My name is Sarah. I wrote a book entitled The Dark Wife, and it was released last week–it’s a lesbian revisionist retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades. People are starting to talk about it, and I’m glad that they are. It’s a different sort of book–I wrote it for a lot of different reasons, and people are reading it for a lot of different reasons and that’s awesome. For the most part, it’s getting a tremendously and overwhelmingly positive reception, and I am so grateful for that. Thank you for taking a chance on an unconventional writer with an unconventional sort of story.
I did a kind of daring thing with my first book, something I knew several people would have trouble with, no matter how I did it: I retold a myth. I’ve been a student of classical mythology since I was a very little girl–I cut my teeth on Bullfinch’s Mythology and all things Homer–I’ve studied the myths for years (and, as a witch, I worship the archetype of Persephone, and know her story intimately), and I am highly aware that no matter how much you know about the myth or how deliberately you change pieces of it, there will be people who simply do not like it because you retold a myth–or, even worse–retold a myth that they have deep attachment to and love. I have complete and utter peace with that–not everyone can love or enjoy a book, and if you didn’t like mine, go in peace and thanks for giving it a chance (imagine me making a peace sign while saying this, nodding sagely and drinking tea).
But, interestingly enough, there are people who argue: “I like retellings of myth, but why did she have to make Persephone and Hades gay?” It’s said with waving hands, and an uncomfortable look on their face. When other people (and thank you, I love you) call them out, saying: “it’s homophobic that you enjoy retellings, but won’t touch this one because it’s gay,” they backpedal and immediately say that they’re not homophobic, but they won’t try reading The Dark Wife, because they are uncomfortable with what I’ve done with Persephone and Hades’ relationship.
Ie: because I made them gay.
I’ve written about this a bit before under “These Are Not Your Stories,” but I feel it bears repeating now that my book has come out. If you are one of the people who were uncomfortable with what I have done with the story, I want to thank you for reading this far–and I hope you finish the entry.
No one wants to be called homophobic–it conjures up the image of an incredibly hateful person in an act of violence. But it doesn’t just cover violent people. “Homophobic” literally means “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.”
So, essentially, if the idea of two girls/women together grosses you our or makes you uncomfortable, you’re homophobic.
The thing is, homophobia–at its very base–is fear of something you don’t understand. Perhaps you don’t think you know any gay people, perhaps there’s no one “out” at your school or your workplace, no one that you can relate the idea of what a gay person is, in your head, to someone you know in real life. Perhaps your parents have views on the GLBT community and, unconsciously or not, you’ve started to think the same way they do. There are a million reasons why you might feel uncomfortable with the GLBT community, but at the root of everything is the fact that you don’t understand us.
Yes, we’re different. I’m a woman who is incredibly and deeply in love with a woman, my soul mate. If you know that about me, that essentially changes everything you think you know about me.
But let me point out that that is the only difference between us.
I love Shakespeare. I put two sugars in my coffee. I laugh at every single Mystery Science Theater 3000. I become a pile of goo around puppies and kittens. I can’t draw to save my life. I think Unicorns + Tom Cruise before he went all crazy = The Greatest Movie of Ever, also known as Legend. I love salad. I sunburn easily (ie, become instantly crispy). I’m blonde haired and blue eyed. I have a family who loves me. My sister is awesome. I hate mowing the lawn. I love gardening. I think Styx is one of the greatest bands that ever was. I collect crystals. I keep chocolate in my desk. I still cry at the end of Return of the Jedi, and I’ve seen it like eighty bazmillion times.
There is at least one, if not more, of the above statements that you either are or do yourself or know someone who does. That is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg of who Sarah really is, but if you take that and put it beside your knowledge that I’m gay, you begin to realize that–yes–I have this thing about me that’s different, but at my very essence, I can still be understood, can still be slotted into places in your head that aren’t alien or weird or something so far from what you know as to be almost of another world.
When you slot me into those places in your head (and this takes less than a second to do, so awesome is the power of the mind), I become not just “gay,” but “Sarah who happens to be gay.” And that is where homophobia begins to stop, and acceptance begins to start, because I’m not just a group–in that moment, I’m a person.
You may think you don’t know anyone who is gay in real life, in school, at work, but you’d be surprised. I happen to be out in all of my daily dealings, but there are many people who either can’t be because of retaliation, or because they simply don’t want to deal with the backlash I live with for being openly who I am, every. Single. Day. (I admit, sometimes I get tired. It can be exhausting, breaking people’s stereotypes of what they think all Scary Gay People are like, and I’ve done it many, many times.) Perhaps one of your friends is gay, and hasn’t worked up the courage to tell you. Perhaps one of your uncles is gay, and he’s never had that conversation with you.
I do not believe that someone who is uncomfortable, unsure or uncertain about the GLBT community needs to remain that way. Every day, people become more accepting and loving toward the gay community, every day people overcome their prejudices, every day people find out that someone they love is gay and have to change their world view to fit in the fact that someone they love is gay, and they possibly didn’t really like gay people before. They change. You change.
Homophobia can be overcome, I believe it. The world needs you to be open minded, the world needs you to realize we’re not so different. The world needs you to give us a chance. That’s the only way anything changes. And I believe you can.
Thanks for listening,
Ps. Just a thought: this post really had nothing to do with my book, but if you didn’t think you’d like it because it’s a gay book, and wanted to give it a chance, you can read it for free, here–I want you to be able to make up your own mind about it. I wrote it for lesbians, first and foremost because we have so few stories, but if–by reading it–someone who was homophobic begins to soften towards the GLBT community, that would be made of win, and I could die happy.
…Listening to Styx.