Thursday, November 14, 2013

Queer Romance Blog Hop

Welcome to the Queer Romance Blog Hop, where queer writers and readers of queer romance share their thoughts on the genre, as well as a few recommendations for books to read! Everyone participating in this blog hop identifies as queer and also reads and/or writes (or edits, or reviews!) queer romance. For our purposes, queer romance refers to books with:

1. LGBTQ+ main characters
2. In romantic relationships
3. That have a happy ending. (No Brokeback Mountain here, folks!)

Hey all!

On twitter Heidi Belleau asked writers of queer romance who are also queer if they wanted to participate in this blog hop. Since I write queer romance and self identify as queer I thought it could be a fun thing to do.

For those of you who don't know me, I write under the name E.E. Ottoman. I started out writing in the m/m romance genre but have since branched out to write f/f romance, and trans* romance. I have predominantly published with Less Than Three Press, and Dreamspinner Press.

So here are my answers to some questions about my experiences/thoughts/and feels as a queer identified person working in these subgenres.

1. Let’s start off with the getting-to-know-you stuff: How do you identify, and what does that mean to you? Whatever level of detail you’re comfortable with, of course!

I identify as queer and trans*  

When it comes to sexual preference I am an androphile in that I am attracted to masculine identifying and presenting people. The way this has played out in my own life is that I've been attracted to either butch/ masculine of center people or trans* men. I've never been in a relationship with a queer or gay cisgender man but I'm not excluding the idea that it could happen in the future. 

As far as gender identity goes I identify as masculine, under the trans* umbrella. My gender is, and for the last few years has been, very much in the process of transitioning so I find I have a hard time identifying myself any further than that. I present in a masculine way, and think of my body in a very masculine way. My masculinity tends to be more effeminate though but I'm comfortable with that.

2. What’s your preferred “flavour” of queer romance (e.g. trans*, f/f, m/m, menage with queer characters, etc.) Why?

I have written m/m, f/f, and trans* romance. Right now I am write a ménage story with queer characters (cisgender man/trans* man/ third gendered, androgynous person) ::laughs:: so all of the above?

As a reader I enjoy mostly fantasy romance and science fiction romance. Because the fantasy and science fiction romance out there is predominantly M/M I end up reading predominantly M/M romance books. Which are great stuff but I would love to see more really amazing fantasy romance with trans* main characters or some lesbian knights.

3. Do you write/read/review? Do you think being queer affects your participation or platform in romancelandia?

Being a queer writer of romance who entered the genre through m/m romance has been tough, I'm not going to lie. There are a lot of great people in the genre, a lot of great readers, writers and reviewers, but there can be some prejudice too. The m/m genre is very white cisgender male oriented, it's pretty much everywhere from pictures on review sites, graphics, the covers of novels, people's tumblrs, author's inspirational photographs. The young, able, heavy muscular, white, cisgender body is held up as the perfect male body and the supreme form of male beauty and masculinity. Also the genre tends to idolize traditional jock, and alpha male masculinities. It can really marginalize those of us who don't have that kind of male body or who aren't attracted to those kinds of body and masculinities.

Also I've found a disturbing amount of trans*phobia in the genre as well. Some readers don't seem to know how to deal with books about people who aren't cisgender. I had one reader accuse me of making up genderqueerness as some kind of plot device. Readers have told me that it's a matter of taste and not everyone is into reading "that kind of stuff" when it comes to m/m romance where one or more of the men are gay or bi trans* men.

As someone who is queer I've been compelled to take a stand for more inclusion of trans* characters, for more education among writers and readers about issues which face the LGBTQ community. There's a lot of big talk within the m/m genre but not a lot of work being done around other queer people asides from gay men. Even when we fundraise for LGBTQ causes gay men are the only ones ever talked about. There also seems to be limited awareness about gender identities and gender variance, miro-agression, heteronormativity and all the larger systemic ways LGBTQ people are marginalized. Drawing attention to this lack of awareness and educating people about them is something I feel is really necessary to do in order to make this community more accepting of people like me.

4. What drew you to queer romance?

My body is such a big deal in the real world: who gets to regulate it, how I identify, how I present, who I have sex with, what right I have to make any of these decisions for myself etc.  Yet sex, gender, and sexuality is so marginalized in most literary genres. It seems to be the less sexually appealing a sex scene is the more like "art" it is, if it turns people on than it's porn and automatically worthless.

Since sexualized queer bodies are double stigmatized for being sexual and being queer I think it  makes taking sex, romance, sexuality and gender seriously when it comes to the art and craft of writing even more important.

Romance is the one genre were I feel like I can explore gender and sexuality fully without marginalizing it and that is not only accepted but celebrated.

