Why I Write Inclusive Romance
I’ve become a curator of reasons for reading and writing romance from inclusive perspectives. At first, I sought to better understand the intersection of “self” and “other.” Through conversations, study, writing, and asking, I found answers, but also more questions, more depth. The layers of reasons keep peeling back to expose more of life and humanity and me. Deeper sorrows, sweeter joys, a complexity of interconnection. I continue because this work teaches me to love.
I’ll give you an example. In Hara Estroff Marano’s article, “Love and Power” (Psychology Today, January/February 2014), she explores power plays in relationships in general. In a section on gender roles, she includes this tidbit:
“In 200 years, says [John] Gottman, ‘heterosexual relationships will be where gay and lesbian relationships are today.’ That’s a long time to wait for change, but it reflects his findings that couple interactions are far more direct and kind among same-sex partners than the power struggles that arise among heterosexual ones.”
Marano goes on to share more details about Gottman’s findings regarding same-sex couples, which I consider worth paying attention to, because Gottman is a preeminent relationship expert with a lot of his own research to draw from. His twelve-year study of same-sex couples revealed, not surprisingly, similarities in the ways same-sex couples operate as compared to heterosexual couples. “But research has shown that there are also some qualities of strength (like humor and [the] ability to calm down during a fight) that are especially key to same-sex couples” (from Gottman’s website page on Same Sex Couples).
Even before I found Marano’s article andGottman’s research, I knew I felt like I was learning… well, I wasn’t sure exactly what, but something, whenever I read a romance I enjoyed that featured characters who were not like me in some way. It’s like when I’m reading those stories, my psyche is reaching out for something new — maybe a new way to learn — that bypasses old synapse pathways and creates new trails that push into the collective unconscious. This makes sense, considering how the human brain processes stories. When we read moving stories about people who are, in some ways, not like us, we learn to empathize at deep, subterranean levels.
“The only way to change how someone thinks about something, is to change how they feel about it.” – Lisa Cron, Story Genius
If I write a love story about two men, I’m hampered by not being a man. But I’m hampered whenever I write about any character aspect I haven’t experienced or can’t experience for myself. One of the great (and sometimes challenging) things about writing fiction is that it shows me who I am and who I want to be. When I let my imagination be my teacher, use it to show me what’s important about the things I haven’t experienced, I bring to the table my willingness to explore the vast expanse of common ground we humans share, to celebrate our differences, and to pay attention when I stumble into a barrier in my own thinking, because then I can do something about it.
I can look for more ways to be direct and kind in my close relationships. I can bring in more humor and calm down sooner. I can keep questioning what I learn as I explore and write about human love and sex and romance. I can be open to what I discover.
It’s my way of pulling the future closer.