Queer Isn’t an Opinion

The other morning, I bumped into this tweet:

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“Can someone not agree with homosexuality & still respect those who are homosexual and individuals?”

On the surface, this seems pretty respectful and polite, right? She’s not swearing, she’s not calling for the eradication of queer folk, she’s just asking: can she not agree with homosexuality, but still respect homosexual individuals?

Nope. Nope she cannot.

And, in fact, she’s doing damage.

“Not agreeing with homosexuality” is still (albeit nonviolent and not as obviously impactful) homophobia. It’s still outright telling me I shouldn’t be entirely who I am. That’s not respectful.

And most importantly? It’s not the same as disagreeing with a choice.

It’s the “disagree” that makes this sound so polite, but it’s not polite. Disagreement is  for things like flavours, types of movies, or, say a favourite colour. Subjective stuff. Saying “I respect you but I disagree with you being gay” is like saying “I respect you, but I disagree with you being forty.”

It’s a state of being. It’s not something you can disagree with.

If it helps? Substitute other groups of people into statements about queer people, and you’ll likely see it right away.

Would you say “I respect deaf people but I disagree with deafness?” Or “I respect adopted people but I disagree with them being adopted?”

Of course not. It doesn’t make sense.

Now, I got what the initial poster probably meant when I saw the tweet. They likely meant “I don’t hate queer people, or want to make their lives more difficult, but I don’t agree that men should sleep with other men or women with other women.”

And, lo: here it is, in a reply:

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“They just don’t agree with men being with men and women being with women. They only find it okay for women and men to be together. That’s their belief. It’s just that simple. No hate. Just disagreement.”

And, again: Nope, that doesn’t work either. There’s definitely hate there, it’s by no means simple, and just because it’s hidden behind some “politeness” and isn’t as overt or obvious doesn’t make it less harmful.

Why not? Because voicing that opinion does make queer lives harder/adds hate/is queerphobic. When someone “disagrees” with queerness, they’re telling queers that they don’t get to have (or they would prefer queers wouldn’t have) consent based relationships with other adults because…

Well, because “ew.” Dress it up politely, it’s still “ew.”

And the range of “ew” ends with the individual. You don’t think men should have sex with men, or women with women? Don’t do it yourself. But vocalize that you don’t think other people should? You’re not being respectful, kind, or polite, nor are you “entitled to my opinion, don’t hate on me, LOL.”

When you’re publicly vocal about “disagreeing” with queerness, even when you caveat as much as you want about how you respect queer individuals (though, to be clear, what you’re doing is not respect at all), you’re adding to a cultural bias that already exists and persists under that “it’s just an opinion” fallacy.

You make my life harder. Because you saying “disagree” gives approval to those who disagree with my existence with their fists and boots and discrimination. You’re feeding the flames. To those who want to eradicate queer people, you’re standing there and saying, “Yes, I understand your opinion, and I share it.”

You’re just doing it politely.

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Ornamental

If you’ve read Handmade Holidays, my wee holiday chosen-family romance novella from NineStar Press, you probably noticed there’s a theme around the ornaments Nick decorates his tree with. Not in the sense of an actual matching theme, but in how they’re added to each year, one or two at a time, building up his story on the tree.

It’s a wee bit biographical. Okay, it’s a lot biographical.

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I’m a wee bit more happy about Christmas these days.

I’ve had a tradition since 1996 that deals with Christmas ornaments in a similar way as Nick. Now, the inciting incident—being on my own during the holidays—goes further back much further than that, but 1996 was the first year there was enough space and I could afford it. Just like Nick, I bought a floor-model tree that was on clearance the night before Christmas and just like Nick I lugged it home on a bus and just like Nick I realized I didn’t have any ornaments only after I put the tree up.

Prior to having an actual space to put up a tree (I had a long succession of living with roommates post-disowning), I often was lucky enough to be included in the holidays of my friends, especially those who stayed in Ottawa during the holidays.

