Why I Write Gay Romance

“You’re a straight, married woman. Why do you write about gay men?”

I suppose this question is inevitable, as is the small whirlwind generated by Out magazine’s interview of Alex Beecroft and Erastes and Lambda Literary’s article (and Victoria Brownworth’s response). A gay man writing a gay story makes “sense.” A straight woman doing so needs a frame, unless she is Annie Proulx.

Why do I write about gay men? Because they are the characters who speak to me. Because once one gay man appeared as a secondary character in one story, he took over, and within a few years somehow everything I was writing featured LGBT characters. A character in a series became bisexual; I worried my beta readers would balk, but they said, universally (and with a shrug) that honestly they’d thought he was gay all along but hadn’t wanted to say. An opportunity to write short m/m fiction came up; I wrote one, then two, and now I have eight published works and counting to my name, all featuring gay men.

Why do these characters speak to me? This question is harder. I don’t generally psychoanalyze my characters or ask what part of my brain they come from. It feels like letting the magic out. Mostly I write about gay men because these are the stories I get. Because these are the stories which interest me.

Some of the draw, though, is because gay men are socially defined as such a stark Other. They are the ultimate sexual taboo. The sexual lines gay men blur upset people, and historically gay men simply by claiming their sexuality become men outside the lines. There is a freedom in that which draws me. I have never felt that I fit in socially or sexually, but because of my gender, my race, my orientation, and the position I drew in social roulette, I appear to fit. There are times as I listen to gay men speak, as I watch their sexual freedom, as I see the space they command that I yearn for, and writing it is a way to find some of that myself.

I can understand those who dislike straight women playing in this sandbox getting angry at reading what I just said, crying this is unfair abuse of privilege, etc. I don’t see it that way, but I understand. All I can offer to this is to say I don’t write blithely. I don’t look at gay men as my Barbie dolls I can prop up to suit my fantasies. I believe, with all my heart, that gay men and women have much to teach us all about identity, about sex, about roles, about society. I do not view this as playing in any way. I take my work seriously, and I love each one of my characters and my readers—many of whom, for the record, are gay men.

The controversy over m/m romances focuses on the straight women writing gay men, but it’s a very incomplete vision of the genre. I think this frame gets picked up because it is safe and easy to target. It’s easy to rail against straight women writing what they shouldn’t write, but it ignores so very much. It ignores the fact that Erastes, profiled as a straight woman in the Out article, is bisexual. It ignores the many gay men who write m/m romances. It ignores lesbians who write gay romance and the gender-queer authors and the bisexual and transgender authors. It ignores the men and women of any orientation who grew up outside the prescribed order of sexuality.

It ignores the straight women—writers and readers—who want, desperately, to be more sexualized than they are socially allowed, who want to be “sluts” but don’t want to be shamed. It ignores the gay men who don’t feel they fit in the roles either society, straight or queer, has given them. It ignores the men who read like gay stereotypes in every way socially but who still want only to sleep with women. It ignores the gay men who are nothing like a gay stereotype, who make the most macho of macho men look like a simpering wimp, and yet who still want cock.

Victoria Brownworth says m/m romances are “straight women fetishizing the lives of gay men.” She says also that “all these writers have either taken male pen names… or names that are… purposefully gender-vague—and write about gay male relationships.” Her entire article is woefully incorrect—she believes most m/m novels are historical, which any reader can tell you is not at all the case—and revealing. Brownworth had an idea of what these books were in her mind, did enough research to prove herself right, and damned a genre, its authors, and its readers. Out interviewed two authors, ignored much of the facts about them, and fixated on the straight women once again as the entirety of this genre, oversimplifying us and reducing us to voyeurs, to insipid, vapid intruders of privilege into a world we cannot hope to understand.

I am a straight woman. I write under a female name: my own name, Heidi Cullinan. I write romance. I don’t fetishize gay men or gay women or bisexual individuals. I don’t giggle under the covers as I read or masturbate as I write. I don’t include sex to titillate. I don’t write gay men to use, abuse, or confuse them.

I write gay men because I love them. I write gay men because they teach me. I write what I write because I like happy endings for queer characters, and I get tired of combing through stories to find them only to be disappointed—again.

I write stories with sex in because I like sex. I write sexual stories because I believe it is in sex that we are the most exposed, the most honest, even when we are trying to lie. I write sex because so much of society has told me sex is bad and dangerous. I write sex because sex can indeed be dangerous, and writing is a safer place to explore.

I write queer characters because I love my queer friends. I write queer romances because gay men write me to say they wish they could have been as open or free as my characters in their youth. I write because straight women write me to tell me how they cried when they read about my characters, because the story was a catharsis for something in their own life, usually about sex. I write because I want to portray queer characters as normal and healthy and happy and triumphant.

I write gay men because when I do, I feel free. I write gay men because I’m not writing for Lambda Literary or Victoria Brownworth or the New York Times or my college professors. I write for my gay male friend who suffered a life of abuse, who was told by his family and most of the world that he was wrong, that who he was was wrong, that how he wanted to fuck was wrong. I write for my lesbian friend who likes my imagination. I write for my straight husband who yearns for positive models of men like him in fiction. I write for my bisexual, polyamorous friend who has even less social models than gay men.

And yes. I write for a lot of straight women. And some of them might just be there for a fetish. But this isn’t the majority, and it absolutely isn’t “all.” To judge me and to judge my readers by that demographic only is to dismiss a rich host of other people. It’s the sort of myopia I’m accustomed to seeing in the extreme political and religious right. It saddens me to see it from the queer community.

I encourage anyone who sees m/m romances as nothing more than a straight girl fetish to read more of us before making claims. I encourage critics to check out m/m romance blogs and Yahoo groups and Goodreads communities. I encourage reporters to interview gay male authors and lesbian authors and gender-queer authors of m/m romance. I encourage the curious to get some actual facts about the demographics of the readers from publishers: several publishers. I encourage an honest and thorough investigation of our genre before proposing to know us.

I encourage the laying down of stereotypes and assumptions. I encourage reading a lot more of our works before dismissing and defining us. I encourage Brownworth and others to see us, to know us—just as they would wish others who judge them quickly, unfairly, and harshly to get to know them.

154 Comments on “Why I Write Gay Romance

  1. Thank you Heidi. It was all those generalistic assumptions that I really couldn’t digest; if Victoria Brownworth had a point, presented it immersed in false sentence, made it unreadable and untruth.

    • Well, sadly, I think there are very good conversations about the care needed to be taken with underprivileged groups, but man, this wasn’t the way to do it.

    • Well, sadly, I think there are very good conversations about the care needed to be taken with underprivileged groups, but man, this wasn’t the way to do it.

  2. Thank you Heidi. It was all those generalistic assumptions that I really couldn’t digest; if Victoria Brownworth had a point, presented it immersed in false sentence, made it unreadable and untruth.

  3. That was lovely, and very true. We are such a mixed community, and it’s our mixed-ness that makes the genre special. We’re not all straight – we’re not all /anything/.

  4. That was lovely, and very true. We are such a mixed community, and it’s our mixed-ness that makes the genre special. We’re not all straight – we’re not all /anything/.

  5. Hear hear. It was very simply an article meant to shock and annoy and has no facts. She keeps saying things that she 1. won’t back up and 2. would find out was entirely wrong if she did. I know that the articles don’t “reflect Lambda” but it’s irresponsible reporting. Saying that I review real gay writers of the author badly is SO wrong I really want to jump back in, but I’m not giving her the bloody satisfaction. And considering she also writes gay porn under a male pseud, I’d call “hypocrite” on her arse, but I’m sure someone already has.
    Thank you for taking the time to stand up and say this.

  6. Hear hear. It was very simply an article meant to shock and annoy and has no facts. She keeps saying things that she 1. won’t back up and 2. would find out was entirely wrong if she did. I know that the articles don’t “reflect Lambda” but it’s irresponsible reporting. Saying that I review real gay writers of the author badly is SO wrong I really want to jump back in, but I’m not giving her the bloody satisfaction. And considering she also writes gay porn under a male pseud, I’d call “hypocrite” on her arse, but I’m sure someone already has.
    Thank you for taking the time to stand up and say this.

  7. Wonderful post!
    Hi Heidi, it’s Jason/popsublime (but I don’t have a LiveJournal account or OpenID, only my Blogger/Google account)! Thank you for this beautiful post. You’re totally right that anybody should be able to write about anything, and be whomever they want to be, and share their lives with anybody they want to share their lives with. I’m happy to read your writing on behalf of gay men and gay men’s lives, just as I’d be happy to read your writing about anybody else, because you’re such a fine writer and person. Keep up the awesome work, and rest assured that your books are bringing joy, entertainment, and comfort to many, many people around the world!

  8. Wonderful post!
    Hi Heidi, it’s Jason/popsublime (but I don’t have a LiveJournal account or OpenID, only my Blogger/Google account)! Thank you for this beautiful post. You’re totally right that anybody should be able to write about anything, and be whomever they want to be, and share their lives with anybody they want to share their lives with. I’m happy to read your writing on behalf of gay men and gay men’s lives, just as I’d be happy to read your writing about anybody else, because you’re such a fine writer and person. Keep up the awesome work, and rest assured that your books are bringing joy, entertainment, and comfort to many, many people around the world!

  9. I love you for so many reasons but one of the many is your ability to express how you feel so eloquently and get to the heart of the matter.
    I think one of the main problems in the world today is that too many people are worried about ‘us’ and ‘them’. All that changes is who is grouped as ‘us’ and who is grouped as ‘them.’ The world would be so much better if there were just ‘us’, if we stopped finding some reason to divide the world into more parts and pieces.
    For me, love is love. Sex is sex. Maybe some writers don’t get gay sex completely right but isn’t that true of writers with any topic? But it seems, in my opinion, that as part of a community that has been the ‘them’ category far too often, we would applaud those who want to get to know us better, write about us, take us into the mainstream.
    When I read gay romances, it makes me feel like my life is okay, normal. When I read the books you write, Heidi, I don’t wonder why a woman wrote it. I love you for understanding. I love all the writers for even trying to understand.
    And whats wrong with straight women fantacizing about gay sex? God knows I think its hot! πŸ˜€
    I adore you, sweety
    ~smooches~
    Jase

  10. I love you for so many reasons but one of the many is your ability to express how you feel so eloquently and get to the heart of the matter.
    I think one of the main problems in the world today is that too many people are worried about ‘us’ and ‘them’. All that changes is who is grouped as ‘us’ and who is grouped as ‘them.’ The world would be so much better if there were just ‘us’, if we stopped finding some reason to divide the world into more parts and pieces.
    For me, love is love. Sex is sex. Maybe some writers don’t get gay sex completely right but isn’t that true of writers with any topic? But it seems, in my opinion, that as part of a community that has been the ‘them’ category far too often, we would applaud those who want to get to know us better, write about us, take us into the mainstream.
    When I read gay romances, it makes me feel like my life is okay, normal. When I read the books you write, Heidi, I don’t wonder why a woman wrote it. I love you for understanding. I love all the writers for even trying to understand.
    And whats wrong with straight women fantacizing about gay sex? God knows I think its hot! πŸ˜€
    I adore you, sweety
    ~smooches~
    Jase

  11. Excellent post. I’m a little surprised that anyone would get upset about straight women writing male romances. By that standard, were I a writer, would I be prohibited from writing about straight people? Or women? How about leprechauns, I’m not a leprechaun either and I wouldn’t want to offend them. *grin*
    I think you write beautifully. I really like the stories you tell in your books, and I think we’d be missing out if weren’t sharing them.

  12. Excellent post. I’m a little surprised that anyone would get upset about straight women writing male romances. By that standard, were I a writer, would I be prohibited from writing about straight people? Or women? How about leprechauns, I’m not a leprechaun either and I wouldn’t want to offend them. *grin*
    I think you write beautifully. I really like the stories you tell in your books, and I think we’d be missing out if weren’t sharing them.

  13. Beautifully put, Heidi. I started to write something explaining my own reasons for writing gay romance after reading Ms Brownworth’s article, but what I came up with was nowhere near as eloquent as your response.
    There are so many different and varied reasons to write, and we need to tell the stories that are closest to our hearts. It’s abundantly clear that you are doing that.

  14. Beautifully put, Heidi. I started to write something explaining my own reasons for writing gay romance after reading Ms Brownworth’s article, but what I came up with was nowhere near as eloquent as your response.
    There are so many different and varied reasons to write, and we need to tell the stories that are closest to our hearts. It’s abundantly clear that you are doing that.

  15. It’s good to be clear on it… but you owe no one an explanation, least of all Ms. Brownworth.
    I wish I could have given her column to Mr. Taylor, my old Journalism teacher and high-school paper advisor. I would love to have seen the red ink and read his comments. I expect he’s gone by now, and probably wouldn’t have the time to waste if he did.
    What amuses me is her apologists, who parrot my statements but do not refute them.
    Lambda may not be “officially” saying these things, but they aren’t requiring a fact-check, either. It’s tabloid journalism, not the real thing–a pity, since Lambda Lit was once a respected organization.

      • Readers, reviewers, in fact just about anyone who doesn’t agree with her 100%.
        I suspect that back in the “Off Our Backs” days VB was one of those petty dictators deciding who was a ‘real’ feminist, too… and probably writing columns full of fury against conventional romances because they exploit women. A grain of truth to that, too–but the way to fix the genre is to write better stories, not scream at the people who are trying to do so. This behavior is nothing new, unfortunately…
        But one of the biggest examples of two-faced hypocrisy in that piece was the accusation that Erastes and I were altering our sexual identity for “fashion” or profit, no doubt because of the unfortunate Running Press slogan that we had both warned them would be trouble. Hypocrisy because Don Hardy was one of the four authors in that line, and surely if we were “pretending to be straight women,” it must have been noted that he was, too.
        The truth is that none of us were the ‘straight women’ the tagline described–and anyone who’s ever had a book published knows that external details like promotion are controlled by the publisher. I’ll wager that if VB had been invited to submit an outline, she’d have been boragging about it instead of attacking those who were. .. even if she wrote under her porn name to protect her credibility.
        I am still wondering just what, precisely, she hoped to accomplish. The only people who would even bother to read her column are people who are concerned about honest, positive portrayal of same-sex relationships. The people who don’t care aren’t listening. And a fact-free diatribe may be a satisfying vent, but it isn’t going to change anyone’s opinon.

      • Readers, reviewers, in fact just about anyone who doesn’t agree with her 100%.
        I suspect that back in the “Off Our Backs” days VB was one of those petty dictators deciding who was a ‘real’ feminist, too… and probably writing columns full of fury against conventional romances because they exploit women. A grain of truth to that, too–but the way to fix the genre is to write better stories, not scream at the people who are trying to do so. This behavior is nothing new, unfortunately…
        But one of the biggest examples of two-faced hypocrisy in that piece was the accusation that Erastes and I were altering our sexual identity for “fashion” or profit, no doubt because of the unfortunate Running Press slogan that we had both warned them would be trouble. Hypocrisy because Don Hardy was one of the four authors in that line, and surely if we were “pretending to be straight women,” it must have been noted that he was, too.
        The truth is that none of us were the ‘straight women’ the tagline described–and anyone who’s ever had a book published knows that external details like promotion are controlled by the publisher. I’ll wager that if VB had been invited to submit an outline, she’d have been boragging about it instead of attacking those who were. .. even if she wrote under her porn name to protect her credibility.
        I am still wondering just what, precisely, she hoped to accomplish. The only people who would even bother to read her column are people who are concerned about honest, positive portrayal of same-sex relationships. The people who don’t care aren’t listening. And a fact-free diatribe may be a satisfying vent, but it isn’t going to change anyone’s opinon.

  16. It’s good to be clear on it… but you owe no one an explanation, least of all Ms. Brownworth.
    I wish I could have given her column to Mr. Taylor, my old Journalism teacher and high-school paper advisor. I would love to have seen the red ink and read his comments. I expect he’s gone by now, and probably wouldn’t have the time to waste if he did.
    What amuses me is her apologists, who parrot my statements but do not refute them.
    Lambda may not be “officially” saying these things, but they aren’t requiring a fact-check, either. It’s tabloid journalism, not the real thing–a pity, since Lambda Lit was once a respected organization.

  17. I am proud to call Heidi my friend and love reading her books. She is a wonderful author and storyteller. Love you Heidi. -Brandt Boyd

  18. I am proud to call Heidi my friend and love reading her books. She is a wonderful author and storyteller. Love you Heidi. -Brandt Boyd

  19. Two things you wrote struck me particularly, for different reasons:
    There is a freedom in that which draws me. I have never felt that I fit in socially or sexually, but because of my gender, my race, my orientation, and the position I drew in social roulette, I appear to fit. There are times as I listen to gay men speak, as I watch their sexual freedom, as I see the space they command that I yearn for, and writing it is a way to find some of that myself.
    Yes, exactly. I’m not a writer of m/m fiction – just a reader. But her article was as dismissive of readers as of writers, and equally stereotyped and generalized about readers. You’ve described a yearning I feel as well – it’s just that for me reading rather than writing is a way to find, to feel, some of that.
    I suppose someone could challenge that yearning, say it’s a fetishization or objectification or whatever. I guess nothing is black and white; I’m sure there’s some modicum of validity to that viewpoint depending on definitions. But I know what I feel, and I know that it doesn’t deserved to be lumped in with the “true” objectifiers and fetishizers out there, whomever they are.
    The thing that’s so interesting about your comment is that although, given my (your) race, gender, orientation, etc., I appear to be the “insider,” I feel like the outsider. The columnist paints gay men as outsiders, as minority, and she makes no allowance for this possibility – for differences in straight women that might cause them to feel as if they aren’t in fact the “oppressors,” the majority – a prerequisite to be in the position of fetishizing or objectifying, it seems – that she makes them out to be, at least vis-a-vis gay men.
    On a somewhat different note, you also wrote:
    I believe, with all my heart, that gay men and women have much to teach us all about identity, about sex, about roles, about society.
    This is something I’ve seen mentioned so rarely. I’m a straight woman who reads m/m fiction who also volunteers actively and regularly, and advocates passionately, for GLBT groups and causes (as I believe you are, from what I know of you). (And I also think that means “real” gay and lesbian individuals and couples are a regular enough part of my life that I’m not in too much danger of fetishizing them or of being unable to distinguish fantasy from reality…).
    One thing I firmly and passionately have come to believe as I’ve done more and more of this work is that homophobia and misogyny/sexism share many roots. This isn’t the place to get into that topic in detail – just for now, my point is that the columnist’s premise that straight women can’t know or share any of the feelings that would enable them to write empathetically about gay men seems to me to be so misguided, and so limited. I would never, ever presume to say that I know what it’s like to be a gay man – but that doesn’t mean gay men and straight women have nothing in common, no shared experiences (I’m excluding lesbians from this discussion only because the columnist did; I certainly personally believe straight and lesbian women have shared experiences to draw upon).
    So I think this is an excellent, and too-rarely-considered, point.
    Anyway, I’m rambling on, as I have a tendency to do. Overall, I found your entire response thoughtful, thought provoking, and in my experience, accurate. And also far more outward-looking and open-minded than the original column; the columnist’s insularity and close-mindedness is unfortunate, because it only perpetuates the very thing she’s purporting to criticize.
    I mean, all other arguments aside, I kind of think that if a big majority of the reading public accepted and happily devoured m/m fiction – even assuming all of her criticisms of it were valid – it seems to me that’d be evidence that we’d have made a pretty big dent in anti-gay feeling in this country. That’s certainly not an argument for fetishization, etc., but it is an argument for, as you say, being more open-minded about this, and getting more of the facts, and trying to truly understand, not just judge.

    • Yes. A friend of mine has been talking offlist with me about this, and the real tragedy is that there ARE important topics to discuss here, but the insults and broad strokes only fan flames, not open doors of conversation.
      I think for some straight women the yaoi sort of trope especially becomes a sort of cultural insert, either for self or for a sort of whole-culture anima healing. I think that’s very valid and healing. I understand, though, that some of the ways this comes across may be confusing and unintentionally insulting to LGBTQ persons. If only we could all remember our therapy and say, “This that you did/said/wrote hurt me because of x,” and then the other can respond, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I wrote it in love and excitement because of y,” and then the conversation goes, we all grow, and we all learn.
      Like all things about sex and sexuality, it’s a thorny, complex issue. I just wish, wish, wish we could have the conversation civilly.

