By now you’ll have heard about the Orlando shootings. You may have been reading about them all of today and yesterday. You may have been sitting in shocked silence in front of the news. You may have been trying to contact friends and family, or warning friends at Pride events to stay safe, or wondering what this means for you as an LGBTQ person, or mourning, helpless, from the other side of the world.
But I’m not really going to talk about that, because I don’t have words for how I feel. Instead I’m going to respond in the most positive way I know how: to share with you happy things, pieces of LGBTQ media with happy endings, the knowledge that things perhaps don’t have to be awful.
I can’t deal with tragedies right now, and I can’t deal with violence. I can’t dwell on the darkness. I’m putting aside my usual angsty writing projects and working on something currently titled HAPPY GAY MAGICAL NOVEL because right now, that’s what I need. And in the wake of this atrocity, we have to turn to hope, and to love, to keep going.
I want to share with you these words from Lin-Manuel Miranda at the Tonys last night:
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.
So here is some music, love and pride from me, as much as I can offer.
First off, here’s one of my all-time favourite films:
Pride (2014) is a great film for a British perspective on LGBTQ history, looking at the 80s and the role of gay and lesbian activists in the miners’ strike. It’s an emotional journey, but ultimately an uplifting story of finding your family and being yourself.
The soundtrack is also good, for when you need something uplifting to get you through the day. Or something to give you chills:
In books, your tastes may vary. Here are a few books with LGBTQ characters that I’ve read in the past year or so which don’t have sad endings.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (my review)
Simon vs the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (my review)
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (my review)
Scrivener’s Moon by Philip Reeve (my review)
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (my review)
I realise not many of these books are #ownvoices. I’ll endeavour to read and recommend more of those in future. (And write some.) Here is the LGBTQ+ tag on my book review tag, for reference.
As for TV shows, I don’t often watch light-hearted shows, and I haven’t watched many that are specifically queer. But I really enjoy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which has prominent and non-stereotypical gay characters, as well as lots of Latinx representation and other diversity. It’s a fun show where the characters respect each other (way too rare on TV to be honest) and the episodes are only 20 minutes long, so they’re good for a little burst of cheer. The recent series Shadowhunters based on Cassandra Clare’s books also has a fair amount of representation and a m/m relationship that gets more screentime than it did in the books.
I wish I had more to recommend. I wish I could give you a dozen stories where LGBTQ people get happy endings instead of getting killed, but there aren’t many of them. I wish I could tell you that it’s all going to be okay and you can go to Pride and you can hold hands with your significant other and you don’t ever have to worry that somebody will decide you deserve to die for that, but I can’t. Because the world we live in is an awful one.
(And particularly my US friends: my heart goes out to you, living in a world where guns are commonplace and where it must be so much harder to feel safe because one man can walk into a club and kill nearly fifty people in one go. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that your country hasn’t realised this has to stop. I’m sorry that your government doesn’t protect you.)
I had to hunt through my Goodreads shelves and my book blog to find books where the queer characters get happy endings. I had to think really hard to know if there was anything I could give to you, particularly any young LGBTQ people I might have following me, as an encouragement and a distraction and a little piece of hope in these dark times. It shouldn’t be like that.
This is why the ‘bury your gays’ trope is harmful. This is why people are upset that queer characters die disproportionately often in media. Because sometimes all we want is a happy ending. Sometimes we want fiction to be kinder than real life.
This is why I’m putting aside my novel about assassins, because I can’t bring myself to sympathise with a killer right now. It’s happened before. I lose my stomach for ‘dark’ stories when there are tragedies; I turn to other projects until I can face it again. I want to ask moral questions in my stories and deal with antiheroes and hard choices and bad decisions, but not at times like this.
As I said about the Moth Trilogy in 2014, in the wake of the events in Ferguson:
The world is too awful, and this fiction was meant to be escapism, meant to be fantastical, but it’s not. Our reality is dystopia, and all I’m seeing in my book is a twisted reflection of our world in a broken mirror of first-draft prose.
At times like this I want to write stories where the good guys are actually good and the queer people don’t die.
At times like this I feel helpless, stuck halfway across the world without even the spoons to go to the vigil in central London tonight because my new meds kept me up until 5am this morning and I’m shattered. I can’t help. I can offer a small corner of positivity and a supply of fluffy animals to anyone who asks (pictures of them, at least), and I can try and tell stories even while ignoring the fact that right now these happy endings don’t need magic to be fantasy.
If you have recommendations for positive, hopeful LGBTQ media — books, films, TV shows — please leave them in the comments. If you lack LGBTQ friends and family to talk to in the wake of this tragedy, you can talk to me, or to many other people on Twitter and Tumblr who have offered to be there for those who have no community. I can’t help you make sense of it; I don’t understand it myself. But I can send you pictures of cats.
Oh, and it shouldn’t need to be said, but leave any Islamophobia and racism at the door before you comment here. I won’t hesitate to delete comments that are hateful.
“Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”