By Mark Alpert
I’m going to participate in the LGBT Pride March in New York City on Sunday. My 15-year-old daughter came out as a lesbian two years ago, and since then she’s become the youngest organizer in the history of the Pride Parade. She’s rounded up dozens of her friends and classmates, some gay and some straight, and they’re all going to march behind a banner saying, “We Identify as Proud.”
In the process, she’s learned some valuable leadership skills. She’s gotten very good at composing mass emails and arranging schedules and assigning duties. One of the challenges she’s faced is that many New York parents are extremely protective and controlling (I plead guilty on both counts!) and are wary of letting their kids go to such a huge event in the middle of Manhattan (the parade organizers are expecting more than two million spectators this year). So she has allayed her friends’ parents’ concerns by securing adult chaperones for her group. Namely, my wife and me.
So on Sunday afternoon I will march down Fifth Avenue with my daughter’s group and wave to the millions of spectators. A generation ago, who could have imagined that a totally square, hopelessly uncool curmudgeon like me would ever get a chance to do something so fabulous?
And I’m happy to report that this sea change in attitudes is also sweeping through the pages of commercial fiction. A growing number of thrillers and mysteries have gay heroes and heroines. For example, in my latest Young Adult thriller, The Silence — which will be published on July 4th — one of the teenage characters comes out as gay. His situation is complicated: he’s part of a team of terminally ill teens whose lives are saved when the U.S. Army scans their brains and downloads all their memories and emotions into weaponized robots. The kids are reborn inside super-powerful machines, but they’re still going through the usual teenage struggles with identity and sexuality. Even though they’ve lost their human bodies, they still have fears and jealousies and desires. And the gender preferences that were once inside their human brains have now been duplicated in their electronic circuits, so some of the robots are gay and some are straight. Hey, welcome to the future, folks.
Now the important point to emphasize here is that I didn’t add this gay character to the novel simply for the sake of diversity. I did it because I thought it would make the book more interesting and entertaining. That’s the same reason why my first science thriller, Final Theory, features an African-American woman as the physicist heroine of the novel. This choice made the relationships between the characters more interesting. They had to struggle with racist attitudes and misunderstandings at the same time that they fought against mercenaries and assassins. It added another level of conflict to the book. And in suspense novels, conflict is a good thing.
But on Sunday, I’m going to take a day off from fictional battles and confrontation. Happy Pride Day, everyone!