#MondayBlogs: authors and political agendas. We are citizens, too! #amwriting #asmsg

#MondayBlogs: authors and political agendas. We are citizens, too! #amwriting #asmsg

Authors participate in political debates on the same basis as everyone else, but our tools may be different

I’ve been reading articles in papers recommending books to read for the summer, and I find them to be all over the place. There’s the light read, a crime novel or a thriller, suitable to drag along when you’re going to the beach, there’s the biography of this or that accomplished man (usually), then there are the heavy reads about precarious life journeys usually based on reality: difficult childhoods, substance abuse, sexual abuse and what not, and an interesting category: political essays about this or that.

This book isn't about politics per se, but it's political nonetheless, as issues like child abuse, trafficking and slavery are debated. I'm shining a light on issues the LGBT community usually doesn't.

This book isn’t about politics per se, but it’s political nonetheless, as issues like child abuse, trafficking and slavery are debated. I’m shining a light on issues the LGBT community usually doesn’t.

Authors have always written about society in one way or another. We comment, we reflect, but most importantly, we put up this mirror, for people to see themselves in. This weekend, I’ll be in Berlin, attending an author-reader conference, and the one panel I’m doing is about how politics influences writing. Mind you, most of the authors who attend the con are romance writers, and that is maybe the one genre where politics is absent from, probably by design. Romances are about escapism, to make you feel good, and politics, well, is almost an antidote to feeling good these days.

Which is odd. Half a century into my life, I have seen six decades and seen a great deal of stability. When I was born, the war between the west and the east was cold, but things were stable. We did well, economically, as I grew up. Politicians were boring men who mostly seemed to actually care about the well-being of their countries. They seemed to work, honestly for the betterment of society and humanity. Or maybe I was just naïve? When I turned eighteen, the cold war suddenly ended and Reagan and Gorbachev almost did away with nuclear arms after that summit in Reykjavík. When I was twenty-two, the Berlin Wall came down and suddenly, it seemed as if wars were going out of fashion. The Kuwait war seemed to prove that theory. The world, united, fought against a tyrant and defeated him. Then came the wars in Yugoslavia and we began to wonder, is this just the way things are slowly settling down into this new world order? But alas, we quickly began to realize that we’d indeed been short-sighted, naïve. All over the world, war was still raging, people still fighting, and ever new fronts were opening up, from Sudan to Eritrea, the Philippines, all across the Middle East and finally, in 2001, hitting at the heart of the western world, with the attacks on 9/11.

Through all this, the “West”, reunited with Eastern Europe and a more benign Russia, seemed to be stable. The “enemy” was suddenly Islamic terror, and warlords in faraway lands, no longer the evil empire to the east. How wrong we were, and how little we understood just how fragile this bright, new world order was. Suddenly people are questioning the “raison d’être” of the EU, who’s kept the peace in Europe for six decades and running, Poland and Hungary are run by fascistoid governments, France’s historical political parties are all but extinguished after the recent parliamentary election, the U.K. is in turmoil about which way it wants to go, and the heart of the western world has ceased to beat, with a regime combining one man’s sociopathic need for self-praise with a fascist slogan from WWII (America First), while society is so deeply divided that most people cease to even watch/read the news. I look at the past few years in politics and wonder: WTF?

 

Family Ties depicts a family in crisis, one gay, one straight. Highly political as it showcases just how normal, the unusual can be.

Family Ties depicts a family in crisis, one gay, one straight. Highly political as it showcases just how normal, the unusual can be.

As a minority author, I could, of course, depict this grand picture. I could write political thrillers about the state of the world. But I leave that to others. I find reality exciting enough. My mission is still a political one though. Who I am is still not fully embraced by our societies, not even one as liberal as my own. I might not get a job because of who I am. Never mind that it’s illegal to discriminate, but how do you know? And even if you were to know, how do you prove it? My husband and I may be the legal parents and guardians of our son, but every day we see how society (papers, TV, radio, etc.) refers to parenting as a function of primarily motherhood, trying to engage fathers more. Whenever, wherever my husband, my son and I go, we see the glances, the stares. Yes, we’re not a common occurrence. Neither are red heads, but people rarely stare at them.

