Why I spent the week debating toilets with narrow-minded folk! #LGBT #amwriting #SAGA

Why I spent the week debating toilets with narrow-minded folk! #LGBT #amwriting #SAGA

Of toilets, bigots and writing inclusive characters

It’s been a busy week. I’ve had some very interesting discussions online, mainly about the American regime’s move against trans people and their access to toilets. The ones to pay the biggest price are – for lack of a better word – the weakest, children and youths. I know that most of you who will read this are Americans, and your bathrooms are – how to put this politely – interesting? Privacy? No sir. Ten inches at the bottom aren’t closed, and between the door to the stalls (if doors are present in the first place), there’s a spring wide enough to get a great view of the inside. I’ve always wondered if that visual access was because Americans are particularly voyeuristic or if this is a result of the Anglo-Saxon double-morale around sex, because after all, people have been known to do it there. I don’t know.

The rainbow flag heralds love and inclusion. It’s the main reason I love it so much. Yet as humans representing the rainbow, we’re not always as loving… We are, in effect, merely human.

I’m an extremely private person, at least when it comes to going to the bathroom. I can’t pee standing, not when I risk onlookers. But in America, even inside the stall I feel exposed, vulnerable. I don’t know why Americans opted for such stalls, but what I do know is that school kids here, in Sweden, often try to avoid going to the school bathrooms. Usually, research shows, because those toilets are dirty. Instead, they avoid drinking, try to hold it, and go to the bathroom when they come home. The result: constipation, urinary infections etc.

Now imagine if you are trans, on top of all that. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, before most can even dream of hormonal treatment or corrective surgery. We are vulnerable enough as it is at that age, without having to deal with the added stress of having to go to a bathroom that isn’t ours. Imagine a boy forced to “intrude” on the girl’s lavatory or locker room, to face the ridicule and potential fear from other girls being there, or picture the girl, being forced to go to the boys room, even though she may wear make-up and a dress. The bullying will be guaranteed. Why? This isn’t about cis boys or girls being “evil” or “mean”. It’s because they don’t understand (yet). It’s because their parents are people like white supremacist Jeff Sessions, the driving force between this week’s transphobic action. Not to mention that children that age are the most confused, caught in the storm of raging hormones, their bodies changing, navigating sexuality and romantic attraction to others (or the lack thereof). And most people that age are curious, they will experiment, but they’re also highly aware of their surroundings, the judgements, expectations, and what is exciting and titillating one minute can be lashed out against the next.

I’m still amazed, from those discussions, just how many people do not understand what it means to be trans. What it means to be intersex. What it means to be gender queer/fluid. Not that it is easy. I read a great post yesterday about the importance of labels. Yes, labels are restricting. We don’t want to be labeled. We don’t want others to tell us “what” we are. However, when we are young and try to understand ourselves, get to know ourselves, labels can help. They help us identify with others, people who are like us, whether it’s “red head”, “visually impaired” or “jock”. Whatever the label, it creates a sense of “us”, of group, and as humans we are, after all, a highly social animal.

The cover for my new novel Last Winter’s Snow. The book releases April 6.

There is a huge difference between knowing who we are, and understanding what we are. Yes, at the core, we are humans, of course. But since we are a social animal, we fear nothing more than loneliness, to be “the only gay in the village” as the saying goes. No, we want to have a friend, let there be at least two of us! That’s where labels come in handy. They can serve a purpose.

It’s been an interesting week online. It’s also been an intensive writing week. My publisher recently asked for submissions for a SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Acceptance, a term more inclusive and simpler than LGBTQIA+) anthology. I’ve written two short stories that I worked on this week. One is about an older gender queer/fluid, asexual person, the other about a middle aged aromantic, asexual woman. I’ve met a number of people in the past couple of years who identify as asexual, and it’s been a topic I wanted to delve into. A very rewarding experience, and I thank both characters for allowing me a glimpse into their reality. We’ll see if any of the stories will fit the anthology’s requirements…

I’ve also, oddly, begun writing on a new novel. Or story anyway. There has been something on my mind for some time, and it sort of burst out of me the other day. I can tell how desperately I want to write about it. However, I’m also weeks away from launching my new novel and I’ve yet to receive the edits from my publisher. I expect them any day really. I’m also waiting for some Sami words that still need to be worked into the text. I don’t speak Sami myself, and particularly the Ume Sami language, with less than one hundred native speakers is an elusive one. I need to make sure to get things right. I expect those this weekend.

In order to prepare for the launch, I’ve worked on a trailer for the book. I’ve done a short trailer for every book since the launch of Jonathan’s Hope. That was an amateurish work, but it did the trick. I hope that the trailer for Last Winter’s Snow feels a tad more professional. I just upgraded my tools to a more professional version, giving me a lot more flexibility to do things “my” way. But that also means a lot more complexity. Have a look, leave a comment:

 

Anyway, I’m rambling. You all have a great weekend, and remember, no matter who you are, what you are (labeled or not), you are a wonderful and complex, valuable human being, worthy to be loved and cherished.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: Have you noticed the “Donate” button on my website? I’ve been contemplating creating a Patreon account, to help finance my every day life. But I’ve decided against it. I may write about that on Monday, why I feel it’s not the right tool for me. However, since I do not accept commercials on my website or my YouTube account, I don’t make any money on my blogging or vlogging. If someone likes my work, this is a way to show appreciation. No strings attached on either side. Thank you.

#MondayBlogs: Being an #author today, is it really that much different from say one hundred years ago? #amwriting #asmsg #amreading

#MondayBlogs: Being an #author today, is it really that much different from say one hundred years ago? #amwriting #asmsg #amreading

Being an author today is vastly different, in many ways, yet in most, it isn’t

Last week, as I revealed (not released, duh! I must’ve been really exhausted that day) the cover to my latest novel Last Winter’s Snow, I had already reached an agreement with my publisher to increase the price of the book by one dollar, compared to what we’d charged until  today. We’re going to increase the price on all our books in the coming weeks. I believe we’ve reached the point where prices need to be adjusted to fairly compensate authors for the work we and everybody else put into our books. To be an author today is a lot about the economy. Maybe that is one of the major changes to times long gone, although, for some, that is still valid, but for most of us, those times “long gone” never really existed. I’ll explain in a minute.

But first a bit of math. We’ll charge $4.99 for Last Winter’s Snow, the e-book. Of that, we get 70% from Amazon. That is $3.49 which we split 50/50, i.e. $1.75 for me. I am very open about this. Other authors keep their agreements closely to their chest, but my publisher is also very honest and up front, so no secrets here. I’ve always paid for my covers. All in all, the covers (e-book & paperback) is costing me somewhere along the lines of $140-175, depending on how much work Natasha has to put into it. I may also pick up some line-editing cost, while we are lucky that we have proof readers who work for free, because they love to get their hands on stories early. My publisher picks up the editing, type-setting and all the work associated with putting files online and selling them, plus all the bookkeeping etc.

Now, to pay my end of the cost of roughly $300, (which excludes any and all marketing and/or PR), I need to sell at least 172 copies. Before the price increase, just to give you an idea, that number was over 215, just to break even. In the indie industry, not every book even sells that many copies in a year or ever. That’s way before we’ve paid for conventions, marketing, PR, your website and what not. Mind you, the lifespan of a book is more than a year, and over time, the financials may look different, but still. A great many of us need to supplement their income somehow. Because to make an average US income ($55,775 for 2015 according to census numbers) I’d have to sell 31,935 books in a year. I came halfway in 2015 with ALL my books. However, a great many of those books were sold at a much lower price point, several thousand were even part of a Bookbub giveaway. I made considerably less. To pay those bills, most authors work part- or even full-time, some use other means of adding money, be it through donations on PayPal, a Patreon account and/or being supported by a loving spouse, parent or friend/benefactor. Some even use less than kosher methods and some even go all the way to being criminal (see below), which is – of course – sad.