And sometimes? I went out and saw movies on Christmas Day. I always volunteered to work both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, since it meant a nice paycheck and also meant someone else could have a day off.

But that first year with that tree in an apartment, my roommates already gone home for the holidays? Kind of sucked. Funnily enough, a friend who did cross-stitch ended up giving me a cute little ornament in a Christmas card, so on Christmas Day it turned out I actually did have an ornament. A box of candy-canes dealt with the rest of the tree, just like Nick.

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One of the few remaining “filler” white ornaments.

The next year, I had picked up a package of inexpensive plain white ornaments, and a couple of strings of lights. And, once again, that year I received another ornament from a different friend when I hosted a small party I called “Christmas for Losers.” And a tradition was born. I hosted parties for anyone with nowhere to go, and I kept an eye out for ornaments, adding them to the tree as the years went by.

 

So, yes, that went into Handmade Holidays, too.

When I first met my husband-to-be, I was still working retail and was a manager, so I was still working both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, and so Christmas wasn’t really a favourite holiday by any means. Now, he liked themed trees, and I had my box of mish-mash nostalgia ornaments, and so we did the only responsible thing: we put up two trees. One at my apartment, and one at his house.

As I decorated the tree with him that first time in my awful little apartment, I walked him through the ornaments. “This was the year I got the job at the bookstore!” “This was the year I finished my degree!” “This was the year I started reconstructing my jaw!” (That last one isn’t a favourite, but hey, not all memories can be winners, right?)

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Husband’s First Frog ™

That year, in his stocking, our first Christmas together, I got him a little glass frog ornament (he likes frogs). And when we hung it on my tree, I said, “This was the year I met you.”

 

When I moved in? We had a long talk about it that Christmas and decided to do the only responsible thing: we put up two trees, one in the entrance way, and one in the living room. Every year, we added to our ornament collection: a trip to Scotland we picked up a Thistle. In Houston? We found a beautiful star. And our friends, who have always liked and supported my ornament tradition would also gift them to us. When we renovated a spare bedroom and turned it into a library? A little Mr. Moose Fix-It ornament showed up under the tree. And so on.

1996 was twenty-one years ago. Quite literally half my lifetime. And because all those years have passed, there was a tipping point: there were as many ornaments about us as there were from before us.

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Husband. Dog. Tinsel. It’s a thing.

Four years ago, when I snuck in permission to get a dog inside my first novel’s acknowledgements, a realization smacked us: the dog’s bed was where we always put one of the trees. There was nowhere to put two trees. And so we sat down, and my husband looked at me and said, “Let’s just do our tree. The nostalgia one.”

That was a big year for me, sniffle-wise.

The holidays can be a special slice of awful for queer kids who were kicked to the curb. There’s a relentlessness to the message of the holidays about family that—much like Nick in Handmade Holidays—I’ll likely always struggle with. But now, when I put up the tree with my husband and the dog (he helps by letting us cover him in tinsel), that tree? It’s full. It’s full of us, and the life we have together. And every ornament we hang on that tree makes us smile, and every year, somehow, we’ve forgotten a few of them and have this wonderful moment of remembrance.

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This year’s ornament.

This year it was: “That was the year we paid off the mortgage!” “Our first Christmas with the dog!” and “Moe’s thumbprint ornaments!”

Oh, and this year? This year’s official ornament we picked up in Hawai’i, the same day I finished writing acknowledgements for Triad Soul. It’s made of wood, it’s super-light, and it’s a lovely reminder of a brilliant vacation that recharged and restored us both from a pretty wretched Ottawa winter.

So that’s the real world origins of the ornament tradition that waves its way throughout Handmade Holidays. Nick, Haruto, Phoebe, Fiona and Matt are a group of queers modelled very much on people I know and love, who face off against the holidays every year with each other, in the warmth of a chosen family that grows and evolves, and brings some warmth to the season.


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Handmade Holidays

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.

As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

 

Where I’ll be at @CanConSF this weekend!

