What I’d like to see more in Femslash || Libertad Tomas

I know it sounds corny, but books have always been that small doorway into another person’s shoes when you’ve worn out your own. When I started actively seeking inclusive books, I was ecstatic to finally find stories that mirrored my narrative, were the complete opposite of my narrative and all that’s in between.

I believe 2013 was the year I actively sought out f/f romance books, and at the time it didn’t bother me that a majority of them featured only white couples. I think I was just excited to read stories where women were in love with each other regardless of how they identified, but since I was reading a lot of YA and NA romance that featured people of color in them, I wanted to see more f/f books that reflected the cishet-m/f books I read.

I want more than anything to see two women of color learn from each other, love each other, and help shape the views of their possibly problematic upbringings because being a PoC doesn’t automatically mean we know and understand each other completely.

For example, I grew up in a home where we identified as both Black, but Latinx as well. I wish that meant that I grew up in an incredibly woke and inclusive household, but if I said that I’d be lying. I come from a family who would bleed tears if you mis-cultured them, but that will refer to any Asian person as Chinese. Or misgender(or flat out use an offensive term) a trans person, and sees mental illnesses as “White people problems”. Even in a loving home, there’s a lot of hostility from the generation before us. You want to be “woke” but it almost always requires unlearning from your first teachers.

Your family.

I know other PoCs who can relate to this even though they’re afraid to admit it. It’s not easy constantly having to correct family, especially when you come from cultures where you’re supposed to respect the wisdom of those who paved the way for you. Sometimes it is a lot of wasted energy to convince people that came before you, when they’re so stuck in their ways. It’s exhausting, and sometimes the time it takes is better spent on someone willing to learn.

But to steer away from the family conversation, like most Black girls, you learn very quickly where society has ranked you regarding desirability. I think if it hadn’t been for the surge of recent books featuring Black main characters in the last few years, I would’ve never thought it possible for a Black girl to be the object of someone’s desire or value(value and desirability are two different things, and way too long for this post).

While m/f is getting better with representation with sistas(colloquial for Black women), I’d love to see f/f show the same initiative especially with another woman of color. Not to say this is wrong, but a lot of interracial romance focuses on white person + person of color= interracial. It’s not rare, but it’s not supported as much when f/f feature two women of color.

A reconnection with a former friend lead into a conversation about her admitting the only women she wouldn’t date were Black. Ironically she could date a Black man, but a Black woman was totally off limits (needless to say, that friendship dissolved).

I tripped it off as just a “preference” back then, but it was then I started feeling Black women struggle in a lot of spaces where they should be more inclusive. Not that I’m saying fiction is the only place to build from or an end-all-be-all to ending racial tension, but it’s a better start than not starting at all.

I want to see a woman of color appreciate another woman of color’s brown or black skin when the entire world is telling them not to. I think we need to bridge the gap between cultures, because being a person of color doesn’t excuse you from having problematic thoughts about another person of color’s culture. I see more white people learning their views can be problematic but never PoCs with another fellow PoC.

I want more f/f that reflects my experience or culture(or other PoCs), because a lot of queer culture depicted is from a white gaze, and brown and black folx have a unique queer culture that we don’t see portrayed in fiction at the same rates.

I want to see more f/f with women of color where they have disabilities, have different spiritual beliefs, or don’t have traditional coming out stories. I want to see more women of color enemies/rivals to lovers, more women of color in office romances and women of color in celebrity romances too!

The list could go on if I let it, but most of all, I just want to see more women of color. Period.

 

About the Author:

G.L. Tomas is a twin writing duo and lover of all things blerdy, fearless and fun. When they’re not spending their time crafting swoon-worthy heroes, they’re battling alien forces in other worlds but occasionally take days off in search mom and pop spots that make amazing pasteles and tostones fried to perfection.

They host salsa lessons and book boyfriend auditions in their secret headquarters located in Connecticut.

We specialize in New Adult, Young Adult, Romance, and Fantasy! If you love QWoC, inclusive religious, racial, socio-economic, cultural, LGBTQ+, and size(and everything we forgot to mention) representation, check our books out =D

Social media links:

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter

 

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Unlabelled || by M. Hollis

I’m eleven years old when I see two girls kissing in the rain in the middle of a music video. It feels like those times where there is a couple having sex in a movie and you have to pretend nothing is going on or your parents will know that you know what sex is. Every time my mom walks into the room I have this strong need to look away, to change the channel as quick as I can before she thinks I’m like them.

I don’t even know where I learned that this was wrong.

I’m fourteen years old when Marissa Cooper kisses a girl on The O.C. I’m alone in my parents’ bed, as I always do to watch my favorite shows on TV. I hope no one comes in. I hope this awful feeling inside of me goes away.

And I breathe with relief when it’s just a phase.

I’m eighteen years old when my friend comes out to me. It’s messy and we fight and I look away from the screen because I don’t want to see this thing living inside of me too. I dream of kissing her mouth in a dark beach where nothing else exists and this isn’t just a malfunction in my system.

She still thinks I hate her for it.

