Just when I thought I couldn’t write any more, inspiration struck… #AmWriting #ASMSG

Just when I thought I couldn’t write any more, inspiration struck… #AmWriting #ASMSG

Are my panic posts about my inability to write in fact a sign that my subconscious is ready to talk?

I can’t say, but I DO know that I did write my post on Monday ending it with these words:

“I know the story will write itself. Which also means, that I’ll stop writing this blog post, now, to get ready for my day.”

I had barely published the post before a string of ideas emerged, little things, big ideas, and pieces began to fall into place. So weird. I got a better sense about Martin, who he is, what he’s done etc. A second character came onto the scene, and even though I don’t know if they will end up friends or more, they’re currently talking about their lives, and I’ve managed to also resolve a weird conflict with a third character who had been there from the beginning. I’m sure I’ll get more from him, but the question is how.

Clara_Cover

I have had a mini-release, yesterday. My short story about Clara. More below

The interesting thing about “Martin” or Opus XV is that I don’t know where the book will take me. I think it’s going to be a fairly light-hearted story about old age, the ups, and downs, but nothing angsty, certainly not the way Disease was. What topics can we expect being dealt with? Well, there’s gerontophilia, the love for the elderly, which is a sensitive and still very taboo topic. But for now, it’s still a fringe topic, and I’m not sure it’ll get a more prominent space. I’ve already seen the current #MeToo discussions wiggle its way into the story, in an interesting way, although I don’t see that going very far. HIV is there, a “must” given the age of the characters. But I think mostly, two things I look forward to: Martin will at some point travel back in “time” to see if the love of his life is still alive. Not sure how that will turn out. I don’t even know if he actually is alive still. And we’ll be able to see how the relationship between Martin and Eugene evolves: friend or lover? Maybe that is the topic of the book. I’m not sure. And all the practical things to consider once you’re that age… Interesting. Can’t wait to get back to writing, but I doubt it’ll be today. I have a busy day ahead of me with my son’s Lucia recital in school, shopping, a full weekend at my mother in law’s, checking out a new car (long story) etc.

Oh, before I forget: you are still following the Rainbow Advent Calendar? It’s worth reading a free story every day of the advent countdown… And mine’s due December 24th, on Christmas Eve. I’m really pleased with Paul’s story… Don’t miss it.

Never Too Late - CoverAlso, my publisher and I have had a release this week, of an amazing anthology, called Never Too Late. Martin was inspired by the question of “LGBTQIA+ life after fifty”, and the stories in the anthology depict just that. I’m super proud of my own contribution, a short story about Clara, which loosely can be categorized as “genderqueer”. Here’s what two reviewers had to say about Clara:

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved by a story. It isn’t because the story is particularly sad. There’s some sadness in it, yes, but it is not tragic or depressing or even especially angsty. […] There are very few stories about non-binary characters. There are even fewer which are good. This one will forever have a special place in my heart because it felt so real. Right down to Clara’s presentation and sense of self, all the details were so perfect.”

“Hans Hirschi has written a story that is entertaining and touching, yes, but it’s also an excellent education in what being genderqueer/non-binary is like for Clara and others. It’s a story I’ll be recommending to anyone who tells me they don’t understand gender beyond male/female.”

Amazing reviews, and I’m glad I managed to get it right. I feel very strongly about the connection of gender identity, sexuality and gender roles. I invite you to read this amazing story and the anthology it is part of. Great authors, great stories!

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. The next issue is due next week. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a great weekend and enjoy the second advent.

Hans

PS: May I talk about Disease for just one last time? I just received another review this week, and the book has now received 36 five-star reviews on GoodReads, 27 five star reviews on Amazon and even the 3/4-star reviews are raving about the book. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a chance… You won’t regret it!

Next time I moan, here’s why: a homemaker’s rant… #family #author #amwriting #equality

Next time I moan, here’s why: a homemaker’s rant… #family #author #amwriting #equality

I moaned and my husband asked me why: tale of a homemaker

I’ve been a homemaker for almost five years. In fact, I quit my last full-time job four years and eleven months ago. Since then, I’ve been primarily using the house as a base of operations for my consulting, my teaching gigs, and writing books. With that home office advantage also comes the expectation that I should look after said home. From the get-go, we set out some rules: we’d outsource the coarse cleaning to an outside cleaner coming by every two weeks, but I’d do the daily maintenance around the house and the household.

Yeah, I bake and cook, like any good homemaker.

