I have friends and family in loving relationships. I have friends and families in non-loving relationships. Some have had broken relationships, and many more are still in long-lasting, strong relationships. Some are married. Some are not married, but are committed to each other. Some are engaged-to-be-engaged.
I could tell you which of those situations involve different gendered couples and which involve same-gendered couples – and you may or may not be surprised which situations fall under each label.
As soon as I do that, though, I have fallen into the trap. It’s the trap that parallels the times when you hear someone say, “Oh, today I had this black customer buy a candy bar and he told me it was going to rain today,” and you think, why in the world did it matter that that the customer was black? (or that he bought a candy bar, for that matter, but that’s a different issue) In other words, it is the trap that we make the distinction at all. I do not suggest that we ignore differences or pretend that differences don’t exist. I don’t even believe in the whole “colorblind” thing.
But love? Love is different.
I feel I know love when I see it. You can too, right? It’s the way that two people take care of each other, touch (or don’t touch) each other, look at each other, talk to each other, talk to others about each other. Love is just love.
In fiction, there are a lot of “issue” stories – stories that focus on identity, be it race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever. A lot of it is really good stuff. What I really like about fiction (of whatever medium) is that a lot of it can expose us to the day-to-day experiences and interactions of all people in the most natural and authentic fashion possible. They are the stories that show us the human experience, which can sometimes involve obstacles that have to do with the character’s identity, but doesn’t have to be the constant focus.
And these are the experiences that live in our brain so that when we see others around us living those human experiences, we don’t always think of identity right away.
It is this natural and authentic blend of fiction and reality that I seek in my own writing. I don’t want to hit my readers over the head with a character’s sexual orientation when it’s not the point of the story. I don’t want to “call out” a same gender relationship when I wouldn’t do the same for a different-gender relationship. It is as much about the white author leaving out that her characters are white, but always physically describing non-white characters. The presumption that these things must direct the story is false.
I have a scene in one of my novels where a father is dancing with his son’s new husband. For me it was a minor detail in some respects, but completely in character for all involved, and therefore a naturally important one. I couldn’t possibly take it out because if you know these characters, you know how endearing it is. One reader said, “At first I wondered about it, but then I realized, well, why not?” Exactly. I loved this reaction.
What I want in my fiction and from the fiction of others is the demonstration of what I see in my life around me. Couples don’t tell me, “we’re gay and in love.” They don’t tell me “we are transgender and we are in love.” They don’t tell me, “we are straight and in love.” I want my fiction to demonstrate that strong and loving relationships do not have to be labeled, because in life or when we read it when it’s written oh-so-well in fiction, all we do is feel it.
Unless, of course, that label is simply “love.”
* title comes from using expressions that “About Marriage 3.0” shared in a blog post citing 10 relationship words that do not have direct English translations. Using Pamela Haag’s post, the title means: “The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love (Japanese) to “The euphoria you experience when you’re first falling in love (Norwegian)”
Old Love – Neal and Leandra
I originally was going to publish this post last week, but couldn’t quite get it right (it’s still not there, but close enough) and searched for this song. I could not find it. I was going to settle for another song of theirs, “I Am Rich”, but you know what? It All Works Out, because just two days later, Neal and Leandra posted this in support of voting down a marriage amendment vote in MN. See? I was meant to wait. Enjoy.