    • Yes. A friend of mine has been talking offlist with me about this, and the real tragedy is that there ARE important topics to discuss here, but the insults and broad strokes only fan flames, not open doors of conversation.
      I think for some straight women the yaoi sort of trope especially becomes a sort of cultural insert, either for self or for a sort of whole-culture anima healing. I think that’s very valid and healing. I understand, though, that some of the ways this comes across may be confusing and unintentionally insulting to LGBTQ persons. If only we could all remember our therapy and say, “This that you did/said/wrote hurt me because of x,” and then the other can respond, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to. I wrote it in love and excitement because of y,” and then the conversation goes, we all grow, and we all learn.
      Like all things about sex and sexuality, it’s a thorny, complex issue. I just wish, wish, wish we could have the conversation civilly.

    • People frequently forget–deliberately or otherwise–that one of the “reasons” gays and lesbians are targets of bigotry is because we don’t fit into rigid gender roles (which are often not a very good fit for anyone). A gay man is assumed to be effeminate–‘sissy’ or ‘sister-boy’ under the assumption that women are a lesser species of human being. The narrow-minded male-oriented world despises both gays and women equally–and lesbians as well, for attempting to imitate their ‘betters.’
      It’s a sad waste of energy to see this hair-splitting among people who have good cause to be allies.

    • People frequently forget–deliberately or otherwise–that one of the “reasons” gays and lesbians are targets of bigotry is because we don’t fit into rigid gender roles (which are often not a very good fit for anyone). A gay man is assumed to be effeminate–‘sissy’ or ‘sister-boy’ under the assumption that women are a lesser species of human being. The narrow-minded male-oriented world despises both gays and women equally–and lesbians as well, for attempting to imitate their ‘betters.’
      It’s a sad waste of energy to see this hair-splitting among people who have good cause to be allies.

  20. Two things you wrote struck me particularly, for different reasons:
    There is a freedom in that which draws me. I have never felt that I fit in socially or sexually, but because of my gender, my race, my orientation, and the position I drew in social roulette, I appear to fit. There are times as I listen to gay men speak, as I watch their sexual freedom, as I see the space they command that I yearn for, and writing it is a way to find some of that myself.
    Yes, exactly. I’m not a writer of m/m fiction – just a reader. But her article was as dismissive of readers as of writers, and equally stereotyped and generalized about readers. You’ve described a yearning I feel as well – it’s just that for me reading rather than writing is a way to find, to feel, some of that.
    I suppose someone could challenge that yearning, say it’s a fetishization or objectification or whatever. I guess nothing is black and white; I’m sure there’s some modicum of validity to that viewpoint depending on definitions. But I know what I feel, and I know that it doesn’t deserved to be lumped in with the “true” objectifiers and fetishizers out there, whomever they are.
    The thing that’s so interesting about your comment is that although, given my (your) race, gender, orientation, etc., I appear to be the “insider,” I feel like the outsider. The columnist paints gay men as outsiders, as minority, and she makes no allowance for this possibility – for differences in straight women that might cause them to feel as if they aren’t in fact the “oppressors,” the majority – a prerequisite to be in the position of fetishizing or objectifying, it seems – that she makes them out to be, at least vis-a-vis gay men.
    On a somewhat different note, you also wrote:
    I believe, with all my heart, that gay men and women have much to teach us all about identity, about sex, about roles, about society.
    This is something I’ve seen mentioned so rarely. I’m a straight woman who reads m/m fiction who also volunteers actively and regularly, and advocates passionately, for GLBT groups and causes (as I believe you are, from what I know of you). (And I also think that means “real” gay and lesbian individuals and couples are a regular enough part of my life that I’m not in too much danger of fetishizing them or of being unable to distinguish fantasy from reality…).
    One thing I firmly and passionately have come to believe as I’ve done more and more of this work is that homophobia and misogyny/sexism share many roots. This isn’t the place to get into that topic in detail – just for now, my point is that the columnist’s premise that straight women can’t know or share any of the feelings that would enable them to write empathetically about gay men seems to me to be so misguided, and so limited. I would never, ever presume to say that I know what it’s like to be a gay man – but that doesn’t mean gay men and straight women have nothing in common, no shared experiences (I’m excluding lesbians from this discussion only because the columnist did; I certainly personally believe straight and lesbian women have shared experiences to draw upon).
    So I think this is an excellent, and too-rarely-considered, point.
    Anyway, I’m rambling on, as I have a tendency to do. Overall, I found your entire response thoughtful, thought provoking, and in my experience, accurate. And also far more outward-looking and open-minded than the original column; the columnist’s insularity and close-mindedness is unfortunate, because it only perpetuates the very thing she’s purporting to criticize.
    I mean, all other arguments aside, I kind of think that if a big majority of the reading public accepted and happily devoured m/m fiction – even assuming all of her criticisms of it were valid – it seems to me that’d be evidence that we’d have made a pretty big dent in anti-gay feeling in this country. That’s certainly not an argument for fetishization, etc., but it is an argument for, as you say, being more open-minded about this, and getting more of the facts, and trying to truly understand, not just judge.