Yeah, I bake and cook, like any good homemaker. The baking is fun, and it’s nice to see the happy face of your child. But I don’t have the time to do it often…

As we got going, we also expected our son, and I spent the first six months with him, followed by my husband. I was still at the house then, so we were basically both home, me writing and publishing, him doing the child thing. In the four years since, we’ve slipped into this comfortable routine of getting up in the morning, me getting our son ready for school, while he gets himself presentable for work. They leave the house at 7:05 am and don’t usually return until 5:30 to 6 pm. Once they’re out of the house, my routine begins, and it consists of your typical modern “authory” things: social media, blogging, writing, editing, reading & reviewing etc. Apart from that, I also try to make a buck or two from my consultancy and training firm. I’ll be honest: I’m not making much money. My husband is pretty much the sole breadwinner of our family, and therefore, the pressure on me to at least keep the house(-hold) in ship-shape is ever increasing, and my guilt with it. Don’t get me started about my dwindling 401K…

I also empty the dishwasher in the morning, put away the dishes, do laundry, fold clothes that weren’t folded after our (shared) Sunday washing day. I clean up after our son, I prepare and cook our evening meals, I run errands to the post office, downtown and to various malls (on public transport, since my husband uses our only car for work), and I feed our cats and keep their litter box tidy. Did I mention that I also take out the garbage and refill the compost container with a new bag every Wednesday after it’s been collected? I take in the mail daily and I’m our finance minister, meaning I pay our invoices and keep tabs on our credit card spending. I book all of our trips, stay in touch with our son’s school, I book electricians, carpenters, gardeners and others who need to do work in and around the house. I’m also the legal guardian of my mother-in-law and do all of her finances. A couple of times per week I hit the gym to keep my new and improved body in ship-shape.

homemaker

The traditional image of a homemaker, a woman. Sadly, still a reality, and for the few men out there, invisibility is challenging.

Mind you, I am not complaining. I have a lot of freedom in what I do, when I do it, and how I do it. Writing is a dream come true! But I have to run after a gazillion little things without which our household would seize functioning.

Tonight, after dinner, my husband sat down in our reading corner to work some more. He’s a senior manager for the city of Gothenburg and yeah, he works a lot, often until 10 pm, several times per week. No, he’s not nearly paid enough for it. I remember, having once been an executive myself, I know the work hours of senior management. And I wonder, how did we do things back then? Not having a kid must’ve helped… Still, how did we manage?

Our son was tired and after I had gotten him to finish his dinner, he went to bed. Early. I brushed his teeth, combed his hair, helped him gargle with his mouthwash, spritzed cortisone spray up his nostrils as he’s been having difficulties with his nasal tract again, and saw him off to bed, with a fresh glass of water, and after having fluffed his comforter and pillow for him. After that, I had to empty the dishwasher from the afternoon post-baking load (see picture above. I’m trying out to create the perfect oatmeal cookie) and to put the dinner dishes in, clean the table and the kitchen countertops. You know, the usual post-dinner clean-up. At some point, looking at my husband sitting comfortably in his recliner, laptop in lap, working away, I must’ve moaned. He must’ve heard, and he asked what was wrong.

Well, my dear husband, nothing really. As the one who costs more than he brings home, I don’t have the privilege to complain, really. I work from dusk to bedtime, literally, as my jobs don’t have regular hours, maybe with the teaching exception, but even course preparations often require evening work. I miss having colleagues, people to go to lunch with every day, or brushing off every now and then, having coffee with a colleague or a meeting or two (I know, I know, who would’ve thought I’d ever say that…), but the only ones I’m usually talking to throughout the day are the cats. And the fish, on a bad day…

Being a homemaker isn't about watching daytime soaps...

Yeah, almost. Although I never breastfed our son. This is, of course, the stereotype of a housewife, but there’s a lot of truth to it. We do have a lot to juggle, every day. Being a homemaker isn’t about watching daytime soaps…

Before long, and this is why I’ve stopped complaining a long time ago (apart from the not really being allowed to), is that our marital “chore split discussions” inevitably end up in “but do you really have to… [blog/be social/talk to readers every day/go to cons/do publicity interviews/review books or read this shit/ etc.]?” And I mostly shrug, because as a management consultant, I have that VERY same conversation (unpaid mind you) with my husband every other day, about these worthless and unproductive meetings he (has to) attend (which I question, nevertheless), tasks he finds meaningless (and which I recommend he divest, but he can’t/won’t) etc.

The big difference is this: I’ve been a corporate executive. I’ve lived in his world for many years. He’s never lived in mine. He doesn’t understand the complexity of being a self-employed consultant, or an indie author in today’s publishing flux, or how much fucking time I get to waste in phone queues with hospitals/suppliers/government agencies/etc. to fix things for us, our son, or his mother.

