By Kaylia Metcalfe
In 2008, everything changed. I had always written about politics, but that summer, my posts and articles began to become more and more LGBT related as the impending vote on Prop 8 picked up steam.
In 2009, I published a short story collection and then put my fiction writing on the backburner and devoted myself completely to the fight for LGBT equality. I joined committees. I marched. I wrote articles, letters, blog posts. I made banners, I attended rallies.
I became a board member of Gay Central Valley, I volunteered at events, on committees, led workshops, took part in cultural competency trainings and edited an LGBT anthology.
I wrote for Gay Fresno, for Gay Central Valley, for Pride PAC, for the Community Alliance. I wrote politics and nonfiction and I wrote a lot.
I always meant to get back to my first love, fiction, but it never seemed the right time. There were always more battles to fight.
Last month, I attended a writer’s conference in the Bay Area. I sat on a panel of LGBT “experts” and talked, at length, about LGBT characters in literature. I talked about the need for LGBT characters to not just be background, or two-dimensional cutouts resigned to supporting roles. I answered questions about why it was essential that LGBT characters be given both roles as protagonist and antagonist, why it is imperative for our youth to see LGBT people as people first with goals and frustrations and humanity.
There are a number of books out there that treat LGBT characters well. The landscape is much better than it was even 10 years ago. Nowadays, the lesbians aren’t automatically going to die, trans characters aren’t always there as a tragic example of what not to do, and gay men don’t all have AIDS; they aren’t even all sex-obsessed barflies. And yet, these motifs are still far too common.
As I sat on this panel and talked about ways in which writers could show that a character was gay in a “nonthreatening way” I realized that I needed to shift course.
Today, and thanks in huge part to the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) last year, in the United States, marriage equality is on an unstoppable march. Seventeen statesand Washington, D.C., have legalized same-sex marriage. Oregon recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Limited recognition has been granted to out-of-state same-sex marriages in Ohio, Missouri and Colorado. Same-sex marriages performed in Utah, while they were legal, are recognized.
U.S. district courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Texas have declared state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In February, a U.S. district court in Kentucky declared the state’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions unconstitutional, and suggested that the state’s ban on performing same-sex marriages would not survive a constitutional challenge. Last month, a U.S. district court in Tennessee issued a preliminary injunction against Tennessee, forcing it to recognize the out-of-state same-sex marriages of the plaintiff couples while the case is pending. Florida is poised to be the next state where LGBT couples will win big for marriage equality.
A recent poll found that 61% of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents aged 18–29 supported equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Just 35% were opposed.
And it isn’t just marriage equality. State after state is ruling that same-sex couples can adopt, apply for custody, be treated fairly by family courts. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a thing of the past, and just this week, a panel led by the former surgeon general recommended that the age-old ban on transgender service members be revoked citing that there was no medical reason that transgender people can’t make excellent soldiers.
Twenty-one states plus Washington, D.C., outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 17 states plus Washington, D.C., outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are also punishable by federal law. In 2011 and 2012, the EEOC ruled that job discrimination against LGBT individuals violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And the White House is again pushing for ENDA to be passed in Congress.
In other words, the work is far from over, but it is getting done.
And it is time for me to turn my own attention and focus back to my true passion: fiction writing. I am grateful to places like the Community Alliance for giving a voice to the LGBT community and I know that whoever fills my slot here at the paper will carry on the tradition of bringing you LGBT-related news and things worth note. For me, the nonfiction part of my writer’s journey is at an end—at least for now.
Kaylia Metcalfe is a writer, blogger and activist in Fresno. She is a cofounder of Skeptics Without a Cause and serves on the Gay Central Valley Board of Directors. Her short story collection “Links” is available at www.amazon.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.