When only a teenager my first full time job was working for the politically funded ‘Women’s Committee’ at the GLC in County Hall, London. It was a controversial place to work as we were giving grants to women’s campaigning groups. Everything from ‘The Black Women’s Collective’ to ‘Lesbians for Children without Fathers’ to funding Rape Crisis lines, and I believed wholeheartedly in what we were doing. Across the Thames, the Conservative government ensured that we were ridiculed every morning in the Tory press and I read each article as a badge of honour. The unit who researched and found these needy groups was made up solely of women, and as I was to learn most of them were Lesbians. I was 17 and as wide eyed as they come and they took me under their collective wing. I met some of the loveliest women at that time and they taught me a lot. However, one lesson I learned was that because you are a member of an oppressed group, and united in the hope to make things right, doesn’t mean you are automatically a good or pleasant person.
Within each campaigning group are the reasonable and the extreme. The extreme of this political unit were the women who exhibited misandry and indeed wished for a society completely devoid of male influence, even where procreation was concerned. A leading feminist of the time, Bell Hooks had discussed that the issue of ‘man-hating’ was a reaction to patriarchal oppression and most of the ‘sisters’ in the Women’s Unit accepted this as fact. The passion for the cause and the anger at male oppression bordered on fanatical when the funding, for the Women’s Unit, became threatened and a political time bomb.
This is when life became difficult for me because I realised in order to be accepted and happy in this environment I had never exactly been open about my sexuality. I didn’t like the misandry and made it clear I didn’t support such radical views and in order to underline this I became open that I liked men, some of them very much! From then on the majority treated me as a traitor to the cause, which was unfair as I was still a wholehearted supporter of sexual equality and an ardent feminist. I still retained some good friends but it was never the inclusive place for me it had been when I joined.
Several years later minus any job, I lived in the gay capital of the UK, Brighton. I had gay landlords, gay friends went to gay clubs and for a time I had never felt so accepted in the tolerant gay environment of Brighton’s clubland. I was older and wiser and had obviously learned that in any group or section of a population there is good, bad and ugly. This was the same in Brighton as anywhere. Sadly, I also learned that however much I wished it, technically I was not a gay man. I didn’t totally fit there either. I did however, find love and on leaving Brighton concluded that after a certain age we should resist the desire to be part of a bigger group just to fit in and hide ourselves within it. I will never fit in this hetero normative or patriarchal society, but I cannot expect a perfect fit and neither can anyone else. Eventually, we create our own groups and extended families and if we are lucky it will include people who will accept us for who we truly are.
This leads me tangentially to Queer Romance. There is a tendency for writers of Queer Romance to band together, look only to each other for support and contact those who already believe as we do. This is the same as being a teenager and wanting to fit in and then hide within the comfort of a like minded group. However, until writers of Queer Romance accept that they deserve a place in mainstream fiction, and make a move away from the protective group, our books will always remain a minority sub genre. There are writers here who are so talented and write so beautifully that to stay in a small, if accepting, group is almost criminal. It is important that Queer Romance is mainstream, seen and read by as many as possible because until that happens simple expressions of love between same sex couples like holding hands, will always remain a political statement.
About Izzy Van Swelm
Izzy van Swelm is proudly English, an eternal student who happily studied English Studies and Literature for eleven years at University, until she had to rejoin the real world. She counts herself as a bit of a vampire expert after writing her doctoral thesis on the Metamorphosis of the Soul as Witnessed in the Vampire Literature of the 19th and 20th Century!! Izzy has her first Queer Romance novel, A Soul Mate for Sin, coming out in early 2015 published by Wilde City Press. As yet she has no direct links and pages on social media but that will hopefully change soon.
Although Izzy van Swelm is unknown in social media circles mention her name to www.prismbookalliance.com and Beverley Jansen will be able to answer for her.