 

And for as long as we are somehow “special”, “unusual”, and “uncommon”, that’s how long I’ll be writing about us, and my point isn’t to make us something else. Quite the contrary, our struggles, our fears, our fights, our vacations, our everyday lives are just as exciting, just as mundane as everyone else’s. That’s what I aim to show society. To my own LGBT siblings, my gay brethren, particularly the young ones, I aim to show that we are everybody, that we can be anything we want, do anything we want. We can be successful, we can fail. Most importantly, our intrinsic human value will always be the same as everyone else’s. This may not be politically opportune, but it’s my ongoing contribution to make my society, my world, a better place. In this, I am like most other authors, don’t you think?

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 this Thursday. Interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. Have a wonderful week. This Friday will mark the final post before my summer break. I don’t know when or how I’ll be able to blog. Maybe I’ll write something about our vacation. We’ll see. On Friday, I’ll talk more about the upcoming convention in Berlin.

Thanks,

Hans

#MondayBlogs: Why restricting the Internet won’t solve anything, Ms May! #FreedomOfSpeech #democracy

#MondayBlogs: Why restricting the Internet won’t solve anything, Ms May! #FreedomOfSpeech #democracy

Politicians have always been tempted to restrict free speech, now more than ever, they’re after the Internet

Another terror attack. It won’t be the last, and the person ultimately responsible, British PM Theresa May, who was Secretary of the Interior for six years, above other things sacking 20,000 police officers, now wants to restrict the use of the Internet. As usual with such requests and demands, the way this is said is sweeping and not very concrete. We don’t really know what they want to achieve, and how. The Tories claim this is to make Britain and the world a safer place, to hunt and prosecute terrorists, but knowing politicians, I have my doubts.

In 2005, Tony Blair (from the “other” British party) restricted the use of e.g. hoodies in public places and they introduced a sweeping crime they called “anti-social behavior”, leading to the police being able to arrest people for all kinds of things deemed going against the social order of the U.K. Did the country become better? Safer? No, quite the contrary. I use this particular example because this isn’t something restricted to conservative parties.

All politicians dislike opposition. Power corrupts, I’m sure you’ve heard that before. And Ms. May, like her colleagues around the world, dislikes being criticized. I don’t know how she ticks, why she acts the way she does, but she certainly appears less like the leader of a democratic country and more like a despot “my way or the highway” in her approach to her own people and Europe (who ought to be Britain’s closest friends). Her latest proposals to limit what we can do and say on the Internet is worrying. The proposal in the Tory manifesto are sweeping, and in her speech after the most recent attacks, scary. Why?

Why?

I sometimes write about politics in my books (and this blog), and in Willem of the Tafel, it’s both about climate change, and racism. My struggle to keep our speech “free” is personal. As a gay writer, my words are despised by large groups, and books have been burned throughout history.

Yes, terrorists use the web. They use it to spread propaganda, recruit new morons to follow in their path etc. BUT, the Internet is only a conduit. Just like the phone or a car. Despite trucks having been used for several terror attacks, I’ve yet to see a cry to limit the use of trucks in society. So why limit the use of the Internet? This isn’t about terror. This is about the media. This is about the opposition. Sadly, had the other party been in power, we may have seen similar spearhead ideas. Politicians dislike to be criticized, they dislike having the media scrutinize their doing. Have you watched House of Cards? I’m currently watching season 5, and despite the fact that the Underwoods are crooks, criminals and even killers (at least he is), I find myself rooting for him. The anti-hero is the journalist who tries to find the truth about the murder in season 1. I find myself wishing that he’ll fail, even though I should want to be grateful for his work, tirelessly trying to find clues to what really happened to the poor woman before she died in a subway.