So yes, every now and then, I moan, simply because I wonder – silently of course – what it would be like to go back to a day job, contributing financially to our family again, and to have a looong discussion with my husband about how to redistribute the household chores equally between the two of us. And I wonder, silently of course, what it would be like, having to get up even earlier, for both of us to be ready in time for a 7:05 am departure, and to come home at 6 pm night after night, getting dinner started, rather than sitting down and eating. Would I still be able to write? Would I find the time? The energy?The inspiration?

I don’t know, but yeah, these questions, too, deserve a moan every now and then because I am aware of my contribution to running our family smoothly. No thank yous (usually), no pension funds/points, but at least I know my husband and my son can focus on their days.

Author Hans M. Hirschi, photographed by Alina Oswald in Central Park, NYC. May 1, 2017.

Me, I get to let out a moan every now and then, before it’s back to work for me, too, a 1,400+ word rant on my blog, a post dedicated to the world’s silent worker, who like me, isn’t paid, doesn’t get pension points and far too little gratitude and attention: the homemaker.

Rant over.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good week.

Hans
Homemaker, father, author, consultant, teacher, former corporate (& future again?) executive

 

Labels: they really get in the way, unless… it’s just for you, and you alone! #LGBT #SAGA #diversity #equality

Labels: they really get in the way, unless… it’s just for you, and you alone! #LGBT #SAGA #diversity #equality

Labels and labeling aren’t helpful, at all, with one exception: to find yourself

“What are you, little one?”, “why can’t you be like everyone else?”, “it’s just a phase…”, “we need to see a doctor!” In this progression, many a conversation has been held around kitchen or dining room tables around the world, in many different languages. At some point, labels were used: “how can you know you’re [label]?” or “mom, dad, I’m [label]” etc. Over the years, I’ve had neverending discussions with people about our labels, who we are, what we are, and most importantly, why we are (or why we aren’t like the rest…)

Clara, my short story for the upcoming Beaten Track Anthology. Clara defies labels.

Clara, my short story for the upcoming Beaten Track Anthology “Never Too Late“, is about someone who defies labels, too. Clara is, quite simply, “a Clara”…

Labels, I find, tend to get in the way of progress, of true equality. This isn’t primarily about being LGBT, or SAGA (sexual and gender acceptance), or about “masculine” and “feminine”, although the two are closely linked, particularly when it comes to our society, and our value system. Here’s why, and I’ll give you a couple of examples to show why labels are great if you need them to find yourself, but really, really suck, when it comes to shoehorning others.

When we fall in love, or when we’re horny (or sexually attracted to someone if you prefer), a great many things are in play, procreation rarely being the focal point, no matter what they say. We are lucky to be one of the many species on this planet to actually be able to have sex and relationships for pure joy. We should make the most of it. Whether the person we are together with is procreationally compatible with us is irrelevant in nine out of ten cases. We are also lucky to live in a day and age where procreation is no longer necessarily needed to keep our societies growing (a conservative mantra usually) since there are enough kids being born as it is.

I have several friends in my circles who at some point in their lives came to the realization (although this is a lengthy – life-long (?) – process rather than a one-time revelation) they weren’t as clear-cut “male” or “female” as everyone thought, least themselves. A few of them are married, and there are plenty of cases out there which have been dragged around the media. Most people would say that two men who are married are “gay”, right? You might stretch yourself to a compromise that it is entirely possible that one, or both, might be bi-sexual, but with the lingering doubt about “why didn’t they just marry a nice girl then?” (but let’s not be bi-phobic, shall we?) But would you consider it possible that two men are married where at least one of them is straight? Both even? Yet consider this:

Adam marries Eve, Eve realizes she’s really more Steve and transitions, with all the “bells and whistles”. Since Adam really loves Steve, they stay married. So, does that mean that Adam is now gay since clearly he’s married to a guy? Or, as those awful romance books will trope it, is he merely “gay 4U”? Or is Adam still straight? Was he ever straight? Is he pansexual? Here’s the thing: labeling Adam is none of our goddamn business. We shouldn’t even ask him. We should just be happy that there’s one marriage, one relationship, that pasts the test of time and doesn’t break over something as fundamental as a trans/queer coming out.

In the case of Steve, you might say it’s clear-cut since Steve goes from being a “woman” (although was he ever?) to being a “man”, but what about Josie, who considers themselves queer, floating freely between genders, one day feeling all male and butch, the next donning make-up and a nice girly dress. They aren’t “agender”, since clearly, they embrace sometimes very stereotypical gender representations, unlike Sasha, who absolutely hate everything about their born sex and thus assigned gender and consider themselves “agender”, meaning they are neither male nor female, although, to the naked eye of the observer, the way they dress and act, may at times appear very similar to Josie. And yes, there’s the mess with pronouns which gives more people headaches than necessary. Remember this with your “they/them” friends: in 99 out of 100 times when you’d have to use the “they/them”, they will not actually be in the room to hear it – and be offended – as you’d otherwise be using the pronoun “you” in addressing them. Therefore, no need to really worry. You’ll be fine. Just try to get it right. It’s intentionally getting it wrong which is the offensive gesture. What about Josie’s and Sasha’s spouses? What would you label them?

