I recently stumbled upon this quote that verbalizes exactly how I feel
"The questioning kid reads novels with LGBTQ+ themes because they want to see the possibility of a fulfilling life on the other side of the closet, not to feel more isolated or ashamed."
This is exactly how I felt after coming out as bisexual and genderfluid. I wanted to experience a queer version of the hallmark nonsense that I had lived my life surrounded by. I wanted to see cinematic award-winning masterpieces where the love interests were not just two white cis heterosexuals in the rain. But at the time I felt like I had to look really hard just to get a glimpse of any of that. Most of the queer novels at my library that wasn't by David Levithan was primarily focused on the sad stuff. The part where the main character gets yelled at by their parents for not fitting their agenda. The part where the love interest we spent so many pages fawning over says something hurtful and homophobic and walks away. The part where the character questions if happiness for them is even remotely possible in a heteronormative world. The part I could relate to the most because it was the reality I didn't want but had.
Where was the fairy tale magic of two princes or princesses? Where was the first kiss between someone non-binary and someone out, proud, and loud? Where was the story of a girl who came out and wasn't kicked to the curb by a religious mother? Also, where were the stories where the token queer character wasn't killed off?
Outside of David Levithan's books, I felt like those stories were nowhere to be found. (Note: this was before I began connecting with writers on social media and had access to online book shopping) Years later I attended a Queer Author's panel at GeekGirlCon and the authors explained that there is so little queer media that "happily ever after" is deemed unrealistic. My thoughts were finally verbalized.
I read the reviews for Boy Meets Boy, ( the first book to ever make me cry) and half of the reviewers felt that the LGBTQ+ Accepting town didn't feel realistic enough. One person argued that gay teens would feel worse about themselves in real life because they get bullied. Another person was also very much annoyed that the teen characters were dancing in the self-help section of the book store because that's not a place for dancing. But we give the Notebook a pass because it's fiction? We glorify the romance between a vampire and a human without blinking but draw the line at a universe where the homecoming queen is also the star quarterback? It's FICTION.
I wrote a short lesbian film as an assignment for my screenwriting class where the majority were straight men and the feedback was that the characters getting together at the end, felt "too easy". (Note: I had to work within the boundary six pages) My thoughts circled back to what was said at the queer author's panel. For whatever reason, the Gay Happy Ending is not a social norm. But it's not always going to be that way. I'm not saying that queer fiction is legally obligated to have a happy ending. I'm just saying we need to stop talking about it as though we're entitled autobiographical realism and we need to allow room for a rainbow-colored happily ever after.
So I decided I'm going to write those stories that I didn't get to read growing up. I want the next generation to see that there isn't just one version of happily ever after.
I would also like to point out much has changed since I was a teen and there is more queer fiction out there that includes happily ever after and there are amazing films such as The Half of It that I wish existed earlier. But we need to keep the conversation going. We need to continue telling these stories.
"I think maybe she could be my girlfriend. I don't want to be her girlfriend, though. But there's this part of me that totally knows I could be her boyfriend. I don't want her to think of me as a boy, or a boy substitute, though. I want to be a boyfriend who is a girl. I have no idea how to explain that stuff to anyone, let alone a girl I like. I just wish it was already all understood."
-M-E Girard, Girl Mans Up