No, I’m not saying politicians are murderers. Not at all, but they all dislike criticism, and they all dislike media who digs and finds our dirty little secrets about them. That is true for your local mayor or councilor as much as it is for 45 and his constant ramblings about “fake news”. The media has one single job: to inform the public and make sure to keep the government on their toes, on a straight and narrow path. We live in a day and age where this has become difficult. Papers have hardly any journalists left working and actually doing the digging, they have people on staff who cut and paste from press releases. Instead, many journalists now work for e.g. companies, cities, and governments, feeding ready-made articles, perfectly written, but hardly unbiased, to the media. This makes it very challenging reading the news. But it’s all we have. We, as individuals, have no chance to keep a watch on our own government.

It’s important

But we have to be vigilant. Power DOES corrupt, and any politician, any human really, who goes unchecked in a position of power, will be tempted to abuse that power. A Theresa May who isn’t questioned, who gets to spread her view of the world unchecked would find it a lot easier to win elections, again, and again. She would find it a lot easier to find support for her ideas. And by being able to monitor and restrict (how we don’t know) the use of the Internet would make it easier to shut down the opposition.

But it would stop terrorists, too!

Sadly it wouldn’t. Criminals don’t care about laws. It’s illegal to possess arms in most Western civilized societies. Criminals still have access to them. And the Internet isn’t just the Facebook, Google and other places we visit, corporate websites and video streaming that you and I use. There’s also a darknet, a place I wouldn’t even know how to access. It’s the illegal part of the Internet, and because it already is illegal, no regulation on the planet will stop it. And the more restricted access and use of “our” web is, the more it’ll drive people underground, to places where we don’t go. Instead, we need to become better at monitoring. We need to have our secret services and intelligence community do a much better job at monitoring terrorists and for that they need resources. Limiting the use of the web makes it more difficult to use the web AS a resource. And we have to make sure that the intelligence services are under democratic control, or they’ll be used against us in time, too. No, I’m not prone to conspiracy theories, but secrecy is rarely conducive to democracy…

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how to fix terrorism. The roots to the injustices these young people feel so strongly about that they take up arms and blow themselves and others to the high heavens are old, some go back two millennia, some are much more recent, like the Gulf or Afghani wars. Not to mention how we have treated our social welfare in the west, leaving generations of young people behind. Injustice breeds injustice. But to fix that will take time.

What is your take? Do you feel comfortable with proposals to restrict the use of the Internet? Do you have ideas on how to fix things? Your views are welcome.

Have a good week. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

I can’t even write a wedding without politics getting involved #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

I can’t even write a wedding without politics getting involved #amwriting #asmsg #LGBT

I wrote a wedding scene. A beautiful one. Then I had to re-write it

I’m in the editing mode of my latest WIP “disease”. I finished the first rough draft yesterday and went back to the beginning, reading through it again, adding bits here and there, checking the time line etc. There is a wedding scene in the book (two actually), and I really like it. Only it doesn’t work. Insert colorful expletive here. Because here’s the problem, allow me to demonstrate:

A straight writer writes straight wedding scene:

  1. write couple
  2. write officiant
  3. write scene
  4. move on to next scene

A gay writer writes gay wedding scene:

  1. write couple
  2. write officiant
  3. write scene
  4. wait, hang on, could we get married in that geography? At that point in time? What sort of “marriage” could we get?
  5. [colorful expletives] as extensive research begins
  6. research concluded, delete the scene, start over

I wrote this beautiful wedding scene, right here, in the town of Amalfi in southern Italy, when… Photo: Max Pixel, Creative Commons Zero

I’m not joking, and this is just a tiny morsel of the complications of writing LGBT fiction. We are in a constant battle to keep up with legislation, this ever-changing monstrosity where one day we’re granted civil rights only to be hauled off to execution camps the next, re Chechnya. The couple in my new book get married, only they don’t, as I had to painfully realize today, because of where I later placed them in world geography, I blame it on 5th Avenue, a geography that did not allow them to get married until Obergefell two years ago. So, back to the drawing board, research your state legislation, and find a way to rewrite the scene so that it matched not only the legal requirements I needed in terms of what I was aiming at later in the story, preserving the emotion of that scene while still being historically accurate. I’m telling you, being a gay writer sucks at times! And this is just one aspect.

