#OwnVoices need publishers to focus on them (LGBT)

caitlyn-wilson-230614-unsplash

 

unsplash-logoCaitlyn Wilson

With the recent fallout concerning the publisher Riptide as well as the fallout around Santino Hassell, there has been an exposure of underlying issues in the m/m romance genre.

These issues include racism, misandry, bi-erasure, trans-erasure, and oddly enough, homophobia inside these books.

Furthermore, there are issues that gay men deal with specifically such as conversion therapy and other such things that authors use as a plot device. Due mostly to the rules of romance combined with privilege, these serious issues are often overlooked or oversimplified.

This is detrimental to the subject matter because it gives the reader the wrong ideas about many aspects and it’s detrimental to the LGBT person who reads this and wonders just how so much could be so wrong in the world.

There are those out there who have no problem participating in the creation of work that perpetuates stereotypes, whitewashes homosexual relationships to make them more palatable, ignores People of Color in gay relationships, writes subjects without doing their due diligence in regards to what gay men experience (The Preacher’s Son), and this idea that fantasy has any business overriding the reality of many.

These issues, including others, are deeply rooted in the genre of m/m romance. They’ve caused widespread arguments before, there have been flare-ups before this, but nothing quite this bad or widespread.

Yet, the problem hasn’t gone away.

Nor will it go away.

Mostly, because like a festering boil, or like a bad tooth, the pain won’t go away until the root cause of the problem is dealt with.

I used to think that this is an issue that could be solved with simple conscientiousness. Yet, I think I may have changed my mind on this. I don’t think that’s enough.

We need publishers or a publisher to focus on LGBT stories from LGBT people – specifically. Whether that is an imprint or a publisher whose sole purpose is to produce this or publishing houses who have a diverse staff prepared to deal with these stories, specifically.

#Ourvoices

Our stories from people who are inside the spectrum of LGBT be they romantic stories or otherwise.

While I think people from all walks of life have a right to write what they want, we need our place to write what we know. What we’ve lived. What we’ve gone through. What we’re still going through. How we see the world.

We need a place to gather specifically for the creation of LGBT work by LGBT individuals.

Right now gay people and gay people’s lives are being used to profit everyone but gay people. That isn’t fair.

#Ourvoices need to be heard. #Ourvoices are important, too. #Ourvoices ought to have a place of their own to grow and flourish.

 

My messiah (Poem)


(Photo: Simon Wijers)


There isn’t a place I’ve been that I’ve not run from

When midnight struck the clock on the wall

And late became the hour

And like the damned in fairy-tale legends

Morning set my feet to flee before the sun crest over the horizon upon the 

very next day

When ashes all settled from the bridges I’ve burnt

Whose broken bodies lay limp over yawning 

Deep canyons

With my fingers smelling once again of gasoline and tear drops

I bore the Weight of myriad transgressions on ever bent neck and sloping shoulders

My feet once tender had turned to stone 

My face once fat had become lean

Sweet smiles lines became deep set and turned to frown lines 

At the corners of my mouth

With ragged and raging and fearful soul

I turned my back on heaven and the son and my home

I was the prodigal son unwilling to beg forgiveness

For made up sins wrapped neatly in heavenly torment

I was Jonah who’d conquered that whale with simple reason

I was Paul and Silas bound beaten and bloody

Who instead of praying, fucked my way out of that jail

And like the damned and unrepentant third man on the cross

I thought forever my poor soul would roam

Burning bridges and abandoning beds before sun up

Unable to call any place, any house, my home

But twisted fate is always twisted and it twisted me once more 

As it Bound me over naked and afraid

Unrepentant vagabond born again hedonist 

Begging for an early grave

But then with tenderness you spoke in my ear

And upon your feet I spilled my hearts discontent

I let you know among which shadows I danced within

And repeated back to you all I learned about religion 

With Grace’s supernatural understanding

You took the can of gasoline from my left hand

The Zippo lighter right out of my left

You bathed the dust from off my feet with sweet oils

And for the first time, made love to me that night

You blue eyed angel with dark hair and tender faith

You’ve restored and take care of my soul

And when you love me you love all of me 

All of who and where and what I’ve been

And now that the clock is winding steadily to midnight

I lay my head upon your chest, little Messiah, and wonder at the mysteries of God.