But what was it like a hundred years ago? Not much different, at least not for the authors who did get published. Because unlike today, most wanna-be authors remained wanna be. Yes, there were vanity publishers who would put out anything for a price, but those books usually disappeared in the closet, basement or attic of the author never to be read by anyone, except a few selected friends or family members. But even those who were published often held other positions, as journalists, critics, teachers, etc. Some had family money (no matter what, it always helps you get ahead), some had benefactors or patrons. Without that, few ever got to the point that they were able to make a living off of their writing. Even Shakespeare didn’t make a living as a writer, but as the owner of a play house. The amazing literature he wrote was merely a means to an end, to set up plays. He earned his money from the people who paid to see the plays.

To be an author today isn’t therefore that big a difference from a pure financial point of view. The difference financially comes primarily from the fact that there are so many more of us, compared to a hundred years ago. Self-publishing, indie publishing and the changes the Internet and players like Amazon et al have brought to the industry have increased competition exponentially. Amazon’s entry into the book market is almost like a publishing big bang, and as with all major disruptions to an industry, it’s for the better and the worse. Yes, as authors and publishers, we often deplore the way Amazon abuses its power, changing review rules or how they impose pricing levels. On the other hand, we mustn’t forget that without Amazon, most of us would still be writing books the way my dear bonus mom did. For the shelf. For no one to ever be read. A shame.

Dying is one thing… But lying about your own death? Impersonate an non-existing gay husband? Commit identity theft (!) to write your own obituary? Fake identity papers?Really, is this what being an author today has come to?

Because contrary to popular belief when self-publishing was young and new, books that are self- or indie published are not “bad” books. Quite the contrary. Some of those books are the best I’ve ever read. However, there are of course, as in all things human, those who take short cuts, who do not pay ample attention to editing, proofing, type-setting, great cover art etc.

I’ve just recently seen an author who took pictures off Google to put on her covers. Without paying for them of course, which is highly illegal and then an amateurish execution. It takes more than Photoshop to create appealing cover art. Being “poor” is no excuse for not paying for an editor, proof readers or a cover artist. Publishing isn’t a human right. Surviving is, yet you can’t go to the supermarket and walk out without paying for your food, can you? Yet some writers feel that putting out an unedited, un-proofed book, as great as the story may be, is a basic human right. It’s not. Freedom of speech means that the government may not hinder you from publishing it, but it doesn’t mean a publisher has to pick it up. However, since the tools Amazon et al put at your disposal, making self-publishing basically “free”, some authors decide to publish unedited, un-proofed word documents with a home made cover anyway. Sadly, that crap (pardon my French) is quite harmful to all of us, serious self-publishers, indie authors, trad publishers, as well as those who cut corners. Why? It clutters search engines, makes it difficult to find the good stuff, it annoys readers, and – last not least – it seriously eroded the price point of books for many years now. A book that cost $0 in the making is likely to be offered more cheaply than a book that costs $1,000+ in the making (which is not an expensive price point, just saying!). That’s why there are so many $0.99 books out there. Over time, others have reacted, and even serious, long-time authors felt compelled to jump into the fray and offer some of their work for less than a dollar. At 35% royalty, that author would have to sell a whooping 161K books to make the above mentioned income. Impossible, particularly given the quality of the product.

Readers aren’t appreciating it. Because for every crap book they read, they get more frustrated and in the end, they may give up on reading altogether. And that would be a shame. Not to mention that an author who’s cutting corners will end up black-listed, not just by industry peers, but by readers alike. Don’t believe me? Ask Kathryn Perez, aka Cait Perez aka Byron Rider… She’ll find her miraculous recovery from death (!) is going to be short-lived if Facebook reader comments are any indication. Worse still, an entire industry ends up in disarray, and the more shit storms a genre endures (and my own, the LGBT one’s had a few too many of those recently) the fewer new readers we attract. We even lose readers, by the droves, if the 2015 crash is any indication. In the long run, no one is served by this all.

In a way, being an author today is no different from being an author one hundred or one thousand years ago. Money is tight for the vast majority of us, and always will be, just like it is for the average artist or worker out there. On the other hand, the “job” of being an author today has changed. Shiny objects like KDP, KU, CreateSpace, Audible and what not have changed the way we are authors, forever, putting new tools in our hands, tools that enable us to reach more people than ever before, in ever new ways. However, for every new “free” tool put at our disposal, we also need to assume responsibility for our work, make sure we provide our customers, our readers and fans, a high quality product. Not just for the sake of our own reputation, but to secure the future of an entire industry. I feel that being an author today is exciting, not the least because we reach new readers with tools like e- & audio books, and I can’t wait to get my first audiobook out there, reaching whole new audiences, e.g. the viewing impaired.

What’s your take? Author, publisher, reader? Where do you see the greatest changes to the publishing industry over the past century? Are you hopeful for the future? What’s it like to be an author today? I can’t wait to read your input.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Have a wonderful week!

Hans

 

Cover release: “Last Winter’s Snow”, my new #novel coming 4/6 #amwriting #books #asmsg

Cover release: “Last Winter’s Snow”, my new #novel coming 4/6 #amwriting #books #asmsg

Last Winter’s Snow is released April 6th, by Beaten Track Publishing

Feels like it’s been forever, yet it isn’t. My last cover release was just a couple of months ago, for Common Sense. Now I’m back with fiction, and this book has been in the works for almost a year. I began writing Last Winter’s Snow in May last year, shortly after I was done with my short story collection SHORTS. After a chapter I realized that this would be a book that was different than anything I’d written previously. Why? Well, you’ll see at least one of the reasons when you read the book. I won’t give that away.

The second reason is no secret. I think I’ve shared many details of this book earlier, when I was traveling north for research: my main character revealed himself to be Sami. Not something I’d chosen consciously. But I had read a lot about how being gay and being Sami wasn’t all that easy, all that given even, and I know from friends who come from many different ethnic backgrounds, that very often, although far from always, homosexuality is still a bit of a taboo. As I did my research, I learned that – traditionally – the Sami lived in small family units, and that marriage and children was a necessity for the survival of the family. There just was nothing else. No priesthood, like the catholics have, and even the shaman was married with kids. But, after pressing and asking quite directly “do you never have unmarried people?” that question was answered with a “yes”. Grant you, not being married is far from being equal to being gay, they could be a-sexual, a-romantic or just unlucky, i.e. never having found a partner. But it’s an indication anyway, and it’s happened more than once.

Many indigenous Peoples have understood that the LGBT community has always been a part of their genetic makeup, while others, we see that primarily in former colonies of the west, being LGBT is still considered a “decadent western import”. Sadly. In other countries, e.g. India, being LGBT was only criminalized during the colonial age. Sadly it still is. And literally millions of people suffer all over the world, including risking the death penalty.

Nilas is a strong character, and his story is one of hope. While he chose the path of leaving his home to study and to be able to be true to himself, he always returns, the roots reaching deep into his subconscious. In the end, he is faced with the ultimate choice. But Last Winter’s Snow is so much more. Since the novel begins in 1982, things like the AIDS-panic of the era are a mandatory ingredient. LGBT history is long, but progress slow. I’ve often said that I feel that the HIV-epidemic is the main reason why we’ve reached marriage equality in so many societies. Call it a gay conspiracy theory. I have no proof, just a hunch, that straight majorities wanted to make sure we conform to the monogamous dream relationship of heterosexuals. An illusion, but still, everyone dreams about having one.