I just had another long discussion about why relationship (or romantic) stories are so popular with the gay community (at least those of us who read), and why our “need” as gay men is different from the expectation of a straight female reader. Women reading gay romance do it primarily as an escape, a nice fantasy to escape to without the stereotype role models still largely at play in het romance (damsel in distress, alpha male to the rescue type). For us, romance isn’t an escape, it’s a possibility. Does that make sense? For eons, and way into the 1980s, the expectation we had on gay characters in novels was to die, often horrific deaths. We were the villain or the misunderstood freakshow of movies and books. We died. Best that could happen to us, along the lines of the old adage “only a dead Indian is a good Indian”.

Alex and I tied the knot in 2004 and saw our "partnership" upgraded to a marriage in 2009. The first five years remain unrecognized by t.he state. 

Alex and I tied the knot in 2004 and saw our “partnership” upgraded to a marriage in 2009. The first five years remain unrecognized by t.he state. 

As recognition of the fact that we had a heart and a soul began to root itself in society, and our struggle for equality began, so began our thirst for new stories, more hopeful stories. We wanted to read about us getting married, having families, children (or not), and to be happy. It was no longer a fantasy (which we wouldn’t have read because that would’ve been too cruel), but a possibility, a hope, something that might actually come to fruition. Do you see the difference? To us, reading about love and relationships is not about escaping reality for a few hours in the comfort of a good book, it’s about our future, a distinct possibility, a reality even for many of us. I hope that makes sense.

To exemplify the rapid changes, what about this. In this country, the royal court would send out greetings cards to centennials and couples married for sixty years or more, a diamond jubilee. By the time Alex and I get our card from His Majesty (or Her Majesty presumably), we would have been married for sixty-five years. Why? Because the first five years were a “civil union” and thus not recognized as marriage to this day. Not that I care much for a postcard from Stockholm, but still… The discrimination lives on.

Anyway, I will have to spend the next days and weeks editing my story, and hopefully, make it work. But today was a sad day, realizing that my beautiful wedding scene was just “pretend”. [Final colorful expletive] I feel very sorry for my two characters, and I may yet have to find a way to make it up to them…

Have a good weekend. If you like my writing, feel free to subscribe to my monthly newsletter (top right on this page) with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram. I’m also gratefully accepting donations of any size from fans (see top right on the page).

Thanks,

Hans

 

 

Why am I doing this? I can’t be the money. I saw my royalty statement… #amwriting #author #LGBT #asmsg

Why am I doing this? I can’t be the money. I saw my royalty statement… #amwriting #author #LGBT #asmsg

My annual royalty statement is a disappointment, although not much worse than last year’s

My publisher had a little surprise for me yesterday. My annual royalty statement. Now I get my statements (and payments) from Amazon every month, but since I only have one 99c title left, there’s never more than cents trickling through. All my other books (novels and my short stories) are published by Beaten Track Publishing. I’d been sent the Q1 statement but had long ago forgotten about it (repressed?) When I got my statement, at first I was glad, the numbers looked nice. I’d sold more than I thought.

But then I went back and looked at my Excel file, compared numbers to 2015. I’d done a BookBub (lucky me?) then and managed to get over 15K copies out to people. Sadly, it didn’t help me at all with my sales. So discounting that, I’d sold about three books per day in 2015. In 2016, the numbers shrunk, Q1 was still okay, but the rest of the year? Overall, I didn’t even sell two books daily. Yeah, that won’t pay any invoices for sure. I got an invoice for an ad in a literary magazine this morning. It’s almost the same amount as my royalty payment for last year. It’s the fourth time I pay that amount… Or you could compare it to one of my five installments for my GRL sponsorship, or the fact that it’s less than I pay for my B&B this weekend in New York.

Which makes you wonder: WhyTF am I doing this? Why am I still investing in trying to sell my books since obviously so few people buy them? One thing’s for sure, it’s not the financial aspects, it’s not because I get rich. The genre I write in (LGBT) and the fact that I’m not writing (fluffy) romance, were originally not conscious decisions, but still.

