Gay literature has gone through a gradual transformation over the years as the American population slowly changed to the acceptance of the gay community. LGBTQ literature began with subtle hints and innuendos eluding fantasies, trysts, and relationships that were forbidden. Later, gay literature focused on the "coming out" story. But these stories were primarily about shame, denial, and hardships the characters endure when their sexuality is revealed.
Jane Rule’s Desert of the Heart, one of the first strictly lesbian novels in print, reveals the desires that consumed those who married out of duty and abandoned their true nature. This was familiar to many women during most of the twentieth century. Women and men stayed in marriages that were unnatural to them out of fear of retribution, ridicule, and alienation. Stories like Desert of the Heart—poetic at times, and dated in others—mimicked the social constructs of the day.
Subcultures that existed in certain factions of society prior to now can be reevaluated in works such as Invisible Life, by E. Lynn Harris. Even today, denial has been a big part of gay reality in minority populations. Invisible Life exposes the secret lives of gay African American men who are in committed relationships with women. Some characters deny being gay because of their limited participation in physical contact. But most rejected the label because of the stigma and distain they would receive from family and friends. E. Lynn Harris also wrote about the HIV and Aids epidemic that plagued the gay community during the 80s and 90s. Americans looked the gay community in a very negative light and some writers tried to attach a human face on the disease.
We have come a long way from the days of fear and shame. Today, writers are creating stories and characters that are gay, but the plot of the story is not necessarily about being gay. As we strive to normalize gay culture, we no longer need a description of differences or similarities between hetero and homo sexuality. Now, we need what writers are actually putting out there—stories about family, love, loss, happiness, and sadness. The things that make all of us human.