Little Messiah (poem)

​There isn’t a place I’ve been that I’ve not run from

When midnight struck the clock on the wall

And late became the hour

And like the damned in fairy-tale legends

Morning set my feet to flee before the sun crest over the horizon upon the very next day
When ashes all settled from the bridges I’ve burnt

Whose broken bodies lay limp over yawning 

Deep canyons

With my fingers smelling once again of gasoline and tear drops

I bore the Weight of myriad transgressions on ever bent neck and sloping shoulders
My feet once tender had turned to stone 

My face once fat had become lean

Sweet smiles lines became deep set and turned to frown lines 

At the corners of my mouth

With ragged and raging and fearful soul

I turned my back on heaven and the son and my home
I was the prodigal son unwilling to beg forgiveness

For made up sins wrapped neatly in heavenly torment

I was Jonah who’d conquered that whale with simple reason

I was Paul and Silas bound beaten and bloody

Who instead of praying, fucked my way out of that jail
And like the damned and unrepentant third man on the cross

I thought forever my poor soul would roam

Burning bridges and abandoning beds before sun up

Unable to call any place, any house, my home
But twisted fate is always twisted and it twisted me once more 

As it Bound me over naked and afraid

Unrepentant vagabond born again hedonist 

Begging for an early grave
But then with tenderness you spoke in my ear

And upon your feet I spilled my hearts discontent

I let you know among which shadows I danced within

And repeated back to you all I learned about God
With Grace’s supernatural understanding

You took the can of gasoline from my left hand

The Zippo lighter right out of my left

You bathed the dust from off my feet with sweet oils

And for the first time, made love to me that night
You blue eyed angel with dark hair and tender faith

You’ve restored and take care of my soul

And when you love me you love all of me 

All of who and where and what I’ve been

And now that the clock is winding steadily to midnight

I lay my head upon your chest, little Messiah, and wonder at the mysteries of God.

The Intensity of Wisdom (opinion subject to change)