My latest novel, one I’m particularly proud of.

Okay, rant over! 🙂 Luckily, I only get this reminder once a year. LOL If I look at my Amazon author profile, I can still see that there are millions of authors who sell less than I, and they obviously make even less than I. Readership is decreasing, piracy is increasing, and I would just like to add this to the thirty or so who will read this post: please don’t pirate books. It’s not just about the theft of our hard labor. It’s also about cyber security. When you get something for free (like a book or a movie), don’t fool yourself into believing you get it for free. You’ll also get malware, trojan horses and what not, used by really bad people in DDOS attacks or to spy on you or others. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Just remember that!

Will I see you tomorrow?

So, as crazy and as much of a waste of money it is, I’m flying to New York today, to participate in the Rainbow Book Fair (provided I get into the country tonight…) From noon tomorrow Saturday until six p.m. hopefully thousands of visitors will browse books and talk to us authors, maybe even listen to a reading. I’ll be reading from my latest novel Last Winter’s Snow. I just need to finalize the selection. If you are in the tri-state area, please consider a visit to New York. To set up a book fair like that isn’t easy work, and relies on a great many people’s hard (unpaid) work. See you there?

I’ll keep writing. When I read about the horrible situation in Chechnya, where the leadership under Ramzan Kadyrov promises to exterminate (!!!) the entire LGBT population before the end of May (when Ramadan will begin), my blood freezes in my veins. We haven’t seen this sort of persecution since World War II and the recent killings in Uganda. But I also see how priests in the U.S. want to see us killed, how LGBT rights are questioned even where progress has been made. I see the beautiful images on my Dubai screen saver (compliments Apple), yet I know I can never go there with my family, as the very existence of my family is punishable by death! Just imagine that. So no, no Dubai for me. But i will keep fighting for my siblings, whether they’re gay, bi, lesbian, trans or intersex, queer or otherwise, for our right to happiness, our human and civil rights. I fight for myself, and for my son, for his right to grow up into a better world than the one I grew up in.

There is no amount of money you can place on human rights, so I’ll keep fighting, even though I lose ten to fifteen dollars for every buck I make. #ImWorthIt #Resist

Have a wonderful weekend, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: politics and writing. Inevitable? Necessary? A nuisance? #amwriting #amreading

#MondayBlogs: politics and writing. Inevitable? Necessary? A nuisance? #amwriting #amreading

Politics and writing: soon I’ll have to be a panelist on the subject

It’s certainly an interesting topic, and I’m glad the organizers of the upcoming EuroPride Con have asked me to be one of three panelists on the topic. The question they’re asking is: “How do politics influence fiction?” The question assumes a foregone conclusion that there is such an influence. I agree. But yeah, how?

Will I see you in Berlin? There will be lots more to discuss!

If you look at writing historically, it’s always been a reflection of politics, starting with the ancient Greek dramas and on to operas and plays that were written in the last century. Shakespeare’s plays are excellent examples, not because they use real kings, but because these kings served as examples what happened if/when the prince didn’t serve his people. In societies where freedom of speech was an unknown, the arts were often used to tell stories that might serve as admonishment of the political class. But today?

We can say whatever we want, whenever we want. Freely. At least in our western societies. Does writing still fill that purpose? The answer is of course the one you’d expect from me: it depends! A lot of our entertainment today, including fiction, is pure entertainment. Yes, there might be a moral to a story, often barely disguised as you’d expect from cheesy Hollywood movies, where the moral is so obvious it smells like old fish. Literature that aims to entertain, like romance and erotica, is also very much free of politics. But is is influenced by it? Probably. It seems that the worse the times we live in, the more trouble we have around us, the more fluff and happiness we escape to in our books. We just don’t need more misery in our fiction. We have enough of it IRL (in real life).

