So here we are all over again with my thinking thoughts leaking into blog posts, because Twitter is transient, and the words initially slipped through my feed late on a Saturday night, and I was tired, because in addition to recovering from a bad cold, I'd been writing all day, and I just didn't have the energy to engage. I haven't forgotten the two threads scrolling past my weary eyes, and while the cold seems to be fading in the rear-view mirror, the book and its impending deadline looms ahead, but if I don't write these things now, they will be lost forever, and Lord, but I'm so tired of having to say the same things over and over again, the thought of a bit of permanence and a link seems extremely appealing.
The tweets, they rolled like this. First from A. A. Freeman:
Today I received suggestions to make my novel ‘more marketable’ to agents & publishers. The big one: Remove the main LGBT romance. Thread!— A. A. Freeman (@aughtpunk) September 14, 2017
And then from Marian Crane came a second thread:
3 Any hint of nonbinary: the project is assumed to be hard-core gay erotica. By gay as well as straight reviewers & pubs— mildly disturbing (@MCHana2) September 16, 2017
While both threads are worth your time, it is the subsequent thread by Marian Crane that hit me in the gut, because I see some people automatically assuming that any book with a LGBTQ character is hard-core erotica. To paraphrase the sum of all of the parts, the comments people generally give me boil down to:
I don't read books with gay characters because I don't read porn/erotica.
Which I think is absolutely marvelous, because I don't write porn/erotica, and seriously, what the hell made you think I did?
(And let me pause here to make this qualification before umbrage erupts: there is certainly nothing wrong with erotica if that's your thing. I'm not putting it down. I'm simply saying: it's not what I write.)
Automatically connecting gay men with sex doesn't just come from readers who are uninformed. An author, who is known to be quite progressive, once suggested (with the best of intentions) that I use the tagline "Angels! Demons! Looming civil war! Hot man love! Demon sacrifices! Don't miss it!"
And I was all like, YEAH, until I got to "Hot man love!" and that stopped me dead, because there's no hot man love in my book. Not the kind of "Hot man love!" that people generally think of when they think of "Hot man love!," which is usually the variety of "Hot man love!" used in porn or erotica. I mean, Los Nefilim isn't even a romance by genre standards. It's a dark urban fantasy. Diago happens to be gay. He has a partner. They never have sex in the story. The story isn't about that. I don't understand anything anymore.
But in many ways I do.
I'm reading 'Los Invisibles': A History of Male Homosexuality in Spain, 1850-1940 by Richard Cleminson and Francisco Vázquez García. As the authors document both the legal and medical attitudes toward gay men in Spain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I began to realize how much emphasis is placed on the sex act itself. The doctors of the late nineteenth century spend a great deal of time on physical characteristics of the men, especially their genitalia. These lawyers and doctors considered gay men primarily through the lens of sexuality, much in the same way that a lot of heterosexual men, and to be fair women, tend to view women: as sexual objects, nothing more.
That's not the way it is in real life. Gay men (and women, for that matter) think a lot less about sex than many heterosexual men (and some women, for that matter) think they do. Some heterosexual people, quite frankly, seem to be obsessed with evaluating other people's sex lives: how much sex are they getting, whether they're dressing to attract sexual partners, who they're having sex with, and whether it is "wholesome missionary sex," or if they're into kink, which is defined as anything that isn't "wholesome missionary sex." Girls are sent home because of "inappropriate clothing," which means that the person sending them home is thinking about sex without owning their own sex thoughts, because they are so busy projecting their own sex thoughts onto the other person.
The sexual police rhapsodize about how sex is sinful, but for some reason they can't stop thinking about sex, or interpolating sex into every single human interaction, and therefore believe that the rest of us are as sex-obsessed as they are. The attitude becomes so inherent in society that when someone writes a novel or a story with a LGBTQ character, then the expectation is that the story is all about sex, because apparently, sex is all some heterosexual people think about.
I've seen gay men in fiction represented as being either constantly on the hunt for sex, or consumed by thoughts of a sexual nature. They are quite often portrayed as predators or victims or perversions. In more than one case, the gay man is placed in a story either as the villain or for comic relief. These are caricatures.
Having the priviledge to know several gay men and their partners in real life, I can assure you that most gay men are emotionally centered, confident, and successful. That's not to say they don't have problems, but they don't spend their every spare moment wallowing in angst over unfulfilled sexual needs and lusting after every young thing they see. I don't know who you're hanging around with, but the men I know are in long-term loving relationships and spend their time focusing on their jobs and their families. They are nothing like the caricatures portrayed in literature and film.
Stories are powerful tools, and fortunately more and more stories are showing balanced views of members of the LGBTQ community. That was precisely what I wanted to do with Los Nefilim. I wanted to show you the people that I know: confident men facing the struggle to make the right decisions for themselves and their families based on their personal ethics.
If all you can see in that is sex and porn, then those are your porn thoughts, not mine, and you can stop projecting them on my characters right now.