I write about them a lot in my dark fiction. Sometimes they start out hidden, revealed slowly and with care, their addition not always central to the narrative. Other times they are front and centre, bold and proud and in your face. But however they appear, they’re always there, even if you don’t realise it. And although I write horror, they’re rarely monsters. No, they are the queer characters that are an essential part of my writing style.
It’s only recently, in my forties, that I’ve embraced the label of “queer author,” although that’s been part of my identity as far back as I can remember. I never “came out,” I was always out. It wasn’t important to me to make a big deal of it. I consider myself to be a “quiet queer,” in that I don’t feel the urge to wear a particular badge or tick a certain box, it’s just another part of me, like the colour of my eyes (blue) or my favourite food (chocolate cake). In addition, as someone on the autistic spectrum who has sensory issues, I don’t like labels. As my husband says, “You always cut them off. They’re too itchy.” A reference to how I can never stand leaving washing tags in my clothes, but equally to how I’ve never felt the need to display my affiliations or choose one particular “tribe”.
As for writing specifically about queerness and queer experiences, I feel very strongly that there are hundreds of other, stronger authors*, doing a much better job with that than I can. So I move out of the way and let them take the lead. And yet, in almost all of my stories you will find a queer character, even if I don’t always make their queerness an explicit part of them.
I joked with a friend recently that I just assume everyone I meet is bi or pansexual until they tell me otherwise, because that’s my default. It makes perfect sense to me. Why is the socially accepted default always straight? So when I start creating characters, of course they’re going to emulate that. Queer people exist, everywhere and all over the world. I include them, not to make any kind of political point or statement about their queerness, but to ensure, as a minority, they are visible and not erased. That’s extremely important to me. Just as I create d/Deaf and hearing impaired characters, because yes, I’m also d/Deaf, I want to ensure that such characters are both included and written with authenticity.
I’m well aware that my experiences as — if I have to use labels — a pansexual, gender-fluid, autistic, d/Deaf individual vary greatly from other people’s, and I try to be mindful of that when I write. Queerness often gets encoded as Otherness, or used as a metaphorical monster, and I think great care is needed to ensure the tone and message are always read right. It’s not my place to speak for other people, I can only draw on examples from my own personal journey. I’m extremely lucky that my life so far has been messy, interesting, unpredictable and unique. It gives me a lot of material to use. Being queer might be just one part of it, but it takes up a big chunk, and I know my queer characters are here to stay.
- Some of my favourite queer horror authors/writers of queer horror include: Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, Aaron Dries, Jewelle Gomez, Lila Bowen, Anne Rice, Hailey Piper, Carmen Maria Machado, Caitlin Kiernan, Sarah Waters and Oscar Wilde.
By Tabatha Wood (she/they)
Tabatha Wood lives in New Zealand and writes weird, dark fiction and uplifting poetry. Despite her obsession with the strange and unusual, she considers herself mostly harmless, although she does take great delight in shocking people with her stories every chance she can get. A former English teacher and library manager, Tabatha’s first published books were non-fiction guides aimed at people working in education. She now teaches from home while writing in her spare time.