Literary fiction is different, of course, because in fiction, writers mirror society. And similar to my video last week, where I tried to explain the propensity for relationships in modern gay fiction with the advances in (marriage) equality legislation, current events tend to find their way into fiction, be it social challenges, political events etc. So what does it look like in my own writing? How political is my own fiction?

It varies. Family Ties isn’t directly influenced by current events, but a mirror of the world we live in: marriage equality (and the lack thereof in e.g. Singapore and the U.S., at the time), adoption legislation etc. The Opera House deals with homeless children on a certain level, and that is a direct reflection on the situation in the U.S., where 40% of all street kids have LGBT background, tossed onto the street by their (religious) parents. While not a real problem in (Western) Europe, it’s still something that affects me. The Fallen Angels of Karnataka is also dealing with children, but from a different angle. Slightly “historic” in nature, it mirrors the developments in recent decades, but it also shows how India is failing its children.

My most political novel is – without a doubt – Willem of the Tafel, as our main character becomes the leader of his people. A direct reflection of our current events (global warming, migration etc.), the novel looks at what might happen if we don’t turn around the wheel on Earth. Racism, environmental policies etc. You name it. Plus, several of the characters are politicians.

I can’t wait to see Berlin again. I just hope for better weather. Politics and writing, an interesting topic to discuss. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

I’m not going to go through all of my novels, let me just mention my latest one, which also highlights a political struggle, that of the Sami people in Northern Europe and specifically here in Sweden. It doesn’t get more political than that, not to mention that it is also a reflective account of recent LGBT history of our country.

I really look forward to this panel in Berlin. It’s going to be interesting to see how other authors look at this, particularly since most of the attending authors come from a “escapism” genre, romance, books read by people who may not necessarily want to be bothered by politics in their reading. Knowing the authors, it’s going to be an interesting debate, particularly since most of us care deeply about politics, society and LGBT rights. Is it June yet? You can still join the convention. There are still a few tickets available!

What’s your take? As reader or writer? Do you read to escape or to reflect? Do you write to entertain or to rattle readers?

Have a wonderful week, and if you like what you read, subscribe to my monthly newsletter with competitions and hopefully interesting reading, or feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

Somewhere over the rainbow: welcome to reading the alphabet soup! #amreading #LGBT

Somewhere over the rainbow: welcome to reading the alphabet soup! #amreading #LGBT

Alphabet Soup: LGBTQIA+, are you with me?

Once upon a time there was a boy, we can call him Adam. He was an unusual boy, because Adam didn’t fall for Eve, he fell for Steve, not just romantically, but sexually, which was pretty much all they had, since they couldn’t love each other openly. One day, Adam and Steve (persecuted by society “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”) met a girl, we can call her Eve. Now Eve was also unusual, inasmuch as she fell for girls, not boy. Romantically and sexually. Eve was madly in love with Alba, and their plight was great. They had both been married off husbands they didn’t choose and who they didn’t love. But at that point, the gay and lesbian movement was formed, and the four, as little as they had in common, began to fight for their right to be with the one they love.

But it’s always been a strenuous relationship, because the boys were always in the public eye, because they’re men and thus more visible, and because two men kissing or holding hands was so much more against societal norms than two girls doing the same. Plus women’s rights weren’t even on the table, and women’s sexuality was still largely invisible. Our four friends know two more interesting characters, let’s call them Brady and Brandi. Our boy Brady here joined the movement early on. He was as gay as the rest of the. But what Brady didn’t share was the fact that he was – in fact – Brianna. Brady is transgender, MTF (male to female), back then he was called transsexual or worse, a “transvestite” or “cross-dresser”. Brandi joined for similar reasons. Since she was totally into girls, she was outed early on as a dyke, a Lesbian, but alas, Brandi was really Brad, and brad is a totally heterosexual man, a trans man, FTM (female to male). At the time in the middle of the past century, there was little talk about them and many gay men would often dress in women’s clothes on weekends and put up shows, as drag queens. So the Brady fit right in, as unhappy as she really was, in a body that wasn’t really hers. And the same was true for Brandi, or Brad, but tom boys had always been a thing, and while frowned upon, when Brad dressed in jeans and flattened tits behind tightly woven bandages and wore a loose t-shirt, he passed as a boy. But back then, Brad and Brianna didn’t really exist, they lived largely as Brady and Brandi, and they were gay and lesbian.

