The last conference I attended was held in my beloved adoptive home of Charleston, South Carolina. I love that city, and I love the Carolinas, where I grew up. It’s been a joy to watch the state slowly transform into a more welcoming and egalitarian place. Flags that once flew over the state capital, flags that brought people pain, have been taken down. And more and more flags of a colorful stripe have been going up. But the change is slower in some states than others. In some places, the gradual victory of love winning out over hate needs an extra push. And we see those who have not opened their minds and hearts working hard in the legislature to move us in the wrong direction.
The South Carolina House Ways and Means Committee has voted to decrease funding to schools (including my own College of Charleston) because of gay and lesbian friendly books being assigned to incoming freshmen. It’s difficult to discuss these issues without sliding into the negative, which can just entrench people in their positions. Writers Speaking Out Loud is doing a great job of amassing positive pressure to bring about change. The social mores of our country are altering, but they aren’t doing so evenly. The more outspoken we can be in support of our fellow human beings, the more pressure we can place on those who aren’t yet open to accepting people of all stripes. Our task is not to win over others. Our job is to win over others. We can achieve this through constant positive pressure and good example. It is happening. It will continue to happen.
One of my little attempts to apply positive pressure was to write a novel with a gay protagonist whose character arc isn’t defined by his sexual orientation. This is just the sort of work leading to $70,000 in funds being held back from higher learning institutions. Fiction challenges us and works its miracles by placing us in the skin of another human being and teaching us empathy. Some who read HALF WAY HOME are offended to find the main character is gay, because I don’t see the need to place this in the book’s description or to categorize the novel as anything other than science fiction. I might as well warn people that a brunette appears in the story. To help spread the love, I’m giving the book away for free over on NoiseTrade. College freshmen (and anyone else) can download the e-book for free. This isn’t the first of a series, so there’s no attempt to hook readers and profit later. It is one of my best selling novels, so there’s plenty to lose and not much to gain.
Not monetarily, anyway. But there’s plenty of other ways to gain. Because some people will read this book and start tilting on that fence of theirs. Then they’ll watch a TV show with a gay character and they’ll tilt even more. Next they’ll learn their cousin is gay and begin to lean precariously. They might find out one of their heroes is gay, and at some point they’ll fall right off that fence. And they’ll find an army with open arms waiting to catch them.