Arts & Culture / Mosaic / February 13, 2013

Finding the queer in writing romance

Senior Stephanie Charvat talks about her book, “The Heart of Acres” in the Taylor Lounge Saturday, Feb. 9. (Jason Deschamps/TKS)

Senior Stephanie Charvat talks about their book, “The Heart of Acres” in the Taylor Lounge Saturday, Feb. 9. (Jason Deschamps/TKS)

One of Knox’s own, senior Stephanie Charvat, has been published, but not in a typical context.

The creative writing major, who has written and posted numerous fanfiction stories on the Internet, is the author of “Sketch,” a short story that appears in “The Heart of Aces” — a  collection of asexual romance stories that was published last July.

“Most of the time, asexuality is pretty much ignored in mainstream media — [though] I wouldn’t really call this mainstream,“ Charvat said.

“Sketch” centers on a homoromantic, asexual female artist in a relationship with another woman who poses nude for a portrait sketch.

Like the main character, Charvat identifies as asexual — as well as androgynous, “which is not related to the [asexual] identity; it’s a gender identity rather than a sexual one” — and uses gender-neutral pronouns.

Charvat hopes that readers of the anthology will “understand the romantic side of asexuality better [because] a lot of people tend to assume that if someone is asexual, then they’re also aromantic.”

For Charvat, who also happens to be aromantic, this misconception does not pose a personal problem.

“I don’t even get crushes on people — I get ‘squishes,’ which means that I really, really want to be people’s friend. I don’t want to date them,” they said.

But Charvat noted that this stereotype remains an issue for many members of the asexual community. They explained that the scope of asexual romantic identity varies from individual to individual, ranging from some who are willing to have sex with their partners to others who do not even like cuddling but do, in fact, desire a romantic connection.

“It’s about the feelings involved, mostly,” they said.

The main character’s girlfriend in the story is, however, sexual.

Charvat wanted to address the fact “that a lot of people believe that a relationship between an asexual person and a sexual person can’t work — but that’s not necessarily true … it’s all about compromise, which is, from my understanding, what most relationships are about.”

Charvat’s publishing process was short and hassle-free. They responded to an open call for submissions on Tumblr and received an acceptance letter a few months later.

“I’m pretty sure it’s atypical,” they said.

They have been writing since the age of 11, when a passion for reading translated into a desire to create stories.

Of sharing their work, Charvat characterizes writing as  “a form of stripping — you lay yourself bare and everyone gets to see.”

Most of their stories take the form of romances.

“I like writing romance. … I mostly write fanfiction, and so oftentimes, I’ll write about my favorite character getting paired up with a character I see him or her as having the most chemistry with,” they said.

Charvat commented on writing romances despite not desiring one for themself.

“Though I don’t want a romantic relationship for myself and though I don’t feel those things for other people … I really like seeing the people I care about — which, fictional characters count as people I care about — be happy in those ways,” Charvat said.

For their next project, Charvat is considering writing a teen fiction novel. They want to work more extensively with alternate sexualities, which they feel are underrepresented in media and entertainment.

“Lately, it’s ‘beautiful, white, young female falls in love with vampire, insert monster of the week here,’ and though he resists because it’s dangerous for her, etc., etc., they fall in love and live happily ever after,” they said.

The main characters would participate in a male/male relationship, but Charvat clarified that this would not be the focal point of the story.

“It’s important for representation — I mean it’s great that we have stories about queer people being queer, but that’s not enough. We can’t just have that, because that’s marginalization,” they said.

Charvat hopes queer writing can one day go mainstream.

“We have things like Torchwood [on BBC, where] the main character is literally an omnisexual, immortal man. Which is great … but in the United States, we have stories about queer people being queer … it’s like, ‘okay, here’s your queer things; leave the rest of TV alone.’ So that’s why it’d be so important for other, more mainstream things to have queer characters and not make a big issue out of it,” Charvat said.

Tags:  asexual asexuality author queer romance short story stephanie charvat the heart of aces writing

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Kiannah Sepeda-Miller
Kiannah Sepeda-Miller intends to major in English literature with a double minor in educational policy and journalism. This is her first year serving TKS as co-mosaic editor, having previously written for News and Mosaic as a staff writer. Previously, she worked as a freelance editor for high school and middle school students and motivational speaker Craig Zablocki.

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  • Alex

    I just wanted to let you know how nice it is to read an article matter-of-fact-ly using gender-neutral pronouns! Thank you so much!

  • Yvonne Wright

    I like gender neutral pronouns, but to refer to a single human being as “their” is ridiculous! I would suggest a s/he instead.

    • Anna Meier, Editor-in-chief

      Hi Yvonne,

      When a source requests to use gender-neutral pronouns, it is our practice to use whichever pronouns that person prefers. In the case of Stephanie Charvat, these were they/their/them, etc.

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