Let’s talk about Bill, now he is a special character. Bill had crushes on boys early on, and he joined Adam and Steve to fight alongside with them. But our friend Bill here happened to also fall for women sometimes, which confused him immensely. How can a gay man fall in love and be sexually attracted by women as well? This was finally resolved when some kind soul informed Bill that there were some people who were bisexual, with the capacity to love and be sexually attracted to both sexes. Bill stood up at a meeting and demanded that he and other bisexuals be recognized. After much debate, the gay and lesbian movement became the LGB community. The struggle was still the same: recognition for who we really were, and equal rights and to end discrimination. Then came AIDS, and suddenly, our fight for recognition became, for Adam, Steve, Brady, Bill etc a fight for survival. Alba, Eve, Brandi and others were amazing during that time, standing up when we were dying, fighting for us. It brought us closer, and cemented a movement that was strong and powerful.

Our struggle for freedom is far from over. Marriage equality was easy compared to fighting for our right to be ourselves. Assimilation is not necessarily freedom!

Eventually, we received that first recognition in the form of civil unions, and in the wake of that success, Brianna and Brad began to demand that we now focus on their struggle. They wanted to live openly and in their “right” body. We agreed and the LGBT community saw the light of day. Now with the T’s, the odd thing is that once a trans person has transitioned, many become straight, and seems to fall out from under the rainbow, but their struggle doesn’t end, because let’s face it, Brianna couldn’t really transition until she was in her early fifties, and the damage done to her body by decades of testosterone roaming freely is visible across a large and muscular frame, and for Brad, getting rid of the tits was easy, but still, to this day, medicine can’t really create a passable penis. A vagina, yes, but the penises (and medicine has really tried hard) are still far from “perfect”. Maybe one day, they’ll be able to transplant them, but we aren’t there yet. In the end, Brad kept his vagina.

The political success and the long-lasting debates around the LG, LGB and LGBT movement created a more political and philosophical movement, the queer movement, and suddenly gays, bisexuals, lesbians and trans people called themselves queer, in an effort to blow up society’s rigid gender roles, which we realized were constructs rather than a biological necessity. Suddenly, people were no longer transsexual, but trans persons, or gender queer, some identified as gender fluid (i.e. moving between genders as befit their mood or frame of mind), or even agender (not feeling home in any gender really) The queer movement was refreshing, exciting, as it stretched far and wide, looked at literature from a queer perspective, even created its own economic theories. Alas, some in the queer movement also harbored much more revolutionary ideas, ideas about not just ‘explaining’ things, but violently altering the world in a direction they wanted. Those tendencies scared many in the LGBT movement, and while many use LGBTQ, some refuse, because of what the Q sometimes stands for or is used as.

One day, Brad brought a friend, let’s call her Tanya. Tanya was born with a chromosome damage, affecting about one in a thousand children. Tanya is intersexual, and when she was born, she had both a penis and a vagina. Shocked, her parents asked the doctors to remove the “appendix” from their precious daughter. Sadly, the doctors removed the “wrong” appendix, because Tanya always felt like a boy, not a girl. So while born intersex, Tanya, or Tony as he prefers to go by, is a trans man. Another letter was added: LGBTQI. Meanwhile, the struggle for equal rights continues, and while gays, lesbians and bisexuals now enjoy the right to get married, adopt children and are safe from discrimination in some places, the fight hasn’t even begun elsewhere, and we fight it on a great many fronts today. For every win there are countless setbacks, and given the added complexity of our trans- and intersex friends, we now also fight for our right to use the “right” bathroom, to be able to compete in the right sports category etc.  Intersex athletes, most of them female, as it is medically a lot easier to surgically remove a penis than sew close a vagina, are particularly exposed. Caster Semenya, a formidable runner from South Africa saw hir most private details splattered across newspapers and TV screens around the world when she wasn’t even an adult yet. To get parents of intersex born children to abstain from surgery, to wait and see how the child develops, is excruciatingly hard for parents, and they often opt for the easy way out… No matter the cost to their child.

