LGBT Heroes #1: the “G” in LGBT


I’ve spoken at length before about my reasons for writing about LGBT characters – and specifically about being transgender and lesbian and how this enriches my writing, particularly with regard to how it influences my portrayal of LGBT characters. I’ve spent some time talking about my transgender characters, specifically Cindy-Mei Winter (the Quantum Series) and Marsha (Galaxii series, “Dead Beckoning“) to name just two. In this article I’ll be introducing you to a few of my gay characters.

I think the most prominent gay character I’ve written so far, is the lead character of “Demonspawn“, Joe Lofflin – a man in his mid-thirties who’s risen to the rank of Commander of a starship through diligence, hard work and dedication.

Joe is an experienced officer in the Imperial Terran Space Fleet, he’s popular with most of the crew, he’s got friends among the other senior officers on the ship – and as the second in command on the I.S.S. Mordrake (at the time we meet him in “Demonspawn“) he’s in his element. Several things happen to catapult Lofflin to the center of attention – namely the untimely death of Captain Blaine, and the Mordrake being stranded in deep space, purportedly without a hope of rescue! Lofflin immediately takes up the slack and fills that leadership void admirably.

Sorry to disappoint any haters, but the book is not called “Demonspawn” because of the two gay characters in it who take up the spotlight, but because of the terrifying villain that occupies the darkness that surrounds it.

Blachart“, “Demonspawn” and “Dead Beckoning” are sci-fi action adventure stories, sometimes called ‘space opera’!

I’d like to add at this point, as an aside, that I’d previously written a gay character in my first book “Blachart” – which was Blachart the Bloody, an infamous Corsair captain and space pirate. Blachart was a much more complex character, darker and fiercer than Lofflin, because Blachart started out as a stereotypical ‘bad guy’ – a villain who’d had a very hard life and lots of negative experiences, and was gradually revealed to be not so bad at first, and then ultimately, as an ‘anti-hero’. Blachart wasn’t the main character of that story however, although he steps closer to the spotlight in the third book in the series “Dead Beckoning” – in which Lofflin also plays a part. However, in “Demonspawn” (book 2), Lofflin and his crew – and the story – are completely separate and self-contained from books 1 and 3 on either end. In “Demonspawn” I wanted to try a completely different angle with a gay lead character and make him the focus of the tale.

Why?

Well, because I dislike it when I see LGBT people being stereotyped – or gay men being objectified and misrepresented as being ‘weak’ or ‘feminine’ just because they’re gay. Yes, there are lots of different ‘stations’ on the sexuality and gender spectrum (the Kinsey Scale) – and I’ve created a lot of other characters along the LGBT spectrum in my stories – but in this particular case I wanted Lofflin to portray a masculine male whose sexuality happened to be just another facet to his character, and who isn’t shamed or bashful about who he is. In this future, and in his world, Joe Lofflin is just another average guy doing the same kind of job done by plenty of other guys – no matter who they form relationships with. In short, I wanted Lofflin to be a heroic gay action man, because there are so few such examples in modern media, literature and fiction!

At the same time, I’m also keenly aware that effeminate gay men are also often excluded or sidelined by that very same type of gay man as it were – in the dating scene and socially, the phrase “straight-looking, straight-acting only” appears a damn sight too often! Gay men are usually the first to jump up and object when there is bigotry or discrimination being directed at them or their community – and legitimately so – however, some also tend to see nothing wrong with indulging in a little internal bullying  of their own against other portions of the same community – at least, until it’s pointed out to them. Having had more than enough dealings with that sort of thing during my time as a human rights activist, I wanted none of that drama or nonsense in my future universe – so rest assured, that’s not what I was thinking when I ‘designed’ Joe Lofflin!

My goal was to portray a character that most masculine people (regardless of their orientation) could identify with easily, while providing insight on what such a character might feel, think or do in certain circumstances. As a storyteller, I wanted to add more emotional depth to the character – because nobody, not even an ‘action hero’, is as two-dimensional as all that.

Lofflin isn’t a kid. He’s an older man with extensive experience in life as well as having been a soldier for most of his. He’s used to taking and giving orders and running the ship and acting as a liaison between the crew and their captain. He’s also single and lonely, and very much aware that in a military environment it’s not so easy to form romantic bonds with others in the same crew, least of all openly. Consequently, while he’s not closeted, he’s also a little wary of just approaching anyone on the ship to ask them out on a date!

This, more or less, is how the relationship between Lofflin and Dellon Bennet starts off. Bennet is a young crew member, much lower in rank in relation to Lofflin, and he’s also relatively inexperienced in work as he is in life. He hasn’t been on the Mordrake that long, at any rate, no more than a few months – but his outgoing nature has helped him to formed a close circle of friends around the same age – early twenties – on the ship. They share various similar interests, and might be aware of his sexuality – although Lofflin finds himself playing guessing games and although quite intensely attracted to him, he’d afraid of making a fool of himself. Lofflin is much older than Bennet after all – and the second-most senior officer on the ship – the last thing his career needs is a sexual harassment suit!

Ensign Dellon Bennet, by contrast, is not the ‘action man’ type. Lofflin finds him very attractive, both physically as well as in terms of his personality and character – Dellon is shy and reserved. Physically he might be considered of average build – having been through the rigorous fitness training of the Space Fleet Academy for over six years to become a junior officer, but there is a refinement in terms of certain physical features Lofflin is drawn to. His eyes, his face naturally – but also his long thin fingers and hands, and his delicate mannerisms.

The last thing I wanted to do in describing their relationship or their appearances or points of attraction, was to reinforce the notion a lot of people have of ‘who’s the boy and who’s the girl’ by making Dellon appear more feminine, but at the same time I am also aware that a lot of fem gay guys get a raw deal from their broader community. They’re not transgender (at least not necessarily) – they’re male and they’re happy being male – but they do tend to be happy expressing themselves as effeminate. I wanted in this case to show that there are a lot of feminine gay guys out there, and that there is nothing wrong with being feminine. I believe people should be happy with how they are, or want to be – and that two people should be allowed to be attracted to each other for who they are, fall in love, and be happy. So Dellon Bennet, while not exactly a ‘fem’, and not an ‘action hero’ – is a bit of a deviation from those several stereotypes as well.

In book 3 of Galaxii, “Dead Beckoning“, readers learn they are still together, and both are being very professional about their relationship. Lofflin has been promoted to fill the Captain’s chair of the Mordrake in the meantime, and they’ve had six months shore-leave while the ship underwent major repairs in spacedock at Tremaine. You can see how their relationship has developed by reading “Dead Beckoning” – and you can catch a glimpse of it by clickin the cover below to download the free short story attached!

Do I write gay women or lesbian characters too? Yes I do!

Crossing over to the lesbian side of the street, I’ve written a couple of lesbian characters so far – and at the top of the list I think I’d have to put Tracey Ferris. She’s a bounty hunter in the Quantum series who flies between worlds chasing bounties. Readers are introduced to her in “Prodigal Sun“, when she meets rancher Jenny Grauffis quite by chance (her ship crashed nearby and the neighbor’s corn field is on fire).

Although at first, Tracey’s orientation isn’t made clear until well into the next book, “High Steaks“, where she and Jen hook up in the midst of events in that story – but more about the girls another time!

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!

Cheers!


TIP: If you want to know what Christina Engela writes, or who her focus group or target market is, please read here.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

Show your appreciation for Christina’s work!

All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.

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