Just a year before Nilas meets Casper, the love of his life, the New York Times published its infamous first article about the gay cancer, and only three years earlier, Sweden removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. After that, things happen a lot more quickly, and in a way, the book is also a history of recent LGBT history in Sweden. This is, by the way, my first novel that plays out almost entirely in Sweden. It was an intensive write, a difficult one at times, but rewarding, as I’ve learned so much about Sápmi, the people and their amazing culture spanning over 8,000 years back in time. Not many people who can say that about themselves. India maybe?

Anyway, I feel I ramble… So, without further a due, here’s the cover of Last Winter’s Snow:

The cover of Last Winter’s Snow was designed by Natasha Snow, as she has for the past seven of my fictional releases, again a cover that really fits the story and the emotion the book conveys. I hope you like it. Pre-ordering has begun on Amazon, Smashwords and from my publisher, the latter particularly if you wish the be among the first to receive the paperback. Prices are set at US$ 4.99 for the e-book and US$ 11.22 for the paperback.

Here’s the preliminary blurb (I understand that I’m not the only one struggling with these…):

The story of native Sami, Nilas, and how he navigates life, trying to reconcile being gay as well as being Sami. Set over several decades, we follow Nilas and his Swedish partner Casper, as they build a life amid the shallows of bigotry, discrimination, and the onset of the AIDS crisis.

Last Winter’s Snow portrays recent LGBT history from a Swedish perspective, from the days when being gay was considered a ‘mental disorder’ to today’s modern anti-discrimination legislation and full equality. It’s also the story of one couple and the ups and downs of everyday life, as they navigate society’s changing rules and attitudes toward them and their relationship.

Last, not least, it’s a book that celebrates the rich history and culture of the Sami and their country Sápmi, as well as their ongoing struggle to achieve recognition and win back the right to self-determination over lands they’ve lived on for thousands of years.

Last Winter’s Snow is Hans M Hirschi’s first novel set almost entirely in Sweden, but it is the second time (after Fallen Angels of Karnataka) he takes his readers on a journey into the mountainous regions of Scandinavia in one of his acclaimed novels.

Have a wonderful weekend! See you Monday?

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

Writing about minorities is mined territory, an encore #amwriting #asmsg #lgbt

Writing about minorities is mined territory, an encore #amwriting #asmsg #lgbt

As painful as the discussion is at times, we must persevere

I knew when I wrote last week’s post that not everybody would agree. However, what I had not anticipated was the level of antipathy, hatred even, that I faced. Within an hour of publishing the post I was facing my very first “shit storm” on Twitter. Not just for the unfortunate mix-up of two words in the heading (for which I am still awfully sorry and horrified) but for the views expressed in my post. It got so bad that for a couple of days, I was afraid to check my Twitter feed. I’m not used to so much hatred.

I had no idea that the concept of writing about humanity was so controversial, and that some people feel so strongly about who should be allowed to write about whom. To avoid further controversy and having people put words in my mouth, let me try and be as careful as I can be. Naturally, I respect everybody’s conviction and views. Given. And I listened, and I gather (feel free to add more arguments at the end of this post) that most of those who feel that only members of any minority should be allowed to write about said minority argue mainly according to these lines:

  • Publishing space is limited, and “our” (this could be any minority) voices are drowned out by the voices of the “others”, the majority. We need to make sure that more of our own voices are heard, not more “other” voices.
  • “We” are different, and “you” have no idea what it means to be “us”. Only “we” could ever write our own stories accurately.

Let me look at both arguments, one by one.

Publishing of minority voices

I have the utmost respect for the publishing argument. As an author who has never been published by the “big five” in any country, I know how difficult it is to get a publishing deal. And I understand that it is more difficult for minority voices to be interesting to a publisher. Even if we discount racism, misogyny, trans- or homophobia. Merely from an economic point of view, it must be more interesting to publish a book that reaches a wider audience. Sadly, today the large publishers are not in the business of the arts. They’re in the business of shareholder value, and that means to maximize the return on investment with the publishing budgets they have. No excuse (and please don’t shoot the messenger, again), just an explanation.

However, and this is where this argument becomes flawed in my opinion: publishing today is not what it was even ten years ago, much less three years ago. It changes all the time and the entire publishing industry is in a state of flux. To claim that the publishing space is limited though is simply not true. With the tools of self- & indie publishing available to almost anyone, minority voices have more and better opportunities to be heard than ever before. And a look at the number of books published shows just how much the industry has changed in recent years.

Are there no more hinders? No, of course not. I am fully aware that literacy, access to the Internet etc. are still big hurdles for many. Even more importantly, “finding” great literature that tells “our” stories is very difficult. As a writer and reader of gay fiction, I know how hard it is to find great books in the sea of M/M romance. I also acknowledge that it is challenging for many readers to find paperbacks that are self-published, and that most book stores specialize in selling books along the same lines as the big publishers publish, i.e. to make money, not to serve a minority.

While some book stores do an amazing job, I could mention a queer bookstore in New York, which does a great job servicing the LGBTQIA+ community. But again, only one city, in one country, and even they face the tough demands of the economy. While I was welcome to a reading there once, I was never welcomed back, on account that my books didn’t sell. Such is life.

I feel that the Internet provides amazing opportunities to help out on this front, to create portals for minority fiction, places where enthusiasts can gather information and resources about great fiction, focusing specifically on a specific topic and or group of people.

Only “we” understand what it means to be “us”

This second argument is much more difficult to argue about. Because, in my humble opinion, it’s a question of faith to a degree, but also a question of how we view ourselves, our human siblings and humanity as a species. I was once on the side of the argument that only gay people could really write about gay people. I no longer believe that. Why? Because I, as a gay man feel competent enough to write about non-gay people. If I can, why shouldn’t they?

Now before you get all heated and start calling me names again, please allow me to explain why I feel like I do. Being a minority is never “all” that we are. Being gay isn’t an all-encompassing part of my life. Neither is being gypsy (I use the word intentionally, as we were never able to ascertain the exact heritage of my grandmother. Roma or Sinti, we don’t know, hence I’m a quarter gypsy, something I have to live with, and I do so proudly), or atheist. I also wear glasses, have green eyes and mousey hair. All minority traits, viewed separately.

Racism, misogyny, trans- & homophobia are awful things, and it’s a given that we must all fight them. Authors must fight them using their tools, words. Now, if I, being who I am, privileged as I am to be able to write, use that power to help my own and other minorities, I think and I strongly believe that is a good thing. I add a voice to the choir. I add a story to the collection of stories about that minority. Because even writing about a wheel-chair bound white boy, I write about a minority.

This is where my empathy argument comes to bear. I am convinced, and nothing will ever convince me otherwise (so if you disagree, let’s politely agree to disagree here, and not resort to name calling), that being human is paramount, and that we all, no matter who (or what) we are, share so much more, than separates us. Even within a minority, stories differ, and a black man’s experiences are very different from a black woman’s experiences, and a rich black man’s experiences will be very different from a poor black man’s experiences. We are individuals, and there are almost ten billion individual stories out there.

Again, that doesn’t mean that being black doesn’t mean that most blacks suffer discrimination. Yet, being black in Nigeria is different from being black in America or say the Caribbean. So this is my strongest argument. Diversity means that I as an author look at the individual, and their plight in life. Some may suffer from the fact that the color of their skin makes them stand out, to some it may be a disability, or their gender or sexuality, or their age. As an empathic author, doing research, understanding the human aspect of it all, seeing what we share, and highlighting what troubles us, is what I do. I have no interest in writing clichés or stereotypes. That is bad literature, and I think we can all agree across the isles that bad literature is bad, period.

One argument I faced these past days was all about not being able (being “you” rather than “we” or “us”) to tell “our” story. This speaks to the very essence of literature, or, as we also call it, fiction. Yes, it’s fiction. It is not real life. The character an author brings to life must not ever be real life people, or else we write a biography, which is non-fiction. I write fiction. And the people I write about, as real and as alive as they may be in the depths of my mind, they are not living, breathing members of the species homo sapiens sapiens. They are derived from bits and pieces of people I’ve met through my life, but please, never ask me who and to what percentage. I couldn’t tell.

It’s fiction.

Therefore, how can anyone say that the character does not represent “what I am”? It’s not you. Now I understand that there are philosophical, political differences at play here, like I said Friday. I see us from an individual point of view, not from a group perspective, because while group membership explains some aspects of our lives, it will never explain it all. And the debate between socialism and liberalism has been fought fiercely since the 1700s, and we still have no definitive answer. We may never see one.

Like any good story, it has to be credible and plausible. Not real. We love Harry Potter because it’s credible and plausible. Yet the boy wizard was written by a woman, a muggle even. The anguish and despair of Italian Julia was written by a man, an English one at that, yet still, centuries later, we understand perfectly well, people of all ages, creeds, color, genders and sexualities, just how much in love and how desperate Julia is to drink the potion to join Romeo in death. Great literature captures the human essence, it transcends all that which is on the surface, not by making us all straight white Anglo-Saxon protestants, but highlighting that which brings us together as humans, not insisting on that which separates us.

Because I fear, that a consequence of the argument that we should only write about our own, we, as a human species are doomed to fail. If I can’t ever assume to understand what it is like to grow up poor, or blind, or Kenyan, or asexual, or gender queer, or, or or… Then neither will anyone else, and we are destined to remain all these separate groups, where whites discriminate against blacks, where Hispanics discriminate against the Indio, where men discriminate women, straight the LGBTQ community, etc. That is a view of humanity I refuse to subscribe to. While true today, are we really doomed to remain this way forever? And is it worth alienating our allies over it? All we achieve is further hardening the divide, rather than crossing it.

In closing, I understand fully that the discussion will continue, and that we most likely will not arrive at much common ground across the aisle. But let us do so without the name calling, because that, if anything, will only serve those who wish to preserve the status quo.

I look forward to hearing from you, preferably here, because Twitter is such an inadequate tool to debate, or Facebook, where last week’s post led to a very enlightening discussion with over eighty comments. Thanks everyone for weighing in. Who knows, we might even find a constructive way forward. I would also like to recommend you read my friend Amy Leibowitz’s very well crafted contributions to this topic, here.

Have a wonderful week. Greetings from my home town of St. Moritz where I spend a week with my dad.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

White people should not write fiction for audiences of color, or should they? #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT #amreading

White people should not write fiction for audiences of color, or should they? #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT #amreading

Empathy is needed to write about someone else’s fate and life

In this week’s Author Cave video I talked at length about how I find it problematic when minority authors demand an exclusivity of sorts to write fiction about themselves. I react instinctively against that sort of arguments. Maybe it is because I am a liberal (the European definition) and not a socialist. I think that at the core, we, as humans, all share so much more than that which divides us. But I also believe that the differences we have are individual, and must be explained as such, not because of what group we belong to (which is normally what socialists refer to when explaining the world).

Today, I feel compelled to also write about this, because of something I’ve read in a blog post the other day:

 

 

It is particularly the first point that had me stupefied. What is the difference between a book about people of color written by John Ashcroft or a book written by John Adams? See, you don’t even know which of the authors is of color and who isn’t. They don’t exist. I’m trying to make a point.

The problem isn’t the writer’s own ethnicity. It is their ability for empathy. Empathy to understand the plight of the people (or person) they write about. A good author should be capable of writing about ANY human being, no matter who they are. However, in order to do so, they’ll need to do research and get to know who they are writing about. I could make countless examples of great novels written by white authors about people of color, but I will not, simply because I’m sure there’s an equal amount of examples of bad novels. Am I then contradicting myself? No! Here’s why.

More books doesn’t necessarily equal more diversity

There are, increasingly, a lot of bad books out there. The ongoing development in the publishing industry, the rise of self-publishing, decreasing prices on books etc. all lead to fewer publishers / agents who vet manuscripts, less money invested in editing and proof reading and more and more manuscripts being uploaded straight from the author to Amazon et al. Anyone can write anything. Overall, this is a development we should celebrate, because it democratizes writing as a form of artistic expression. However, it also, inevitably leads to people searching their luck in writing, not to express themselves or an idea, but to simply make money. I recently wrote about one such author. And from a freedom of speech and enterprise point of view, even that is acceptable. It was the catphishing I was opposed to.

For the rest of this post, let us therefore disregard “bad” authors and ask ourselves: should great authors only be allowed to write about their own little group? My answer is still a forceful no. For two reasons mainly:

  • It is divisive. How can we ever hope to learn about the plight and lives of others if all we do is look within ourselves?
  • It is limiting. Because the consequence of majorities not being allowed to write about minorities will automatically lead to minorities not being allowed to write about the majority either. This is problematic not only from a philosophical point of view, but also economically.
  • As I’ve written before, the identity of the author should be irrelevant to the story. A great book lives on its own merits.

Allow me to explain. As a liberal, I truly feel and believe that if we use our empathic abilities more, to get to know each other, to better understand each other, thus tearing down the walls that stand between any dichotomy out there: white – non-white, gay – straight, young – old etc. But it’s worse than that. And I’ll use the romance genre as an example. The het romance genre is huge. Those novels are sold everywhere, even at our tiny grocery stores here on our island. They are translated to many languages, including Swedish, only spoken by some eleven million people. Many authors make money on the back end of that huge market. By comparison, the M/M market (i.e. gay romance) is tiny. Hence fewer authors. If gay authors were only allowed to write M/M romance novels, but not het, they’d be excluded from the potential opportunities of writing to a much larger market. The only people gaining from such a “rule” would be the het majority.

What’s the solution?

I believe the best way to move forward is not to exclude certain groups from writing about certain topics, or even to “prefer” one’s own to write about a certain topic, but to encourage more minority members to write in the first place. I am not naïve. I do understand that racism, misogyny, trans- & homophobia etc make it difficult for minority writers to be published by the large publishers who are largely in the hands of cis-white men. I also understand that minority members enjoy fewer opportunities to study and that fewer have the opportunity to set aside time for the arts. However, just because we can’t easily walk to the moon doesn’t mean we can’t get there at all. In my corner of the world (North America & Europe), the white man is the dominant part of society for now. That will only change gradually. One of the reasons why I write gay fiction is because I feel that I want to be a part of that diversity, adding more books for my “own kind”, but I also write about people who are not cis, not gay, not white, people who are disabled etc. Writing diversity, to me, is about empathy, not ethnic & group membership.

I do understand the call for books “written by my own”. It is a desperate cry after having read miserably written books by people who clearly have no clue what they do. They have no empathy, they completely lack the skill (or interest) to do research and get things right. However, I am convinced that if books were published without the name of the author on the cover (which is tested successfully in many HR departments when recruiting people, to give diverse people a shot), we would focus on that which is relevant: how the book is written, rather than who wrote it. We’d easily be able to sort good books from bad books without applying this sort of “reverse racism”, misogyny, trans- or homophobia, where white people can’t write fiction about people of color, women couldn’t write about men, and trans people couldn’t write cis fiction. I’d not want to live in such a world.

What is your take? Let’s have it… This is an important topic!

Have a good weekend.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: A first version of this post was headlined with two important words in the wrong order. While explained as a factor of English not being my first language, that is no excuse and I sincerely apologize for hurting anyone’s feelings. It was certainly not my intention.

#MondayBlogs: dead (or illegal) because of who I am, not what I do #LGBT #asmsg #resistance

#MondayBlogs: dead (or illegal) because of who I am, not what I do #LGBT #asmsg #resistance

Who you are is still more important than what you do, what you achieve!

But before we get started with today’s topic and just how deplorable it is that we still assign more value to who we are than what we do, I feel compelled to share this excerpt of Emma Lazarus’s poem The New Colossus, framing the importance of Lady Liberty guarding the doorway to the “new world”, the promised land, America:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

– Emma Lazarus, 1883

Nothing symbolizes the promise of America like the Statue of Liberty, as she stands proudly in the harbor of New York. Yet never before has this promise been as threatened as it is now. Photo: Private

Yes, there is a connection to today, as we, the world outside the promised land, once the land of the brave and the free, are no longer certain that we may set foot on its soil. Mind you, to a degree, this is a first world problem, as many people never even dream of setting foot in America. There are also significant numbers of people who wouldn’t want to. Yet ever since the declaration of independence in 1776, American has been the promised land. More than paradise, America was the land of opportunity, of freedom, a land where what you do is more important than who you are. Rich or pauper, skilled or hard-working, anyone had equal opportunities, or so it seemed.

Sadly, we all realize that in reality, this was never the case. America was the promised land for primarily Europeans, and even there, differences were made. And as George Orwell so eloquently wrote in his Animal Farm, all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others. Hence, Germans, English and Scandinavians were at the top of the pyramid, and if you had money, even more so. Italians, Spaniards, the Irish, not so much, contrary to popular belief when even a black president traces his roots back to Ireland… But far below came Asians, and the indigenous Peoples needn’t even apply. They were slaughtered or put behind bars, aka reservations. Africans were welcome, though more as machinery to fuel the progress of America. Not even seen as humans.

Today, the distinctions between Europeans is largely erased, but new frontiers have opened, while many of the old still remain. If you’re “red”, “yellow”, “brown” or “black”, you’re still not quite equal. To add insult to injury, another dimension is added: the Abrahamic faiths are divided amongst themselves, with primarily “Christians” kidnapping “Jews” against “Muslims”.

Traveling to America these days means that not only you’ll be judged by the color of your skin (which is of course no news to anyone), you’ll also be judged by your faith (or lack thereof, atheists are no more welcome than muslims in a true theocracy!), and your political convictions. It is a sad world we live in, no doubt. The other night, I had this strange dream about just how illegal I am, just based on who I am. There is nothing I can do about it, but just by virtue of my “genetic” makeup, I am either dead or illegal in so many places in the world.

As a gypsy, I may not be “dead”, but I am most certainly at risk for my life in many places in Europe. From Moldova in the east to the Adriatic Sea in the west, all across the Balkans, gypsies (Roma & Sinti) are persecuted, discriminated against and killed for literally no reason. Thanks to the breathing hole provided by the membership in the EU, many gypsies regularly travel to Northern Europe, where at least they are “safe” (there have been many reports of hate crimes here, too) and can beg for a living. I am proud of my gypsy heritage, even if it’s only 25% of my genetic makeup.

Born gay (yes, I was really, truly born that way), I am dead in eleven countries, were my husband and I ever end up on their soil: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Mauritania, and the United Arab Emirates. So no visits to Dubai for me any time soon, nor would I ever be able to fly Emirates or Etihad, no matter how good their service may be. Add to that list all the many countries (72 in 2016) where a visit of mine would end up with jail time. This also includes Bangladesh, where gay men recently were slaughtered, for lack of a better world, by extremists, even though the law only prescribes lifetime imprisonment… The irony!

As an atheist, there are even more countries where I am dead! A whooping thirteen countries would kill me if I ever ended up on their soil and they knew about my belief in science and humanism: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. This kind of excludes any more trips to the Maldives for me… Sad! I rather liked that country.

This satirical cartoon is spreading virally. No wonder. There is still hope for America, as long as Lady Justice prevails…

Now, there is of course nothing that says that I’d end up dead merely for switching flights at Dubai Airport. At least not automatically. But, mind you, I do usually travel with my family, and so it would be hard to hide who we are. Sadly, the recent attempts by the new American regime to also allow its border patrols to check for people’s social media accounts, search our phones will increase the risk of being stopped at the border, at random. Not just because of who you are, but also because of what you believe. Freedom of speech may be a civil right for Americans, but it does not apply to foreigners, hasn’t since the Patriot Act came to be. But after the recent elections, the respect for other people’s convictions, the most basic democratic value, seems to have evaporated. We’ve already seen Canadians (the most peaceful of people in my humble opinion) stopped at the border, simply because they opposed the current regime.

I plan several trips to the U.S. this year, but will they let me in? I don’t know. We’ll see April 27th, when I board my flight to New York to attend this year’s Rainbow Book Fair. I do have a valid ESTA, but in the end, it will be up to the local immigration officer to let me in or not. I’ve never before had to worry about this. I have lived in the U.S., studied and worked in the U.S., I have family and loads of good friends all across the country, and it is no exaggeration when I say I love America. I love what America stood for, as so beautifully expressed in the original Pledge of Allegiance:

“…the Republic for which it stands, one nation, with liberty and justice, for all!”

Not some, for all! Seems America’s forgotting the most important two words of the entire pledge…

Have a good week, and let’s hope that Lady Justice will keep us safe!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: Today we also celebrate the 100th national day of the Sami people. Still they are no closer to independence than they were 100 years ago. I wish my Sami friends and the people of Sápmi all the very best for the future. Another people oppressed because of who’re they’re born as…

America, quo vadis? #resist #LGBT #ASMSG #resistance

America, quo vadis? #resist #LGBT #ASMSG #resistance

Every morning brings new nightmares from Washington

I wake up every morning, and this week was no different, looking at the news. Lately that has been a painful thing to do. I’ve woken up to a country rapidly descending into chaos with presidential edicts and congressional action that makes me wonder about the priorities of the new regime:

  • Allow for companies to drill for oil and gas in national parks. This alone would have Teddy Roosevelt spin in his grave. He was Republican!
  • Draw a pipeline through sacred Indian lands, violating the only non-immigrants in America. And the XL one, well, oil is so yesterday, and what about all the lands destroyed in its path?
  • Allow for corporations to dump waste in streams. I’m like why? Is this the most important thing Congress has on their table?
  • The muslim ban. No one from the seven countries has killed any Americans on American soil. But oddly Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Afghanistan aren’t on the list. Besides the horror of singling out an entire religion like that, it also signals that for this regime, money is more important. Just look at where Trump has his business dealings…
  • gag orders for federal employees
  • the executive order to build a 15+ billion border wall against Mexico and having the U.S. tax payers foot the bill. I laugh at the so called proposals to let Mexico pay it, by levying taxes on imports. No, that’s Americans paying for the wall.
  • Not mentioning the 6 million Jews on Holocaust Memorial day. I mean yes, there were plenty of others killed, and those of us who belong to such minorities, Gay men, Gypsies or Jehovah’s Witnesses, we’ve fought for decades to be mentioned, too. But not mentioning the main group? Come on… I have no words.
  • According to a High School year book, the Trump’s nominee for the SCOTUS was chairman of a “Fascist Club”? Say again?
  • Yelling at the Australian PM and hanging up on him, making sure the Mexican President feels all warm and fuzzy (I’m sarcastic!), taking the British PM by the hand (I guess she must’ve been glad he didn’t take her by the pussy…)
  • On a state level, legislation is afoot that makes you chill to the bone. Just today I read that women in Arkansas now need the approval of their husbands or parents to undergo an abortion or their doctors could face a law suit! Really?
  • I could go on and on, and it’s only been two weeks.

And while Trump said on Monday that he wasn’t planning to withdraw President Obama’s 2014 protection against LGBT discrimination in Federal contracts, we now read that an order, to basically turn American into a Christian Iran is well underway. So he won’t have to rescind the Obama order, he’ll simply replace it with an order that will make life for the LGBT community and women in America a living hell. And how does that create jobs?

America, the new Iran?

When the Ayatollahs and mullahs overthrew the despot in Teheran, America was appalled. The theocracy replacing the old regime was seen as a sign of hope by many locals, but very soon the country disappeared under a veil of darkness, and the U.S. was its fiercest critic. Yet by enacting this so called “Freedom of Religion Act”, the U.S. would essentially be doing the same thing, putting Christian orthodoxy in front of the word of the law. America would no longer be a democracy, but a theocracy. Now I understand that for millions of Americans, this is a promise of a great future, but I doubt that most would enjoy living in a country like that.

And among all this, it seems the regime has lost sight of their most important promise: jobs. With the exception of the Keystone XL pipeline, I haven’t seen a single proposal creating jobs, not one. But every step taken so far, has been of great symbolic nature to small parts of his constituency. It shows the world and the American people how active their president is, and ruling by executive order, just how little he cares for the constitution. And Congress? I’ll take my fifth and leave it at that. But safe to say that whatever was a “go” last year is no longer valid this year in terms of how people act on Capitol Hill.

It’s hard to watch a country with institutions as proud and seemingly healthy whither away so quickly. Some look the other way, some are frozen stiff from the shock of it all, some applaud the change, particularly white fundamentalists and fascists, while some take up the fight and try to resist. For those of us who love America but live elsewhere, it’s hard to do anything. But we hurt and we feel frustrated, not to mention afraid. We’ve seen where this can lead, and how quickly it can happen. The repercussions for the world would be dire, because America is not just any country.

I have no hope to pass on today and I am fearful of what is to come, particularly the “Freedom of Religion” thing scares the living daylights out of me. These are dark hours, but resist we must, for our children’s sake. What else can we do? My American friends are calling their congressmen and -women to lobby them, demonstrations are organized, but it all won’t change the basic fact that neither the GOP nor the White House seem to care much about average John Doe, the ongoing dismantling of the Affordable Care Act shows as much. So what will work?

As always I welcome your ideas, suggestions and input. Particularly from those who felt that Trump was the “solution” to all of America’s problems. Do you still feel the same? And please be civil.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

Really meaningful and eye-catching title for SEO-bots goes here #MondayBlogs #amwriting #LGBT #amreading

Really meaningful and eye-catching title for SEO-bots goes here #MondayBlogs #amwriting #LGBT #amreading

And this is – of course – the space for the all encapsulating subtitle, very important for the SEO-grabbing search bots

Have you ever felt that you had so much to say, yet didn’t know how? So many topics to choose from, so much injustice around the world that fuels your anger? Yet while you’re all wound up about this and that, you also feel that the double-cold your battling is leaving you powerless and void of energy, You feel as if you’d much rather spend another day in bed, under the warm comforter, sleeping away illness, misery and the Trump presidency, all in one cure?

Sadly, life, which means getting up at six thirty in the morning to get your child out of bed and into clothes so he looks presentable at school doesn’t work that way, particularly not when he proudly wears those new pajamas you bought, in the style of a fire fighter uniform, complete with reflecting bands on arms and legs. It was a hard struggle and necessitated the need of a little white lie to coerce him into a pair of jeans and a sweat shirt. Afterwards, he ate some breakfast and I made my husband some coffee, while catching up on more misery in the news and online. More senseless death, more terrorism and this feeling of what is the world coming to?

When America Was Great Still…? Leave it to Beaver, CBS 1960, but where are the blacks, gays, natives, Latinos, etc? We existed alright, but our existence wasn’t recognized. As much as I loved watching this show, today it is a symbol of what we’ve overcome…

It feels to me as if we are in the middle of a huge cultural war, a war fought between the past and the future, a war between white privilege on one hand, with promises of a revival of the fifties post-war economic boom and seeming social peace and the modern world the other hand, a more “brown” world, where people of all color and creed live side by side. I totally understand that for some, it is a frightening concept. In Russia, the rich, who have always been rich, dream of a world that resembles that of the nineteen fifties Soviet Union, where everyone had a job, there was no unemployment and the rich and powerful ruled, just as the czars had before the revolution. The only difference was that the czar was not a Romanov, but an apparatchik. In Europe, leaders of the far left and far right also dream of a past that really didn’t exist, ever, except in childhood memories or stories from our parents and grandparents, happy vacation pictures. In America, the Trump regime dreams of June Cleaver at her stove and wants to bring back those “Happy Days“. Yet they weren’t as happy as Hollywood portrayed them. Why else did  we have so much terror back then? The IRA in England, the Red Brigades in Italy, the Baader-Meinhof Group in Germany? Why did we have so much social unrest? Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., or Malcolm X to name a few? Why did we have riots and an entire generation’s uproar against the world of June Cleaver? 1968!

Trump, Putin, Le Pen, there’s one in every country. Some smarter than others, some more successful than others, but they all dream of taking their countries back to a time and place that never really existed. Too many were excluded, to many were not part of the dream. Millions starving in Africa, exploited by the fast-growing west, millions in the middle-east barely getting by while the riches of their oil-rich soils ended up on tankers west-ward bound. Millions starving in China, India, while their governments tried to counter-effect the remnants of a colonial rule with different measures that left the people wanting. But June Cleaver’s smile was perfect, as was her hair and front yard.

I look at Happy Days or Leave it to Beaver and I wonder: where are the blacks, the Latinos, the Asians, the Arabs? Or the indigenous Peoples of America? The Gays and the Lesbians? If that is the society Trump wants, then I say good luck, because America will never be like that again, because it never was! The America of today is that of Rogue One, and although I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, the mere fact that the nazis are going bonkers over a colorful cast makes me hopeful for a better future, at least in Hollywood.

No, you’re not a MAN, No, you’re not a GAY man, and no, it was not a rumor; and by Jove I hope you have more respect for your husband Hector than you showed him by making him look like an imbecile who doesn’t even speak English… Oh yes, screen dumps exist for a reason (this post and others were later removed.)

I don’t know were our nations are heading. It seems that for now, we’re taking the proverbial step back, after taking two steps forward in the past fifty years of my life. 1968 was the promise of social change, of a better world, for everyone, including women’s rights in relationships. There will, I guess, always be a struggle between the past and the future, between “conservatives” and “progressives”. However, I am hopeful that given the way the world is developing, that we are going to win this struggle, too. The forceful reactions to the first days of the Trump regime are leaving me slightly optimistic. The rule of the white heterosexual man is over. Donald Trump may very well be the last of its kings.

In other matters. Last week I helped bring down a catfish, a woman who impersonated a man in order to sell books. Like I said last week, it is perfectly okay to use a pen name, even a pen name of a different gender. Others have done it before, out of choice or need. I mention Karen Blixen’s “Isak Dinesen” as an example. However, Mrs Perez went far beyond simply using a pen name. She pretended to be a man, she pretended to be a married gay man on top of that, faked a heart attack (!!) and spread hatred against women and minorities on her Facebook author page. Why she did that we’ll never know. There is a part of me that feels sorry for her, for her need to have to go to such lengths to earn a buck or two. I also believe that unconsciously, she tried to be found out. Why else would she leave bread crumbs from her alternate persona “Byron Rider” all the way to her home address in Pasadena, TX, where she resides with husband and daughter? All we had to do was follow the trail, from Rider’s Amazon page to her het profile of Cait Perez, to Ms Perez’s website, where she had listed her home address. Not the smartest con, but maybe a desperate cry for help?

