Following the release of Ooligan Press’s queer anthology Untangling the Knot: Queer Voices on Marriage, Relationships & Identity, one question has been on my mind: is this book targeting a niche market, or has the LGBTQ niche finally become “mainstream?” There’s evidence to suggest that works centering around characters of diverse gender and sexual identity are much less niche than they used to be.
One of the greatest recent success stories is Welcome to Night Vale, a hit podcast that exploded in popularity overnight. For those unfamiliar with the podcast, the show centers around a radio host named Cecil who is openly gay and, later in the series, openly in a relationship with another man. The show also goes on to explore the complex dynamics of the relationship rather than simply focusing on a “happily ever after” when they get together. This suggests that the market is also ready for more real, complicated queer relationships like those found in Untangling the Knot.
Local publisher Dark Horse Comics also seems to feel that the market is ready for stories revolving around characters of diverse gender and sexual identity, due to their recent acquisition of CLAMP’s Legal Drug and Drug & Drop titles. Despite the obvious drug connotations, the story is actually more of a supernatural thriller and queer romance. Though the sexual orientations and gender identities of the characters have not yet been specifically addressed within the story, it’s clear that these characters are a part of the queer community. The series doesn’t feel the need to limit the characters or the audience’s ability to connect with them by giving them labels. CLAMP, the four-person team that wrote and drew Legal Drug and Drug & Drop, are strong supporters of the belief that love is love whatever form it takes. It only makes sense that they would create situations that allow the audience to interpret their cast of characters as bisexual, gay, questioning, pansexual, transgender, gender fluid, or even nongendered.
Of course, Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast and Legal Drug and Drug & Drop are comics series, whereas Untangling the Knot is a nonfiction anthology. However, the popularity of inclusive media is very encouraging. If nothing else, the success of this media proves that there is an audience that is ready to engage with stories that include gender and sexual identity in a story as more than just labels or stereotypes. Mainstream or niche, the market—no, the audience—is ready.