Friday, May 17, 2013

All the Colors of the Rainbow

Welcome to the 2013 Hop AgainstHomophobia and Transphobia! More than three hundred authors, publishers and reviewers of LGBTQ-themed literature are joining this event, which runs from today until the 27th of May. With our blog posts, comments and giveaways, we're celebrating International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (May 17th). Our goal – to make as many people as possible aware of homophobia's costs, and to encourage them to honor, not fear, sexual diversity.

Last year's event focused only on M/M issues. This year we've expanded the scope to include all orientations under the LGBTQ umbrella, since lesbians, bisexuals and transexuals suffer from the same types of discrimination and harassment as gay men.

Our message is the same, though. We are humans first - gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight or queer second. And every human being deserves the same rights, the same freedoms, the same respect. When we condemn or oppress another individual because of his or her orientation, we are not only wronging that individual, but diminishing our own humanity.

Authors of LGBTQ-themed books have a big role to play in reducing homophobia, I believe. When a reader becomes emotionally involved with a LGBTQ character, he or she begins to realize that we're all far more alike than we are different. The greater visibility of gay and lesbian characters in literature and in media, especially characters who don't follow the stereotypes, has led to a greater acceptance of different sexual orientations, and a relaxation (at least in Western countries) of some of the legal and social barriers to equal rights. We authors feed this trend. I'm quite certain that the many women who read M/M romance have played a role in the recent advances in marriage equality, for instance. Slowly but steadily, we're helping to chip away at the old attitudes.

I'm personally thrilled by the more inclusive definition in this year's hop. I write not only M/M erotica and erotic romance but also lesbian and bisexual stories. I've written a couple of transexual secondary characters as well, and a tale featuring a transexual heroine is simmering on my mental back-burner. I also have a story idea I hope to develop, a science fiction love affair between a woman and a hermaphrodite. You might say that I write all the colors of the rainbow.

I'll step into controversial territory now, though, by saying that I sometimes find LGBTQ readers and writers less tolerant of diversity than I'd expect. Some M/M readers refuse to read anything else. I've had fans who love my gay books tell me that lesbian content is “icky”. Meanwhile, some F/F authors not only restrict themselves exclusively to tales about women with women, but also protest that a male could never write convincing lesbian fiction. I've had gay erotic romance rejected by M/M review sites because it incorporated half a page of heterosexual interaction.

Please! Isn't this a kind of reverse discrimination? In fact the guidelines for this hop exclude M/F authors. This actually bothers me a bit. Can't an author who focuses on straight relationships contribute to the effort to erase homophobia? Don't we need all the help we can get to fight bullying and secure equal rights for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation?

Anyway, my personal preference is to mix things up in my fiction. My most recent release, Rajasthani Moon, is primarily a M/F/M title, but it includes a bit of lesbian sex – first of all, because that fit the story, and second, because I personally found it arousing. I hesitated before adding this scene, worrying about alienating some readers. I may pay for this indulgence in lower sales. But ultimately, it was the right thing to do and I'll stand by my decision.

All the colors of the rainbow, to me, means the freedom to explore one's sexual preferences, whatever direction they might lead, without fear of being ostracized or otherwise punished. And for me, at least, sexual orientation is relative and variable. I'm attracted to individuals, not to a particular gender, and that's the way I write, too.

What do you think about this issue? Leave me a comment, with your email address. On the 28th, I'll draw three winners. One will win a copy of my F/F romance Velvet. One will win a copy of the M/M anthology Gaymes, which includes my story Crossed Hearts. And in honor of the third winner, I'll make a $10 contribution to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund:

I hope you'll visit at least some of the other participants in the Hop, too. You'll find links to all their posts below.


KimberlyFDR said...

Thank you for taking part in the hop!

In order to combat hatred, we must spread love. Educate others, bring awareness, because every person who has their mind opened is one person closer to a world where homophobia and transphobia doesn’t exist.

Debby said...

I read everything. Not too fond of menage but I do not care who love whom.
debby236 at gmail dot com

H.B. said...

I have to say I agree with the last bit of what you said about discrimination and exclusion of certain content. When I was look through blog hop rules for romance authors I think it's weird that certain genres are excluded. I mean if the blog hop is for Romance or in this case against homophobia and transphobia, why not let any author participate?

As for readers and writers, I can't really blame them for choosing not to read a certain item because it might make them uncomfortable or icked out but I don't think it means they should completely close themselves off to it. I, myself choose not to read F/F or M/M/F but if I was given a free copy or if I bought an anthology with M/M, M/M/F and F/F material in it I wouldn't necessarily skip over those stories. Heck I'm uncomfortable with M/M/M stories but I still keep an open mind to it because I don't want to miss a story that might be able to change my view point on such things.

humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

Xakara said...

I'm always leery of the concept of 'reverse discrimination'. I don't think you can speak of discrimination in terms of forward and reverse. Something is discriminatory or it isn't.

If you write M/F exclusively, you can be an ally, but your work is not part of promoting queer stories and queer content. Accepting the fact that the majority of publishing is focused on heteronormative stories and special emphasis needs to be placed on those stories that are overlooked, isn't discrimination.

