Here’s a prospective story for you.
A middle aged couple, lives in California with their adopted daughter. The wife has psychiatric issues – depression, anxiety perhaps, with low self esteem and proclivity to suicide. The husband is debonair and successful and the couple is fairly rich. They have a friend, a single mom, whose children are friends of the protagonist couple’s child. The couple goes out for an anniversary dinner while the friend babysits the children. During dinner, the husband suggests to the wife that they should loan money to the babysitting single friend to move out of the drug-busted neighbourhood to prevent her ex-husband from getting custody of her children. They have a nice anniversary dinner despite the wife’s initial misgivings and end the night making love (or at least thinking of making love…not quite clear there).
The next day, the wife announces to the friend that they want to loan her the money. The husband is pissed off with the wife because they hadn’t really discussed the arrangement in detail. He still loans the money because the wife committed to it and the wife is happy because, being the child of a priest, she puts a lot of stock into helping people.
If you were an editor of a magazine, would you publish a story like that? Perhaps if the narration were in the league of Shirley Hazard’s, you would consider, but read the story with standard, American narration, which is neither spectacular nor bland in particular -would this story hold water? I don’t think so.
Yet, the story gets published in an online magazine to which I subscribe, just because the couple is gay and the “wife” is a man.
Have we reached a stage in literature, where anything goes as long as the protagonist is/are gay? No, I am not a homophobe, in fact, I resent the use of homosexuality as an excuse to promote substandard work. Normal is boring, I agree, no one writes literature about a safe, standard marriage, it’s only forbidden love that gets literary attention – why else would Tolstoy have named his minor Magnum Opus after the wayward, strayed Anna rather than the philosophical and righteous Levin, who plays as important a part in the novel? But Anna Karenina had an interesting story line and brilliant narration to it. Where this short story kills is that there is absolutely nothing to it – no particular story line, no narrative strength, nothing…except the “unusual” (and probably “forbidden” in the author’s mind) setting of a homosexual marriage. Replace “Clay” by “Clara”, and you have a boring domestic setting, not even worth a tweet, let alone a short story.
Perhaps we have reached a stage of ultimate insensitivity where heterosexual relationships have become ho-hum and any bland literary dish becomes palatable merely with a sprinkling of homosexuality to mask the absence of inherent taste.
I am getting tired of homosexuality being used as a shock value tool to carry a substandard presentation forward. As much as the author may believe he is being “forward”in writing such a story, he is actually doing homosexuality a great disservice by commodifying it.