Books by Cole, Cole McCade: After Dark, Crow City, The Lost, Writing

Writing a Queer Heroine in a Heterosexual Romance.

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I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while, but since it’s #BiVisibilityDay, I figured no better day to tackle it than today. In all the things people have said about my latest novel, The Lost, one thing they’ve never really focused on or even discussed, one thing I’ve never really even highlighted, is this:

My heroine is queer.

It’s a heterosexual romance. It’s a love story between a man and a woman, albeit a dark one that takes us down twisted paths of eroticism before we get to any idea of love. But just because Leigh ends up with a man doesn’t mean she stops being queer.

She sleeps with a lot of men before settling down with the hero, and from general commentary the takeaway from that seems to be that she sleeps with a lot of men. But there are two detailed sex scenes with women, too. One explicit, one a bit of a fade to black, but even if some could arguably say the first was a young Leigh acting out on the power of her own sexuality, the implication in the second is clear:

It’s not the first time Leigh’s chosen a woman for her nightly pleasure, and it’s commonplace enough that she doesn’t even need to remark on the difference.TheLostSmall

In the story, when she meets a girl she knows only as “the crow-girl” (bit of an homage to Charles de Lint there), she sleeps with her because she wants something other than what a man can give her. She wants certain things unique to love, sex, and passion between two women, because it’s what suits her tastes for that night. It’s not experimentation. It’s not exploration, drunken curiosity, acting out, being broken, being damaged. Like most queer, bisexual, and pansexual people, she just has different things she enjoys about being with women vs. being with men, or vice versa…and it’s not even a thing.

It doesn’t mean that Leigh can’t be satisfied with just one. It doesn’t mean that in finding her HEA with Gabriel, she’ll always be longing for a woman and Gabriel just isn’t enough. It doesn’t mean that she stops finding women beautiful, either, or stops feeling a sexual attraction to people who are female or female-identified.

It just means that she found love with a person who makes her happy regardless of their gender, and she doesn’t stop being queer just because of her relationship choices.

And I don’t want to sweep the validity of her queerness under the rug.

I pondered making more of a point of it while writing, but chose not to because it’s just part of her everyday self. Plus I felt like mentioning it would be disingenuous, as if I’m advertising this as a queer romance when it’s not. But sometimes I feel like in romance and erotica, we see queerness only explored by those ending up in same-sex or menage relationships; we don’t look very often at people who are queer but end up in heterosexual relationships, because in the backs of our minds we label them as not really queer, and pass over any queer encounters as just a phase that doesn’t carry the same weight as the heterosexual relationship they eventually end up in.

And that’s not true; in fact, it’s a form of erasure. I’m bi myself, as I’ve made no secret of. And one thing about my refusal to reveal Uber’s gender means that my bisexuality remains a simple fact of who I am, instead of the gender of my partner slotting me as either straight or gay. Other people don’t define who we are. We do.

And when representation is so important, I never want to forget who my heroine is regardless of who she loves:

A queer woman who knows what it means to be strong, to be broken, and to fight for what she deserves.

Love by any name, as long as it makes her happy.

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