It would be discrimination, if for example, a M/M author wasn't allowed because they also wrote M/F. That's saying that you can't be part of the conversation of oppressive homophobia and transphobia because your work also includes stories that benefit from heteronormative privilege. I would have a serious problem with that.

In this case, emphasizing queer content and queer voices is just that, an emphasis. When dealing with a societal minority emphasis is vital for representation, it is not automatically discrimination to focus on the voices that aren't heard over the ones that have dominated the conversation for centuries.

I hope that was clear. I'm not invalidating that you felt uncomfortable by it, I just wanted to explain the intent, as this isn't the first time I've come across the concept of why a dominant voice isn't included in a non-dominant conversation.

Thank you for being a part of this. I appreciate every voice in the struggle, and hope we have more and more conversations where all voices get their say.

My HAHAT Contribution Writing From the Middle: BiErasure & BiVisibility

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Kimberly,

I wholeheartedly agree. Last year during the Hop I wrote about the dangers of viewing homophobic people as "the enemy". We need to change the world one mind at a time.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thank you, Debby!

Personal preference is one thing - not everyone is interested in every type of fiction. What's important is realizing that each person is unique - but we are all human and we all love.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, H.B.,

I don't mean to suggest that there's anything inherently wrong with preferring some kinds of fiction over others. When a reader is really rigidly against a sub-genre, though, I wonder whether that resistance really derives from fear.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks, Xakara,

I can see your point. But really this hop isn't about "content" - it's about beliefs and prejudices. I feel as though excluding M/F authors perpetuates a division that shouldn't be there. When an author writes a M/F story, that's not necessarily a rejection of queer content or queer pairings. It's just one story out of many.

Hopping over to read your post now! Thanks again for your honest and thoughtful response.

Sophia said...

Hi Lisabet,
I agree with Xakara about the phrase "reverse discrimination," but I agree with you that it's too bad that anyone has been excluded from participating in HAHAT. I think it would be better to require that prizes have some LGBTQ aspect--if an author doesn't have an appropriate story to give away, then they can offer to donate to an appropriate charity or something like that. The more the merrier (gayer?)! :)

As for reader genre preferences, I have no difficultly with that, at least when it comes to novels that depict sex explicitly. There aren't many pairings or groupings that I personally would find distasteful, but I can understand how that's not the same for everyone. And I certainly have arrangements that I *prefer*!

sophia-martin at hotmail dot com

Come visit my HAHAT post:

Xakara said...

The hop and participants were explained to me in terms of getting queer authors and those who produce queer content to put a focus on the issue. If it was presented differently to you as purely about fighting orientation and gender phobia, then I understand why you're upset. If this was meant to be a general coming together, then everyone should have had a shot at being included. That's just not how it was expressed early on when I joined.

Urb said...

Wonderful! There is no such thing as reverse discrimination, nor black "racists" nor men suffering from sexual discrimination. In each case there in one group with privileges and benefits, who receive preferred treatment. Society is structured to maintain the benefits and privileges of the favored group. Individuals perpetuate discrimination, but its supported systematically: through laws, culture, and sheer habit. The publishing industry has a system that favors certain types of books over others. The favored books and their authors will never have to,worry about discrimination, because publishing is structured for their benefit. Everyone else has to fight their way in.
brendurbanist @gmail. com

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Xakara,

Thank you! And I'm not really "upset", just wondering whether being more inclusive would ultimately increase the effectiveness.

I loved your post, by the way. Left a comment, but had to do so anonymously.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Sophia,

Thanks for your comment. Off to read your post!

Emily said...

Well personally, I know I'm a bit guilty of this reverse discrimination, albeit unintentionally. I don't mind F/F, I just prefer M/M. Same with M/F. And if I have a book that's mostly M/M, but contains M/F or F/F, it does influence my decision to read it. Now, the majority of what I read is M/M, but I also read and review other pairings, even if it's not my preference. I believe in trying everything at least three times. If you don't like it, okay, you've made an informed decision, no harm no foul. But you never know, you just might find out you like it.


Lena Grey said...

the three time rule is a good one, Emily. I primarily read MM but that's mostly because that's what I review, but I'm not adverse to reading other combinations.

Sherry said...

I have never read a f/f book it might be very interesting. I know I love reading m/m books. That's just about all I read anymore. Thank you for taking part in the hop!
sstrode at scrtc dot com

Peggy said...

Thank you for the post.

peggy1984 at live dot com

Penumbra said...

I think even when groups of people have similar needs for acceptance, they will in-fight. I see it as putting the others down, so they can be more accepted themselves. Also it means they are just as ignorant and intolerant as homophobic people.

Thanks for participating in this great hop!


Xakara said...

Hey Lisabet!

Anonymous or not, you won one of my giveaway copies! You didn't leave an email address, so please contact me at Xakara at Xakara dot com and let me know your ebook format of choice. The give away books is A Way To A Dragon's Heart, so please let me know if you already own or won it in a previous giveaway and I'll give you something else from my backlist.


Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks to all of you who commented. I've drawn the winners.

Emily gets the M/M anthology Gaymes.

Sherry gets the F/F story, Velvet.

And I'll donate $10 to the Lamda Legal Defense Fund in honor of Sophia.

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