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This is what I look like. Say hi.

Hey Ottawa people! So, starting this evening and through the weekend is the awesome Can*Con 2017 event at the Sheraton Ottawa, and though I’m sure you’re sick of me saying so by now, a reminder: I’ll be there.

So will some exciting people, so don’t let my presence put you off (ba-dum-tish!).

Registration opens at 5:00p today, and there are awesome panels, discussions, events, and readings to see.

Importantly? The Dealers Room is open to the public throughout the event, so if you see a name on a signing, or you want to check out some awesome books and products in support of the publishers and artists of Can*Con, you totally have access. Also, if you want, there are day-passes available as well as pricing at the door for the whole she-bang.

If you are looking to see yours truly, however? Allow me to make it easier for you.


Friday, October 13th, 2017.

I’m not on any panels or readings this evening, however, I totally think you should check out my husband taking part in “No, You Can’t Actually Do That With a Computer” at 9:00p, Salon D, because he’s cute and he knows his stuff when it comes to computer security; or for the horror fans, “Homophobia and Monster Stories” (which includes fellow BSBer Christian Baines), 9:00p, Salon F.

Also, I’ll be carrying two d20s so we can duel with our official Can*Con RPG characters.


Saturday, October 14th, 2017.

Okay, deep breath…

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Romance! Second Chances! Time-Travel! Tropes aplenty…

At 10:00a, I’ll be talking “Romance Tropes We Love,” alongside Jessica Ripley, Angela S. Stone, and Jennifer Carole Lewis, in Salon C.

At 11:00a, I’ll be taking off my romance hat and putting on my queer hat for “Finding a Home for your Queer Stories,” alongside Caro Frechette, fellow BSBer Stephen Graham King, Kelsi Morris, and Derek Newman-Stille, in Salon F.

Then, at 12:00p, I’ll be taking off the queer hat and putting on my bookstore manager hat for “How to Interact with a Bookstore,” alongside Charlotte Ashley, Leah Bobet, Benoit Chartier, and Linda Poitevin, in Salon D.

At 1:00p, I will likely be running out the door to find something to eat. I’m totally available for nearby food inhalation.

At 3:00p, Leah Bobet and I will have the open-to-the-public Dealer Room signing real estate for half an hour, so drop on by, say hi, and maybe I can scribble my name on something for you.

Finally, w-a-a-a-y in the evening at 9:00p, I’ll be propping myself up beside fellow spoonies Caro Frechette, Cait Gordon, Talia Johnson, Jamieson Wolf, and Derek Newman-Stille, and attempting to be coherent about “Spooning with Spoonies,” in Salon E.


Sunday, October 15th, 2017.

I am foot-loose and fancy free all Sunday, so if you see me, corner me and say hello. Also, much like Friday, I shall ensure I always have two d20s with me so we can duel with our official Can*Con 2017 RPG characters. (I think I’m going to be a wizard).

Hope to see you all there!

Voice, Lists, Existing, and Being Heard

I didn’t want to have a discussion today, and I couldn’t help myself from expressing a bit of exhausted frustration about the discussion… and then ended up having the discussion. Again. My own fault.

But, it occurred to me I’ve had this conversation enough that it might be worth putting my thoughts down in once place. I talk about ownvoice a lot, but from this particular angle, I’m not sure I’ve discussed it here, so here we go.

Lists.

Today’s attempt at a not-discussion happened when a fellow author noted there was one one gay author on a blog shared which was listed as a kind of a beginner’s guide to reading Gay Fantasy. Now, reaction to this was actually pretty soft (I’ve seen much, much worse) and generally open, and the discussion more-or-less went okay thereafter.

But the response that brings the exhaustion every time did show up: “Does that mean as a straight woman I should only write straight women?” and then, as a chaser, “People write about serial killers without being real serial killers. Authors do research.”

And, exhale.

That’s not what’s being said. What’s being brought to the attention is that, once again, a marginalized voice is left outside, rather than being in the position of existing and being heard.