So why do we use labels in the first place? Quite simple: we are so used to the binary system or “male” & “female” and them being straight, that everything that falls outside those categories is confusing to most. Our brain has a built-in need to understand, to categorize, to box things neatly, and that’s where labels come in handy. Problem is that labels can cause offense and be hurtful. Just imagine how Donald Trump would react to being addressed as “Mrs. Trump”, or if you’d call the Queen of England “Mr. Windsor” or “His Majesty”… Imagine yourself, if you’re cis-gendered, being labeled the opposite by a complete stranger. It would certainly sting, and you’d ask yourself “why would they say that?”, “what’s wrong with my masculinity/femininity?”, “what clue could they have misinterpreted?” and depending on who you are, you might ponder for a long time about what signals to avoid sending henceforth. It’s how we tick. Not having a label makes us uncomfortable, and we’d rather shift then discomfort on the other, rather than dealing with it ourselves. Quite egotistical really!

Alok Vaid-Menon is an example of what I'm talking about. Alok defies labels, with the exception of their beautiful name.

Alok Vaid-Menon is an example of what I’m talking about. Alok defies labels, with the exception of their beautiful name. To learn more about them, their art and their views, listen to this great podcast. Photo: Alok Vaid-Menon

The “rest” of us are quite the same. As a father, I often get to hear that “well, you’re not a mother, you couldn’t know how this feels…” to which I could say a whole bunch of things, but it just exemplifies that we attribute so much content to a specific label, regardless of whether it is true, or not, or to what extent something holds true.

I’m not saying all women are as physically strong as men, but there are a significant number of women who are significantly stronger than a significant number of men. I’m not saying that all men are better at raising kids than women, but there are a significant number of men who are significantly better at raising kids than a significant number of women.

Now replace “physically strong” & “raising kids” with anything, and you’ll get my point. Labels just aren’t helpful. They just cement our prejudice. Labels are necessary though, for ourselves, as we try to learn who we are, ourselves. The minute you realize that you’re different, “abnormal”, a “freakosaurus”, that’s when labels can help you. Whether you’re a gay boy or girl slowly walking the path from straight to gay via bi (it happens kids) or whether they stay put at bi, whether you wake up one day to realize that the body bag you’re in doesn’t quite suit who you are, and you need help to find out where on the spectrum between the poles “male” and “female” you are at home, or whether you’re an eternal wanderer. If a label helps you to find yourself, and – more importantly – others like you, then great.

I’ve used labels to describe things here, too. If you go back over the text though, you’ll realize that the only label which really fits each of the individuals above, is the one we learn when we first meet them, their name: Adam, Steve, Josie, and Sasha. And they’re beautiful labels, individually tailored to fit each and every one of those amazing human beings. The rest? None of our business really, as long as they are kind, gentle members of society.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good weekend.

Hans

 

Sexual harassment or pick-up tactics? Groping in the gay community #LGBT #MeToo #feminism

Sexual harassment or pick-up tactics? Groping in the gay community #LGBT #MeToo #feminism

“Boys will be boys”, right? Seems many of the tactics of straight men have also been used in the gay community…

Interesting days we live through, eh? I’m not even referring to the orange cheeto currently occupying the White House, although he is, of course, one of the worst offenders in terms of the whole #MeToo campaign, yet oddly, while male chauvinist pig after male chauvinist pig has been forced out of their jobs (too many to name), DOTUS himself seems to still hover unfazed, above it all. Strange times. Sexual harassment isn’t anything new of course, but the #MeToo campaign has grown into something much bigger, much larger, and it’s refreshing to see how so many millions of women around the world suddenly rise up and demand things to change for the better, at last, at long last.

From my personal vantage point, I look at this all with a certain amusement, because I don’t even get it, I don’t understand how any man would want to grab a woman by her genitals or shove his hands down her bra to give her a good squeeze. But that’s because I’m gay, and I’ve just not interested, and why would I squeeze goods I’m not interested in buying? That would be like squeezing avocados in a store just to see whether they were, in fact, ripe or not, even though you don’t like them. However, I do like men, and so it stands to reason that I might do what is done to women, but to other (gay) men? I’ll get back to that later.

