EandTWhat, really, does a straight married woman have to say about Queer Romance Month? Not much that might not come out sounding bumbling or privileged or flat out clueless, right? I’ve lived my entire life in the safe embrace of the expected. I fell in love with a boy, married him–much to the delight of my family–, bore our children, and bask in the ease of a life that no one ever questions. And yet, I want to say something in this month that celebrates Queer Romance and this is it: Thank you.

Like many people born in the 1960’s I grew up thinking of myself as a tolerant slightly wild child. I came of age in a time where the era of Free Love had become complicated with messy divorces, scary sexually transmitted diseases, and visible homophobia. When I went to college, the people I now know are gay kept their preferences a secret because, despite all our talk of sexual freedom, that world punished those who strayed from the norms America cherished.

It wasn’t until the early 1980’s people I knew began to “come out.” I am lucky that, despite living in the South, my friends in graduate school were open with me about their sexuality.  To this day, I give them thanks. I’d never have learned how hard that road was if they’d not shared their journeys with me.

I spent the next thirty years listening to gay friends talk about their lives, or rather, the part of their lives that is so much more challenged than that part of mine. I’ve watched with sadness as the state I live in has worked to make the lives of LGBQT folks stupidly difficult. To all those that have fought against bigotry and for equal relational rights, I say thank you.

For the past five years, I have felt fantabulously fortunate to be part of what I think of as Romancelandia. This world rocks. It has in a thousand different ways enriched my life. It’s given me joy. It’s given me great sex tips. It’s given me access to the brilliant words of brilliant women and men. It’s made me happy when my life has seemed overly full of woe. It’s given me connection when I’ve felt alone. And, it’s given me insight into queer life that I’ve treasured.

I am a better friend and relative to my queer friends and family because I’ve read queer romance. Or, if not a better friend, at least a less clueless one. My Romancelandia Twitter friends have made me even more aware than, sadly, I would have been about how narrow my world’s view is of who deserves that Happily Ever After. Every story I read where the protagonists are NOT a man and woman ending up with wedding rings and babies makes me less obtuse about my own cushy life. I am still relentlessly limited by my status, but, reading romance in this time, being part of this world, is helping me be less of an idiot.

So, thank you to all those who have written about Queer Romance this month. I’ve read much and learned more. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you to all those who write about non-normative relationships. I’ve loved reading your work and it’s made me more understanding.  And thank you to Alexis Hall and to KJ Charles for their guest columns here at AAR this month. All four pieces were spot-on, moving, and, well, just thanks.

Dabney Grinnan