My entry for the YAM 2012 LGBT Blogathon Event. To read more about it, please visit their website.
As it reflects my own life and experiences, my writing, both fiction and non-fiction, often naturally have gay, bisexual or trans/intergender characters and situations. But what might be a misnomer to some: they often contain comparatively little or no sexually descriptive content. For some people, whether regular readers of gay fiction, whether they are gay or straight (or somewhere in between) or they adamantly do not read any GLBTIIQ literature at all, this might seem strange as they equate “gay” with “sex.”
In a former article I discussed: “What Does ‘Gay’ Mean to You: Literary and Political Circles?” Whether anti- or pro-, the persistence of ones ignorantly assuming that those terms are interchangeable may very well fall under the broad category of homo-ignorant, another topic I covered in “Homo-Ignorance: Are You Part of the Problem?”
The reason I bring this up again was because of a recent situation during which I made the advertising and announcement rounds for my latest release, “Silence Is Multi-Colored In My World.” It is a biography written in memoir style of a deaf, gay young Russian, an orphan and former sex worker who beat the odds to find a home, love and finally, peace. It is rated PG-13 for adult situations and some strong language only.
The official description: “This is an imaginative collection of memories and observations written from the perspective of a young man who was orphaned early, who was gay, deaf and Russian. He was simple and complex, light-hearted and serious, whimsical and infinitely strong, and when he loved, he loved with all his heart and soul.
A former sex worker and later a husband, he was an amateur activist and philosopher, a startlingly intelligent, passionate individual able to intensely appreciate even the small wonders of the world and the people for whom he cared.
Part diary, part dialogue, part rhetoric, “Silence Is Multi-colored in My World” is based on actual experiences and is a literary portrait of a man with nothing to hide and everything to reveal. It is a slice into the willing veins of a mental and emotional free bleeder.”
At one of the book blogs that specializes in indie or small press produced books, I read their guidelines again, though I had make requests there before, submitted my press release information and waited for response.
I was stunned by the reply.
Dear Red Haircrow,
Thank you for sending your announcement to us. I apologize for the delay in my reply.
Per our FAQ page (http://www.indiesun——-.com/faq/), we do not feature books whose subjects are primarily sex, religion and/or politics. We are also a PG-13 site, and I did see that there is an adult content warning on this book in Smashwords.
For the record, here is the definition at Smashwords of what constitutes an adult content warning on their site:
“In order to protect minors from viewing inappropriate material, please let us know if this book contains language, situations, or images inappropriate for children under 18 years of age.”
Considering my work is clearly listed at PG-13, plus the description above, plus I am able to read, comprehend and understand the concept of responsibility regarding correct labelling, my only problem with their rejection was that they assumed my work was primarily about sex.
Where in my description does it say it is by majority about sex? Just because the person was a former sex worker, does it mean they always talked about that job? And even if at some point they may have referenced some aspect of the sex trade (the biography does not sexually describe any such thing) there is still no reason to stereotype or generalize the work as being “primarily about sex.”
I didn’t challenge their right to reject anything submitted to their site. Any site has that personal privilege, which I would never dispute. I challenged the arbitrary, completely underinformed judgment and sentence imposed upon “Silence.” I do also believe it was because the biography involved a gay man, and it all revolved back around to the assumption that if a work is about or detailing a gay person’s life, it also sex primary.
I put forth this example to this co-administrator: “If the same description has been about a heterosexual woman who was saved from being a prostitute who eventually found a home, love and finally, peace, and the biography was rated PG-13, with the description above…? Honestly ask yourself, would you have assumed the work as being “primarily about sex?”
It unfortunate few people, especially in that situation, are honest. They basically just want to get rid of you, make excuses and fall back on their policies of being able to reject anything they wish without facing the fact they were discriminatory, biased and in this situation wrong.
But it’s not just sites like that one, for this particular work, I’ve had trouble getting reviews not only because it non-fiction that was about a gay person, and the person/site didn’t read “gay” stuff, but conversely I had review sites that do read gay fiction, non-fiction or m/m works who also passed. They passed because they saw the rating and that there was no sexual content. If it’s non-fiction, and its about a gay man, then they wanted sexually graphic details.
Going farther into that, I’ve actually seen readers or authors in discussions who say they don’t want to read about real gay life or situations, they just want to read gay or m/m fiction with higher heat levels. Some GLBT review groups were created to provide such “insight” from their followers, so understandably they would choose books to write about that had high sexual content. Otherwise, though I have been both traditionally and independently published, you have other individuals or groups who may review GLBT literature of all levels, but they do not accept indie produced work.
On both counts, it is totally their choice, absolutely and wholeheartedly, but I learned quickly after having one of my books selected for review from a general list from a site that review m/m and gay fiction, and receiving a lackluster review because the reviewer self-admittedly said, “Good story, but I wanted sex, and there was none, so I have to rate it lower.” Only rated lower because you didn’t fulfill someone’s sexual expectations? I’m being ironic but: I only consider that necessary with a partner in my personal life!
The point of my article is basically that you can be “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” in this business of writing fiction and non-fiction that has a gay charcter or person in it. You have publishers who won’t consider your work at all if it has gay characters or situations and then reference you to a gay or m/m exclusive publisher who then rejects your work because it doesn’t have enough sex or they want you to include more…and for me, that’s not an option. If the story and characters does not need it, I do not include just to have “thus-and-so” number of sex scenes. But I’m straying from my central theme….
I shrugged off these particular type of biases and conundrums reviewers/publishers/promoters give, and since honesty is my basic policy in all things, the next review group I approached I laid it on the line about “Silence” and this was part of my request message:
“I specifically decided to request a review at your site as I have been having difficulties obtaining reviews for this work as either reviewers assume that because it is about a young gay man it is primarily about sex or sexually descriptive in nature, and it is not. Or conversely, reviewers who accept fiction or non-fiction with a gay central character expect it to have sexual material and it does not. A true catch-22. I would greatly appreciate your possibly reviewing this courageous story of a man whose concerns were overcoming disabilities, ending homophobia, finding love and rising above the psychological after- effects of abandonment by his parent.”
I was not only pleased that it was accepted but that the review I received was positive. In part here, but please visit the site to read the full review. It’s at Stagewalker.Gather.com:
“Do not judge this book by its synopsis. Pick it up. Read it. Five stars.
Do not be put off by the people who would pigeonhole this book for their own narrow-minded political agendas. Read it for the insight it provides.”
I appreciated that last statement by the reviewer whether it has been for my book or not. So many people create their own agendas for dismissing and rejecting a work, or even the author who wrote it. One can completely understand personal preferences being involved, but when it is based on discriminatory actions or wrongly labeling work, that’s where it needs to stop. Such behavior and policies based on gender, race, religious belief, politics and others, these are still the things that keep humans divided, and no matter how innocently they can begin, if they continue, they can eventually lead to bias and hatred.
Let’s stop the discrimination of any kind. Promote understanding. Listen. Be honest. Be willing to discuss respectfully.
Don’t judge what you do not know or what you only think you know. Extend that to people also, whether they are within a GLBT community or group already. Discrimination and bias can still take place “inside” to push others “outside.”
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For more information about my published works and works in progress, please access the links at the top of this page. My other articles on GLBTIIQ topics on this website are below, but please visit Friendzstop for others: