If you’re here, reading this blog, then chances are it is because you can probably agree with this truth that I operate out of: Representation matters. If this statement doesn’t resonate for you, hopefully this blog will at least give you something to consider as you move forward through your life.
When I was younger, the first series that got me into reading fantasy was The Belgarid by David Eddings. It was the story of an orphan boy (Garion) who learns that he is the chosen one of a prophecy, and he slowly ascends to near godhood (and renamed Belgarion). It is an incredibly quintessential good versus evil story. As a young, closeted queer youth, this story connected with me. He was someone who never fit in learning about why he is different than everyone else. It was in his difference that he was something special. This started my love of fantasy, exciting worlds, and watching ordinary people become the Chosen One.
It was years later I learned about the hero journey, and I began to notice that this story arc would repeat itself over and over and over again in our popular culture (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and so many more). What I also noticed was formula that involved the central character usually being a straight, white, dude who almost always got the girl at the end of the story. There were rarely, if at all, any queer characters to speak of, and if they were present, they were never the “chosen one.”
Fast forward to 2019, and I’m reading Fonda Lee’s Jade City. There is a character who I am immediately drawn to, as there is something familiar in him that I can’t place. I read further, and we get the big reveal: He’s gay. Okay, it wasn’t a big reveal so much as someone finally said it out loud, but it felt like a big reveal to me as I screamed while reading the book in a local coffee shop.
Anden is an example of a character with agency, making difficult choices, and falling in (and out… and in again) of love with another male-identifying character. It was a character that I connected with in a way that Belgarion in Eddings’s book would never connect with me. For one of the first times, I saw myself in mainstream adult fantasy. Anden was a central character with a plot and purposed. He was anxious, insecure, and trying to prove himself to his family. He was navigating love and sex for the first time. He spoke to experiences I understood. He also was a member of a mob family who could use jade to power their own magical abilities, so we had some areas of difference too.
At the end of the day, being able to see yourself in print matters. When you see yourself in a leading and important role, it means that your existence is acknowledged and integral to the larger story of life. When you see yourself written into stories, it means you’re valid. It gives you a voice. This is why I put so much focus in LGBTQ+ representation in the stories I write, which includes not only diversity in sexuality but also gender identity and expression. I want someone to pick up my book and be able to see something that speaks to their experiences.