Okay, so let’s break things down a bit.


Lists

I don’t think it’s over-the-top to at least note when a list of titles about a marginalized group doesn’t hit even a half-way point with content created by those implicitly in the group.

This issue manifests in a lot of ways that silence voices, and can be as internal as it is external. This also isn’t restricted to the identities of the authors, either. I’ve lost count of the number of “LGBTQ Pride Readings Lists!” that have zero T or B or Q content, maybe one or two L titles, and then the rest is solid G all the way, baby. There’s a fairly easy fix there: Don’t call it what it isn’t.

Ditto how much an author chooses to boost the signal of other authors. If the books read and recommended by an author never (or only rarely) seem to include a gay man, but an author writes gay male characters and suggests lots of other non-gay-male authors far, far more often? Those are choices.

There’s a great phrase I see repeated in many activist circles: “nothing about us without us.” It doesn’t mean exclusion of those not in the group, it means inclusion of those within the group, to make sure the voice of the group isn’t lost among the (likely good) intent of those outside it.

I’ve seen this discussion play out so many times, including recently in autism groups, where so many top-ten or recommended reading lists so often don’t actually include any (or many) authors or experts in question from within the group itself.


So I Can Only Write Straight Women, Then?

Okay, this is such a loaded topic, so to start: I’m not saying only queer men should write queer men. I need that to be clear. There are brilliant non-queer-men writing queer-men stories out there. I love seeing them get the recognition of a tale well told.

That said, do I think it’s important to make sure that the voice of a marginalized people is heard? Of course I do. There’s always danger the authenticity of the voice will suffer if the majority of stories about a living, breathing people aren’t written by them or with them.

To bring this to a specifically M/M place, recently on an online chat the question was posed: What does M/M mean to you? In other words, when someone says M/M, what do you think of?

These were my answers:

  • I generally assume if it’s called m/m that it’s not going to be queer in a “life as I live it as a queer” way.
  • I assume it’s far less likely to be an #ownvoice writing gay/bi/queer men. The world will be more rosy and sunshine.
  • Higher likelihood of the two men in question being the only queer representation in the book. They’ll exist in a queer vacuum. No other queer friends. Or, if there are other queer friends, it will all be half of future pairs in a series.
  • Rarely (if ever) will there be more than gay/bi men. No queer women, no trans characters.
  • Their relationship will likely be quite heteronormative in the sense of a closed pair, monogamy, wanting kids, etc.
  • I’ll also expect to find a high focus placed on penetrative anal sex (and especially someone’s anal virginity). And value placed on it, too, as a kind of declaration of true love.

None of these are necessarily bad things per sé, just what I’ve come to expect as a reader when reading books labeled “m/m.” And they don’t ring authentic to my queer life. But if books that follow these trends are the only books appearing on a list labeled “gay,” and there’s not a single book on the list where, for example, the queer men have other gay and lesbian and bi and trans friends?

That list is missing how many gay people exist. Something I know to expect to find in gay men’s #ownvoice books. All my queer characters have queer friends. As a queer person? That’s my reality.

But you’d never know it—or learn it—from some lists out there.


I’m Not a Vampire Either, But I Write Those

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See? Vampire.

Fair enough. So do I. But vampires aren’t a real, living and breathing marginalized group of people. Queer people are. So if you write a queer character (and, yes, even a queer vampire), and you are not using your voice, and you get something wrong, you need to learn. Be open to criticism. And own it.

Also? Non-real things like Vampires can definitely do harm, too. If your good army of elves are all light skinned, sparkly, and have blond hair and the evil army of orcs are all black skinned and ugly? Take a second to think about that. This carries across to shifters, to aliens, to dragons, to whatever you create. If you create an alien race in a far-flung future where same-sex couples are the norm for that culture, and you have your space-faring humans rattled by that, you’ve written a future where queerness hasn’t progressed pretty much at all. Or, conversely, if you write a future where “queer doesn’t matter” but the only couples you ever actually see on page are straight or gay men, then what, exactly, happened to the lesbians?

