#MondayBlogs: the difference between a pen name and a false identity. Kathryn Perez, a case study #amwriting #LGBT

#MondayBlogs: the difference between a pen name and a false identity. Kathryn Perez, a case study #amwriting #LGBT

When authors take their “pen name” to criminal lengths…

Dear Kathryn!

Can I call you Kathryn? I know you prefer to be addressed as Byron Rider these days, but for now I’ll just call you Kathryn, Kathryn Perez. I know you’ve written some het books under the pen name Cait Perez, there’s even a website (for now) with all your personal pictures, including your full name and address. You don’t have to take the site down. We have screen shots of it all. So far so good. You then decided to write M/M books. That is fine. You’re NOT the only one, far from it.

But you couldn’t just take a pen name and run with it, like so many of my friends. You couldn’t just settle for a pen name that was gender ambiguous, no, you went all out, for a male pseudonym. That’s fine, too, some of my female author friends did that, too. But you took it several steps further:

You “stole” images and pretended for them to be you (from the BBC, including in the one video that is still on YouTube), from Kevin Spacey until you finally, a couple of days ago, went all out, painted a beard on your face and recorded a video with a distorted male voice. That video has since been removed. But many of us have screen captures.

This face isn’t yours. It’s what a man from Dundee, Scotland would look like if he was made up from all men there. Source: BBC

Why would anyone photoshop a picture of actor Kevin Spacey and pretend to be that person? Why? Kathryn, only you know why! I doubt Kevin would be pleased, if he knew…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the real you, with those glasses we know so well from the “real” you, Kathryn:

Rule #1 in deception & impersonation: take off your glasses, Kathryn!

To paint a beard on your face (in case you forgot, the inset picture is from your deleted YouTube video), hide your bangs and your long hair under a baseball cap and wearing your husband Hector’s shirt won’t cut it.

Now, you may wonder why I’m so invested in your case. Allow me to explain. I have no qualms with authors using pen names, quite the contrary. I understand, as a real gay man, what discrimination means. I know the price of being gay, of your books not being sold in mainstream stores, of readers not picking up your books because “but I’m not gay…” (I can only imagine what my teachers would’ve said if I’d refused to read Shakespeare with the words “but I’m not straight!”) Not that I’m as good as Shakespeare, just saying.

I understand that many of the men & women writing in the LGBT space are not out to their families, places of work or their congregations, and they know what would happen if they did. I also understand that there are many other reasons to have a pen name, the simplest one being: because I want to. That is fine, too.

As an author, I am also intimately aware that we want to distance ourselves from our books, our characters. And I understand that readers, reviewers and literary researchers try to look for “us”, our essence, in our work. I understand that, too. Not that I think it’s right, or even necessary, but it is what it is. I’ve written about both pen names, and our right to be anonymous.

No, you’re not a MAN, No, you’re not a GAY MAN, 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 speak English…

But what you do, dear Kathryn, is different. You pretend to be a man, not just by name, you also chose the male pronoun on your (once again deleted Facebook profiles), unlike the honest authors. You posted this (image to the right) on Facebook when people realized you were fake, a fraud:

But no Kathryn, you’re clearly not a man. You’re clearly not gay. You are married to Hector Perez and you have a lovely daughter. Now, I can’t be sure that you’re not a trans person deep inside, but that is an entirely different animal. If you were, you probably wouldn’t go to such lengths to lie about who you are and basically paint what amounts to a trans “blackface” on you. I have trans friends, and I know of their pain, their suffering, and I can tell you that the trans friends who’ve learned about you are as appalled and disturbed by your behavior as your straight (former) fans/readers, and the authors in the LGBT space.

Byron Rider is dead, or not? Like Jesus “he”‘s risen from the grave.

Sadly, your deception goes further. In a hissy fit after my original post a couple of months ago, you faked your death. Yes, you died, online, for everyone to see, and you posted an obituary, complete with fake ID’s and stolen images. Do you understand that this constitutes identity theft? Do you realize this is illegal?

From what I understand, you are a teacher at a small community college in Houston, you live in Pasadena, TX. This information is publicly available on your website and your LinkedIn profile.

Although, do you really hold a PhD like you claim on LinkedIn? Your employer seems to disagree on their official page on you. A master’s degree is no PhD Kathryn. Seems you pathological lying extends into your profession, too? If I had a doctorate in philosophy, I’d want that to be reflected on my school’s website… Just saying.

The image you stole if that of a fellow teaching colleague of yours. Does he know? What does he say about this? What does the college think that you manipulate their staff ID’s? That you abuse their name to further your sick plotting and to fake your death?

To fake your death the way you did is probably not a breach of the law itself, but boy is it stupid. And to die and resurrect? Yes, there are many deaths (another one of your amazing lies), but you are no Jesus my friend. Quite the contrary. Thou shalt not lie!

But that’s not it, is is? In my original post about you, I asked about your books. I have never read a Byron Rider or Cait Perez book. But you published more than ten books in less than a month, more than twenty in eleven months, and I think the question is valid: when and how did you write this much? Aren’t you a teacher?

