Once upon a time there were assigned gender roles in the world. When attending school, the girls were segregated to learn housekeeping duties, while the boys were given more masculine pursuits to learn. But there started to be an outcry at this practice, and soon things began changing in the world.
This little story is about a girl who attended high school in the 1990’s. When she started high school, the school had a policy of making all students – both male and female – attend six set courses in their first year: cooking, sewing, metalwork, woodwork, art and computers. All students, so that both boys and girls could have a try of their opposite gender role activities. She actually enjoyed the manual arts, was rather bored in the home economics courses, and adored the chance to do art (which her mother always said was frivolous and a waste of time).
When it came the chance to choose her upper school courses which would lead her into a career, the teachers waited with bated breath to see what she would choose. Did she want to be a lawyer? A doctor? A geologist? With her skills in maths and physical sciences, she was greatly encouraged to choose an engineering pathway since there was a great lack of female engineers in the world. She sat down with her career guidance counsellor and told them she wanted work in childcare. The counsellor gasped in horror and instead had her fill out forms to go to university and study science. The girl sat with her mother and said she loved singing and acting, could she please sign up for those courses? Her mother signed her into a foreign language class.
Finally the girl grabbed her courage together and confessed her deepest wish to her oldest sister. The girl didn’t want to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer. She wanted to be a mummy. She wanted to stay home with her babies and cook biscuits and raise a yard full of kids. Her sister turned away.
It seemed that the girl really could be anything she wanted, as long as it wasn’t what people called “a gender role.” In fact the girl was forced to deny what her biological/hormonal/god-given right to choose was, just so that she wasn’t a “stereotypical” woman.
The end of the story? Well, it’s simple. When the girl got old enough to make her own choice, she dropped her science classes at university, went out and got a job, then bought a house to raise her yard full of kids in. And she is very happy she did so.
My debut release (Loving Jay) is a book that is about Jay, a femme twinkish guy who wears makeup, likes pink and says “Oh my Gawd!” too many times in a day. My other MC, Liam, is a laid back guy who is more masculine and often takes on a protector role over Jay. Stereotypical? Maybe. Wrong? Definitely not.
A couple of readers of the book were upset with this. One saying he was “so tired of stereo typing” (sic) and others disliking the obvious “gender roles” I placed my characters into. True, all very true. But if all books ignored these stereotypes, then we wouldn’t have a true representation of the real world then, would we?
I love to read novels about characters that don’t fit the mould, but I can’t ignore the fact that in real life, some people (i.e. gay men) do take on these typical roles. All gay men are not pumped and waxed. All gay men are not masculine. All gay men are not stereotypical “romantic” heroes like swashbuckling pirates.
I make no apologies for Jay and Liam. They are fun. They are happy to be together. They are happy with the “role” the other one takes. They are in love.
Did I make Jay “the girl” in the relationship? Is he less? No. It’s true that he wears makeup and it’s true he’s physically weaker than Liam, but he is in no way the lesser of the two. Jay is very happy to be Jay, and Liam is very happy with this too. Truthfully I didn’t even think when I wrote these characters. That’s just how they are.
If I am stereotyping, then so be it. How dare I write something that imitates real life? Just like how dare that girl think that she could be as feminine as to want to produce children?
PS – That girl? She did what she wanted. She had the children she longed for. Then she sat down and wrote a novel about two gay men who fell in love.