Writing stuff that doesn’t exist doesn’t get an author off the hook for how they write (or don’t write) living, breathing cultures. I’m not a serial killer either, but if all the serial killers I write are bisexual, and none of the other characters are bisexual? I still do harm.

An author still needs to do research.


Research

Of course authors research. That’s part of the job. Writing a police procedural? You’re likely going to check in with some cops, right? And when an author screws something up, they’ll often make a little note about it on a blog, or joke about it at a Con, and then moving forward they’ll try not to make the same mistake again. Which is great.

And, for some reason, seems not to happen anywhere as smoothly when we’re talking about the representation of queer people.

Now, there’s tonnes of information out there from queer #ownvoices. I try to do that myself, right here in blogs like this. Research is more or less accessible, even without being particularly intrusive (but, hey, I do love respectful questions that don’t assume I’m at the beck and call of an author, and love answering them). An author has a decent chance of writing something with queer characters that doesn’t foul out if they do the homework, sure.

But. (Huge but).

If a living, breathing group cries foul? That’s when it’s time to stop and listen. Because we’re fallible as writers. We’ll screw up. We’ll do some harm without intending to. And that sucks, because harm wasn’t intended, but harm is still done, and the lack of intent comes second to the harm.

It’s my go-to example, but: Gay-For-You. There’s a strong, loud voice from bi and pan readers decrying Gay-For-You plots that erase them. After doing even a modicum of research, you will know that. Thereafter? You can’t unknow that. If you continue to write Gay-For-You stories with that kind of erasure? Now you’re choosing to willfully do some harm.

Ditto dead-naming trans characters (especially in the damn blurb), burying your gays, referring to HIV status as clean/dirty, etc, etc, etc. We are real people, and whether or not an author likes it, if they choose to write in our voice, they are representing us.

Just on Gay-For-You I have seen people fly completely off the handle saying it doesn’t matter, that the m/m Gay-For-You books aren’t for bi people, and that bi and pan people shouldn’t be upset, they’re over-reacting, that they just shouldn’t read them, and on and on.

When I was a kid, my “first time seeing me” reading moment was a gay character in a story. He died. And it was presented very much as an “of course he died, he was gay.” The class all nodded their heads. I sat there trying not to react, learning that I was probably going to die because I was gay.

People outside a marginalized group don’t get to decide what harms those within it.


So, Now What?

That’s totally up to each individual. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do so much as I’m trying to explain why my eyebrow creeps up when lists of books about a group of people don’t include any authors from that group. It translates across the board, of course: I don’t think anyone would think it unfair to criticize a list of “the best women detectives” books that had not a single woman author on the list, or “the best black fiction” that didn’t include more than one black author. It seems like basic stuff to me, like inviting five white men to sit on a panel to discuss the wage gap.

It would never fly. It shouldn’t. So when it happens, in list form or otherwise, this is why there’s pushback. Why the discussion happens.

But maybe I should try to turn this into some sort of advice?

Okay.

If an author is writing a character that isn’t their voice as the primary voice from a living breathing culture? They’re taking a risk. As long as they know that? By all means, go where the muse leads, but prepare for feedback and be prepared to be graceful in the eye of unexpected feedback especially. And, I honestly think the author should stop and really ask themselves why they want to write that character.

For me? My experience never seeing myself in fiction is why I choose to write what I write, and why I try to focus on reading and boosting #ownvoices. I absolutely work to write diversity into my worlds, yes, but I also don’t generally write a main voice that’s not at least somewhat mine.

Again: that’s my choice. No one else has to do the same. But I’d rather boost an ace #ownvoice than write an ace main character. Ace supporting characters? I’m absolutely writing them. But I’d never try to be the next ace voice. Because I’m not ace. The same way I try to boost and suggest awesome lesbian and bi and trans authors out there writing amazing books, but also include awesome lesbian and bi and trans characters in my stories. I can write a world that supports all my queer allies without taking the mic from their hands.

