Presentation, Perception and Reality

Okay, look, I’m not going to step into the entire shit storm of certain things happening in M/M Romancelandia…except for one little point.

Everyone is on, “how would this person ever know what it’s like to be a gay man and be bashed/hated upon?”

Let’s see:

Jr. High, religious school Jr. High: the rumor was, I was a witch… Yeah I know, TSL silly, but this was a school infested with “fundies” who talked in tongues and had the equivalent of epileptic seizures in the isles while “channeling” the Spirit of the Lord on Sundays (how do I know? I went to their church with my best friend a few times). The “Popular Kids,” all from that church, were caught telling ghost stories – a major sin, so it couldn’t be false. So they put my “unpopular” name on it. The kids – with the blessings of their fundie parents – pushed me into lockers, poured ink in my back pack, tripped me in the halls (the list goes on and on), because I was “a witch” I was fair game. Their parents even had a meeting with the pastor of the school because they were concerned about “my” bad influence on their “angels” who were doing right by the Lord.

>Tell me I don’t know what it means to be beaten on for what people perceive me to be.

At a very trendy, and not even the most famous, gay bar in WeHo, with a group of my friends – lesbian, gay and bi. And we’re on the smoking patio. I’ve just lit everyone’s smokes and I still have the lighter in my hand. I overhear the guy behind me, who I don’t know from Adam, complain that he can’t find his lighter. So I turn around, flick it and hold it out to the guy who has his arm around another guy. “There you go.” The look of disgust, when they look at me and realize what I am, before they walked away…holy shit.

>Tell me I don’t know what it means to be confronted with disgust at who I am.

I walk into a hotel for a conference and I come up to the front desk. The clerk smiles at me and says, “Can I help you, sir?” When I say I have a reservation and hand over my driver’s license – which doesn’t match her perception or my presentation – panic sweeps her face. She excuses herself. I spend the next fifteen minutes waiting for anyone to come and give me my fucking room…I finally get a manager who sheepishly apologizes for the delay and, luckily, actually gives me a room.

>Tell me I don’t know what it means to suffer from discrimination.

We’re on a 4day cruise. My Princess becomes BFF with another little girl the first day. They’re doing EVERYTHING together – we have to show up to the buffet at the same time so they can have breakfast, lunch and dinner together – with the matching dolls they bought the first day and NAMED after each other. Third night in, Mom of NBFF tells me she’s a travel agent and that’s how she got this cruise and then asked how we afforded it in this economy (I blame this on the: we’re having this conversation at the bar at 11:30pm waiting for the kids to get out of “PIRATE PJ Night”) and I blurt out “we blew my royalties on it.” Which caused a discussion of what I write. It was amazing how the next day, the moment we’d show up for anything she’d drag her daughter away kicking and crying. Do you know how hard that was to explain to Princess?

>Tell me I don’t know that who I am affects the people around me in ways they never deserved.

The only place I have my books on a shelf is in a locked back room. When company comes over – it’s buttoned up tight. My mother laments that I, “never did what I was meant to do…” and the whole family knows she means writing. SG’s father idolizes Sci-Fi authors and has talked about wishing he could connect to published authors (they live in the middle of F’ing nowhere Utah) for years. My mom constantly talks about getting into web marketing and I start telling her stuff – and then realize how do I explain I know all this crap about social media marketing and blogging that I, as a Lawyer, don’t need to know. Then I have to remember the whole cobbled together mess of lies I’ve been telling for years about money and trips out of town and slip up’s the spawn make.

I cannot talk about 1) what I do and 2) who I am. I know I’d be rejected on both fronts. Different conservative backgrounds, both convinced the HomoGestapo is ruining “traditional families.” Despite the sharp tongued, quick witted political debates that we all have — I can’t tell them about me. The spawn have inklings, and I’m ashamed that I’ve had to draft them into the conspiracy of silence. I don’t want them to lose their grandparents on both sides because of me. And these are things, that if it wasn’t the genre that I write, I’d have total support for.

