On (Not) Coming Out as a Gay Romance Writer
One author’s perspective
So, here’s the thing: I’m a female writer of gay romance novels, and I love it. Paint me all colors of the rainbow, because I’m proud of it too. I love being able to give two guys in love the happily ever after they’re searching for; love being able to make things right in the little way I can.
And yet, while I’m proud of it, sometimes it’s tough to be out and proud of it. Ninety percent of the time, it’s all fine, but that ten percent . . .
Here’s an example I had recently on my travels around Minnesota. We’re up north, in a small town. I’m staying with my husband and son at a bed & breakfast, and one morning all guests are around this beautiful oak table, covered in doilies, eating blueberry stuffed crepes, and drinking black coffee with a side of awkward silence. Someone had to say something, but what do you talk about that’s not a strained, beaten-to-death discussion of the weather?
Thank God someone else ice-picked the way to conversation (I was still blanking, ‘weather’ on an endless circuit in my head). And then, suddenly, everyone’s talking about where it is they’re from and what they do—
Then it’s my turn. I’m bouncing on my seat, because I love talking about anything to do with writing and reading, and I swear I almost chirp—“I’m a writer.”
I’m asked if I have a business card, and I do, but it’s in my room. The conversation wanes and waxes, the only thing constant is the coffee in our mugs. And at some point I learn that one of the other couples met each other in church.
Well, church isn’t my favorite topic, but I didn’t think anything of it until they came to my room asking for my business card. Now, I know just because someone goes to church, doesn’t mean they can’t be open-minded and respectful of other people’s life decisions, but I didn’t know these people at all, and suddenly I felt uneasy telling them I wrote (mostly) gay romances. My palms got all sweaty, and my breath kept catching. I gave them my card, smiled as they read it, and very swiftly the couple shuffled off.
It was a small inner battle to stand up for what I write. And it made me think back to a conversation I had a year earlier at a writing workshop.
In a group of twenty writers from various parts of the States, a discussion was brought up about how other people in the author’s circle perceive their work. One author felt that he couldn’t show his work to his colleagues because they wouldn’t accept some of the themes dealt with in the book. Somehow this morphed into my situation, where I told them I wrote gay romances, but also felt I couldn’t show or tell everyone in my close family what I did.
And boy, did that divide the group!
On the one side, I was told it was hypocritical of me to write gay romances where characters come out of the closet, when I couldn’t even come out about what I write to my family. I was, in nice words, told that I should suck it up, grow some balls, and stand up for what I do and what I believe in.
On the other side, I had half of the group understand how difficult it could be to tell the (very religious) part of my family what I do if they would not accept me for it.
Oh, but if they don’t accept who you are and what you believe in, then maybe they aren’t the family you want.
And here’s the heart of it; why it’s so difficult for me to come out as a gay romance writer: I still love that side of my family. They have their beliefs, and I have mine, but they have been a big part of my life. I spent weekends with them, we traveled together, I climbed into their bed as a kid to be cuddled when I got scared, they forced me to wash my hair when I avoided doing it (weird phase, don’t ask), they practiced lines with me for drama auditions, we walked the dog, we laughed, we cried, we ate apple crumble and watched Pride and Prejudice.
I love them.
So I never tell them what I do.
But ever since my Minnesota trip, over many a coffee, I’ve been thinking about this more and more, wondering what the possible solutions are to being more confident in standing up to strangers about what I do; wondering if I am being hypocritical in a bad way; wondering if I will grow those balls and stand up for the men I love giving HEAs to, for my readers who may look up to the example of those stories, for myself.
Unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers. I wonder if other authors or readers of gay romance have similar situations where they feel uncomfortable telling others about the books they write/read? I wonder what solutions they might have.
But I wanted to highlight one possible silver lining to the difficulties of coming out as a gay romance writer. This inner struggle may not be half or even remotely as difficult as it is for gay men to come out of the closet, but I can in small measure understand how hard it must be, and I like to think that gives me some perspective into the characters I write about.
Taboo For You
Sam’s freaking out. He’s 30 in three weeks. And what has he done in his twenties? It’s pretty simple math: nothing exciting at all. But hey, he has three weeks right? Maybe that’s just enough time to tick his way through a 20s Must Do List . . .
Luke’s freaking screwed. He’s come out to his family, and his friends. Except there’s a certain someone who doesn’t know yet: his neighbor of 7 years. Who also happens to be his best friend. Who Luke needs to tell the truth, but he just . . . can’t . . . seem to . . .
Jeremy’s freaking over-the-moon. It’s the countdown to his 15th birthday, and his goal is simple. No matter what, he’s going to spend heaps of time with saucy Suzy. But first he needs to get his over-protective, no-girlfriend-’cause-you’ll-get-her-pregnant parents off his back. And what better way than pretending he’s gay?
Sam, Luke, and Jeremy. Three guys who have a lot of history together, and a lot of future too— —well, if they can sort out their issues, that is.
Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Taboo For You. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Friday, July 26. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.
Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.
Thank you and good luck!