There’s a subject I keep seeing all over the net recently, and that’s about people who are not gay and lesbian writing gay and lesbian fiction. Some people find it annoying, some people even find it offensive, a lot of people seem puzzled by it.
Myself, I’m puzzled why people are puzzled.
For me, writing fiction isn’t about who are actually are – and that seems such an obvious statement that I am staring at it wondering that I actually had to write it down. If writing was about who I actually was, then all I would write would be very dull work stories, or perhaps some wild-child fiction, or even horse stories. God forbid.
I’ve seen it argued that women can’t write gay men. Granted I’ve seen some excruciatingly girlie boys in gay fiction, but hell – that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or that people (men and women) don’t like reading about them. In my personal life, I’ve met gay men and lesbians which encompass just about every range (well, DER) from squealing girlie boys to bears with grease under their nails and men more beautiful and yet more masculine than a lot of heteros, despite being gay gay gay. And actually – some of the most girlie men I’ve read in the historical genre have actually been written by men. You can’t deny that Duncan from The Master of Seacliff, or Robert from Gaywyck are rather feminine in their attitudes, complete with bouts of tears on a regular basis.
So a particular woman might not write your cuppa tea when it comes to gay men, but you can’t write off all female writers of the genre off just because you’ve read one you didn’t like. I know of some women who write porn more basic and just as downright filthy than any wank book I’ve read available at Starbooks or Alyson.
It seems to me that it’s only in this corner of the writing world that this problem raises its head. No-one cares who writes crime fiction. No-one cares particularly who writes Historical Fiction. (There is, in the latter genre, some discussion between “what men like” (“battles”) and “what women like” (“queens and shit”) but it’s still generalisation. It’s like ALL girl children playing with Barbie and ALL boy children playing with Action Man/GI Joe. It doesn’t happen. Some men will read a story with a romance, and some women love the stories that are battle heavy.
Even with Romance, no-one really cares that much. I know a few male authors writing it, although they usually use a pseudo, there doesn’t seem to be the “you are a man, you shouldn’t be writing this.” campaign.
Why then, is it annoying to some that women write gay fiction? Is it because a lot of it is erotica? I suppose I can relate to the fact that gay men might find the objectification of their bodies to be offensive, and that they feel that they are being exploited in some way, but can we say “puhleeze” people? Women have been treated in this way since women were invented – us doing it back is not revenge after all, it’s a sign of our feminism (perhaps) that finally we can write erotica – buy and read it – without shame and without having to buy Playgirl or ask gay friends for loans of magazines.
For many many years (and still to this day) men smirk, fanaticise and wank at the thought of two women in bed together – I cannot see why women finding two or more men in bed together a beautiful thing is something that raises eyebrows.
But when it comes right down to it, fiction is fiction. An author, be they male or female, writes PEOPLE. Whether the author is good at their job is another matter.
There are a lot heterosexuals writing bad romance, erotic or otherwise. There are a lot of gay people writing bad romance erotic or otherwise.
I can’t, despite my plumbing and “it’s got a pulse?=SHAG” mentality, write a m/f or m/f/m scene to Save My Life. It would be unconvincing and would probably end up on Weeping Cock. However, gay men, lesbians, bis and straights of all types have read my stuff and while it’s not universally popular, I hit the spot (as it were) or so I’ve been told.
As for non-erotica, perhaps the feeling stems from “you have no right to write about our struggle if you haven’t been there.” I can see this point of view too. I’ve seen anthologies which won’t take stories from people who aren’t gay men, and this makes me sad.
Because when did I need to prove what I was to submit a story to anyone? Despite the fact that my appearance is female, how does the editor know what I consider myself to be. This, I thought (unless I’ve got the whole thing terribly wrong from start to finish), is what I thought the essence of gender was all about. Not what you SEEM to be, but what you are, what you consider yourself to be.
So when am I allowed to submit? When I start on the hormones? Or after the surgery is completed? When will I will gay enough?
(Incidentally, I exclude real-life memoire submission calls, I would never submit to one of those, as that would be dishonest – they are not fiction and do not declare themselves to be)
Consider this. Do I need to be black to attempt a story about slavery, or segregation? What if I were to write a story about Rosa Parks, would I need to prove I was black? I don’t know. Possibly. It would depend if I got it right enough for the readers and didn’t lessen the impact.
Part of the reason I write gay historical fiction is to show people the problems gay men had in times before ours. I think it’s important to remember – obviously – and there seems to be a preponderance of text-books and articles on the subject, but very little historical fiction. Not enough stories, and there must be a million stories untold.
Should I be Irish to write about the famine, or the troubles? Should I be Chinese to write about the Boxer rebellion?
Or what about – like Anna Sewell or Michael Morpurgo – I were to write a story from a horse’s pov? Is that right? Is it just because the horse can’t say “oh, that would never happen” that we consider it to be literature?
Or a robot?
Or an alien?
Or a hobbit?
Yes, I know, I’m getting facetious but my point remains the same. It’s up to the author to write characters and for the reader to be (or not to be) convinced by them. That’s all. Whether the name on the cover is Janet or John – as long as the story is good –does it matter? Discuss:
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