  21. Heidi, this is so very well said. I know in my gut that we straight women who read and write m/m romance do it entirely in a spirit of openness, love and a desire to understand and support. I just can’t say it as well as you do. Trivializing our genre is easy–making an honest effort to comprehend it appears to be too much effort for journalists looking for simple answers and a bit of shock value. Thank you for writing this.

    • Oh, there are a few gals who like to read it but, for instance, don’t ‘approve’ of marriage equality. There’s a grain of truth in that diatribe. But it’d be a lot more useful to pick a couple of specific books and critique them in a way that illustrates the point than to make sweeping generalizations that are mostly untrue.
      And how about gay porn written by men? Is it all right for gay men to fetishize other men? Isn’t exploitation wrong no matter who does it? And what about the stuff she’s written herself–does that have a special ‘get out of oppressor-role free’ card? If so, why?

    • Oh, there are a few gals who like to read it but, for instance, don’t ‘approve’ of marriage equality. There’s a grain of truth in that diatribe. But it’d be a lot more useful to pick a couple of specific books and critique them in a way that illustrates the point than to make sweeping generalizations that are mostly untrue.
      And how about gay porn written by men? Is it all right for gay men to fetishize other men? Isn’t exploitation wrong no matter who does it? And what about the stuff she’s written herself–does that have a special ‘get out of oppressor-role free’ card? If so, why?

  22. Heidi, this is so very well said. I know in my gut that we straight women who read and write m/m romance do it entirely in a spirit of openness, love and a desire to understand and support. I just can’t say it as well as you do. Trivializing our genre is easy–making an honest effort to comprehend it appears to be too much effort for journalists looking for simple answers and a bit of shock value. Thank you for writing this.

  23. That was bloody brilliant! Hell, I discovered I was bisexual thanx to reading slash! Because I actually DARED to flirt with a woman! Had a great relationship for a while. Sadly, it didn’t last. And now I am in a “normal” relationship with a man, but hell… I love people, not gender. πŸ™‚ This was so brilliantly written, you have no idea! *gives a great cheer and a standing ovation*

      • Awesome ain’t it? *waggles eyebrows* Oh, I don’t only read femme-slash. I read anything and everything, actually. As long as it is well written. πŸ˜‰

          • Well, if you wanna read F/F, then I HIGHLY suggest anything and everything by DJ Redhawk. Seriously. That woman is a genius. I discovered her in the Xena-fandom, and she has now gone professional, so I have three off her books in my bookshelf. Bloody brilliant stuff.
            Private Dancer by Vertigo is also a story that I absolutely adore. It is the first part in a series, but I think this is the best one, the others in the series aren’t quite as good. But the author, Vertigo, has written other really good Über-Xena stories (AU-Xena), so she is definitly worth a look. πŸ™‚
            Thats what I can remember off the top of my head… Oh! And there are some brilliant stuff in the Buffy fandom to… Buffy/Faith… Faith/Dawn… Willow/Tara… I could go on. πŸ˜€ I even have a foursome in that fandom that I feel head over heals for! But that don’t count in the category of femme-slash, does it? πŸ˜‰

          • Well, if you wanna read F/F, then I HIGHLY suggest anything and everything by DJ Redhawk. Seriously. That woman is a genius. I discovered her in the Xena-fandom, and she has now gone professional, so I have three off her books in my bookshelf. Bloody brilliant stuff.
            Private Dancer by Vertigo is also a story that I absolutely adore. It is the first part in a series, but I think this is the best one, the others in the series aren’t quite as good. But the author, Vertigo, has written other really good Über-Xena stories (AU-Xena), so she is definitly worth a look. πŸ™‚
            Thats what I can remember off the top of my head… Oh! And there are some brilliant stuff in the Buffy fandom to… Buffy/Faith… Faith/Dawn… Willow/Tara… I could go on. πŸ˜€ I even have a foursome in that fandom that I feel head over heals for! But that don’t count in the category of femme-slash, does it? πŸ˜‰

      • Awesome ain’t it? *waggles eyebrows* Oh, I don’t only read femme-slash. I read anything and everything, actually. As long as it is well written. πŸ˜‰

  24. That was bloody brilliant! Hell, I discovered I was bisexual thanx to reading slash! Because I actually DARED to flirt with a woman! Had a great relationship for a while. Sadly, it didn’t last. And now I am in a “normal” relationship with a man, but hell… I love people, not gender. πŸ™‚ This was so brilliantly written, you have no idea! *gives a great cheer and a standing ovation*

  25. Thanks to Chris for linking me over here:). Well said, Heidi, and also your commenters. I don’t need to add anything because everyone’s been eloquent enough for me, but also because I think it’s important to listen as well as speak. Some of the people early in this debate don’t seem to agree with me :).

  26. Thanks to Chris for linking me over here:). Well said, Heidi, and also your commenters. I don’t need to add anything because everyone’s been eloquent enough for me, but also because I think it’s important to listen as well as speak. Some of the people early in this debate don’t seem to agree with me :).

