is toxic. The ability for youth to encounter those hatreds relentlessly and immediately on the ‘net is terrifying to me, and all the more reason I work so hard to make sure the haters aren’t the first or loudest voices.
Here’s the thing: queer folk invent. We’ve had to. When I was planning my wedding, my husband and I bumped into item after item that had to be reconsidered: how does the first dance work when there’s no bride and father-of-the-bride? Who walks down the aisle (and with who)? Bridesmaids? Surnames? Oh—and one of my favourites—since I proposed the moment the federal law changed in Canada, whose name got to be “bride” on all the forms? And which countries could we honeymoon to where we’d still be considered married?
The same thing ends up happening with the holidays. Warm holiday meals with family? Uh, not so much. For more than a few of us, we’ve been uninvited, thanks. Skating hand-in-hand and kissing under the mistletoe? Well, that might end up with us getting assaulted, so maybe we’ll take a pass. Heck, even a romantic holiday dinner out has earned us angry looks from across the room. Work holiday parties? Church services? Every freaking targeted advertisement, ever?
They’re all giant neon reminders: You? Queer.
So, yeah. The holidays, even for happily married queers like me who have great in-laws, can still really, really suck. Especially after a major election to the south reminds you just how much people would rather you continue to be not there.
In the face of that, what do we do?
Honestly? We get angry. We speak up. We fight all the harder. We find queer voices who have less air time, and we amplify.
The thing about books is they can have those voices without necessarily inspiring the opposing hatreds. Frankly, books are subversive, and—like Christian Baines said last week—they’re as political as any speech. I can read a book in a coffee shop, and barring an incredibly obvious cover, no one will know that the story I’m reading has a hero like me.
Like I said, one thing we queer folk do well? We invent.
My first novel was one of those inventions. I love superhero stories. Right now, they’re pretty darn big. I grew up with comic books and I loved them. But as a kid? I didn’t see myself there.
So six years ago I started writing my own queer superhero novel. Three years ago it was published. That was Light.
I also love urban fantasy novels. Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Carrie Vaughn… But I was tired of the only queer characters—assuming any ever showed up—dying as a warning or emotionally pivotal moment for the straight characters. So I wrote a second novel, Triad Blood, where the queer characters making their own way is the whole point.
Figuring out a new way to do things, fighting “what’s always been done” and forging new families with those who love and care about us? That’s intrinsically queer. Those were the stories I needed, and didn’t find.
It’s not just me. I once got a letter from a teenager in a nowhere town in Illinois I had to Google to find. He’d found a book in which I had a short story, at random. It had a cover that didn’t scream “queer,” which meant his parents wouldn’t know what he was reading. It was the first time he’d read a story about a gay couple working through their day-to-day lives.
That letter was a reminder of how much we need to make it possible to find stories like this. With the achingly gradual increase of diverse, own-voice representation, and an industry that ever-so-slowly seems to be figuring it out—and indie publishing, always ahead of the curve—these stories exist more and more.
And thanks to places like The Novel Approach?
Those queer folk might find them.
Here’s to five more years.
About Triad Blood
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Length: 240 Pages
Category: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Blurb: The law of three is unbroken: three vampires form a coterie, three demons make a pack, and three wizards are a coven. That is how it has always been, and how it was always to be.
But Luc, Anders, and Curtis—vampire, demon, and wizard—have cheated tradition. Their bond is not coterie, pack, or coven, but something else. Thrust into the supernatural politics ruling Ottawa from behind the shadows, they face Renard, a powerful vampire who harbors deadly secrets of his own and wishes to end their threat. The enemy they know conjures fire and death at every turn. The enemies they don’t know are worse.
Blood, soul, and magic gave them freedom. Now they need to survive it.
About the Author
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller. His first published short story was Heart in the collection Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. Since then, he has had dozens of short stories published, including Bold Strokes titles Men of the Mean Streets, Boys of Summer, and Night Shadows as well as This is How You Die (the second Machine of Death anthology). ‘Nathan’s nonfiction pieces have appeared in I Like it Like That, A Family By Any Other Name, and 5×5 Literary Magazine. ’Nathan’s first novel, Light, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.
A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing “cat or dog?” détente ended with the rescue of a six year old husky named Coach. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.