This perspective seems…not wrong, exactly, but simplistic.
First of all, as someone who is both foreign to the US and a cripple, the notion of same-sex marriage is vital: I want access to my partner’s social security benefits, and twenty years ago, being able to marry would have made all the difference in the world to my immigration prospects. These are both issues that are as important to me as being bullied is to queer kids. (Yes, I understand that for some children this is a life or death issue. But so is access to health care. And so, sometimes, is immigration.) And here’s the thing: putting same-sex marriage on the books will lead to less overt discrimination in the wider culture. This is basic social science: change the law, and eventually change minds. It’s not a simple correlation, because humans being are complex beasties, but it really is clear. I can’t think of one federal law that has advanced human rights that has lead to more discrimination long-term.
Secondly, Schulman’s thesis–that lesbian novels only get published in the UK–is something she’s been saying for at least four years. This is from a 2008 piece in Publishers Weekly:
If you are a lesbian and you want to get married in California, you’re in luck. But if you are a human being who would like to read novels with lesbian protagonists by openly lesbian authors, you’d better move to England. In the U.K., openly lesbian novelists with lesbian content like Jeanette Winterson and Sarah Waters are treated like people, and their books are treated like books. They are published by the most mainstream publishers, represented by high-rolling agents, reviewed in regular newspapers by real critics, contextualized with other British intellectuals, given mainstream awards, broadcast on television as movies… and as a result of all this respect and consideration, they are read by a broad constituency in England and the rest of the world. For those of us writing here in the United States, England seems like the Promised Land.
This repetition doesn’t make it less valid, of course, but her analysis has always struck me as…less complicated than the reality. Waters’ and Winterson’s books have done so well because they’re about being lesbian, i.e. about the trials and tribulations of life as same. Not about lesbians just living their lives. Whereas my novels, in which lesbian protagonists are simply human, have been published in the US quite easily–and all are still in print–but UK publishers wouldn’t touch them. “Oh, we already have one of those this year,” said one, about the Aud books. In other words, they were already publishing one ‘lesbian crime novel’ and didn’t see any reason to publish another; they’d hit their quota.
Meanwhile, here in the US I continue to make deals for my novels, all with lesbian protagonists (except Hild, who is…well, you’ll just have to wait and see), though not focused on lesbian issues. Perhaps this makes me a gentrified writer. Only readers can be the judge.
But Hild won’t be out for a while and, meanwhile, I suspect publishing on both sides of the Atlantic is on the cusp of change with regard to queer . But I’m not sure they’ll change in the same direction. I await developments with interest.