More than that: most authors can’t wait to publish their books ASAP. Nothing is more painful than having to wait for months and years to see them out. Besides, you lose income, which I understand from a now deleted blog post, is very important to you. I don’t know if you plagiarized those books, but given that everything else about you is fake? The question must be asked. Your covers, not the most artistic ones I’ve seen, are easier to check. I don’t have the time to go through all your books, but someone at Amazon should, because I’ve found this cover of yours:

This is one of your covers, right? And the image is taken straight from a screen shot of a room used in the movie Fifty Shades of Gray.

You do understand that this picture is taken from a movie? All I had to do was do an image search to find the results. Anybody can do that. Do you have the rights to use it? Do you pay royalties to the rights owners of Fifty Shades of Gray?

Having been in the publishing industry for many years, I find it difficult to believe. Given how tacky and amateurish your covers generally are, I doubt you’ll pay potentially thousands of dollars to use such a picture. Provided the makers of a straight BDSM movie would even want to be associated with the author of gay writing… As a gay man, my real-life experience is that they probably wouldn’t. Who wants “a million moms” boycotting their picture?

You do understand that “downloading” images from Google to use in your artwork is illegal? What about your other covers?

Unfortunately, only the people at the studio who hold the copyright can ask Amazon to take action, but someone should look at all your book covers, and double check the actual stories, to see where those images and the texts came from. Maybe someone who reads this knows someone at Amazon?

I’m sure you think this is unfair, you probably feel persecuted. Welcome to the life of being LGBT, a world you don’t seem to understand, at all. Your political views, legitimate of course, as a fervent Trump supporter, puts you at odds with the LGBT community and our allies, a community you try to make money from; therefore you have to accept to be questioned. Just like Milo Yiannopoulos. You remember what happened to him…

On your website you titled yourself “gay lifestyle author”. Dear Kathryn, being gay is not a lifestyle. It’s not a choice, like choosing a criminal lifestyle, but I understand that you don’t understand that. I cannot not be gay, as little as an ostrich can take flight. I’m still human, the ostrich still a bird, but we have no choice. The one person who has a choice, is you.

If you wish to continue to write M/M books, you’re welcome to do so. But here are a couple of tips:

  • apologize. You’ve hurt so many people, from readers to authors!
  • stay away from stolen imagery, for yourself or your covers
  • ask a proper cover designer to help you, get editors and proof readers to polish your work
  • don’t fake being a man, heart attacks and deaths. It’s illegal and you hurt the feelings of many in the trans community, not to mention you insult the intelligence of  the people you expect to read your books.
  • don’t fake IDs (you’re faculty, not a student, and at 55, old enough to buy booze)
  • don’t threaten authors and readers. That’s generally a bad idea. We are a small community, and most of us know each other, or we certainly know someone who does knows. You can’t hide.

Are you a joke? Given how amateurish you act (your real name and residential address online for everyone to see, the idiotic parody with the painted beard and slow-play video to “fix” the voice), I’ve asked myself the question if this is all a big hoax, you know like the documentary with a loony Joaquin Phoenix. Yet I wonder, given your many mistakes, are you smart enough? Are you ill?

You know, and as a psychologist you should know this, sometimes people do bad things so badly, because they secretly are crying for help, they want to be found out. Is that you Kathryn? If so, I hope that someone contacts your employer, the San Jacinto College in Houston, where you teach – how ironic – psychology… As a father I am concerned that someone who clearly isn’t well, is teaching our children. They may be adults, but yeah, they’re still vulnerable at that tender age of eighteen, nineteen… Do they know about all the sick things you’ve done? Does your college support your views? Does Dr. Brenda Hellyer know? Maybe she should? I’m sure there is a policy of honesty and integrity as a faculty member there.

Personally, I have nothing to gain from exposing you. Quite the contrary. This is taking up far too much of my time, and the time of countless others. But I have no choice. You are hurting my friends, and my community, and you are a blemish, a shame for LGBT literature, and all those authors who work their asses off to get published, combining day jobs and writing at night. You’re hurting readers who’ve purchased your books in the honest belief you were who you said you were, Byron Rider.

I don’t sell a single extra book because of this, quite the contrary. All of us authors are risking to sell less, because how do people know who’s genuine and who’s fake? You’re not the first catphishing author, Kathryn, and most likely not the last fraud either. I love my industry, and the amazing stories we produce, stories that empower young LGBT youths to see that there is real hope for them, hope of happiness later in life, stories that empower men, women, trans, gender fluid and agender persons around the world to be the best human beings they can be. I am proud of what we do! Finally, a big thank you to all those who’ve contributed to this post, through research etc. No one mentioned, no one forgotten. I know who you are. Thanks!

So please, Kathryn, go get help! If not for my sake, or the sake of the tight-knit LGBT writing/reading community, get help for the sake of your husband Hector, and your daughter Angela. They deserve a healthy, happy spouse and mother, don’t you think?

Have a wonderful week,

Hans M Hirschi, gay man & author of gay fiction

PS: 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.

 

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.

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

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