Every once in a while, it rears its ugly head: the tired, old, beat-the-horse-to-death post about how women have no business writing gay romance. And it is frustrating. To be called a homophobe for writing gay romance (I kid you not) was probably the worst for me personally; the same person accused me of "trotting out my gay friends" when I said I was part of the LBGT community. Hello, bisexual here. That's kinda what that "B" stands for. I guess because I don't look the part, most people just assume I'm straight. (What does bisexual look like anyway?)
But that's not what I want to talk about today. Not really. (But yes, it does still make me angry).
My first novel came out in 2011; at the time, I was utterly ignorant of any unhappiness over women who wrote m/m. I cut my teeth reading and writing fanfiction, and as far as I knew, most of my readers were women; so were most of my fellow authors. I figured there were some guys out there who enjoyed it, but I hadn't met any, so I simply assumed because we all loved the same stuff we would all, at least for the most part, get along.
Yes. I can be naïve.
My first encounter with the Nasty was a huge shock and it left a lasting impression, so much so that the first time I went to a conference put on by my publisher, I was a nervous wreck. I knew I wouldn't be the only woman in the room, but I didn't know what the other ladies would be like. Had they somehow won the right to be there (a right I doubted I had, other than, well, I wrote a book and all, but...)
And what about the guys? Were they going to be like the ones I'd encountered online, spewing nasty shit about women who dared to tread into their domain? After all, a good deal of the vitriol being spewed was coming from male authors in the m/m genre. I'm not really shy (okay, I'm not shy at all) but I have an extreme dislike of confrontation.
So in I went, ready to duck and cover.
Enter B.G. Thomas, Michael Murphy, and a half dozen or so utterly awesome gentlemen. They were warm, welcoming, and sweet. (Seriously, Ben has one of the biggest hearts I've ever encountered.) There wasn't a pitchfork in sight. No tar. No feathers. Just normal people.
(The ladies, by the way, were equally awesome and were a lot like me: middle aged wives and mothers who loved to write. Sorry to break anybody's fantasy about authors being glamorous!)
Life went on and occasionally this particularly ugly specter raised its head and like Don Quixote, I tilted at windmills, vainly defending myself and my right to write whatever I damned well pleased. I didn't change anybody's mind; all I did was get angry. Eventually, I started (mostly) ignoring the vitriol.
Then, last year, I began volunteering with AIDS Partnership Michigan. I had the sneaking suspicion that most of the guys in the office would likely be gay men (AIDS isn't a "gay disease", there's no such thing, but in the US it is more prevalent in the gay community, so I figured, realistically speaking, any straight men in the office would be in the minority--and I was right.) The men I expected to meet at APM wouldn't be writers. They wouldn't be a part of the family of authors I'd come to know and love. They might be like that guy who called me homophobic and said that I only had gay friends so I could trot them out and put them on display. (Just for the record, I don't have "gay friends" any more than I have "Jewish friends." I have friends who happen to be gay or Jewish, or black, or whatever. As long as we're friends, that other stuff doesn't matter.)
So, at any rate, in I went on my first day, braced to face who knows what and of course one of the first questions the volunteer coordinator asked was why I wanted to volunteer there.
I explained the premise of my third novel and how it had utterly broken my heart when I Googled the question "would you date someone with HIV?" (I've blogged about that enough not to repeat it here; short version: it boggles my mind that here is so much freaking mis-information floating around in this day and age about HIV and AIDS.)
In fact, everyone at the office has been wonderful to me. I do occasionally get asked why I write what I do, but I don't mind answering that question; it's always been asked politely, out of curiosity. That's cool. Everyone in the office has made me feel welcome and like I'm part of the family, even a year later when I'm pretty much a fixture ;-)
Yesterday I was with APM at Ferndale's Gay Pride; I met a bunch of people, including Mr. Friendly and of course the subject of Hanging by the Moment and what kind of writing I do came up. And there it was again: that easy, open acceptance. I also ran into the (awesome and amazing) guy who does my hair (we'd talked briefly about what I write the first time he worked on me, although it took me a moment of guts to say "gay romance" because I'd kinda guessed he was probably gay and did *not* want to piss off the guy about to do my hair for the first time! Needless to say, it wasn't an issue ;-) ).
So. In real life, I have encountered not a single hairy eyeball from the gay community. What I have gotten is a lot of warmth, for which I am grateful and wanted to take this moment to say Thank You. The next time the B.S. starts flying, I do believe I will have what it takes to smile, nod, and turn away from it--because really, who has the time or the energy to waste on that, anyway?