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A Roadmap to Normal By S.O. Green

A Roadmap to Normal

By S.O. Green

This Pride month is our first post-pandemic Pride. It’s the first Pride of the ‘new normal’. But normal is changing all the time. The new version is what you envision and, ultimately, what you make of it.

Recently, I had the pleasure of editing (and appearing in) an LGBTQ+ fantasy anthology published by Eerie River, Fire & Stars. The book has now released, and I have a hardback copy sitting on my vanity shelf that makes me very happy every time I look at it.

One of the things I have loved most about my work with Eerie River has been their dedication to inclusivity. Fire & Stars is a marvellous example of this dedication. LGBTQ+ authors and allies produced an excellent range of stories representing a spectacular array of sexualities and identities.

More importantly, these stories depict worlds where those sexualities and identities are accepted and embraced. A female changeling could seek advice from other fae about courting a mortal woman. A male elf and a prince could become lovers. A non-binary character could find peace in being called the name they wished.

In these stories, LGBTQ+ is normalised. It is a fact of life.

And normalisation is very important to me. We talk about being the change you want to see in the world, and I want to see a world where LGBTQ+ relationships are just relationships, where people are free to be the most comfortable versions of themselves, and where they’re free to love, without fear of negative judgement. Where everyone is accepted and that is our new normal.

Inclusivity is the first step along that road, but inclusivity has a dark side, namely tokenism and exploitation. LGBTQ+ characters and participants are starting to appear more often in media, and the publishing industry is no exception. Problems arise when these become a marketing gimmick rather than true blue inclusivity.

Authenticity is a major part of this.

MTV’s Teen Wolf show, which I hold to be one of the most well-written TV shows of all time, had that authenticity. The creator, Jeff Davis, is openly gay, and gay relationships were common throughout the show’s run. More importantly, these relationships were normalised and accepted. Straight and gay male characters were often best friends. Straight characters were flattered by the attention of gay characters, rather than defensive or upset. Straight characters attended gay clubs with their friends to be supportive.

It's also worth mentioning, since we’re talking about writing as well, that Teen Wolf did an excellent job of showing versus telling, and this was part of what gave the representation in the show its power. Perhaps most importantly of all, gay characters had layered, interesting personalities that went beyond their sexuality.

The same can be said of the epic Empire of Ruin saga by Eerie River’s own David Green (which I have also had the pleasure of editing). The main character, Calene Alpenwood, is a warrior, a mage, a daughter at odds with her mother, a hero, and a lesbian. What makes her so interesting is that, other than a few intimations in the first book, little is made of her sexuality during In Solitude’s Shadow. In fact, you’ll have to wait for the second book, Path of War, to see a romance begin to develop.

In my humble (I try, at least) opinion, it’s characters like Cressida, Tallen and Clover from Fire & Stars, like Mason and Jackson from Teen Wolf, or Calene from Empire of Ruin that make the change I want to see in the world. They give us a fictional frame of reference for a world where sexuality is accepted, where identity is embraced and where Pride is a year-round celebration.

For now, it’s Pride Month. Show your colours. Be proud of who and what you are. Be your normal.

That’s all you need to be.

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