My last few blogs have talked about writing, and gender. What I haven’t talked about is the crossover.
And boy, have I been schooled over the last few days. I’ve had to consider things I’ve never even thought about before.
Last week, I went to an author’s book launch. This author is butch, and often uses male pronouns. As the author’s invited guests arrived, I was suddenly surrounded by the butch/femme community I often write about. I met some amazing folks, including the fantastically funny person who runs Gingerbeer and an exec from Diva, as well as a person who runs a site for people who identify as butch in the London area.
The author had asked me to perform the introduction, and of course I was honoured to do so. I spoke about when I originally met the author, the first time I read the author’s first book, etc. And when it was all over, and I was on my way home on the train, I had a sudden, rather embarrassing thought: I had, out of deeply ingrained habit, used female pronouns while speaking about the author. In fact, I hadn’t asked which pronoun the author wanted me to use. For all that I blog about gender fluidity and the spectrum, when it came down to it, I fell into heteronormative habits.
I’m seriously bothered by this.
Skip ahead a day, and I’m at a conference I’ve never been to. Officially, it’s called the UK GLBT Fiction Meet. Now, I knew that the primary writing was male/male. (Gay fiction).
What I didn’t know, however, was who was writing that fiction. I set up my book table, got ready, and waited.
And I watched.
Women. Women, women, women. In skirts, make-up, heels, sandals. A few with short hair. Two in men’s suits (one of them self-identified trans).
So: while the characters are m/m, the writers were, predominately, straight women. Like, 90% straight women. Writing gay male romance.
There were approximately three people there writing lesbian fiction.
You’ll understand my confusion, I think.
1. They’re using the whole acronym, but really, it’s mostly a G event, with the LBT in the distant periphery.
2. Out of the five men there, two were gay (one transman). Of the lesbians there, (though, admittedly, there might have been a few femmes I couldn’t readily identify) two were writing lesbian fiction. The other few were writing m/m.
3. TWO people had heard of Bold Strokes. The rest of the room had no idea who we were. (Several were kind enough to ask, so I did get to introduce the company around a bit). We publish m/m fiction too. Why hadn’t they heard of us?
4. Honestly: I had NO idea so many straight women enjoyed writing gay male romance. And, I don’t fully understand why there weren’t more gay male authors in attendance too.
I don’t know how I feel about this. The word appropriation occurred to me briefly: when a group of people write characters from a minority community, are they co-opting something that they can’t fully comprehend? But that’s probably faulty. I mean, we can write a Black character, or an Asian character. Why shouldn’t folks who aren’t gay write gay characters?
I think one of those straight women writes lesbian characters (secondary). So, why gay male characters?
I don’t have an answer. I did, however, get new insight into a world I didn’t even know existed.
Today’s Question: Do you write characters of a different demographic than yours? How do you know you’re doing it without being offensive/stereotyping? What do you think about the gender-writing crossover?
Book: Travel Guide to Spain
Song: Tired of Being Sorry by Enrique Iglesias