God forbid we add the GenderQueer and BDSM icing on that cake.

And I am terrified that it will come out and they will reject, not only me, but family for it.

>Tell me that I don’t know what it’s like to lead a life in the closet.

 

SO, Don’t tell me that I don’t know what it means to be hurt to the core and afraid of who I am.  Look at yourself before you pick up that stone…

45 thoughts on “Presentation, Perception and Reality

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  4. OMG, how many times have I tried to get people to understand that ” I just am”? No one gets it. They still say “Yeah, but…” ugh!!! But those are the words for people who don’t understand gender and sexuality at all. Some others do get it, and they’re awesome. It’s the ones who still say “yeah, but you still look like a boy!” Uhhh, so what? lol.

  5. When I started reading m/m fic, I found you and your work and I thought you had an amazing writing style. I admired it and studied it and recommended it to people looking for good m/m writing. Then I had the good fortune to meet you in person. My first impression was “Holy crap that is possibly the sexiest person I’ve ever seen/met/been next to … ever.” And I almost embarrassed myself by saying so out loud. Which wouldn’t have been the first time I blurted out something twirling around in my head. (I once told Corin Nemic aka Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, that he had blindingly white teeth as Michael Dorn aka Worf from Star Trek, laughed his ass off next to me. True story. I have pictures.)

    What was I saying? Oh yes.

    Man. Woman. Purple people eater… you are ridiculously awesome. Strong. Sexy. Brilliant. Brave Funny. And you can pull off the cowboy hat look like no one else.

    Damn. Just.. had to put that out there into the world again.

    I wish I could offer more than just my admiration (and crazy girlcrush omg hi!). I wish I could make everyone understand that people in all their beautiful, flawed, amazingly gorgeous forms are meant to be celebrated.

    You rock. I hope you know that. And I hope in some small way, it helps.

    <3.

    • I’m neither awesome or brave (I’ll bask in the other comments with the heavy sigh and southern eye-roll of “oh, do go on“)

      I

      Just

      Am

      and I live my life trying to say…”look, other people just are.”

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  7. James, I’ve admired you for a long time – you’re a kick-ass writer, for one, and we all know how much THAT takes – but from the days of Emily Veinglory’s forum, and the discussions we’ve had, you’ve been an inspiration, online and off. (I don’t think I ever told you that “in person” – so much I take for granted) Rock on, I salute you.

  8. Great post, James. I am hoping the whole nauseating shitstorm in m/m romancelandia is caused mostly by ignorance, not bigotry. Posts like yours and Aleksandr Voinov’s will help make these people see they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. At least I sincerely hope so.

    • I, heaving up an unfortunate sigh, think it may be some of both. People idolize authors, whether we deserve it or not.

      Look, I put my dreams as translated through my keyboard out there for you….because i have this need to put it out there. But my soul, dreams, imagination, SERIOUSLY is nowhere near my mundane day-to-day reality. And, people need to realize that.

  9. If only people would, Anne. I wish they would. Especially a few people in my life that come to might right away. But, alas, I doubt that’ll ever happen.

    • Appropriate? I don’t believe in appropriation, and maybe that’s the lawyer in me… folks filter everything through their own lenses.

      Were I to attempt transition, I would be told that this “appropriation” would be a condition of being allowed to achieve a male body — I could never EVER discuss any hint of femaleness or acknowledge that it ever existed.. This is not an excuse or comment upon what happened, but just that people need to understand that we live in an HTML gradient Color, HD world that is viewed in BW stereo TV.

      But in the transitional world you must conform to the other and lie about the one in order to institutionally change the round peg to fit the square hole. It is a conundrum.

      • How ridiculous that my biologically-born male husband is allowed to speak of and get in touch with his “feminine” side and is praised for doing so (and hey, I’m doing some of the praising), but if you were born with the wiring but not the plumbing you get screwed.

  10. Beautiful post. You get to the heart of it – we’re all different, but we’re all human, we all want to be loved and accepted. One of my favorite traits in anyone is kindness. Just wish more people would practice it.