The question warrants asking, because we’ve seen the stories told about other LGBT men, from disgraced Kevin Spacey to George Takei. And it made me wonder, because when “uncle George” talked about his own experiences with Howard Stern, and seemed to shrug off some allegations with “not remembering”, people were understandably upset. Yet don’t we all forget? Let me just say this with regards to my own experiences: I have met people I’ve apparently had sex with, many years later, and I had absolutely no recollection of it. That is, of course, embarrassing in that moment when you see that person again, but is just a symptom of what we think is important in our lives, and what isn’t. “What”, mind you, not necessarily “who”. Do I remember ever behaving inappropriately toward other men? In bars, discos or elsewhere? Honestly? I don’t remember. Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. I am a flawed human being like the rest of them, but unless someone specifically was to jump-start my memories, I can’t remember anything. I don’t think it’s likely though, because of my own experiences as a victim of sexual assault, rape and my deep convictions with regards to that topic. What I do remember, however, are my own experiences as a young gay man, going out, and the constant groping and touching going on in gay bars. Someone recently wrote an excellent post about this on Facebook, in response to the allegations against George Takei, and I do remember all of this going on vividly. Yes, it may have been part of the male gay community, and it may have almost been a necessity to meet people a long time ago when our entire community was reduced to sex(uality). Does that mean we still have to do things this way? I asked some gay men around me, some my age, some older, some younger, about their own experiences, and these are some of their answers:

“Things were very different for gay men in the 80s. Being groped was a regular part of my life. If I didn’t like it, I’d tell the guy to back off, but I wouldn’t make a huge deal about it. There were exceptions, such as the story I’ve told about a man pulling me into a dark room and yanking my pants down. I had to literally fight him off, and that was scary.

But things are different now. Men can’t grab at each other like they used to. People have learned more about boundaries — which is a good thing.”

Someone else had this to say, and I can sympathize with him, not to mention that I felt the same when I felt like an ugly duckling:

“When I first went clubbing in […] as a student I would be grabbed and pinched and oogled all the time. It was just how it was in gay clubs then. It may be the same I don’t know I’ve not been clubbing recently.
To be honest, having struggled with who I’d fancy and getting my head around it being men, back then I took the grabbing & pinching as a compliment because it meant *someone* fancied me; even if I didn’t wanna go to bed with them it was an option I then had unlike before.”

Here’s a comment that I know many women will recognize:

“That was a part of gay culture I hated. Being groped, pinched, fondled without permission pissed me off. Being told what a cold bitch I was for rejecting these advances made it worse.”

I wish I knew for certain that things have changed. Someone very wise said on a podcast the other day that the LGBT community suffers from more alcohol and drug abuse, is more prone to mental illness than anyone else. Given our treatment by parents, schools, workplaces, and society at large, no surprise. Sadly, where alcohol and drugs go in, sense goes out, and people act stupidly. So I’m not as optimistic as the first commenter above. But it certainly seems necessary.

I remember being subjected to all of the above, and I know for a fact that there are three decades between the first and the second commentator, so if anything’s changed, it must’ve been very recently. Some aspects of gay history and culture are unique, and they’re mostly going away (from bathhouses to sex clubs), and our more open embracing of our sexuality, or sex drive to be more accurate, isn’t a bad thing per se. I quite like having sex myself, and I quite dislike monogamy and societal rules built around religious concepts and morality. They serve no one but to oppress. We are one of the few species on the planet that can actually have sex just for enjoyment, and enjoying ourselves, feeling good is not a bad thing (don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise), quite the contrary. Happy people are more likely to be good people, helpful and honest. Suppressing our sex drive, to hide behind veils of vows of monogamy etc. will only lead to people cheating and lying to each other, from the Groper in Chief to Roy Moore and all those other men who have been caught with their pants around their ankles. And where there’s a straight man, there’s usually also a woman. It takes two to tango. Women have sex drives, too.

Here’s the point though: to have a sex drive, to embrace it, have sex with multiple partners or to merely jerk off to a good porn flick or an erotic story is all fine, but to force your needs onto others just isn’t cool. As gay men, we can’t hide behind our “oppressed” label anymore. I hated being disrespected by older gay men in clubs when I was young, and I’d hate to do the same to the young men growing up today. Mind you, I haven’t been to a club in decades (which is why I have no clue what goes on these days), but I do meet other gay men all the time, at conventions, meetings, events. And I keep my distance, physically.

