Off the Rails – Gay Romance Gone Bad

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Gay romance is one of my favorite genres to write and read, but I’ve noticed some disturbing patterns of late. I’m not talking about fringe stuff, kinks, or dark reads – just regular M/M stories with happy endings. Apparently, a good number of authors have become complacent or are more interested in pushing their personal agenda than crafting a fine, well-balanced story. I suspect the same could be said for any popular genre, but this one caught my attention. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Overused Tropes

Honestly, how many people inherit a cabin in the woods or the estate of an absentee relative? Not all dog owners fall in love with their Vet and most enemies (boss, business rival, or High School crush) do not become the love of your life! Furthermore, hot and single millionaires are not hanging around with common folks looking for a meaningful relationship. Authors need to quit relying on tired old tropes whose time have come and gone.

Fractured Families

I can’t count the number of MC’s whose parents have died horribly or are way too old to have twenty or thirty something offspring! Are we meant to believe that all gay men face life alone or worse yet, aren’t speaking to their relatives? Do gay men always have homo-hating fathers, abused mothers, and siblings they never talk to? I understand the need to inject drama into a story, but why so often at the expense of family?

Young and Fit

Not every gay man in the world is under 35, healthy, hung, and drool-worthy. This may sell books, but it isn’t real. Enough said.

First Time Gay

This one really burns my cookies. There is an overabundance of stories about the clueless straight guy falling for his best gay friend, boss, neighbor, etc. Being gay is not a choice, and truly straight men do not suddenly realize that they are interested in sex with another man, as titillating as that idea may be! Often, authors of this type of story are married heterosexual women. Check your facts honey – it doesn’t happen this way (just ask your husband)!

Anytime Sex

Sorry, but penetrative sex can’t happen whenever the mood strikes. Not only that, many gay men don’t enjoy it at all, preferring other forms of intimacy. Again, a healthy dose of realism (not the gory details) and diversity is needed in the gay man’s bedroom.

Religion Bashing

I will be the first one to admit the church at large has treated the LGBT community horribly, and there is good reason to be angry. That said, it isn’t necessary or fair to blame the religious community for every problem in a gay man’s life, and not all people of faith are raving lunatics. Rejection and condemnation by family and clergy alike remains a significant problem, and I don’t mean to say authors should ignore it. What they need to do is avoid bludgeoning readers with it repeatedly. The horse is dead already, so give it a rest.

 

Romances will always remain popular, and there are thousands of authors out there cranking out story after story. I understand and accept the wide diversity of readers, writers, subjects, and tropes, but would like to see more balance, realism, and thoughtful crafting. As a writer, it’s my responsibility. As a reader, I deserve better.

WEEKLY ROUNDUP 8-29-18 Bullying and Another Death

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

“What we don’t understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. And what we cannot control…we attack.” Author unknown.

The above quote is part of the dedication for Traitor’s Moon, my current manuscript. A recent headline reminded me these words are acted out over and over, often ending in tragedy.

Nine-year-old Jamel Myles was found dead of suicide just days after his mom said he came out as gay to his classmates. Myles, who had come out to his family over the summer, reportedly faced significant bullying from his classmates as he began the new school year. “My child died because of bullying. My baby killed himself,” Myles’ mother, Leia Pierce, told the Post. “He didn’t deserve this.”

  • I cannot fathom the bravery it took for a nine-year-old to come out.
  • I cannot understand the cruelty human beings are capable of.
  • I cannot forgive the ignorant parents who raised such monstrous bullies.
  • I cannot help but remember when it happened to me.

I endured the name-calling, rejection, social ostracism, and emotional abuse from at least fourth grade through high school. It came from classmates, teachers, and even members of my own family. I covered the pain with sarcasm, anger, and distance, believing if I kept people at arm’s length they couldn’t hurt me. I still catch myself doing the same thing today because some scars never heal.

My ultimate solution was not suicide, but rather a determination to prove all the bullies wrong by being “normal”. I eventually married, had children, and ostensibly lived as a straight man for forty-five years before I had the courage to be myself. While I would have gladly settled for more tolerance when I was younger, and it might have helped young Jamel Myles, I don’t want to simply be tolerated. Would you? I suppose it’s better than being attacked, but that’s still happening too.

Tragically, things really haven’t changed all that much in the last fifty years. Oh how I wish, for all the Jamel’s of this world, things were different.

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Traitor’s Moon – working on chapter eight which will feature a key dramatic turning point in the story. It’s going to be tricky but current feedback tells me I’m on the right track. Word count = 58,000+.

The MOVE – I took two big steps this week, giving notice at work and to my landlord. One month from now I should be arriving in my new home and getting settled in. Until then, I have lots to do!

Reader Roundup 6-20-18. Using the Contact Hypothesis in Fiction.

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Several factors came together this week from my own experience, my writing, and from society at large. This post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, but it is a subject close to my heart.

Many authors of gay novels make use of the tension between gay and straight as a theme in their stories, as I myself am doing in my current series, Gladstone Shifters. Why? Despite a general increase in acceptance in recent years, the aforesaid tension remains an unfortunate reality in the lives of GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) folk everywhere. It’s been present in my life all the way back to grade school and remains an issue today. Mine is not a unique experience, as many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Much of the hostility out there is a result of ignorance and fear, along with a lack of personal connections which put a face on the issue. Incredibly, there are a multitude of straight folk who claim not to know one single GSM person, and yet have plenty to say concerning a subject they know nothing about! As we share our stories, there is a familiar thread which binds many of them together – a change in attitude and position came about only after personal relationships developed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way, even among family members, but the concept has been around since the 1950’s.

The Contact Hypothesis, or Intergroup Contact Theory, is often credited to Gordon W. Allport (1954). The premise of Allport’s theory states that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members. If one has the opportunity to communicate with others, they are able to understand and appreciate different points of views involving their way of life. As a result of new appreciation and understanding, prejudice should diminish. Allport also claims that prejudice is a direct result of generalizations and oversimplifications made about an entire group of people based on incomplete or mistaken information.

In other words, (and as common sense would tell us), as we build relationships with each other the fear and misinformation can be replaced with acceptance and understanding. Unfortunately, it’s something of a catch-22 trying to overcome the barriers which prevent the relationships in the first place.

Many a gay person, myself included, has been rejected by a neighbor, co-worker, or family member after our orientation was discovered. Being burned this way makes us cautious and less likely to be honest about who we really are. Meanwhile the straight person has no idea they are rubbing elbows every day with GSM folks, and they continue on blindly with their prejudices based on what they already “know”. One remains in ignorance while the other hides in self-protection. We aren’t going to get anywhere this way!

Without mentioning the Contact Hypothesis directly, I will be using the concept in my current manuscript as part of the story. I want to show what is possible under the right circumstances from both perspectives. Is this pie-in-the-sky idealism? Perhaps, but it presents a positive option to the deadlock we often see in modern society, and I really don’t want to dwell on that any more than necessary! For the story, it will provide a bit of drama, solve an immediate problem, and perhaps plant a seed in the minds of my readers.

NOTE: I am not a trained psychologist or make any claims regarding the usefulness of the Intergroup Contact Theory. I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject because they are germane to the story I am working on and dovetail with my own observations and experiences. Take from it what you will!

For more information regarding the Intergroup Contact Theory, click HERE.

Update on Traitor’s Moon: working on chapter 2, word count: 14,000+, three new characters introduced, Jack and William make their reappearance,  Alaska becomes part of the story. I wish I could write faster, but even then it would not be enough for some of my readers! Good things come to those who wait…