Editor’s Note: This commentary by Rachel Haimowitz, co-owner of Riptide Publishing is part of an ongoing Foreword Reviews series called #IndieVoices, in which we invite small publishers and indie authors to address the 2016 US presidential election and its aftermath.
Around 1 in the morning on Tuesday, November 8, watching with disbelief and grief and horror as the election results became more and more definitive, I e-mailed my entire staff and told them to take the rest of the week off. To take care of themselves, their friends, and their loved ones, and gather the strength we’d all need, come the following Monday, to start fighting in a world made suddenly much more hostile to everything we are and everything we do.
We run Riptide Publishing, an LGBTQ fiction press staffed almost entirely by queer people all across the spectrum. Needless to say, we were devastated by the election results—not just for who would be in charge come next year (or his cabinet picks, or the way he’s likely to affect the Supreme Court), but also for the knowledge that so many of our neighbors, friends, family, and community had voted against our basic human rights, and the rights of so many other marginalized groups as well.
We grieved. We’re still grieving. But we’re also standing tall—taller now, perhaps, than we ever have before, because of how important it’s become to be visible, and because the community has come together to boost and support each other at every possible opportunity. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re on a mission to make sure that everyone, queer or straight, understands what a beautiful, vital, important thing that is.
Riptide’s launch mission was to elevate LGBTQ fiction into the mainstream, both because queer folks desperately need mirrors and representation in their fiction (especially bisexual, asexual, and aromantic people, whose identities are so often erased or the subject of hostile derision), and because nothing holds more power to sway hearts and minds than stories. Think of how Orange Is the New Black has changed the popular perception—and the national discussion—of transgender people. Just as importantly, imagine how many young trans black girls out in the world, who’ve seen nothing on TV but queer tragedy porn and are in desperate need of positive role models, have watched Laverne Cox and thought, That could be me. I can be anything.
So, in the wake of Trump’s election, when hatred and bigotry are running terrifyingly high, when trans teens killed themselves in record numbers on election night, when post-election hate crimes are up 31 percent over last year even in a liberal bastion like New York City … small specialty presses like ours are here to spread compassion, empathy, understanding, and love. We’ve doubled down on our mission; we’re here to get these books into the hands of queer people who desperately need to know that they can be the heroes of their own stories, that they deserve and can have happy endings, and that every one of their stories is worth telling, whether or not their queerness is “relevant” to the plot.
Just as importantly, we’re on a mission to get these stories into the hands of straight people. To show the world that LGBTQ folks are no different than anyone else—we can be (and are!) athletes or astronauts or artists, great parents and faithful lovers, soldiers and even preachers. And while our queerness informs our lives—sometimes quite a lot—it isn’t the only thing, or necessarily even one of the primary things, that makes us who we are. Which is why we also publish stories about queer space pirates and queer zombie hunters and queer detectives. Our lives, and our stories, are not just about being LGBTQ, and we can be, and are, a part of every walk of life and every stage of history.
In fact, I promise that no matter who you are, no matter where you live, you know at least one of us, whether you realize it or not. Take my neighbors, for example; I live in a very red state deep in southern Appalachia, and it’s not always safe for me to be out around town. But they’re going to find out some day, and when they do, I hope they think back on what a good neighbor I’ve been, and what a good member of the community I’ve strived to be, and realize that I’m not so different after all.
To that end, I’d like to re-open a giveaway that we did after the election. In the face of our community’s grief, we partnered with four of our authors to provide free e-book copies of stories with and about LGBTQ people finding happy endings. We wanted to get those books into the hands of every single LGBTQ person who needed them, every single person feeling fear and despair and hopelessness, to show them that even in this new post-election world, there is reason to hope. That we can support each other, and love each other, and spread kindness at every turn. That you are not alone.
We gave out over 23,000 copies of Roller Girl by Vanessa North (a contemporary female/female roller derby book with a transgender star), When to Hold Them by GB Gordon (a contemporary male/male romance), Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher (a Christian inspirational about a preacher who comes to realize he’s gay), and Pickup Men by LC Chase (a contemporary male/male coming-out romance).
I’d love to give out 23,000 more. 50,000 more. A million more. Grab copies for yourself, and then grab copies for your friends, your family, your neighbors, your teachers, your students, random strangers on the street. Let’s work together to spread these critically important messages of understanding, compassion, hope, and love. We’ll be working harder than ever over the next four years to spread those messages to every possible corner of the world, and we hope you will too.
Rachel Haimowitz is a multi-published author, primarily of romance and SF/F and all featuring queer protagonists. She’s also the proud co-owner of Riptide Publishing, a critically acclaimed LGBTQ fiction press, and its YA imprint, Triton Books. You can follow Riptide on Twitter @RiptideBooks