Posted on | April 19, 2016
There is an ongoing kerfluffle over the (unsubtly hidden) Christian romance publish house “Clean Reads,” and its guidelines that it wants only “real stories” that don’t require sex, violence, or profanity. The guidelines are pretty strict; the characters shouldn’t even have premarital sex, or discuss having had premarital sex, unless “consequences” are outlined. Rick Reed’s post stirred up a bit of a nest, and he’s since closed down comments.
Clean Reads replied to the controversy by saying that you could have GLBTQA+ characters in your stories, just not as the main characters. They could be props, but any romantic arc to their characters was pretty much not allowed.
In academic queer studies, there’s an existing line of though that goes all the way back to Fear of a Queer Planet (1991), that straight people are “people who have sexual bodies,” while gay people are “sexual bodies that have people.” The default when listening to someone is to assume humanity first and be comfortable that their sexuality is probably conventional; when gayness is thrust upon the listener, suddenly what the speaker does in bed is likewise thrust to the forefront of the listener’s mind.
The gay body is, by default, a sexualized body first and a human being later. Clean Reads falls into this line of thinking almost by default. American Christianity is not interested in God’s children who can’t or won’t belong to the Church of No-Homo. “Jesus consorted with lepers, prostitutes, and the destitute, but he drew a line and shouted, ‘No Homo.'”
It’s unfair. And sadly it will be a few generations before it goes away. The best we can do is not give Clean Reads our money or manuscripts.