Love conquers everything, including hate, but we have to work for it. It doesn’t just happen by itself.

Until now, every added letter to the rainbow alphabet was about discrimination, legal rights. But recently, we’ve added the letter A, when Amelia and Jerome joined the crowd. Amelia doesn’t like to have sex. It’s revolting to her, and she recently divorced her husband because she simply couldn’t put up with it any more. Amelia is a CIS-woman, she’s Korean, but yeah, totally straight. She falls in love with men and is looking for a man to love without having to engage in the exchange of bodily fluids. It’s just not her thing. Amelia is asexual. Jerome on the other hand doesn’t mind the eventual romp, but Jerome is completely uninterested in love, romance. The idea of spending his life with one woman in a relationship is unthinkable for Jerome. Jerome is aromantic. He identifies as a straight, black man, and he does have sex with women every now and then, but he just doesn’t want to take that next step. Both Jerome and Amelia are frowned upon by their peers, their friends and families. We are now looking at the LGBTQIA+ community. The plus is sometimes used to identify both A-gender, A-romantic and A-sexual. Do you think we’re done? No, have I mentioned Peter? He’s pansexual. He’ll sleep with anything with a pulse (just joking..) No, seriously, Peter has the capacity to be attracted, sexually and romantically, to people of any gender, any sex. He’s lucky that way, but no, it’s not easy being in Peter’s shoes, because the demands from society to conform are tremendous. His mother always says, “but son, if you can fall in love with a nice girl, why don’t you?” Peter and Bill often discuss this conundrum they share! In many ways, the LGBTQIA+ community still struggles to obtain the most basic of human rights, as it states in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

We are no way near those rights. In a dozen countries we don’t even enjoy the right to live. Women’s sexuality is still largely a taboo, which helps lesbians to fly under the radar, but it’s a treacherous safety, because sometimes it’s better to be seen and persecuted than to be invisible, ignored.

Author Hans M Hirschi was born a CIS gay man. While perfectly happy in his body bad (as flawed as it may be), he’s also acknowledging the fact that his maleness is largely a social construct. He embraces all the qualities of his personality, no matter whether they be generally labeled “female” or “male”. He is happy to have been able to marry his partner of 16+ years, Alex, and to have had the rare privilege of having a child, their son, Sascha, four. While he usually writes about gay men in his books, he’s also branched out into the rainbow in his short stories, exploring various aspects of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Here in the west? Far too many societies still struggle with basic gay and lesbian rights, while the Internet connects the world in new ways, making people aware of our diversity in a global way. And while we’ve moved past the pure legal battles of old in some countries, e.g. Scandinavia, where LGBT people enjoy almost full protection under the law, it’s easier to focus on the right for the A+ to be who they truly are, and live their lives fully. Elsewhere, gay & bisexual men and pre-op/pre transition trans women fight to survive, e.g. in Chechnya. Please DONATE to this cause, if you can!

Remember Adam? We survived the AIDS crisis of the eighties. Steve did not. Adam is seeing Bill at the moment, and it seems as if they might have a thing, although Bill’s elderly parents aren’t thrilled that he divorced his wife to be with Adam: “are you gay now?” (No, Bill is still very much a bi man!) Eve and her wife Alba are happy. Their oldest son just became a father, making the two gray haired ladies proud grandmas. The struggle continues, but here and there, rainbow families have begun to sprout, happiness spreads, and we continue to fight, and who knows what letter we’ll add to the rainbow next? They would all fit under the rainbow!

In the end, I think most in the community would agree that it would be nice if we could just replace them all with an H, for human. In the meantime, some suggest we stop adding letters and simply use the word SAGA, the story of a Sexuality And Gender Acceptance in society. Is SAGA a saga or a future for humanity? Stay tuned…

Happy Easter and make love, not war!

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Hans

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