There is a “pecking order” in society. We all know that age, money, job, gender, sexuality, they all give you power over others, perceived or otherwise, depending on the culture of that society. Some use that to their advantage, which is wrong. That’s the only way I can say this. However, to get to the real root issue here, we must dig deeper. MUCH deeper. Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast I listen to regularly, a podcast I was on just two weeks ago, as a guest. The guest on Monday’s recording was Alok Vaid-Menon, a trans artist, and activist. Let me just say that his words summarize most beautifully the real issues we face in our cis-gender-centered world, and if you have a half hour, I highly recommend you listen to Alok with an open mind. I’ve written about feminism in the past, and how I believe that our fate (i.e. that of the LGBT community) depends on the success of feminism, first. Alok explains why, and I don’t remember just how many times I shouted “I totally agree” while walking my miles on the treadmill, listening to him. You can find the episode right here.

Once again, a long post. My apologies. But these are important days for all of us, no matter whether we cis-identify or not, and how we act based upon that in the world that surrounds us. What is your take on all this? I’m curious to hear from you, as always.

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good weekend.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: The #MeToo campaign also reveals the dangers of #homophobia

#MondayBlogs: The #MeToo campaign also reveals the dangers of #homophobia

Why the example of Kevin Spacey and others should serve as a reminder of just how dangerous homophobia can be

No, I’m not going to excuse Mr. Spacey’s behavior, which – although not proven in a court of law – has been subject to so many young men coming forward with similar stories that we simply cannot turn a blind eye. I’m not a court, but I’m also not going to apologize for his behavior or in any way try to minimize it. What I want to point at is something else entirely, how people like Mr. Spacey (we currently have a similar example with an LGBT woman in our public broadcasting system here in Sweden, and allegations against George Takei have also surfaced) who have lived closeted most of their lives, endanger themselves and – more importantly – others, for fear of being outed.

Why would anyone be afraid of being outed?

Right! Right? Well, being LGBT is unlike being a “four-eyes” or a “redhead”, things kids were teased with when I grew up. Being LGBT can get you killed, fired, imprisoned, put in a mental institution, neutered or made homeless (to just mention a few relatively common side effects.) Even in the U.S., where gays and Lesbians can get married these days, they could also lose their jobs for it, be refused access to anything from cakes to healthcare, and the Vice President of the Republic (a closeted gay himself!) wants to hang us all… Are you sure it’s so given to come out?

Yet we should, we have to. Particularly in the countries where being LGBT isn’t illegal. But that’s not the point here today. Instead, let me go back a few years, to that fateful night of Kevin Spacey’s assault on a very young Anthony Rapp, way back in 1986. What a year that was. Remember? Reagan was president, HIV was everywhere. Rock Hudson was already dead, and people were panicking that “poor Krystle might have AIDS…” That’s the world where a much younger Kevin met a fourteen-year-old Anthony. It’s a world where Hollywood is so homophobic and so closeted (remember how Stephen on Dynasty had his boyfriend killed by his own dad, and nobody batted an eyelash? Since we’re already on Dynasty turf with Rock Hudson…) that coming out, for a young actor like Kevin Spacey, irrespectively whether it is as gay or bisexual would’ve effectively meant the end of his fledgeling career. If you look at his IMDB profile you’ll see that he was just about to get his first roles in TV and film. No young actor (in their right mind) would’ve come out. They’re still not doing it…

His behavior is inexcusable, of course (I can’t say this enough), but at least partially explainable because of the environment that LGBT people face. You can’t date openly, like everyone else, so you do it clandestinely, and some just can’t do that without stepping over the line. Ask any Republican congressman or senator who’s been caught in similar positions over the decades, either with (young) boys or with male escorts. There’s a reason why they did it clandestinely: homophobia. Because they knew that if they came out, their careers would be over: politics, business or the movie industry, doesn’t matter. Most straight actors just date ahead, no worries about tomorrow’s repercussions. Some, like senatorial candidate Roy Moore, still doesn’t care that he once dated teens. Different topic, but equally disgusting.

Over the years, things have changed, and very brave people in many countries have come out and paved the way for others, Ellen DeGeneres being one good example in the U.S. Kevin Spacey’s weird coming out (as if anyone in the LGBT community didn’t already know) last week was awkward at best, and people have said pretty much everything that needs to be said about that. Yet this is still a thing. People his generation and younger are still afraid of coming out, and that fear, that paralyzing feeling of what a coming out might do to your career, is numbing. Couple it with the immense power of stardom (or economic, political power) and you have a very toxic mix. I think the Swedish case, and as revealed over the past few days, George Takei, are all expressions of this. And for the final time, not an excuse, merely a possible explanation. Worse still, not only does their closet behavior threaten their own existence, but also that of the people around them. I don’t doubt that there was a level of attraction between the stars and their victims. I’ve been the younger man attracted (being as much of a closet case as they were) to the older, too. I wasn’t out. Heck, I wasn’t even fully aware of being gay. But my older suitors were, smelling the gay (we call it gaydar) on me. That makes young LGBT people particularly vulnerable, because they’re not only insecure about their true identity, far from accepting it, and then being preyed upon? Wow. A dangerous cocktail. I was lucky to have been treated with respect and love, but when the other person is a star, closeted and paranoid, a quick “getting their rocks off” may be the only thing on their mind, not your well-being.

