Keepin’ It Real

One thing I bitch and moan about a lot is how queer men, specifically gay men, are written about and represented in publishing. Specifically, how a lot of the most popular stories are written by women and people who are not gay men. Oftentimes, I feel that the representation rings hollow and feels inauthentic because the authors of these novels don’t truly understand the gay male experience.

This is not to throw shade on the writing abilities of these authors. Nor is it to cast aspersions on their character. It’s my belief that a lot of these authors start out with the best intentions and simply love the material they work with and have a passion for the stories they tell. However, facts are facts. A lot of gay male stories are written by women and people who are not gay men.

And it makes me wonder why.

Sometimes I feel as though women and people who are not gay men are selected by agents and publishers to tell our stories because these writers put the experience through a filter. A filter that they may or may not know they are using. Our stories are being watered down and sanitized; made palatable for mass consumption.

So…a lot of truth is lost in the filter. Intentionally or not.

I see this as even more true for Young Adult books. While I am not a proponent of graphically depicting the gay male teen sexual experience–we have to have a level of taste and write appropriately for the core audience–I am a proponent of being honest about the sexual feelings, urges, and sexual awakening of gay male teens. Sex and sexuality occupy the majority of gay male teens’ brains. Well…I think it probably occupies most teens’ minds, regardless of gender and sexuality, but it seems to be particularly watered down if the characters are gay male teens.

It often feels as though gay male teens can only be written as sexless creatures who are “pure,” or who are so awkward, nerdy, or seemingly undesirable, that the reader doesn’t have to worry that they’ll be exposed to *GASP* gay male teen sexual awakenings.

Imagine how frustrating and damaging that is to the gay male teens and gay men who read these stories. People want to tell our stories, but they only want to tell the parts that they find acceptable for their own sensibilities. Publishers and agents only want to give books a chance if they can sell them under the banner of “Look how pure and adorable these two gay teens are holding hands and kissing with closed mouths!

It’s as if agents and publishers (and, of course, the writers) have decided the best way to get readers to accept diversity and inclusion is to neuter their gay male characters. They’re screaming, “Nothing to fear! These gay male characters barely have penises!

It’s insulting and, ultimately, harmful.

Gay male teens (and gay male characters in general) deserve to be as well-rounded and complex as any other character. They deserve to be a full picture of what it is to be gay, male, and a teen.

And this is before we even do a deep dive into how gay men of color are even more vastly underrepresented.

Now, I’m not saying that all gay male teen characters need to be horny little goblins, running around thinking only about sex. But to completely eradicate that part of their personality simply to make them more palatable for the masses is offensive and damaging. It’s 2023, and though there are still closed-minded bigots roaming the library and book aisles, ready to get offended at characters that are unlike them, we can’t cater to their hatred and bigotry. To give an inch is to offer up a mile.

In the future, I hope to see more gay men writing these stories and getting agented and publishing deals. I hope to see more well-rounded gay male teen characters. I hope to see more complete stories about what it is to come of age as a gay male teen. And I hope that when those stories are criticized for being “too sexual” and “inappropriate” authors and publishers tell those critics to shut the fuck up and keep putting those books out for the readers who are dying to read them.

Representation and diversity cannot be a fifty-percent effort. That goes for any underrepresented group. If you want to get people to fully accept diversity and inclusion, you have to give them the full picture–not the sanitized version they’d prefer.

Before I sign off on the first blog post I’ve written in a month (I’ve been a lazy bitch) make sure to go show some love to me and my Publishing Siblings™:

A FIRECRACKER WISH by Ace Jamerson – a deep, sweet, heartwarming New Adult novel about two broken young men who find love and hope together after meeting in a mental health institution. Great enby, gay, and mental health rep.

STERLING – THE MEN OF SILAS BAY by PJ Beale – a dark, future dystopian, sci-fi erotic tale told in episodic fashion on Kindle Vella. The first 3 episodes are FREE and episode 9 just posted today! I feel like I’m being edged by the slow build-up–but the world-building and mystery by PJ is amazing and I can’t wait to see where the story leads!

TRICKED: THE MEN OF BRIEFLY BUDDIES by Chase Connor. FINALLY! It’s here. The series I wrote for Kindle Vella last year is now available in novel format for Kindle ebook. Go get your copy and a bottle of lotion and get your weekend started!

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

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