CW: this post will discuss fetishization of m/m romance, lesphobia, homophobia and transphobia
If you're on book twitter, then you might have seen the horrid post that someone put on booktok, explaining that they loved author Casey McQuiston's book "Red White and Royal Blue" because they were "attracted" to the two male protagonists and their romance, however they hated McQuiston's new f/f novel "One Last Stop" SIMPLY because the protagonists were two women in a relationship. This post rightly pissed me and a lot of people off. For more info on this matter, you can view this twitter thread.
The fetishization of m/m romance by straight women has been going on since forever. These novels typically get a lot of publicity and become staples on people's bookshelves. I cannot tell you the amount of times that I've seen someone recommend "The Song of Achilles" on booktok. However, the same cannot be said for sapphic romances. Books with f/f romances are usually not as popular amongst the booktok (and in other book communities) crowd. It's saddening to me that people aren't recognizing McQuiston's talent as a writer with their new novel just because it's f/f. Straight women tend to fetishize m/m romances because their homophobia continues to see gay men as only existing for their entertainment, and they only see gay men as hypersexualized people. This could also be tied to the "gay best friend" trope, in which straight girls in movies in tv tend to have a flamboyant gay male best friend, which leads to many straight girls in real life wanting this for themselves.
Similarly, there's the fact that drag queens are usually more popular amongst straight girls than drag kings, and trans performers don't get nearly the same publicity as cis-gendered performers. This fetishization will only continue the more us straight readers only read from one group. Now don't get me wrong, there are amazing m/m romances out there, and it is CRUCIAL that we continue to read these, especially from queer BIPOC authors and trans authors specifically. However, we cannot only read m/m romances and call ourselves well-read. We need to give f/f romances the same attention. This discussion has only prompted me to think about the representation that I could read more of, and I want you to think about this as well.
I have found that for myself, my bookshelf is severely lacking in books featuring trans women protagonists. I have a plethora of amazing books with trans men in the leading roles, such as "Cemetery Boys" by Aiden Thomas, "Felix Ever After" by Kacen Callender, and "Stay Gold" by Tobly McSmith. However, to this date, I can only think of author I've read from who features trans girls in leading roles, and that would be Akwaeke Emezi. Now this is nobody's fault but mine. There are trans and non-binary authors out there who are writing books with trans girl protagonists, however I have pushed myself to read the books that are more in the spotlight, which are typically books with trans men. This goes back to the fetishization discussion, as these books often feature m/m romances.
I came to the realization that I needed to expand my reading of trans women protagonists a while ago. However, when I googled recommendations, the results that came up pointed me to a few trans women authors such as Meredith Russo, however the books still recommended to me were mostly along the lines of Cemetery Boys, Felix Ever After, and more books with trans men. I LOVED these books, but they're not what I'm looking for currently, and its frustrating when I google specifically to find more books with trans women characters, and the results point me to a general post about books with trans characters, that always offer me the popular m/m books I've already read. I'll also mention that most of the trans women authors that come up in results are white. Seriously, one of the authors recommended to me on google was Caitlyn Jenner. Not exactly what I'm going for.
I did do some digging, which is of course my responsibility, and nobody else's. We cannot expect trans and queer people to do the work for us. I am looking forward to reading from Meredith Russo, April Daniels, and anything Casey McQuiston puts out next. However, I know that these authors are white, and I need to expand my reading far beyond reading just from white trans women and white non-binary people. Akwaeke Emezi is a fiercely talented non-binary Black author, but their works are quite heavy for me and I prefer books in the contemporary realm. So, I'll keep looking, but I also would like for publishing agencies and people in the book community to understand that m/m romances and trans men are not the only LGBTQ+ books out there. Straight people cannot call themselves allies when they only look out for one group.
This was a bit of a rambling post. Basically what I'm trying to get at is that fetishization of queer men needs to stop, Casey McQuiston and other authors writing sapphic novels deserve the world, and there is always room for improvement in how we read. I am looking forward to reading some great sapphic novels in the future, especially featuring trans women as the protagonists. If you have any recommendations, please share them in the comments. I would be eternally grateful.
What do you think about the fetishization of m/m romance? What representation could you read more of?
Emily @ Paperback Princess