I can’t know if Mr. Spacey had acted differently if he’d been straight like a fiddle, or out. Plenty of straight men (and women) who’ve acted horribly against their fellow human beings. I honestly couldn’t say. Looking at other powerful predators from the Kennedys, Donald Trump, Dominique Strauss-Kahn et al., homophobia isn’t necessary, but secrets and lies certainly aren’t helpful in situations like that. And I think in this situation, it might have made it worse… What do you think? One thing’s for sure. The #MeToo campaign better keep going until we have this mess sorted out for good, because no woman, no man deserves to be treated this way, against their will, and most certainly no minor.

It’s an unacceptable behavior to harass other people, sexually or otherwise. My take. What’s yours?

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good week.

Hans

Why writing LGBT stories doesn’t make you part of the LGBT community #amwriting #LGBT

Why writing LGBT stories doesn’t make you part of the LGBT community #amwriting #LGBT

Authors can’t expect the LGBT community to rally to their side based on faulty expectations

Let’s talk about author drama, shall we? It’s been a sad couple of weeks around me. A suicide, a (potential) suicide attempt and yet another author who decided “enough is enough”. The suicide and the author are not directly related, yet they are, in a way, as the author claimed they quit because of a lack of support and help from the others in the industry, plus a general rant about how disappointed they were by the lack of inclusiveness from what they’d thought was an “inclusive” group, the LGBT book genre. So allow me to rip off this band-aid once and for all and clarify two very important things, which people seem to get wrong:

Authors don’t owe other authors shit… We only owe readers.

Writing is a trade for most, a form of art for some. But to pay bills, we must make money. While I don’t think this necessarily makes us competitors (because I do not believe the writing cake to be finite), it is a business: we pay for cover art, editing, proofing, and we’re being paid for each sold book. Some (more and more) of us self-publish, others use intermediaries in the form of agents and publishers and share some of the profits with them.

As authors, our allegiance lies with our readers, they are our customers. And they should lie with our suppliers and co-workers within a publishing house. We are no different than any other “company”. Yes, we should be civil and respectful of each other, and we should help each other because that is how we build a better world. However, and I can’t stress this enough, 1) we can never expect others to reciprocate and 2) we most certainly shouldn’t help others with that expectation. Even my four-year-old son has already learned that lesson: you do good because it makes you feel good, not because you want good to be done back. After all, the golden rule says: treat others the way you want to be treated. It doesn’t say “treat others well to be treated well back”…

We do owe our success to our readers, whether we have one hundred or one million. They buy our books, they praise us, review us, and keep us going. They don’t owe us anything (except civility), but we owe them everything. It’s as simple as that, and if you aren’t absolutely clear about this, you need to read up on business 101.

Writing LGBT doesn’t make you LGBT

This is a bit trickier. And it has to do with the fact that the vast majority of LGBT literature is written by heterosexual women. And for the umpteenth time (before anyone gets angry and upset), there’s nothing wrong with that, per se. As a writer of […], you are a member of the […] writing guild/community. Writing a novel about black people doesn’t make a white person black, and writing romance about two men fucking their way to their HEA doesn’t make you a member of the LGBT community. Sorry if this comes as a surprise or shock, but it doesn’t. So to rant about a lack of support and how disappointed you are by the lack of inclusiveness is pointless. Allow me to exemplify: last summer, after publishing my book about a gay Sami man and his journey back to his roots, I expressed interest in attending a Sami Pride event in Finland. I was ready and willing to fly there on my own expense to participate and learn more about where the Sami LGBT community is at and where it’s heading. I wasn’t welcome. I’ll grant you, that stung quite a bit at first, but I understand. I’m not Sami, and they wanted a safe space to be among others who have the same experiences, the same background.

The LGBT community is not more inclusive than any other group

This is hopefully not coming as a shock to anyone, but it needs to be said out loud every now and then. Being gay, Lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer or intersex doesn’t make us better human beings. It makes us a bit different than most others, but neither better nor worse. Just different. When people think that we should be more inclusive just because we’ve evolved to include more letters over the decades, you’re naïve at best. I’d probably use different words to describe such an expectation. Because it shows a level of ignorance about not even knowing what got yourself into writing about us. The LGBT community has always been at each other’s throats, just as any other group that comes together to fight for a common goal: G’s fighting with L’s over partying v political activism, G’s and L’s fighting with B’s over having it both ways (literally) and not making up their minds, G’s and L’s accusing T’s of treason to their own kind, and giving in to the het majority. This is a coarse oversimplification to make a specific point, but all of these arguments were used at times before we realized it was a lot more complicated, and long before we huddled together after we had realized that only together were we truly strong. We’re human beings, flawed, learning, making mistakes.