Bunnies

I’m going to take a little moment today to talk about the latest set of heated voices in the m/m world, and I hope, as with discussions in the past of Pseudonyms vs. Identities, and Gay for You plots, and Family Reconciliation plots, that everyone can play nice. I still get nasty comments on those posts, but comment screening is magic, and they’re far more outweighed by actual, thoughtful discussion, so it still feels worthwhile.

But I’m going to come at it from perhaps a different angle in hopes I can shift the narrative a bit from finger-pointing and self-defence and so I’m going to talk plot bunnies.

Most writers I know (and especially those in the romance or spec-fic business) talk about plot bunnies. In fact, it’s pretty much a short hand. Someone in the queer spec fic group online will post an article about, say, a newly theorized method of faster-than-light travel, and I’d lay a wager that one of the comments on the article will be nothing more than: “Plot bunny!”

Seriously. We do that.

Pictures, too, can garner this response (especially pictures of models or actors, as nothing quite sparks a character like a well-crafted image—I see this more in romance, where the right fella with the right smouldering look can inspire a bunch of different takes). News articles, too, which definitely source ideas for many an author.

Most recently? I saw an article about a woman who figured out a way to rescue a moose that had fallen through the ice, and I swear I could almost see the steam coming out of the ears of a romance author who loves unique shifter stories—what if the moose is actually a shifter, and what if she turns out to be his mate, and what if..?

in-memoriamWell, you get the idea. Plot bunnies come from everywhere and anywhere. I’ve had plot bunnies, myself. One short story appeared through a song (“Elsewhen,” in Riding the Rails came almost entirely from the song How it Ends by DeVotchKa), and a novella was formed through a visceral reaction to the pat phrase “Everything happens for a reason,” when someone said it to a friend admitting they were facing down a severe illness (In Memoriam was the result of that anger). I’m really proud of both of those stories. In fact, “Elsewhen” continues to be my husband’s most favourite thing I’ve ever written, and I consider In Memoriam to be the most personal thing I’ve ever penned.

Now, as a writer, the whole plot bunny thing is just part of the day to day. Stuff inspires. That’s how it works. But sometimes? That stuff can also be people.

And that’s where things can get heated. Because people don’t stop being people when they’ve also become a plot bunny for a writer.

I use “#ownvoices” and the phrase “living, breathing culture” a lot when I talk about criticism, and—big surprise!—I’m going to do it again. Here’s the rub: when an author writes about people who exist (and yes, I realize they’re fictionalized versions of people who exist), they are now representing those living, breathing people.

Whether they want to or not.

That can kind of suck, and I get that. The author has, by writing those characters, opened up to criticism from those living, breathing people if they accidentally mess it up, regardless of intent.

Now, for the most part, that’s just common sense, right? I mean, if a writer screws up a factual detail in, say, a police procedural, and a real-life cop were to point that out, they’d probably be a bit embarrassed, maybe mention it in a blog, share some tips on how to avoid mistakes like that (usually it involves finding someone with the knowledge and asking them if they’d be willing to give a manuscript a once-over). It happens, though, and we’ve all done it.

The difference when these plot bunnies involve queer people, I think, is how heightened the experience is for the queer reader, and how often so much of a non-queer author’s intent was absolutely to do no harm. No matter how often I try to explain my queer life, no matter how many anecdotes I tell, and no matter how much progress is made, my day-to-day life is full of reminders of ways in which I am less-than, different-from, or anathema-to. And that’s exhausting.

Queer folk are allowed to be exhausted (so are every other group of marginalized people, by the way, in case that wasn’t clear). We’re just as human as everyone else.

Now, as an anecdote, I’m going to drop one specific example before I get back to the plot bunny thing: “Are you brothers?”

I recently went on vacation with my husband. I cannot tell you how many times we were asked that question on the trip. Now, I took his name when I married him, and my identification shares a surname with him.