5. What do you love about queer romance in general, and/or your specific subgenre?

I love that ability to create great fantasy science fiction and other kinds of speculative fiction that doesn't marginalized the romance and the sex but embraces it and celebrates it. 

6. What’s your pet peeve?

I get kind of annoyed with f/f and lesbian romance about the emphasis on femme/femme and femme/butch pairings. Very rarely do you ever see butch/butch or butch/masculine of center couples. I know the concept of butch/butch coupling is rather loaded in the lesbian community. They do exist though and I do happen to find them sexy so there pretty much nonexistence in the genre makes me sad.

In m/m romance I hate the over-emphasis put these athletic, able, white, young cisgender male bodies and the jock/alpha male masculinities. It wouldn't bother me so much I think if they weren't so overwhelmingly prevalent and if they weren't often held up as the best most attractive way to be male.

I also hate insta-love ::laughs:: in pretty much any genre. I'm okay with insta-lust though as long as the author calls it like it is.

7. What growth would you like to see in the genre, going forward? Any ideas on how to accomplish that?

I would love to see more inclusion and acceptance. Right now I feel like f/f and m/m writers/readers don't do anything with each other and the communities are pretty separate. I would like to see more cross-over between the two communities, more conferences were both groups of writers interacted, more reviewers taking on both, more publishers publishing both, just more community over all.

I would also like to see more acceptance for trans* characters and non-binary characters across the board. I know that there are some writers who are all about writing trans* characters and some publishers who are actively looking for stories with trans* and non-binary characters but I still encounter a lot of readers (mostly of m/m romance) who don't want to read books with trans* or non-binary characters and get very defensive about it. There's a lot of love for the cisgender cock in m/m romance.  

We need to encourage education around inclusiveness and LGBTQ awareness among both writers and readers. Writers need to write more trans* characters, or at least question if all their characters need to be cisgender. I think most writers just default to cisgender characters and if they do think of writing trans* characters they feel too afraid especially if they themselves are cis. I think though if authors can write characters who are gay, even though they themselves are straight or bi (as most writers I've encountered are) then they can write trans* characters even though they themselves are cisgender. They just have to take that step and try.

I think readers also need to trust that it won't ruin their story if the characters aren't all cisgender. If they want stories about hot guys together they can still have that and not all the characters need to be cisgender. If one or more of the characters are transgender men that doesn't magically make it not gay or not about guys. Just like having trans* women in a story doesn't automatically make it not a lesbian romance. 

I think we need more representation of people who write all sorts of characters at conferences and conventions. I do think writing LBGTQ characters and writing about sex and gender takes a lot of research and a lot of work. I would love to authors supporting each other in that research and work. I talk with writers every day but for the most part I don't know what most of them do for research when it comes to sex and gender or writing LBGTQ characters. I'm sure a lot of them have resources I would love to know about and I have some pretty cool resources too (especially about sex ;) ) that I wouldn't mind sharing. I think networking and building healthy communities is so important.

The support needs to come from outside of just writers too. Whenever a writer publishes something that portrays LGBTQ characters in empowering, positives ways reviewers need to be all over that. Readers need to spread the word, blog about it, tumblr, tweet. Again I think networking and community is everything.

8. Do you seek out other queer authors when you read?

As a reader though I don't feel the need to search out books specifically by queer authors, I think anyone queer or straight can write kick-ass queer characters. That being said if I know an author is queer I am more likely to buy their books to support them and show solidarity.

9. How do you feel, in general, about straight peoples’ participation in reading, writing, and reviewing queer romance?

I don't think queer people should be the only ones responsible for writing about queer people. I think that straight people need to write about queer people too, even if it means challenging themselves. I think straight people who write queer characters need to really question the role of heteronormativity in their lives though, just as male authors who write books about female characters need to constantly be making sure they are checking their male privilege. I think straight writers need to be particularly careful not to fetishize queer people especially gay men. They also need to be careful not to represent all LGBTQ issues through the lens of attractive white cisgender gay men only.

Also it is straight alleys' responsibility to be quiet and listen when queer people have a critique or comment about the genre and representation of queer people. Then to take that critique or comment seriously, not get defensive or brush it off.

At the end of the day I write my stories for a queer audience. If straight readers read and like my stories that's great but in general my stuff is not aimed at them and I don't go out of my way to write queerness to make straight readers feel comfortable. I love my straight readers but it isn't about them.