  27. I have never felt that I fit in socially or sexually, but because of my gender, my race, my orientation, and the position I drew in social roulette, I appear to fit.
    This line really struck me, and was the reason I read your post three times. I wonder just how many of us feel this way about ourselves, as it’s a sentiment that I come across frequently. Maybe it’s the circles I travel in – I think one reason people are drawn to gay romance is that it gives those of us on the outside a place to belong.
    Not sure if I’m getting this right. I’ll have to mull it over some more. But either way – this was a great post, Heidi. Thanks to Chris at Stumbling Over Chaos for the link!

    • I think one reason people are drawn to gay romance is that it gives those of us on the outside a place to belong.
      Personally, that’s part of the draw for me. It’s also the rewriting of what “male” and “sex” is too. Somehow it just seems to break all the social and cultural codes. Seems to make everything freer.

    • I think one reason people are drawn to gay romance is that it gives those of us on the outside a place to belong.
      Personally, that’s part of the draw for me. It’s also the rewriting of what “male” and “sex” is too. Somehow it just seems to break all the social and cultural codes. Seems to make everything freer.

  28. I have never felt that I fit in socially or sexually, but because of my gender, my race, my orientation, and the position I drew in social roulette, I appear to fit.
    This line really struck me, and was the reason I read your post three times. I wonder just how many of us feel this way about ourselves, as it’s a sentiment that I come across frequently. Maybe it’s the circles I travel in – I think one reason people are drawn to gay romance is that it gives those of us on the outside a place to belong.
    Not sure if I’m getting this right. I’ll have to mull it over some more. But either way – this was a great post, Heidi. Thanks to Chris at Stumbling Over Chaos for the link!

  29. Very thoughtful
    You can blame Chris for pointing me this way as well.
    I only started reading m/m a few months ago, and it has been an eye opener. It made me rethink how I looked at things and not just because of sexuality. There is nothing wrong with being a straight woman reading m/m any more than it is a problem for a homosexual male or a polyamorous group. Your comments ring very true to me.
    And as a library person, anything that encourages people to read is extra good in my eyes.

    • Re: Very thoughtful
      Dear Chris. Love her to pieces.
      YES to reading. It’s saved my sanity all my life. My favorite comment is when a reader tells me that my stories make them happy. I absolutely love giving back. Stories of all kinds make the world richer and far more bearable.
      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Re: Very thoughtful
      Dear Chris. Love her to pieces.
      YES to reading. It’s saved my sanity all my life. My favorite comment is when a reader tells me that my stories make them happy. I absolutely love giving back. Stories of all kinds make the world richer and far more bearable.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  30. Very thoughtful
    You can blame Chris for pointing me this way as well.
    I only started reading m/m a few months ago, and it has been an eye opener. It made me rethink how I looked at things and not just because of sexuality. There is nothing wrong with being a straight woman reading m/m any more than it is a problem for a homosexual male or a polyamorous group. Your comments ring very true to me.
    And as a library person, anything that encourages people to read is extra good in my eyes.

  31. Big thanks to Chris for the link.
    Wonderfully said!! Many thanks from a reader who loves the genre and appreciates the writing, without any “fetishizing”.

  32. Big thanks to Chris for the link.
    Wonderfully said!! Many thanks from a reader who loves the genre and appreciates the writing, without any “fetishizing”.

  33. Thank you for expressing what I couldn’t put into words πŸ™‚
    As another straight women, most of my friends get surprised by my m-m reading. They don’t understand why and to be honest I have a difficult time explaining my reasons to them.
    Well, most of the time, I tell them “I am a feminist and homosexual relationships seem more equal and real to me”. They don’t need to be macho, in control or full of too much pride as much of the men around me. Most of the men I know, think they have the absolute right to find a clean home, well cooked meal and well bred children, when they get home from work. Sometimes I wonder what would it be if my parents were a homosexual couple?.
    I am also fond of taboo relationships. It reminds me Romeo and Juliet. Loving whoever you like is a part of human rights.
    Thanks again, for putting the answer to our common question into words πŸ™‚

    • Re: Thank you for expressing what I couldn’t put into words πŸ™‚
      You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and glad I struck a cord.

    • Re: Thank you for expressing what I couldn’t put into words πŸ™‚
      You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and glad I struck a cord.

  34. Thank you for expressing what I couldn’t put into words πŸ™‚
    As another straight women, most of my friends get surprised by my m-m reading. They don’t understand why and to be honest I have a difficult time explaining my reasons to them.
    Well, most of the time, I tell them “I am a feminist and homosexual relationships seem more equal and real to me”. They don’t need to be macho, in control or full of too much pride as much of the men around me. Most of the men I know, think they have the absolute right to find a clean home, well cooked meal and well bred children, when they get home from work. Sometimes I wonder what would it be if my parents were a homosexual couple?.
    I am also fond of taboo relationships. It reminds me Romeo and Juliet. Loving whoever you like is a part of human rights.
    Thanks again, for putting the answer to our common question into words πŸ™‚

  35. AVID m/m romance reader perspective…
    approximately two years ago while waiting for my bags to arrive on carousel 432 at atlanta airport i watched the many arriving passengers, families all hugging and embracing joyfully as they met family and friends, all with complete abondon, Except for gay men, they were shy hesitant to touch each other, grasp hands share a quick kiss, instead it unfolds like somo victorian dance, where you might encounter a shy twining of fingers or casual brushes of chest to shoulder, with a greasy underlay of fear and a fear of encountering violent bigotry. Not to mention the oiley residue of pointed stares that must be filtered into a persons happy reunion with their friend/partner/boyfriend/lover, etc. this experience compelled me to read the genre, i felt betrayed on behalf of approximately 20 percent of the population that are not allowed the freedom and courtesy that the other 80 percent enjoy. i have learned sssoooo much about warm happy confident gay relationships. and before one genre starts picking on another, i suggest that you harness this popular group of readers and let’s change some of the antiquated laws around this country so that it’s inclusive of everyone that wants to have a committed life.