I will never discuss banal things.
I like conversations about ideas. I want to talk about sex. I want to hear your thoughts about space travel and colonies on the ocean floor. I want to hear your thoughts on God. Philosophy. Religion. I won’t accept your Atheism, Christianity, or Wiccan ness unless you tell me why.
I want to know why.
I don’t accept things because we throw pretty and modern words to the masses and because it’s repeated over and over again. Tenacity is not truth. Mendacity is just a pretty word for lie.
Concerning your sexuality, I want to know your experiences. I want to hear from you about when you found out you were straight, gay, trans.
I want to hear your truth between the words you speak. I want to feel your emotion wrapped up in the nuances of your speech.
I have spent too many years with people who promoted their ‘truth’ so absolutely that I am suspicious of others? Or, maybe that’s not the right word. Inquisitive? I don’t know.
When I left the Fundi Baptist church – I left the philosophy due to its shallowness. It’s inconsistencies. It’s inability to contribute anything meaningful to the world. It lacked ethics. It lacked aesthetics. And it half lied and it half told the truth. And that truth was manipulated for control’s sake. They were out making converts twice as fit for hell as they were in accordance to their own holy text.
The Atheist makes a point that if you need the threat of eternal damnation to do the right thing, you don’t lack religion, you lack morals. And they’re right.
But even those with religion, the saved of the saved, have the fear of the ‘Big Sky Daddy’ and STILL lack a conscience. We see that played out over and over and over again through not only history but modern political thought. Ayn Rand was a shit person who had an irresponsible philosophy that our current speaker of the house shares. Donald Trump is another great example of utter garbage in our world today backed up by American Protestantism. Like the German Church, they’ve thrown their hat in with someone who could be a kind of Anti-Christ should he gain control. And on the flip side of that, Trigger warnings at the University level and even in book production today is utter bullshit. Truth is not often pretty. Sometimes it’s downright nasty. And you shouldn’t be protected from those things because people who went through them, weren’t. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the hammer blow when I see something in regards to child abuse or systemic racism. Because I often know where it’s rooted. And it’s rooted in the idea that a person ‘owns’ another.
And these things are not in an attempt to make me sound smart. There are smarter men and women than me by light years. And I don’t want to talk about these things to intimidate people. I’m not trying to prove anything. I owe you nothing and you owe me nothing.
But I’ve spent years trying to figure myself out. Trying to figure out what the truth is in regards to who I am. Because the more I know about you, the more I find out about me. And these things lead me out of a word of certainty. Statements made with exclamation marks.
An uncertain person will never kill a gay person, will never blow up a Mosque, will never call a woman seeking an abortion a whore, will never subject someone to the auspices of a book translated by a King with an authoritarian ideology, will never once hold a slave, or castigate someone for finding their own truth and living freely in it. And uncertain people make shitty terrorists.
At the end of the day, I know very few things. But I do know that I love my husband and I love my friends. Anything else is anyone’s guess. And the willingness to live in such a nebulous gray place requires intensity, I guess. And it requires the understanding that the more I learn, the less I know. Aristotle said the beginning of wisdom is the understanding that I know nothing.
But it also requires being brave. And you can’t be gay in this world and be a coward. It’s impossible.

Gay for you

John (my husband) and I were having a discussion about the origins of sexuality. Were we really born this way?

He was telling me about a story he’d read where a straight guy had a roommate that he’d known was gay. They’d been roommates for years. But as time wore on he started becoming a little bit angrier and a little bit angrier until he’d become downright mean to the guys his roommate brought home. He’d never considered himself a homophobe. He’d been pretty opened minded about the whole thing but he couldn’t figure out why he was raging against his friend’s boyfriends so much. And it had gotten to the point where his friend was tired of his shit.

Well, it bothered him enough to take it to social media where explained the situation and asked for help. And some of the responses came back inquiring if in fact, his anger may not be gay hating, but simple human jealousy. Was he jealous of these guys? So, he took his issue to his sister, who basically said the same thing.

One night while the two guys were having a Quentin Tarantino marathon *romantic, I know* the guy started to talk to his roommate about what he was feeling and what people had said about it. And then he kissed his roommate. And then suddenly realized, ‘Hey, I may be gay.”

Because now, he has a boyfriend.

We’re all familiar with this idiot diagram below.

The-Kinsey-Scale

Not for the Kinsey Scale per se, but because the scale goes from Modest to Slut in six easy steps. Like the more ‘gay’ you are the bigger hoe you are. And that isn’t true. But Kinsey does allude to sexual fluidity.
Now, if we assume sexuality can be fluid, we should also consider love to be fluid as well.

I believe love is never stationary. It’s in a state of flux.

Consider the process of meeting someone you find attractive. You meet, you talk, and maybe set up a date for coffee. You are attracted to them. You find you like them. Now let us say one date leads to two, two days together ends up, weekends together, then you give them a key, then they move in..over time like (aided by lust) slowly begins to turn into love. Now, you ‘go steady’ (does anyone go steady anymore) and suddenly there is an engagement ring, a wedding. And in that process – love- is changing. It’s, hopefully, but not in all circumstances – growing. You’re in love. The greek called this Eros. Romantic/ erotic love.

But over the years, they body breaks down. Gravity and old age set in. Maybe your no longer having sex. Or maybe you are. But you don’t look the same. But you hold hands, kiss, sleep next to each other. Very much still in Eros sure. But let us say one of you gets sick. And maybe it’s a bad sick. Chemotherapy, vomit, bed pans, maybe adult diapers, maybe even having to clean them up.