So, sitting down to lunch on our disaster of delayed flights to Hawai’i, it happened: “Are you brothers?” I told the waitress that no, we weren’t, and didn’t clarify we were husbands, but whatever. We ordered a meal, and ate. At the gate when another flight had been canceled, the woman helping me asked as well. I was at one desk, my husband at another, as there were big line ups and we had no idea which line might clear faster. I got to the front first, so I waved him over. As he walked over, she asked, “are you brothers?” “No,” I said. “He’s my husband.” She went back to booking a new flight for us. More flights canceled and delayed. We made it to Vancouver, and then had to get a hotel. Westjet comped us a hotel, which was good. Our suitcase wasn’t at the airport, which wasn’t. The woman at the counter asked which of our suitcases hadn’t shown up, mine or my brother’s? “Husband,” I said. “And it’s both of ours,” I said. “We only brought one.” “Oh,” she said. “Which phone number should I put it under?” We took our hotel coupons, and left. At the hotel desk, the clerk said, “Are you brothers?” and I lost it.

“No,” I said. “He’s my husband.” It came out sharp, and angry, and had a day’s worth of flight cancellations, delays, and a day’s delay of derailed trip to Hawai’i behind it, as well as the usual annoyance of having to explain that I was with a man and he was my husband.

Every single person that day didn’t need to ask that specific question. There might very well have been reasons for them to want to know—the hotel clerk, for example, could have been confirming we only needed one bed—but “Are you brothers?” wouldn’t have answered that question. The question “One night, one bed is okay?” would have.

It wasn’t the first person who asked that did me in. It was the fifth (or sixth?) in one long day of constantly having to out myself to people who frankly didn’t need to know and who, for all I knew, could make what was already a difficult day worse because they could decide with a few key strokes to make our trip harder if they didn’t like gay people.

From the hotel clerk’s point of view, though? He’d asked me one simple question, and I’d lost it and completely over-reacted. He had no idea of my living, breathing experience that day as a queer man. Frankly, he was lucky I answered, instead of my husband, who has even less patience for that shit.

But back to plot bunnies.

When an author chooses a queer plot bunny and makes one of those mistakes—a gay for you plot that doesn’t include the word bisexual or pansexual anywhere, off-handedly saying “Oh, I identify as a gay man” when not actually meaning it on a trans-identity level, shrugging off queer criticism as “haters,” or using “clean” in the narrative as a way to describe a character as HIV negative—and a queer person corrects the issue, I imagine it can feel very much like an attack. Especially when the criticism comes across with a tone of anger or frustration, I can see how easily an author might get their back up. Especially an author that considers themselves to be very much an ally. I can see why so many authors in this situation say things like, “I wish we wouldn’t react so strongly,” or “We have to work to educate, and not attack,” or “If we remain calm, and remember we all love and support each other here, it’ll go better,” or “Please don’t lump all us m/m authors in under one hat when one of us makes a mistake,” or… or… or…

And you know what? To a significant degree, that’s correct. It’s unfair. Let’s assume the person who made that mistake made the mistake once, and this is the first offence. It certainly feels harsh to have a few dozen queer voices pop up and say, “Woah. That’s hurtful/harmful, problematic, homophobic/transphobic/bi-erasure/acephobic, and dismissive/whatever.” I know it smarts. I’ve been on the receiving end of it in other ways.

Honestly, though? We react strongly because these are our lives. They are not fictions. We do work to educate, but it never ends, and it’s exhausting, and sometimes we’re human and our education feels like an attack. We’re sick of being told to remain calm. We’re not dismissing love and support—we’re clarifying when that love and support isn’t loving nor supportive. We want it to go better. And, truthfully? We’re not lumping all of anyone in together, and it’s really, really important for those on the receiving end of criticism not to use the “not all” response, which takes the discussion away from the queerfolk at hand and turns it into a discussion about the feelings of those who aren’t even making the mistake being discussed.

