Where the Eighties seem to have been the years of the clear-cut Gay & Lesbian culture, reflecting in the fiction of that time (Amazon still uses the category today, as does Good Reads), the nineties and post-nineties expanded into LGBT, adding more letters to become LGBTQI in, probably, around the early 2000s. Then, with a healthy dose of a fairly strong queer culture emerging, the letter soup expanded to the point where, today, no one actually quite knows how many letters should be included or what they represent or even how distinct they are. This goes for society, but, naturally, that also goes for the fiction that that society produces.
Personally? I always say I'm an author of LGBT fiction because it sounds fairly inclusive (even if it shows its age, in my opinion), but truth be told it's a little bit of a white lie. What I write is gay fiction, for the most part, blokes having sex with other blokes, being in love with other blokes, living their lives as they fall for other blokes or break up or do whatever people do (be cops or firemen or popstars -- honestly, more people should be popstars).
That, to me, is what gay fiction or M/M fiction is about, what M/M romance is about if it's a romance, and I don't tend to stray too far from that at all. It's what I enjoy reading and what I enjoy writing.
That said, sometimes the blokes I write have had sex with women in the past, sometimes they have sex with women on the page, in the story, in the present. They are cis sometimes -- born biologically male, having penis and testes from birth -- and they are trans* sometimes -- having vaginas and breasts at birth, sometimes still having vaginas and breasts when they are protagonists in my story, and so going with LGBT fiction is a concession to readers, to fellow authors, to the spectrum even if I rarely write people who aren't (i.e. don't identify as), well, gay.
When I wrote Portside and talked to Riptide about it, when we discussed the marketing and the blurb and how to sell it, if it had been down to me the word trans* would have likely not appeared anywhere. Not in the details and not in blogposts about the story and possibly not even in discussions about it. Iwan, the protagonist, doesn't use the term to describe himself. He's a bloke who is into other blokes, everything else, while it's a physical reality, doesn't figure into his identity and how he perceives himself, and I didn't want to make it too easy for people to shelf it as trans* and move on past it, ignoring that especially folks who are trans* are likely also something else, gay or straight or bi or queer, and are sometimes those things first with their trans* status forming merely the background but not the active identity of their lives.
People are more complex than simple letters in an easy acronym, and while I understand the need for categories and for labels, both in marketing books and developing identities, forming groups and finding kinship, I don't think letters and labels should be the be-all and end-all to either fiction and identity. We're still all people first.
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Life on the dole in a dying town is defined by drinking when you can, smoking to pass the time, and, if you’re gay, going down to the barracks at the old port to get some. Iwan’s got the cigarettes and the booze down pat, but he lacks experience, which has him sticking to online porn and watching other people.
Everyone else seems to have moved past getting what they want, while all Iwan can think of is what could go wrong. He knows who he is, regardless of labels. But no matter how often his best friend Lyn tells him to just go for it, he doesn’t trust other people to see past his mismatched body.
Paying for what he’s afraid to get for free is a long shot, but it’s better than just watching, and it’s better than porn. It doesn’t change the world he lives in, but it changes him.
Elyan Smith lives in the southwest of England. He works in research during the day and spends most of his free time writing LGBT fiction. Portside is Elyan’s debut release. You can find him at his Website and his Twitter, and purchase a copy of Portside at Riptide Publishing.