I’ve always loved to read. Ever since I was a little kid I could often be found curled up with my nose in a book. I would read anything I could get my hands on, and I’m not even exaggerating there, I remember being about 8 and reading my Dad’s Maxim magazines that he used to leave on the side of the bath. Not only did I love to read, but I loved to write as well. As a child I always had a dream to become a writer. I wanted to spend my days reading, writing, and riding horses.
I read hundreds of stories, and as I got older and started getting a bit more socially conscious, though long before I started to question my own sexuality, I realised that there was a distinct lack of LGBT characters and stories. At least not in books that were widely available on the high street. I thought that this was pretty damn unfair and decided that maybe when I wrote my own stories that I should create more LGBT characters.
Then, when I finally accepted my own sexuality, I started to consume as much LGBT media as possible. I made pretty short work of the 5 books I found in my local high-street bookstore and breezed through the dozen or so films available on Netflix. I realised that as a general rule lesbian media fell in to two general categories.
The first was the classic coming out story, where the main character discovers that they might like someone of the same sex, has a big ole panic about it (but it can’t be gay, I just can’t be) and then everything works out in the end. The second one is a middle-aged housewife, bored with the life she feels trapped in, decides to have an affair with another woman to spice things up a bit. Even my own writing was the same.
Eventually I got bored of watching the same storylines over and over and over again, and having quickly run out of easily available media I turned to the internet to try find more content to consume. There I ended up stumbling upon a little web series called Carmilla. I ended up binge watching all 3 seasons in less than a week, instead of working on the essay I was supposed to be writing (no regrets, I still passed uni).
I discovered Carmilla a few months before the movie came out, so I didn’t have long to wait, but boy it was worth it. The franchise completely changed my perspective on the way LGBT stories could be told. It was one of the first things that I’d watched where the majority of the characters were LGBT.
It was also one of the first things I’d watched where the fact that the characters were LGBT wasn’t made into a big deal, or the whole focus of the story. There wasn’t the whole “Oh my god, I have a crush on my roommate. But she’s a girl.” Instead it was “Oh god, I have a crush on my roommate. But I think she’s a vampire that’s kidnapping girls.” It was amazing and refreshing and it changed the way that I wanted to write stories.
Up until this point, even in my own stories, there was still a strong focus on the coming out aspect of the story. Even if that wasn’t the whole story, I was still writing characters that had that gay panic. It made me realise that writing characters that panicked about being gay was just perpetuating the idea that being gay was something that needed to be panicked about, rather than something that was just accepted.
And so I changed the way I wrote. Again. Watching Carmilla inspired me to write stories where the characters were LGBT, but where that little detail wasn’t made into a big deal. I wanted to write romance stories where the two characters just happened to be women. I wanted to write adventure stories with strong female protagonists, where if love interests were mentioned or included, they’d just happen to be female.
I wanted to write stories where the focus was actually on the story and not on the sexuality of the characters.
It’s not that coming out stories aren’t important, because they are. But they shouldn’t be the only stories that get told about LGBT characters, because at the end of the day, whilst coming out is still kind of a big deal, it’s only really a tiny part of our lives as a whole. We are so much more than that moment, and so the stories about us should reflect that.