Our lives will give authors plot bunnies. But those stories can, and do, go on to represent and educate. When they’re misinformed, misrepresentative, and do harm, we’re going to point it out.

And sometimes we’ll be exhausted when we do it.

Writing Wednesday – Source Material

It’s been a solid and mostly good week this week. I’ve had mostly good news and a few happy surprises, most centrally an invitation to come chat with a high school GSA. I’m going to pepper them with (I hope) valuable questions and get feedback on what it’s like to be a queer teen these days (especially since the situation is so different from when I was a queer teen). This will, I hope, allow me to add veracity to my YA.

When living, breathing folks are involved, it’s important to get your voice right. Hopefully, these young adults can be source material in tone or content.

Honestly? I’m just stoked they agreed to chat with me.

The “mostly” in the good category up there was offset by bumping into a couple of repeats this week of bi-erasing “gay-for-you” stories, and yet another “surely all queer teens who were kicked out want to rejoin their families!” discussion (and, again: no).

Man I wish people would listen to the source.


Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks

 

Work goes apace, and like I said I’m over-the-moon about my upcoming chat with some of the students of a local high school. I have so many questions.

Actually, what about you? What was the thing that drove you the most nuts where you were sixteen? (I mean, beyond being queer if you are queer and that was a source of worry or frustration or terror.)


Of Echoes Born

 

Typa, typa, typa.

The current plan is now this: The collection starts with an Ian Simon story, then four other tales, then a second Ian Simon story, then four other tales, then wraps with a final Ian Simon story. The first dates back to Ian in high school, the second when he has hit a rough patch in his mid-twenties, and the last as he is today, in his mid-thirties, thinking he’s got things on the level finally (and maybe being wrong about that).

From a theme point of view, the progression works with the other stories, and though other tales tie in to the Ian stories here and there or each other, everything will stand alone (including those three Ian stories, if I manage to pull it off right). Ian makes a cameo in “Heart,” so he’ll technically be in four tales, and Bao will have a story of his own as well.

Anyway. Progress is progress.


Open Calls for Submission

Every Wednesday I try to include my list off all the various open calls for submission I’ve found and/or am trying to write for. If you know of any others, by all means do drop them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list. If this is helpful for people other than myself, it’s even better.

March has not been my proudest submission month. January was: 6 submissions (4 reprints, 2 new), 1 acceptance; in February was bare minimum: 1 submission (1 new). March has given me 1 rejection, and 1 submission (new). I’m still not quite done another (new). I will get it in under the wire, I swear.

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul – Various titles, various themes, various deadlines, 1,200 word count limit.
  • Clarkesworld – Currently open for art, non-fiction, and short story submissions.
  • Cast of Wonders – Young adult short fiction market, open to story submissions up to 6,000 words.
  • Totally Entwined – Many calls, various dates and lengths.
  • Wet Summer Nights – White collar/blue collar, cross-town, wrong side of the tracks lovers theme; Mischief Corner Books; 10k-18k word count; deadline March 31st, 2017.
  • Utter Fabrication – Haunted House or other architecturally-themed building; 1st person; 500-8k world count; deadline March 31st, 2017.
  • A Fool For You – Tales of Tricksters; Less than Three Press; 10k-20k word count; deadline March 31st, 2017.
  • Renewal – QSF’s annual flash fiction contest, queer content, “renewal” theme, as 300 word count; deadline April 10th, 2017.
  • Chelsea Station – Nonpaying, but a great magazine; deadline May 1st 2017.
  • Alice Unbound – Think Alice in Wonderland, only speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Exile Editions; Submission window: February 1st – May 31st, 2017; 2k – 5k word count limit; Canadians and ex-pat Canadians only.
  • Myths, Moons, and Mayhem – M/M/M ménage; Deadline June 1st, 2017; 4k – 6k word count limit.
  • The Witching Hour – Mythical creature visitation theme; deadline July 30th, 2017; 10k to 40k word count limit.