Friday, April 16, 2010

The Fantasy of Acceptance

I write erotica and erotic romance in a variety of genres. My last two pubs, however, have been M/M erotic romance. As a result, I've also been reading more gay romance lately. One thing that I've noticed about this genre is that in many books, “gayness” is a given, a normal and accepted aspect of society and relationships. Many gay heroes seem to live in a world where every other man is also a lover of men (especially the handsome and muscular guys!). Homoerotic relationships are the norm rather than the exception, and the non-gay characters completely accept the gay heroes and their lifestyles

Authors of historical M/M books frequently do highlight the legal and societal risks of homosexuality. The criminalization of homoerotic activity is often a major source of the conflicts in these works. Quite a lot of contemporary gay romance, though, seems to ignore the enduring problems faced by GLBT individuals, even today.*

  • FBI statistics show an 11% increase in gay-related hate crimes in 2008, compared to a 2% increase in all hate crimes.
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are at a four times higher risk for suicide than their straight peers.
  • 85% of teachers oppose integrating lesbian, gay and bisexual themes in their curricula.
  • A survey of 191 employers revealed that 18% would fire, 27% would refuse to hire and 26% would refuse to promote a person they perceived to be lesbian, gay or bisexual.
  • In thirty U.S. States, LGBT citizens can be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity without any legal recourse.
  • Thirty states have passed constitutional amendments or laws explicitly banning same-sex marriage.

Our M/M heroes tend to live in a golden world where these facts don't exist. I can understand this, of course. Romance readers are seeking escape. They don't want to think about problems the hunky heroes might encounter in society. They want to focus on the developing relationship.

Still, I can't quite seem to banish such concerns from my own M/M work. In Necessary Madness, my M/M paranormal novel released last December, one of my characters is a gay police sergeant. He's a great cop, with more than ten years experience, yet he's been passed over for promotion time and again, most likely due to his sexual orientation. He's afraid to have a real relationship because it might jeopardize his job. Rob's concerns about being visibly “out” are not the most critical conflict in the tale, but they play a role in his personal decisions and his initial reluctance to become involved with Kyle, the other hero. Significantly (for me at least), by the end of the book the heroes are not only together, but also publicly proclaiming their mutual commitment.

Even in the clinches, the risk never completely vanishes from the heroes' minds, as you can see in this excerpt.

I enjoy a hot, hard M/M romp as much as the next reader. Nevertheless, I'm always aware that the aura of acceptance is, at this point in time, just a fantasy. I'd love to live in a world where you could love whomever you wish, of whatever gender, freely and without fear. I'll do whatever I can, in real life and in my writing, to bring that world closer to reality.

* Statistics with original sources cited at http://www.now.org/issues/lgbi/stats.html and http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/a_few_statistics_on_lgbt_issues

6 comments:

EM Lynley said...

As an author who writes exclusively gay erotic romance, this is a very important topic. There is a tendency for many books to be rather unrealistic in portraying the situations which gay characters face. It's necessary to incorporate accurate issues, but not every book has to be about the struggle of being gay in a mainly straight world. It's vital to make the issues appropriate to the time period the book takes place. A historical which ignores the very real repercussions those men faced is as bad as a contemporary which gives the impression there are no worries.

I tend to stay away from writers who paint an overly rosy picture of a world with completely carefree gay main characters whose friends are all gay. That may work in sci-fi settings, but it ignores the challenges some people do face every day.

But readers often want to escape from harsh reality, so it's important though difficult to find the correct balance. I prefer to read (and write) stories where the problem of homophobia and even anti-gay violence is brought up as a side issue, to show it exists, but in a romance, the relationship between the characters should remain the focus.

Margaret West said...

My daughters gay and she leads a very happy, full life with no hang ups or mixed feelings. I've never understood why sexuality is such a big deal anyway. I've always said the world would be a far nicer place if people lived and let live. Without even thinking about it, I'd read a book with gay characters if the storyline was good. Nice blog, Lisbeth. I enjoyed reading it.

Meg Leigh said...

(reposting because original comment was eaten)

I think it is very difficult to address all the issues that gay and lesbian people might face and write a romance at the same time.

I've written both contemporary and historical m/m and f/f fiction and have put more emphasis on the issue in historical fiction than I have in my contemporaries.

Gay and Lesbian people in today's society can much more easily choose to move in circles where acceptance is more the norm than homophobia.

As a lesbian myself, I can say that homophobia and rejection only plays a small part in my life, because I choose to avoid situations/places where it might become a bigger problem, so why shouldn't it be the same for my characters?

booklover0226 said...

Thank you for the link in your post; those are some interesting stats.

Tracey D

Carol L. said...

I enjoyed your post and the statistics you noted. I enjoy reading m/m romance. I have read some good Historicals as well. Thanks for the link and the post.
Carol L.
Lucky4750@aol.com

She said...

I read m/m and f/f erotic romances. I don't understand why people have to be judged because they don't fit the "mold" of society. Everyone is unique and contributes to society as a whole. I look for a good story and don't care what the sexual orientation of the characters are. Nor do I care about a person's sexual orientation in real life.

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