The Follow the Rainbow Blog Hop was a good bit of fun, and is now over. Many thanks to all the readers who hopped and left thoughtful comments, and Congratulations! to madisonparklove, the Winner of the $20 Amazon gift card. If you missed the Blog Hop, I hope you will still enjoy learning a little about what I write and why I write it, and maybe start a Big Gay Bookshelf of your very own. Welcome.
I’ve known I was gay my entire life. Since way before I had the words to describe it, I knew I was “different,” and I knew it was OK. But growing up in America is a funny process; all along our educational road, we have two things drilled into our heads with equal fervor. 1. You are an individual. You are special. There is no one else like you, and you can grow up to be whatever in the world you want to be. And 2. As long as you march straight down this incredibly narrow path of heteronormative behavior to your wedding day, your children, and an eventual gray-haired retirement that you will have no way to pay for. For a society that stresses individuality and exceptionalism from Sesame Street, we judge our members against a very rigid criteria and forgive few missteps. So yeah, even though the Universe and I had reached an understanding early on, coming out in Cow Town, Colorado during college was something of a process. I was surrounded by cowboys, many of them large (and delicious, which isn’t the point), and it was unclear if the Universe had let them in on our little arrangement. Now, as you know and I know, the real key to Coming Out is to reach the understanding that it doesn’t matter whether those cowboys are in on the deal or not; it has nothing to do with them. Well, at least not with the ones that don’t fool around at frat parties. I would have reached that understanding eventually, of course, but the GLBTQ fiction from which I was unable to tear myself away in those days cleared the path. A gay guy’s life was peppered with glitz. Or with mystery and intrigue. Or with hilarity and madcap hijinks, depending on the particular book I was reading. Few of the books I chose related specifically to coming out or to any drama around it. The guys in these stories just were gay. They didn’t have angst around it, they weren’t looking for anyone’s permission or approval, they just ran around solving mysteries or planning elaborate sham weddings to fleece wealthy relatives out of gifts, kissing boys and cavorting with straight-gal sidekicks, quoting show tunes and quaffing Veuve Clicquot and generally getting on with the business of being gay. But the deluge of gay stories about gay characters written by gay guys did more than just make being gay look like a whole lot of fun. Gay fiction was my window onto a larger world than the one I inhabited, and the gay writers I read in my teens and twenties showed me that I could indeed live my life, and eventually tell my own stories, my way. They helped me realize that coming out — that living my life openly and honestly, for better or for worse (come what may, all that) — was the only possible life I’d even be able to consider.
The best thing about writing gay fiction is wielding this power. OK, maybe the very best thing about writing gay fiction is getting to ramble on for pages about the shape and sandy flavor of a sun-kissed surfer’s belly button, but the power is right up there. Not the heady power of Life or Death that we have over our characters, or even the power to make the biggest-butt-havingest of all of our college cowboy crushes get down on one knee and propose to a fictionalized version of ourselves (as fun as that one is), but rather the power to speak up for ourselves. To relate to the world on our terms. To deny those who wish us vociferous ill — religious conservatives, closet-case gay bashers, pandering politicians — the opportunity to control the narrative around the Gay Experience. If I tell my stories — the sexy ones; the funny ones; even the shitty, lonely, bullying ones — then no one else gets to. Nobody who fears me or hates me or seeks to cash in on fear and hate gets to stand up and say (at least not effectively), Being Gay is Like This. Gay People Think This or Seek To Undermine That. Unchallenged, generalizations, lies, and paranoid accusations can pass for How It Is. If gay writers (or gay teenagers or gay Olympians or gay parents) kept quiet and stayed politely in their tastefully appointed closets, then the world could very well perceive us as the dangerous, sadsack whack jobs we are so often promoted as. But if we stand up and say, This is Me, and This is My Story, the power is sucked from generalizations and accusations as if out an open airplane door at 35,000 feet, and you have to deal with me head on. Yeah, with my sexuality. And with my sense of humor, my worldview, and my passion for flip flops, fat boys, and pineapple on pizza. I may not be the Just Like You! non-threatening gay guy in a chambray shirt that the Human Rights Campaign wants you to think I am, but nor am I a danger to your children or to the sanctity of your (third) marriage. I’m just a guy with a laptop who sometimes sees an ass so perfect or eats a churro so tasty (or vice-versa) that he thinks you’d surely want to know all about it.
A friend of mine recently asked me what I hope to say with my writing. Boiled down, my objective can be declared in one sentence: “Embrace your awesomeness.” That will mean different things to different people, of course; you don’t have to be queer to be awesome (as much as it helps). But my Mission in Life, and certainly in my writing, is absolutely to celebrate. You’re gay? That’s awesome! Gay sex? That’s super awesome! You’re fat but you rock your body? You can’t carry a tune in a bucket but you sing every day at the top of your voice? You’ve never left home but you want to travel the world and wind up living in Paris with a big-nosed policeman? Go get it. I write GLBTQ fiction for tons of reasons. It’s fun; it’s sexy; it’s exploratory, empowering, and liberating. And I’m a big queer, so everything I write, be it a novel or a three-minute warm-up writing exercise about daffodils (which is more like thirty seconds about a daffodil — or however long it takes to type it was yellow — and then two and a half minutes about the dopey, hot, hopefully shirtless guy who gave it to me), comes from a queer perspective. By definition, GLBTQ fiction tells the stories of imagined people, places, and events; I write it because it’s the truest thing I know how to do.