    • Re: AVID m/m romance reader perspective…
      Thanks so much for your thoughts and for stopping by. I completely agree with everything you said. I don’t want us arguing. I just want us all writing.

    • Re: AVID m/m romance reader perspective…
      Thanks so much for your thoughts and for stopping by. I completely agree with everything you said. I don’t want us arguing. I just want us all writing.

  36. AVID m/m romance reader perspective…
    approximately two years ago while waiting for my bags to arrive on carousel 432 at atlanta airport i watched the many arriving passengers, families all hugging and embracing joyfully as they met family and friends, all with complete abondon, Except for gay men, they were shy hesitant to touch each other, grasp hands share a quick kiss, instead it unfolds like somo victorian dance, where you might encounter a shy twining of fingers or casual brushes of chest to shoulder, with a greasy underlay of fear and a fear of encountering violent bigotry. Not to mention the oiley residue of pointed stares that must be filtered into a persons happy reunion with their friend/partner/boyfriend/lover, etc. this experience compelled me to read the genre, i felt betrayed on behalf of approximately 20 percent of the population that are not allowed the freedom and courtesy that the other 80 percent enjoy. i have learned sssoooo much about warm happy confident gay relationships. and before one genre starts picking on another, i suggest that you harness this popular group of readers and let’s change some of the antiquated laws around this country so that it’s inclusive of everyone that wants to have a committed life.

  37. Hi.
    I’ve read through your post. Sadly, deadlines are nipping at my heals and 73 comments…that’s a lot.
    I’ve noticed in many an author interview I’ve had one of the favorite questions, especially for us women writing m/m romance is why. It’s a question I’ve never really been able to adequately answer. I just always have. My heroes have always been…into each other. I say that glibly, but it’s pretty much the truth. I’ve never written, nor felt the urge to write, a hetro love story. I don’t feel it. I’ve often resented the assumptions made about me because I write about men, and the intrusion into my own sexuality that often follows. Does it matter who I sleep with? Who I want? Or does it matter if my story is worth reading? I know what I look like on the outside, but sexuality and gender identity are very fluid and often inexplicable things. You have to listen to your heart and trust it, and that’s where my stories come from. I just wish that could be enough.
    Jaime Samms

  38. Hi.
    I’ve read through your post. Sadly, deadlines are nipping at my heals and 73 comments…that’s a lot.
    I’ve noticed in many an author interview I’ve had one of the favorite questions, especially for us women writing m/m romance is why. It’s a question I’ve never really been able to adequately answer. I just always have. My heroes have always been…into each other. I say that glibly, but it’s pretty much the truth. I’ve never written, nor felt the urge to write, a hetro love story. I don’t feel it. I’ve often resented the assumptions made about me because I write about men, and the intrusion into my own sexuality that often follows. Does it matter who I sleep with? Who I want? Or does it matter if my story is worth reading? I know what I look like on the outside, but sexuality and gender identity are very fluid and often inexplicable things. You have to listen to your heart and trust it, and that’s where my stories come from. I just wish that could be enough.
    Jaime Samms

  39. Hello there!
    I stumbled upon your LJ while doing some reading on the topic of writing gay romance/sex, and I just thought I’d let you know that if you heard any clapping in the middle of the night, that would have been me. What you wrote is just so terribly true, and I am glad that you took the time to write and share it with us.

    I believe, with all my heart, that gay men and women have much to teach us all about identity, about sex, about roles, about society.

    This. This was perhaps the most touching line in the whole piece for me personally, because it is because of the LGBT community that I was opened up to a whole new way of viewing the world, and darn if it isn’t better than remaining stubbornly conservatively closed-minded with my head in the sand.
    We need more people like you in the world. Please continue being awesome!

    • Thanks for the kind words. I will do my best at the awesome, but I confess I’m totally making it up as I go along. Occupational hazard.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I will do my best at the awesome, but I confess I’m totally making it up as I go along. Occupational hazard.

  40. Hello there!
    I stumbled upon your LJ while doing some reading on the topic of writing gay romance/sex, and I just thought I’d let you know that if you heard any clapping in the middle of the night, that would have been me. What you wrote is just so terribly true, and I am glad that you took the time to write and share it with us.

    I believe, with all my heart, that gay men and women have much to teach us all about identity, about sex, about roles, about society.

    This. This was perhaps the most touching line in the whole piece for me personally, because it is because of the LGBT community that I was opened up to a whole new way of viewing the world, and darn if it isn’t better than remaining stubbornly conservatively closed-minded with my head in the sand.
    We need more people like you in the world. Please continue being awesome!

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