    Sorry you’ve experienced so many challenges, but thank you for such a lovely commentary, and timely reminder for all to practice more empathy.

  11. James
    Great post. You know how much I care about you and I can empathise. Discrimination and hate and bullying are everywhere, sometimes when you least expect it. You turned out to be a wonderful person despite everything. :)

    • Well, I’m not fishing for empathy, not personally…although I joke, that which doesn’t kill us does make us stronger.

      But, yeah, look…I’m a successful trial attorney, I’m an author with 14 novels (and I’m fucking happy with being a strong “mid-lister” in my genre). I have two great kids who are scary smart, I have SG who is everything I ever wanted + chocolate sauce (and he does the dishes and vacuums). I’ve used all the negatives to help me form a reasonably positive mindset.

  12. I couldn’t have said that better myself. I, myself, have family who wouldn’t understand what it means to be genderqueer or gender neutral. It’s not exactly easy to have conversations when tough stuff like LGBTQ rights comes up because they don’t fully understand, and I want to help them understand, but can’t give personal info.

    At least online, I feel like I can be who I am a little more freely, and is why I chose the neutral penname I did. lol, it helps that at least they gave me a neutral middle name I like, that’s still naming me after a great grandmother, so it’s cool.

    I have to agree with what you had to say. Even those who don’t fall under the rainbow umbrella get beat up for being geeky or because they have crooked teeth. Whatever the reason, they know what it’s like just the same.

    Thanks for writing this great blog post! I’ll definitely be back to read more.

    • Yeah, I unfortunately, have the most femmy birth name ever — well, it’s not as bad as a Charlotte Bronte Heroine, but only because it’s embedded it’s nails in the downhill slope toward utter 19th Century gender dynamics. I’ve actually had people LAUGH at learning my actual middle name.

      I gave my kids both names they could swap. The boy child, his full given name is VERY masculine (he’s the III on SG’s side)…except that the nickname for his name is also the nickname for a female name — one which my grandmother went by all her life. The girl, her first name is a old fashioned man’s name co-opted in recent years and her middle is gender neutral.

      I tried to give them some options and I try to let them know, I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything except that they’re good people.

      • That’s totally awesome that you gave them names like that. I’m not planning on having kids, but if I did, I know I’d want to do something similar to that. My real first name is pretty feminine. I can’t imagine it getting used for a guy, the way other names have been swapped. It’s also not a very butch name either, which doesn’t help me out. Describes me as homely, shy and quiet. ugh. lol. Not the description I want for myself. I’m not living in the 18th century and I certainly don’t stay home to do the laundry and cook. heh.

        More power to those who can change names and stereotypes!

  13. You are so right James. People seem to forget that bullying and discrimination and things like that are not solely for cute little biologically born boys who identify as gay. People take offense for lots of things and many times they don’t react in positive ways. So I completely understand that because of real life people have to keep certain aspects of their lives separate. This was a very heartfelt post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  14. Very powerful, James. I didn’t realize how closeted you were to your parents and in-laws. You’ve said you’d been gender-bending since college. It puzzles me that they wouldn’t have an idea of how masculine you are. The spawn must understand it on some levels. I realize you must have been binding when S. and I met you.

    I can understand not telling conservative parents and in-laws about writing gay romance and about BDSM. It must be a constant struggle not to slip up with them about being genderqueer. I already knew, and you were presenting gender-wise as yourself (so I figured) when I met you. It’s hard for me to imagine people not recognizing how butch you are, however you’re dressed. It must be horrible to put on an act otherwise.

    *Hugs* and much sympathy to you.

  15. Thank you so much for this post. A blog comment of yours earlier this week really hit home (I doubt you meant it that way, but that was its effect).

    This was beautiful and painful to read in equal measures, and oh so effective.

  16. That was fantastic, James. Fantastic. And so right on. I can’t relate to all of it, of course, but it works with my theory of not knowing shit about what it is to walk in someone else’s shoes until you actually do.

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