Our Best Colours
By S.O. Green
We live in a diverse world, and media exposure to other cultures and lifestyles is a lot of people’s first contact to new ideas and philosophies. That’s why it’s great to see the publishing industry starting to put time and effort into the LGBTQ+ community’s own voices. By nature, we have experiences and ideas that don’t reflect the mainstream consciousness, but which offer unique and interesting insights to an industry clamouring for new material.
In fact, in a great many cases, LGBTQ+ content can help to broaden people’s outlooks and provide them with the license to think outside the constraints of traditional paradigms.
Allies are important in this too. Shared experience produces a kind of sub-language that can sometimes make it difficult for us to understand what people from other backgrounds are expressing. As a very wise person (my girlfriend) once said, just because we both speak English, doesn’t mean we’re speaking the same language. An ally may not necessarily understand or be able to speak for the LGBTQ+ community, but they can certainly encode their own acceptance, tolerance and appreciation of the LGBTQ+ community for others like themselves. They are the bridge and they are the translator.
It’s especially the case with writers, because they’re some of the most eloquent people in the world. They kind of have to be. It’s in the job.
Never underestimate the importance of a turn of phrase. Sometimes, all it takes is someone saying just the right thing in just the right way to completely change a life. Let me give you a personal example.
I didn’t always understand the concept of being transgender. It confused me that people could be born one gender, but feel like another. At the same time, throughout my life, I had wrestled with the feeling that neither mainstream concept of gender really spoke to me. I liked masculine clothes and hated makeup; I wanted to be sensitive, but also strong. I didn’t fit with what I could see as either feminine or masculine.
Then, a wise person came along (yeah, my girlfriend again) and introduced me to a new concept. Being transgender, she said, is like being born wearing shoes that are the wrong size. No matter what you do to try to be comfortable, the shoes don’t fit. They will never fit. All you can do is swallow down how much it hurts and try to get on. Unless you find yourself a new pair of shoes, ones that actually fit. How much pain would that take out of your life? How much easier would that make literally everything?
Something about that philosophy clicked with me, I think, and I began to empathise a lot more with people who were transgender. I also started to think differently about myself, and I realised that I didn’t need to be one gender or another if I was okay with being either. Sliding along the spectrum was more comfortable to me, fit me better, than trying to adhere to an extreme. It’s why my pronouns shift and why I’m happy to be called she or he (I go by they to keep things consistent).
I will always advocate for tolerance, and I will always advocate for representation, whether from an LGBTQ+ own voice or from an ally. The truth is, we never know who is going to be able to say just the right thing to make the world suddenly make sense to somebody.
When it comes to writing in the horror genre, there’s a lot of ways that both LGBTQ+ authors and allies can help to bring representation forward and, because I love trope subversion, I put together some examples of ways we can adapt the horror genre to suit our new circumstances.
1) Strong, confident women. Horror has always struggled with the idea of strong, confident women. Women tend to be victims first, damsels second, assuming anyone cared enough to rescue them. Sexual liberation has been historically damning, lesbianism a transgressive horror to be resisted, and trans identity a sign of evil (or at least malfunction). Women who defy these (very) well-trodden archetypes immediately go some way to broadening the scope of the horror genre.
2) Just regular fruit. The idea of a gay character acting as dark seducer of a heterosexual character is a recurring theme in horror that can be traced back to the 19th century short story, Carmilla. Even now, there’s still a common trope of evil gays offering ‘the forbidden fruit’. Normalising homosexual relationships in horror stories subverts this trope, which is itself based on the stigma associated with homosexuality. It’s nice just to have gay characters in normal relationships.
3) Turned. Similarly, we can invert the trope altogether by showing a heterosexual character preying on a homosexual character. It doesn’t just create interpersonal tension, but acts as an allegory for the pressure of conformity. Likewise, a sexual character preying on an asexual character promotes discussion of the tensions associated with the assumption that all humans are necessarily sexual creatures.
4) Anybody can be anything. LGBTQ+ characters can be villains. It’s okay to use horror to explore how a homosexual relationship can turn toxic, or how an asexual person is threatened by the overt sexuality of the world in which we live. The important distinction comes in acknowledging that identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a source of dysfunction or horror in itself.
5) Bisexuals. Bisexuals.
Words are tools, not weapons, and in the right hands, they can be used to build a better world. That is why I’m proud to be working with Eerie River Publishing—the representation it offers, the LGBTQ+ authors it publishes and spotlights, and the allies it enables to support the community.
Let’s show our best colours.