10. Rec us 3 titles in your chosen subgenre and tell us why you love them.

Picking just three is tough. Since I mostly write fantasy romance I've pick three that I think best illustrate the richness of LGBTQ fantasy romance (also note: I was kind of taken aback by the fact that all the books that turned up on this list are m/m. So more lesbian and trans* fantasy romance is definitely needed) However these book are totally awesomesauce

This is a great fantasy novel with lots of political intrigue and really indepth world building. The different characters and cultures are well fleshed out and well articulated. It's also a great romance with some really hot sexual tension between the two main characters. I love that their romance seems to happen slowly and naturally. Also has a side note I love how arrange marriage isn't portrayed as this life-destroying thing by any of the characters and being married to someone you are friends with but not in love with isn't seen as a loss necessarily. 

Read any of Sasha Miller's books and you will finds some of the most meticulously well thought out magic systems in the fantasy genre in general. This book is a great example of that, and of her ability to create unique and intriguing fantasy world. The two main characters in this one are also great examples of alternative masculine body types and masculinities that are still portrayed as attractive and worth while. Also one of the characters is differently abled through being the victim of a crime later in life and I found the way Miller handled his reaction to his differently abled-ness as well as how it was perceived by the other characters to be both realistic and sensitive. There were so many moments were a less skilled author could have turned it into a really negative portrayal of what it means to be a differently abled person but Miller handled it beautifully all the way through. Also this is NOT a hurt/comfort story as much as it is a great fantasy story in which one of the characters comes to terms with their differently abled-ness. I highly recommend it.

This is a great fantasy novel with not one but two atypical romance heroes! Many reviews of this books said it read like a fairytale and I found it less fairytale like and more like really good historical fiction for a world that never existed. The world Fielding creates is rich and multi-layered with it's own history, mythology and religion, magic is real in this world but rare. The story of a man born over seven feet tall, poor and orphaned young, who saves a prince and ends up working guarding another man who's magical abilities are more curse than gift makes this story a great fantasy novel. It's also an amazing romance too however and the Fielding manages to balance both well.

So that's it for me! I feel really long winded now. Thanks for reading and for following the tour! Be sure to use the links below to check out more great posts from our participants!


  1. Yes, yes yes yes. A thousand times yes. the m/m romance community is really fond of saying that "love is love," that "love has no boundaries" -- I want so badly to see that become true, to see the development of an inclusive, intersectional, celebratory queer romance literature. Something that challenges the idea of there being One Right Body that's more desirable than all others. Something that has noticed there are other people in the world besides men with penises, and those people have vibrant stories too. A genre and a body of work that make me feel welcome and represented and excited to be part of it.

    Also: lesbian knights. SWOONING. The spot where my fealty-and-honor kink meets my weakness to butch ladies to create a perfect storm of hotness.

    1. "I want so badly to see that become true, to see the development of an inclusive, intersectional, celebratory queer romance literature. Something that challenges the idea of there being One Right Body that's more desirable than all others. Something that has noticed there are other people in the world besides men with penises, and those people have vibrant stories too. A genre and a body of work that make me feel welcome and represented and excited to be part of it."

      This. Yes. This. Sometimes I sit and think of all the amazing, diverse, talented, sexy, rebellious queer people I know and have met in my life and think "why can't we write about these people, because these people are awesome!"

      Also butch lesbian knights fighting and having sex with each other is one of the hottest things ever.

  2. I really like your interview answers. You really say well the things that bother me the most about the genre. (Also, I wish I had all of the time to write all of the things. There really, really needs to be more LBTQ fantasy/paranormal. I want all the fantasy, not even going to front.)

    Is it weird that I never really thought of Stolen Hearts in that way? ^__^;; I always just thought of it as a fantasy story that was also a story about finding your place when everything you know is kind of flipped upside down. But mostly just a fantasy story. :3

    1. I think it's always interesting what readers take away from books as apposed to what we thought we were doing when we wrote them. I think becoming differently abled later in life is having everything you know flipped upside down for a lot of people and I think you did a great job with that. I was on tender hooks until the end because the "only way to have a HEA is to have the differently able character magically cured!" just makes be cringe and want to vomit. I didn't think you were going to do there but I was worried about it right up until the end.

      I know what you mean about wanting to write all the things! I have to finish up the story I'm writing now, then I want to write a story set in my Medieval China universe with this amazing character I have who's a trans* woman and then a sequel to A Matter of Disagreement ... so much stuff to do.

  3. It seems to be the less sexually appealing a sex scene is the more like "art" it is, if it turns people on than it's porn and automatically worthless.

    It's so annoying how black and white people see the world.

    I love that ability to create great fantasy science fiction and other kinds of speculative fiction that doesn't marginalized the romance and the sex but embraces it and celebrates it.

    Amen to that :D I love being able to show the world the way I (want to) see it.

  4. These are definitely the areas where I think romance has so much to teach other fiction genres :) thank you for commenting.