I was driving around in town today running some errands with my husband and talking about the latest dustup in M/M Romance.
It’s this thing that happens every year, like Burning Man, or Christmas without the lights and the indie music scene. ((It’s more like “The Purge,” as people grab their pitchforks and dive behind bunkers to defend their turf over a blog written or a comment made.))
Across the parking lot from where we were, turning into a Wendy’s was a church van of Baptists. All these people piled out dressed in jean skirts and shirts and ties and it reminded me of when I was part of that religion passing out free tickets to heaven. As a kid, I was pretty miserable in that organization very much like that one and the reason for that was it was homophobic. It was also misogynist, racist, and a high control environment (cult), but being a young man questioning his sexuality, it was pretty much a suck ass religion that I got away from as soon as humanly possible.
We were talking back and forth, my husband and I, when the truth smacked me in the face as to why I am as miserable as I am being a writer.
M/M Romance (or Male/ Male Romance) is largely homophobic. They’re just homophobic without the cherry-picked bible verses screamed at you from in front of a bank, or at a mall, or at your Uncle Joe’s house, yet it retains the power of white privilege and superiority.
I read and shared a blog written by an acquaintance of mine who landed on the genre with both feet. I didn’t quite agree with what he had to say, but there were a few valid points made and one I completely agreed with was over the issue of its subgenre MPREG (or male pregnancy).
Now M/M Romance has been around almost a decade, I’ve been a part of it (or on the fringes really) for about 5 years.
Yet, like I said, these blow-ups are sort of an annual thing. Someone (usually a gay male) is overwhelmed at some point about the stereotypes thrown on gay people in this genre of fiction. Sometimes those stereotypes are more cliche’s concerning the subject of romance and sometimes, they’re blatantly homophobic.
Let’s take MPREG for instance. Let me show you an example of what I mean:
Once you parse through the badly written …whatever that is, you can somewhat ascertain that a man walks into a bathroom where an “Omega” (the one supposed to get pregnant by his alpha) is so “in heat” that he has to bang himself with a vibrator. It’s pretty gross this idea of dehumanizing someone. The concept of alpha male/ omega male is nothing more than the literary way of walking into a redneck bar with your boyfriend and a well-meaning but slightly inebriated associate asks, “Which one’s the guy and which one’s the girl?” And I think I’m being nice.
Gay people have been accused of the inability to love. It’s been called lust and relegated to nothing more than ‘rutting’. This not only reaffirms that stereotype, it makes the “omega” completely unable to control his basic bodily urges and ‘destined’ to breed with the Alpha male. Which, is kinda rapey, and it’s kinda misogynistic since the sword-wielding Scotsman, Sword Wielding Nobleman, Sword-wielding (Fill in the blank), a lot of whom looked like Fabio, has moved over from Het Romance to gay people’s lives and are now superimposed.
When this is brought up, or any of the other problems within M/M Romance is brought up such as racism, sexism, bi-erasure, etc by a gay person, person of color who is a reader, bisexual reader, etc we get a variation of this:
“We raise your flag high even if it doesn’t represent us on a personal level. We share your stories. We fight for you. We are your mothers, your teachers, your nurses, your doctors, your best friends…
We fight for you to love who you want to love. Sometimes we have to fight our husbands, our fathers, our brothers, our bosses because they don’t believe in what we do in our hearts. Because we fight for you.
Do we use mm romance and gay porn to get off?! Hell yea… but before that… men used the beauty that is a woman in passion or in pain or in humiliation or two women together to get off long before het women discovered cocky boys…
So this bisexual woman who is also a mother, best friend, lover, rainbow flag supporter, porn watcher, smut reader will continue to be me and read and watch whatever the fuck I want and you can sit in your corner and judge those who never once judged you.”
Well, thank you for being a somewhat decent human being…
I could make this much shorter, here it goes: “I like the kind of sex you have, even though the heterosexual males in my family find it gross, so I write about it in books and I’m making a ton of money even if we’re not exactly accurate about who it is you are. I am bisexual, I really don’t have a dog in your hunt, but since we’ve been fetishized since time immemorial, it’s totally cool for us to do it to you as well, and remember we vote.”
Are you helping me or are you holding me hostage?
I kinda feel like it’s the latter.
The oppressor’s motives have changed but it doesn’t mean the oppressor’s damage is in anyway contained.
I know a lot of m/m writers and for the most part, they’re fairly benign. However, when it get’s bad, it gets fucking awful. So awful, this little genre off in the midst of the literary sea usually only garners public attention when a nuclear bomb blast goes off. And that’s usually a honey, someone’s been a racist, a publisher decided to put up a website dedicated to the slave trade to promote books and had pictures of slaves you could sell and trade (Yes, that slave trade), or someone or a group of someones has been running a catfishing scam claiming to have terminal cancer and raised thousands of dollars in fraudulent gofundme money.
Not only were these authors writing ‘gay’ characters, they were also posing as gay men themselves.
Now, I am not saying that change hasn’t come to m/m. It has, by socially conscious people screaming and demanding to be heard. People who read something and react like the book about a gay man’s father who opened up a gay conversion home who really did it out of an act of love and gay people should appreciate that.
Fuck. All.. The. Way. Off.
However, the change hasn’t happened fast enough. Just like I had to flee the Fundi Baptist Church of my youth, it’s time for me to bail on anything really associated with M/M Romance even though, as a writer, m/m has become so powerful anything I produce will be viewed from that lens. It’s the default of queer fiction. And that’s not a good thing.
So, to my gay brothers out there who are readers, who are perhaps thinking about finding a publisher for your manuscript, you may want to avoid M/M Romance altogether. It isn’t about you. It doesn’t represent you, and you’re really not that welcome. Or, you are, if you know to keep your mouth shut.
I never learned that lesson.