What keeps people from leaving?

I hypothesize that love, that selfish Eros, has grown up. And just like the silver in your hair, there is little strains of Agape or Selflessness now, unconditional or even Godly love. Love that allows your heart to remember when you were young and beautiful – and maintains that beauty and holds that steady.

We live in an age now where we’re slapping labels on everything. Genderfluid, homoromantic, genderqueer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, heteroromantic,- fuck a duck- everyone has a title and I can’t keep up. Today, everyone has a label. My question is, why?

Why the labels? And why are we militantly defending them? And are we really born that way?

I think we’ve said so to legitimize ourselves. There’s an innate need to defend ourselves and saying we’re born that way. It sort of removes the nebulousness of human

When talking about labels, it’s important to understand that these are arbitrary and are culturally determined anyway. Homosexual in the current US meaning didn’t really come around until the 20th century. Until then, there was a concept of same-sex behavior but not BEING gay. (Think Romanesque behavior of the Top not being homosexual because he was the one doing to fucking whereas the one being fucked, was homosexual). We can see this attitude reflected in Latino culture.

There’s an innate need to defend ourselves and saying we’re born that way. It sort of removes the nebulousness of human affection and its necessary in the age where we live. If you can delegitimize people, you can dehumanize them, and if you dehumanize them, you can do with them as you please. And most of that would come from God-fearing religious people. So I understand the why part that.

I’ll even go so far as saying the scientific community, as well as the psychological community, have jumped in to bolster this ‘born this way’ argument. Mostly, because they understand what happens to ‘other’. The usually end up hurt or worse. Murdered because of their ‘otherness’.

But the question I have, is it possible that our understanding of sexuality is as limited as our understanding as to why some couples make it into their golden years and some don’t? Or as limited as our understanding of love? Every time I hear someone say, “Love is love, I want to give them a high five in the face with a chair.”

Because, no it isn’t.

I am not saying one love is less than, or one is more than, but I think Heraclitus said it best, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

It’s human nature to want to compartmentalize. To label. And point at something and say this is this because it has these attributes.

What if gay people are not born that way? Would it matter? What if people weren’t born lesbian, or bisexual, or transgendered? Would it matter?

“Well, it would delegitimize me.”

To whom? And do they matter?

Could sexuality be as innocuous and mundane as a gentleman who prefers blondes who one day sees a redhead that knocks him off his feet?

Love is a human experience. An Asian no more loves a person than someone of African descent. No gay person loves more profoundly than a woman or a straight man. No lesbians words are sweeter, nor truer, than the depths and breadth of human language  and experience.

Is it simply preferential?

“Well ,then this becomes a sin.”

No, it wouldn’t. The sin is to not seeking love. The sin is To turn away from it. And I am not talking about hate (that is not the opposite of love), I’m talking about Apathy.

We seek love. All of us. In one way or another seek to connect to one another. Be in familial, erotic, platonic, agape, We seek to connect. It’s what makes us human.

I remember looking for ‘my origins’, trying to connect with the past. As if this was some evolutionary process. And trying to find out other people’s experiences. And reading stories about love. And how they fell in love. And when did they know and suddenly the prevailing wisdom was, ‘well, some people are born this way.” But there is NO hard proof to suggest that. There’s stuff that kinda sorta eludes to maybe , but nothing solid. Psychology, the same thing. And I don’t think there ever will be.

So what happened with the straight guy and his gay roommate? He started falling in love with him. He moved passed the gender, moved passed, the labels, moved passed the stigma. Does that make the straight guy gay or bisexual? If he sees himself as bisexual or gay, yes. That’s not a title we get to put on him. That’s a title he gets to claim for himself.

Is it possible for an absolutely one hundred percent heterosexual male to fall in love with a gay man? Sure. If he steps into love and finds the waters have changed. Because when he steps down, he finds that love isn’t the same, and neither is he.