Monday, January 29, 2018

31 Day The Legion Challenge, Day 23: Sexuality in The Legion

Okay, on this one, I have a lot more to say.

When I first started writing what would eventually become The Legion, I was going through my own discovery period. I'd always had difficulty dealing with the fact that I was just as attracted to women as I was to men, and I was raised in a very strictly "hetero good, homo bad" way. Not only that, but I went to a school that taught abstinence-only exclusively, so suffice to say, any talk of the wide spectrum of sexualities wasn't something that came up too often, if ever. Understandably, I didn't write about actual sex because LOL how I could I? Even I knew that what little porn I'd managed to see wasn't realistic. But the emotional side of it? I could do that, even as an inexperienced sixteen-year-old. Lace, the main character, struggled with her own romantic feelings toward another woman, and ultimately, she rejected the love of a male suitor in order to explore her own future, wants, needs, and dreams. It was a very bittersweet ending, and I remember feeling very emotionally connected with Lace's story in a way that went deeper than just being her creator. I was her. But I didn't know exactly how. I wasn't fully prepared to fully delve into that at the time, but now? Well, let's talk about that, shall we?

I am a proud bisexual woman and have been for several years. I almost never see myself accurately represented, and when I am, it's either because the female character is being paraded around for the titillation of the male part of the audience or because she is evil and cannot be trusted. And don't even get me started on the erasure of bisexual people because I will rant about Willow Rosenberg. But anyway, when I realized that I could create something that people like me could feel connected to, I got ridiculously excited. I could provide that inclusiveness and representation that I could have used as a young bisexual woman and make sure that someone out there could see themselves in my writing and think, "Hey, I'm not alone out here."

I've already said this, but Ren wasn't originally bisexual; she actually revealed herself to be so to me after I fought with her about her "romance" with Calder. It's actually kind of reminiscent of my own realization that I was bi, and when I finally came to terms with it, I felt so much better about myself. Like ... I can't explain it too well in words, but everything just made sense almost instantly. The same happened with Ren. All of the story problems that I'd been having just cleared up, and the plot threads I thought I simply could not give up were sloughed off with little to no issues. I wasn't so focused on who she should end up with and I could actually look at the story.

And it was kind of the gateway for me. Well, if the main character isn't straight, that means I can include all sorts of non-straight characters! Think of all the different stories I can tell! A mother and daughter reconcile after years of conflict about the daughter's lack of heterosexuality! An asexual person can have a loving, intimate romance (complete with sex)! Gay men can indeed enjoy casual sex and not want a long-term relationship and that does not mean they're sex-crazed and STD-ridden! Someone can discover later in life that they aren't entirely straight and it doesn't mean they've been lying to themselves! I know that's a lot of exclamation points, but damn, I was excited when I realized I was going to be able to do this. There was a whole array of sexual identities that I could explore, even the heterosexual ones.

Part of the appeal of bringing that type of diversity, of course, is knowing that it will attract a larger number of readers*, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't being at least somewhat selfish about it. I mean, why else would I want to publish anything if I didn't want all the people to read it? But it's so much more than that. As much as I want stories about characters like me, I also want to be able to experience something different. Like Justin McElroy of the McElroy brothers fame** said that he often wanted to play video game characters who were completely different from himself, there's a type of empathy that comes from seeing the world from someone else's eyes. You see that other people are just that: people. No different from you, with hopes and dreams for the future and weird idiosyncrasies that they've developed over time. By spending time with characters who don't have the sexuality that you do, you realize that they are not avatars, defined only by who they choose to sleep with.

And that's really what I wanted to do. Once you saw all the aspects of Ren, she would stop being The Bisexual. You'd see that she is a powerful warrior, fierce friend, brilliant tactician, hater of cold weather, talented whittler. And maybe, just maybe, you'd be able to see others who might be anything other than heterosexual in the same light, and then maybe that would spread into other areas. I'm not saying that I'd be able to solve all of the world's problems, but I figure this is a good place to start.


* Of course, I'll also lose a segment of the population who refuses to see non-straight people as people deserving love and respect, but I don't really want them reading my shit, thankyouverymuch.
** I'm going to be doing another challenge this spring that's on their The Adventure Zone podcast, and goddammit am I excited about it. 
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