We still fight, we still struggle, and we still don’t agree over whether e.g. asexuals and aromantics are part of the community. We struggle, we fight. A lot. And like any community, we need borders to exist, to define what we are, and what we’re not. It’s the very core definition of a community. And therefore for as much inclusivity as we show, and while I agree that the rainbow flag is a symbol of universal love, not everyone can be part of the community, and heterosexuals just aren’t. They’re the oppressors, they’re the ones who put all the legislation on the books making us illegal, putting death sentences over our heads, discriminating against us. Can they be supporters? Absolutely! Allies? Yes. But not part of. Hopefully, one day, we’ll no longer see discrimination, then we may no longer need the LGBT community. We’re not there. Far from it.

Writing gay romance doesn’t make you LGBT

So, in closing. If you write about two boys going at it in your books, that is great. If you do so with an open mind, do your research and don’t write (physically) impossible sex, you can keep your phantasies of HEA, of Santorum- & pain-free anal sex, of Mpreg, gay-for-you, monogamy and whatever else you think will tickle the bones of your readers. But no, unless you are LGBT, you’re not a member of the LGBT community. There are more and more LGBT members writing our stories: trans men, trans women, gay men and Lesbians, bisexuals and intersex individuals. For the most part, their stories will invariably be different, over time, focusing on the grim reality of our existence, and they may not always have a HEA.

So why does this creep up again and again?

Over the years, I’ve met quite a few authors and readers of “gay romance” who felt victimized, felt as if they didn’t belong to the “het majority” for many individual reasons. Some actually turned out to be LGBT and have since come out, some struggle with mental disease, some struggle with self-esteem & body issues, and they all have in common that our society, as a whole, isn’t very forgiving if you’re not a size two or smaller, with huge pointy breasts and a Stepford wife behavior. To read is an escape, to read fluffy romance is a great escape, to read about two hunks humping a great way to get your rocks off. I know of people who read gay non-con (aka rape) erotica to exert some sort of mental revenge on their own male assailants. They relish the pain, the anguish unleashed on those poor fictional boys, over and over again. I understand all that, and I think it’s great. Whatever helps. Certainly beats unleashing that revenge on real boys…

But you’re still straight, you’re not illegal. You don’t risk jail or a death penalty for loving who you love. You can get married (or not), your choice. You don’t risk losing your job, you don’t risk being turned away from a business or a hospital because of who you are. You can go to the bathroom without being jailed or ridiculed. You don’t need to be sterilized before having sex reassignment surgery. Because of all those risks, mental health issues are rampant within the LGBT community, suicide rates a lot higher than in society in general. Our gut reaction when we first realize we’re “not like everyone else” is depression, anxiety, fear. We want to change, we strive to change, would give almost anything to change, to be straight, to be like the rest. To belong. Been there, done that, carry the scars. For many of us, depression and suicidal thoughts are going to be constant companions throughout the rest of our lives.

Straight people suffer from mental disease, too. They suffer from horrible losses and have their lives thrown for loops, too. The reasons may be different, the reactions similar. Now picture this: LGBT people have that, too, on top of everything else. Our parents die, our siblings fall sick, friends have accidents etc. And we suffer even more, on top of everything else.

As authors, LGBT or not, as fellow human beings, we offer our sympathy, we help our friends, but there is only so much we can do for colleagues in the industry, readers, people we barely know. As authors with thousands of “friends” (which aren’t real friends, make no mistake) online, we can only do so much. We have our own families, real friends, our own lives to look after. You just cannot expect help. That’s society’s task. That’s where you need to get help.

I’m sorry if people in the LGBT writing space feel disappointed that the LGBT community doesn’t rally to help them in their time of need. But the change needs to happen elsewhere. You just can’t expect an oppressed minority to carry the weight of the world, you can’t. It’s not fair, not to you, not to us. Instead, build a support system around you that is based on real friends, people you can rely on, no matter who they are.

What is your take? Am I wrong? Let’s hear it. This is something I’ve struggled with myself for a long time, and I finally had this “epiphany” over the weekend, about why there are so many misconceptions within the LGBT writing (I refuse to use the two-letter acronym) industry. Am I onto something or is my brain out on “thin ice”? It would hardly be the first time… LOL

If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a good week.

Hans