Sadly, when such frauds are discovered, people are hurt. Fans who had purchased books and who had invested emotionally in the author (who turned out to be someone entirely different) were left wondering if there is anyone out there who is who they pretend/say they are. People who had been genuinely shocked by her feigned outrage and the ensuing “heart attack” were in shock (as some of the comments on my post last Friday show.) Unfortunately, the next step up is a witch hunt for others, and authors and artists who are on the fringes, thematically or in terms of their convictions, become victims of suspicion, and I’ve already seen more than one post and e-mail wondering about him or her. I have no doubt that there will be more Byrons out there. But let’s not turn this into the Spanish Inquisition. Like I said Friday, don’t trust everything you see, check your sources. But on the other hand, if we, as a society lose that basic trust in each other, we are only making things worse, and will ultimately aid those who stand to profit the most from distrust. This is particularly true for those of use who belong to a minority, or two.

So let’s not. Let’s keep faith in humanity.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Have a good week!

Hans

 

Trust is great, but these days, we must be cautious about what we believe! #asmsg #amreading #LGBT

Trust is great, but these days, we must be cautious about what we believe! #asmsg #amreading #LGBT

Thinking about the content of this post kept me awake last night

This post could be about three topics:

  • The continued development of the Trump regime (and the impact on the LGBT community)
  • How gullible some people are online
  • the special responsibility LGBT artists have toward our own

Oddly, all these topics are connected, and it all started with a question from a friend online about an author of gay romance. The question is valid: “How can you write gay romance and root for Trump?” Now I understand that a LOT of people voted for Trump, including gays, lesbians, trans people etc. Naturally, I respect their decision. I may not like it, and I’ve tried hard to understand it, but ultimately, I don’t get it, because I weigh my politicians differently.

I understand that many people believe, genuinely, that Trump would make America great again. And I understand that to many of them, the loss of industrial jobs, jobs that don’t require a college education, to Asia, or Latin America made America anything but great. There are a lot of people who lost to globalization. The blame falls on both parties, Democrats and Republicans alike, since both parties favor a globalized economy. So do I btw, but politicians failed to explain how globalization works and they failed to make sure to bring their domestic work force up to speed, to improve education etc.

When I look at a political movement, there are certain things that are important for me, and at the forefront are how they respect my and other minorities’ civil and human rights. All else is irrelevant at least at first. It is the litmus test for any politician in MHO. I understand, as difficult as it may be, that to others, priorities lie elsewhere. The gay man who’s been married to a woman all his life, who has kids and who’s never really known what it truly means to come out (when his parents were still alive and could’ve ostracized him), to be a pariah; to the super rich investor from California who’ll always float above the law by virtue of his fortune, log cabin republicans etc. I get that. But when I suddenly hear about a person who makes money off the back of my people, writing books about us, and still wholeheartedly supports a regime which vilifies us, with a VP who thinks we should “better resign from jobs with god-fearing Christian companies, before we have to force you out with legislation!”, party friends who have already sued to discriminate against married LGBT couples (Texas), to just name two examples, then my tolerance ends. Yes, and I say this emphatically: said author is more than welcome to hold any conviction they may have, and to vote according to their heart’s desire. However, it doesn’t mean that I or anyone else must share their conviction or buy their books.

Because how can I support someone who so openly and without reservation supports a person who threatens the lives of my friends and family, and who surrounds himself with men (and a very few women) who vehemently fight against women’s rights, who think that blacks and Latinos aren’t worth the same as whites, and who think that the LGBT community needs to put in its right place, a regime who in less than a week has trampled on the very constitution they hold dear, issuing gag orders, vilifying the free press, ordering the destruction of sacred indigenous lands, show no respect to our planet or the environment, to just name a select few… How could I? I can’t! And I won’t.

But it doesn’t end there. And this is where it gets difficult. Again, anyone may write anything and publish whatever they like. However, I also believe in honesty, transparency, because it builds trust. I do not wish to accuse anyone, but when that same person, this Trumpista, author of gay fiction lies about who they are, then I start to ask questions. Here are just a few:

  • Why would anyone use a photoshopped picture of Kevin Spacey (!) and claim it to be them? Why indeed…
  • Why use a picture from a scientific experiment as a second picture and accept compliments for being so “handsome”? And why don’t people react, because clearly the two profile pics look nothing alike? Are y’all blind?
  • How can an author publish thirteen (!) books in less than a month? (and nothing since?)
  • How can that same author, on their profile page on Amazon write a bio and mention that they also write F/M fiction, an author who’s published ten (!) books in less than a year, yet who does not have any Facebook presence? Even though their M/M counterpart publishes many times daily? Do they not want to sell their F/M books? Why not push them as vehemently as they push their M/M books? Or their Trump convictions?
  • How likely is it that one person writes twenty-three books in sixteen months? And why doesn’t the F/M author profile mention the M/M project (which at the time was a future endeavor?)

Why would anyone photoshop a picture of actor Kevin Spacey and pretend to be that person? Why?

Lots of questions, not a single answer that I can come up with that makes sense…

I am asking questions. Who knows. There may be perfectly good and logical answers to all of this.

I have my doubts. Why? Maybe it’s because I find it so difficult to reconcile being a Trumpista with being LGBT and claiming to support our cause when you voted for a guy whose closest people absolutely despise us (Pence), want to roll back marriage equality (Pence, Carson) or even put us in camps. Said author claims to be gay and married to a man (yet their profile says “Domestic Partnership”, which never even existed in the state where they claim to live, but that’s just another detail in a story that does not add up. There’s more, but I’ll leave that for now.)

My friend’s initial question hit a nerve. The author in question suddenly suffered (within minutes after posting an outraged post) a “heart attack”, a heart attack so severe that they were released from hospital care within less than a day… A question to medical staff: what heart attack gets you out of a hospital in less than twenty-four hours? None I presume, but I might be wrong… There were so out of it that they posted gibberish online yet magically managed to change their profile and background image? Who suffers a heart attack and worries about their Facebook profile? Just asking…

What does amaze me though is how gullible people are these days, how quickly they fall for almost anything said online, taking things for granted, not asking questions. Mind you. You can accuse me of being naïve, too, at times. I’ve fallen for some pretty bad people in my life. Maybe I’ve finally learned my lesson.

And the assumption of innocence is of course always to be treated with respect. Even said author is innocent until proven guilty of lying and deceiving. All I can prove is they they lied about using a fake photo as their own.

Maybe there are perfectly good explanations about why someone would lie so blatantly. Like I wrote on Monday, some authors are forced to use pseudonyms, are forced to be in the closet. I’ve been there, I used to lie to everyone I knew. I had a pretend girlfriend, I had pretend straight sex (and bragged about it) when I was a teen. I was an expert at lying. Before I came out. Why a proud and married gay man would need to fake his profile picture is above me. The other ‘allegations’ are merely questions, because something just doesn’t add up.

This has most certainly been a most interesting week, but not a good one. People are afraid, women, blacks, Hispanics, native Americans, hell, the whole planet is holding its breath, wondering what Trump and his people will do next. And this is just a reminder to Americans: they can do infinitely more damage abroad than they could ever dream of doing domestically. Just by signing the executive order to halt all aid to women abroad he’s threatening the lives of tens of thousands of women and children!

