LaToya Hankins is Carolina through and through. Born in Southport, in Brunswick County, she grew up in Raleigh, attended East Carolina University and moved to Gastonia in 1993 and Charlotte in 1998. In the Queen City, she served as a features editor for The Charlotte Post, previously having written for the Gaston Gazette.
Her profession as a writer and her experiences as a black lesbian in the South combine in powerful ways, informing her two novels, each with black lesbian characters.
“Oftentimes, society or the media feel that I or a person like me doesn’t exist,” says Hankins. “I’m a southern, small town, black, lesbian professional.”
Hankins’ writing ensures people like her are given a voice. The stories, though fictional, draw on her life. In some ways, the novels — “SBF Seeking,” released in January 2012 and “K-RHO: The Sweet Taste of Sisterhood,” released last November — are autobiographical. But, their place as fiction writing gives Hankins the opportunity to explore new concepts and scenarios.
“In a fictional version, I can give myself a twin sister or I can allow myself to have a much more fabulous coming out process than mine actually was,” she says. “They say that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, but fiction is a lot more interesting to write.”
Hankins says writing was always a passion of hers. She’s particularly fond of her novel writing. It’s soothing and an outlet. And, it was a part of her own coming out process, allowing her to explore her own ideas and place in the world.
Hankins hopes her writing can open new doors and conversations for others, too, especially among the many non-gay readers who have perused her books.
“It has been very surprising,” she says. “I’ve gotten a lot of response form the non-gay community and a lot of support from people who just picked up the book. It allows them to see a point of view that maybe they haven’t considered before. It gives them insight.”
She adds, “It’s a safe way to ask questions — reading a book gives people a jumping off point and a safe way to get into the subject.”
Hankins, who eventually left journalism to work at Wachovia and now works for the state government, does her writing in her free time. But, it’s a personal passion that brings many rewards, both for herself and others.
“I write because I want to give voice to people like myself, because, too often, you don’t see that.” : :
info: You can meet Hankins and learn more about her novels at at a Meet the Author event at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, 324 South Harrington St., on March 30, 2-4 p.m., as well as at the N.C. State Literary Festival on April 3. For more information, visit Hankins’ website at latoyahankins.com.