I’m twenty-two years old when Carmilla and Laura kiss after thirty-six episodes of my heart beating so fast and my smile hurting my face. The words grow inside of me like flowers in a rose garden and I know I’m not ever going back to denial.

They live in every word I write from then on.

I’m twenty-three when Sophie Winters is in love with her best friend and they have angry sex on her bedroom floor. My eyes are wide and my hands are shaking as I flip the pages of the book and I realize girls can have this too.

My body never stops burning anymore.

I’m twenty-four when a girl finally asks me if I want to kiss her. My brain stops functioning and I pace for hours in my bedroom because this just can’t be real. She asks all the right questions and touches me like I’m not the devil and I start to believe I’m not made of stone.

We let go and our goodbye tastes like new beginnings.

I’m twenty-five years old and every girl in the world is so beautiful and so far away from me. I have labels attached in the wrong places and everything feels like too much. My heart aches for something that I can’t explain and my body just implores for the relief that I can’t ever reach.

And in the end, I can’t even say it out loud.

But what I do know is that I won’t ever let people make me believe anymore that my love for women is something to be ashamed. I’ll write and read about their bodies and minds and all the ways you can be free by the use of a look or the touch of a hand. Because in a world that tells you that women are made for men’s desires what does it means to be the one who desires them too?

I won’t be the one to look away once again.

I’ll stare at the abyss and jump without fear because there is not better battle than the one you fight for yourself.

And I’m starting right here.

About the Author:

M. Hollis is a Brazilian YA/NA writer with a focus on F/F stories. When she isn’t scrolling around her social media accounts or reading lots of femslash fanfiction, you’ll find her crying about female characters and baking cookies. She wants to write many stories for women who love other women with happy endings and hopeful beginnings.

Social Media Links:

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter

Guest Post || Iori Kusano

There is a man looking over my shoulder while I write.

I am alone in the room, but he’s right there, pressed in close, his exhale too hot and damp on my ear, my neck.

“Hot,” he says. “I like it.”

I delete the whole paragraph and start over.

***

I am burdened with the constant awareness of how I look from the outside at any given moment—walking down the street, eating, lying in bed. I am never without it; it hums in the back of my mind, and this internal voyeur is always judging my performance. Are my lips painted on perfectly? Do I hold my wineglass just so? Have I angled my posture to show my silhouette to the best advantage?
Implicit in this judgment is that I pass muster when I am attractive. And we all know what “attractive” really means by now, don’t we? We try to define it for ourselves but it takes years and years to unlearn the male gaze that’s been trained into us. It’s not our fault; it’s so prevalent, and it seeps into us before we have the tools to identify or fight it. I was nine years old the first time someone told me I was sexy. “You have great legs,” she explained. “That’s how you’re gonna get a guy.”

She was nine, too.

So I suppose it’s perfectly natural that there’s this imaginary man inside me, an inescapable voyeur examining me from every angle, and that he’s also privy to my writing. It’s an exhausting thing to deal with every day. I am constantly worried that any femslash I write is tainted by male-authored depictions of lesbianism. Most of the lesbian porn I’ve ever seen was produced by straight men for other straight men. Most of the fandom content I’ve consumed, while written by women, was usually about men. It’s only in the last five years or so that I’ve been able to find stories that resonate with me, that don’t leave me feeling like the author is exploiting female relationships for a cheap thrill.

And even the “good” stuff has its flaws, of course. Last month I went to see The Handmaiden with a friend. It’s probably the most respectful and sensitive depiction of a lesbian relationship I’ve ever seen onscreen, but as soon as we were out of the theater we both burst out laughing.

“Does anyone scissor? Seriously?”

“I bet straight people wrote that part.”

Lived experience has helped narrow the gap; the push for #ownvoices stories in the last few years has helped too. But some days I don’t feel like it’s enough, like nothing can erase everything I grew up consuming. So I reread every scene I write obsessively, wondering whether I’m really depicting a relationship between women, or just a male fantasy of a relationship between women. I cut whole scenes, I fade to black or fast-forward, I second-guess myself. Am I writing what I want to read, or am I writing something to titillate some faceless monolithic Man? Am I capable of telling the difference, when the media I grew up consuming filtered through a male gaze?

A worse, darker thought: we learn how to be from what we read and what we see. What if even the way I behave in my real-life relationships with women has been dictated by all these male portrayals of lesbianism?

I’m learning to make my peace with these questions, but it’s slow going. Even if I don’t emulate the media I’ve consumed, the fact that I’m always pushing back against it shows the scars it’s left behind. But I can let those fetishistic, voyeuristic depictions show me what not to do. I can write to my own experience, and hope that it lets other women see sapphic relationships that aren’t filtered through a male gaze. And I can talk about this pressure in hopes of opening up a dialogue around it. What can we do to create the stories we deserve?

About the Author

Iori Kusano is an Asian American writer and traveling grad student specializing in classical Japanese literature. Her fiction has previously appeared in Apex Magazine. Find her on Twitter @IoriKusano and Instagram as iori_stagram.