Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Romance of Gay Families

Recently I was asked by a magazine to write an article about gay families.  They didn't use what I wrote, but I thought I would include the article here.  I really hope you like it because just like my stories, this article comes from the heart.

I am a romance author.  I need to say that up front because it is both my qualification and my point of view.  I tend to look at a lot of the world through the eyes of a person who writes about love for a living.  You also need to know that I am a gay man writing gay romance.  The gay romance genre really began to capture a market outside gay men about seven or eight years ago.  The primary readership of gay romance is straight women.  This caused an explosion in the number and quality of gay romance stories being written.  Early on, these romances followed basic romance plot lines: boy meets boy, they fall in love, something comes along to disrupt them or split them up, then they get back together and live happily ever after.  Those stories were pleasant and showed that gay men could indeed fall in love and be happy.  For some of us, that in itself was an achievement—that gay stories could have a happy ever after.  I fell in love with those stories because they showed that no matter who you were, gay or straight, you were deserving of love. 

Over time, the stories changed and the depth of stories available broadened as the genre became established and matured.  There are still the stories that follow the standard mold, alongside werewolf stories, historicals, vampires, and shifters of every kind.  But more and more, gay romance stories center around the family.  Now gay romances aren’t necessarily about boy meets boy, but can also include man meets man who also has a son or daughter.  And suddenly, instead of a story about two men falling in love, you have a story about people falling in love while creating a family.   What I think I love most about these stories is that instead of trying to bring just two people together, there is the added complexity of a third person, in this case a son or daughter whose needs must be paramount.  Not only does it add depth and interest, but few scenes are as moving as when a man goes down on one knee, asks the man he loves to marry him, and then asks to be a parent to his child.  

In the romance, often getting to the point of saying “I love you” is a major milestone, but in romances that build a family, there is one additional element that must be considered.  Not only must the characters show love to each other, they must also demonstrate their love and desire to
be a part of the family as a whole.  Very recently, I did this in Love Comes Home by having my love interest decide to start a beep baseball league in order to give the nine-year-old son of the man he cared for the chance to play baseball again after he’d gone blind.  After all, what better way is there to tell a parent that he is loved than to demonstrate that you love the family as a whole?

Of course, gay families come in all shapes and sizes, and so do gay families in romances.  There are stories, as I mentioned, about single people with children finding love.  There are also stories and story series about people falling in love, creating a safe place, and building an extended family that comes to include multiple couples, children, and even aunts, uncles, and grandchildren.  I particularly love stories of established couples going through the growing pains of adopting children or stories of couples who unexpectedly find themselves raising a child because of a family tragedy. These stories take the romance novel out of its traditional domain and allow it to better mirror society as a whole.  At the same time, they can broaden the understanding of gay families, since the primary readership of gay romance is not gay men, but straight women.

At this time when we have seen the demise of DOMA, and with a stiff tailwind forming behind marriage equality, it is amazing to read stories of gay people falling in love.  It’s also wonderful to read stories of gay people raising children and building families, thereby enriching their communities.  But it’s gratifying to know that these stories are read and enjoyed by people beyond the gay community.  In short, these stories help show that gay people and gay families have the same needs and wants as anyone else.  Because no matter who you are, who you love, or the kind of family you decide to build, everyone deserves to see themselves in a book, especially a book about the greatest, most powerful, and universal emotion every human being can experience… love.
Reach Andrew Grey through his web site:  www.andrewgreybooks.com
Email Andrew Grey at andrewgrey@comcast.net


Tina Donahue said...

Wonderful post, Andrew.

To me, anyone who finds love in this very cruel world is lucky. I applaud them.

jean hart stewart said...

Tina put it so well I can only say ditto.

Fiona McGier said...

Can you get an "amen"? Hell ya! People who fall in love deserve the right to commit to each other, and no one else has any right to deny them that basic human right.

And we all write about romance, love and sex that changes the lives of our characters...no matter who they are.