Why writing this post? Well, trust is great. However, with all the fake news, alternative facts, falsehoods and lies being spread on a daily basis, we have to be careful about whom we trust. This example, while possibly perfectly legitimate, shows that a certain degree of “doubt” is in place, and that we have to make sure to have alternative sources to things we see or hear. Things may not always be what they appear to be, and even honest people can be duped and spread false news online. Add to that the unpleasantness of working in an industry which has seen its fair share of frauds in the past year, fake authors, plagiarism and what not. To be careful about who we trust and what we believe is only sensitive. I’ve thought hard and long about whether or not I should write about it. Maybe I’m doing myself a disservice, by asking these questions of a fellow author. But these are extraordinary times. My people are hurting. We can’t risk to be duped.

What’s your take on all this? Do you have any answers?

Have a good weekend,

Hans

This is why I’ll keep writing gay fiction until the day I’m silenced! #MondayBlogs #LGBT #amwriting #amreading

This is why I’ll keep writing gay fiction until the day I’m silenced! #MondayBlogs #LGBT #amwriting #amreading

I keep writing gay fiction because I can’t expect anyone else to fight my fights

I remember the day when my Dad asked me “do you have to keep writing gay fiction? Can’t you write a normal book?” That question, or two, encapsulates what most people think about the LGBT community (or any minority for that matter). A) they don’t like to be “constantly” reminded of our existence, because it makes them feel uneasy, b) they don’t get the struggle we’re still fighting because of a), they most likely never will, even though they might “accept” us, even love us.

The world is a complicated place, and it’s not becoming easier to understand and navigate. Globalization, the environment, human & civil rights, pick a topic, and you’ll find a group who fiercely advocates for a cause. As a gay man, I’m not a one issue person, far from it. I care about other people just as much as I care about my own family, I care about Earth because I live here, I love globalization because it brings opportunities to those who’ve been left outside for so long, but I also care about social injustice, education etc.

This list, a screenshot taken today, 1/23, says it all…

And a lot of good people care, about a great many things. I receive more petitions about changing the world to a better place than I can recall, including animal rights (I care for those, too, obviously). But, and I think this is where it becomes tricky. I have twenty-four hours at my disposal, I need nine for sleep (to function adequately as human), I work ten, usually, which leaves six hours to shower, spend time with my family, cook, clean and yeah, spend time fighting for social justice. This is not an excuse, but you can only care for so much and hopefully make a difference.

I’m an author. Words are my tool (I dislike the word weapon). So I write gay fiction. Because no one else does (no offense to my fellow writers in the LGBT area), but there are more books about engineering & transportation than for us, the only category – in fact – that is SMALLER than the LGBT area is “Test preparation”… (see image to the left) I’ve contributed a few books to that category, and I’ll continue to do so, because there are countless others who write straight books, from Harry Potter to the Twilight Zone, Misery, James Bond, the Pet Cemetery, Lord of the Rings, Fifty shades of Gray, Macbeth, Catcher in the Rye or whatever you want. All straight as fiddles. Plenty of those. Yes, I might make more money catering to that group, but I can’t.

Because if I don’t, who will? Let me exemplify with a tiny thing I noticed this past Friday, when the Americans installed a new tsar to the White House: EVERY newspaper noticed that the Obama administration’s sections on Climate Change and the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) had been removed, even foreign papers were shocked by how quickly this move had been made (while some suggested this happened with every  transition of power. I don’t know.) However, the interesting thing is that only a very select few, e.g. the Huffington Post mentioned that the LGBT section had also disappeared. Nothing of the sort in nine out of ten papers I read on the subject. NOT a word. Why? Well, I think it’s because the editors, writers and staffers at those papers, in those societies, don’t much care about LGBT issues. It’s a NON-issue, it is not on their retina, not on their mind. Simple as that. Worse, they may not want to offend their readership? I don’t know, I honestly don’t, but it’s once again reminded me, that I cannot rely on others to fight for me and my kind. It is up to me.

This next example is not meant as a reprimand to those I describe, but rather as an example of how difficult it still is, to this day, to be LGBT, or associated with us, even if you yourself, are not. I know dozens (!) of authors who use pen names, not because they carry a name that is already taken or have a name that is just horribly impossible to pronounce; no, they are afraid, legitimately so, that if others knew they wrote LGBT fiction, they’d be ostracized, they might lose their  jobs, their family, friends and social standing. Some of these people identify as LGBTIA+, a select few are open about it, most are not, most are married women with kids and day jobs, living in American suburbia, writing gay romance on the side. They are incredible allies to our cause, but even though they may be str8 as a fiddle, they are closet cases, just as I once was as a young man. Simply because of how people still regard the LGBT community and our civil rights, where it’s okay to refuse service to us because we’re gay (even healthcare in some states!), where you can be fired for being married, and where bearded men with beer bellies are forced to use the Lady’s room because they were once born with a vagina or where loving someone could land you in jail or even executed. Crazy? No, the stark reality for my kind, today! And it’s about to get a lot worse.

A couple of years ago I was labelled the “queen of unconventional happy endings” by my publisher. Rather than being insulted for being called out for my mannerisms (queens are effeminate gay men), I embraced the double entendre my publisher (she’s quite good with words herself, hence the pun and me not being insulted) meant. I made it my own, capitalizing the Queen, as there can be only one! I am proud, very proud of the books I write. I’m no Shakespeare, no Nobel Prize material here, I know that (when you write books in your seventh language and win a prize, go ahead and cast the first stone…), but it doesn’t matter. I have a readership, and my books are out there, and I don’t care if a single straight person reads them. I’m glad of course, but I want my books to be read by young boys, girls and trans people who don’t know who they are any more, once they realize that they aren’t who they thought they were; a nightmare for all of us who go through that… Kids and young adults who look for answers, and adults of my age or older who would like to be intelligently entertained and read stories that speak to them, about them.

Just yesterday, one of my readers and I were engaged in a conversation about my novel Jonathan’s Hope, and the treatment Jonathan receives at his father’s hands. Some have accused me of exaggerating, of painting a picture that is no longer true. Well, here’s what my friend  sent me:

Yes, if you have been through what John has been through, reading those chapters will undoubtedly hurt. I know that, I’ve been through some pretty bad shit myself, and so have most of my LGBT siblings. I feel very sorry for John and all my siblings who have ended up half dead and/or on the street because their parents didn’t love them. However, just as my friend told John, it does get better, eventually, and Jonathan’s Hope is a prime example of an “unconventional happy ending”, and it soothes my mind that John can look forward to two more books of hope, love and great storytelling about modern gay life, where we aren’t always the villains, always dying halfway through the story, or dying alone, miserable, missed by no one.

I have always loved Reverend Niemöller’s poem “first they came for…”, but to be honest, I think while he makes a great point, we simply have too many worthy causes and issues to worry about today to be engaged in all of them. For me, my siblings in the LGBT community always come first, and then I may look at other issues as well, such as climate change / migration (Willem of the Tafel), disability (Spanish Bay), child abuse/trafficking (The Fallen Angels of Karnataka), etc. I cannot afford to wait for someone else to assumes the mantle, not while my people are denied basic human & civil rights, or worse, are dying, every day, all around the world!

This is why, Dad, I keep writing gay fiction. Not to make money, not to achieve fame or glory, but to give a voice, hope and maybe a sliver of happiness to those who have none, in Africa, America, Asia and Europe, even if it’s but a whisper in a roaring crowd. I hope to make the world a better place, for all of us, no matter who we may be.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Have a good week!

Hans

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