International Day Against Homophobia

Those of you who have read my novel, know that there are a couple of gay characters. Even though Semester Aboard is YA, there are a few of you out there who know I’ve written much steamier m/m stuff (some of you even know where to find it). Most of that was put out in m/m forums and communities where everyone reading it was there because they love some good boys getting together. So, when it came time to publish Semester Aboard people started asking me, “Are you going to put warnings that there are gay characters?”
That got me thinking about warnings and disclaimers. I’ll be honest here, if we’re talking about an erotic novel, I think there should be warnings. Now, that isn’t to cater to the homophobic crowd, not at all. Most people, I would imagine, read erotica for a bit of pleasure. People have their kinks and their squicks. I, personally, don’t read f/f erotica. If I were to pick up a book for erotic reading that was nothing but f/f, I honestly would put it back down. Homophobic? How’s this, I don’t read F/m either. *Note the F there is capitalized and the m is not. Also, not my thing. So, in terms of erotica, I’d like warnings relating to what’s going on.
But, warnings for a YA novel? Hell no. I see zero reason to put WARNING: GAY BOYS on my book. I’ve never seen a book that says WARNING: BLACK PEOPLE or WARNING: BUDDHIST PEOPLE or WARNING: PEOPLE EATING PEANUTS. The only people who would avoid my book because of that warning are people I wouldn’t want reading it anyway. So, needless to say, I left the warning off. I’ve been braced to get some ignorant people reviewing it, but so far (*crosses fingers*) I have yet to hear from any.
However, something interesting happened. A blogger reviewed my book, gave it a good rating, yadda yadda. A couple of weeks later I saw a post on her blog discussing a similar topic: should reviews of books with gay characters warn readers? In her (very evasive) answer, she mentioned that she had recently reviewed a book with homosexual characters and decided not to warn readers in her review. Her reason, and I quote, was “the author did not glorify or promote the homosexual lifestyle”. I really wasn’t sure how to react to that.
My initial reaction was to be pissed off, because that reeks of homophobia. But after I calmed down, I actually took it as a compliment. For one thing: she’s right. I didn’t glorify a gay relationship. Here’s why – there’s nothing to glorify. It’s a relationship. It’s just as good and bad and wonderful and heartwarming and heartbreaking as a straight relationship. I have no reason to lift a gay relationship above any other, because it’s just two people in love, regardless of gender.
As for “promoting” it: I feel that simply by having a gay relationship in my novel I’m making the statement that I’m not against it. I can’t imagine a homophobic person doing that. But, again, I didn’t “promote” it because I wrote it exactly the way I would any other relationship. It’s like that meme I’ve seen floating around:

The other reason I took that comment as a compliment, was that she gave me a good review. This blogger clearly wasn’t a major supporter of gay rights, but the fact that she read my book, liked it, and even positively reviewed it, even though there were gay characters, gives me a little hope for the world. I’d like to think that I got into her head a little bit. And maybe somewhere down the road, she’ll have a chance to do something homophobic and maybe she’ll think of my book. And maybe she’ll do the right thing instead.
It gave me this not-so-silly little fantasy that someday someone else will pick up my novel. Maybe they’ll be a little homophobic too. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be interested enough in the plot to read it despite the gay characters. And maybe when they’re done, they’ll feel a little different about things.
Before I get down off of my soapbox. I wanted to say that I’ve also gotten a lot of people saying they love the way that I wrote my boys’ relationship. The love the fact that I didn’t make a big deal of them being gay, they just are. And I’m really happy about that, because that was exactly what I was going for.
And now, I’ll leave you with a picture I stumbled across and tweaked a bit. Thanks for listening.

Please go support the other bloggers in the Hop!
And in the spirit of the Hop – I’ll be giving away a digital copy of my book for every five people who leave a comment!

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  1. Great post Elizabeth.

    I just wanted to say “Thank You” to everyone for letting me be included in your Hop Against Homophobia. I am afraid I am not a talented m/m fiction writer like yourself but I am an avid reader of it.

    Actually when you are a straight girl who writes gay porn for an adult studio it is hard to fit in anywhere so I really appreciated how warmly I was welcomed into your group.

    But this is a cause I feel strongly about and I wanted to let you know I appreciate the opportunity to be included.

    Shadow Sterling

  2. “the author did not glorify or promote the homosexual lifestyle”

    Okay. Great. In 1950 that would have been a high compliment. Whatever.

  3. I hate the warnings. I’m glad you got a good review of your book but I don’t think I would be following reviews of a person that said something about “glorify or promote the homosexual lifestyle.”

  4. Great post…definitely something to think about, too (although I’d love to see the warning: This book contains people eating peanuts! LOL.)

    Thanks for taking part.

  5. Thank you so much for participating in the hop. I hope that this helps to spread the word and that one day a hop like this will no longer be needed. I have shown many of the post to my nieces and nephews. We recently have been discussing how damaging bullying is and how innocent remarks can make you be seen as being a bully. One of the things that makes me mad is when I hear…you’re so gay… pisses me off. These post have helped them already. I heard my nephew stand up to someone that called someone else a hurtful name… I was so proud. Thank you all for helping by sharing hurtful and/sad memories and your personal views/message.
    I pray one day for equality for EVERYONE not just some.

  6. Great post. This reminds me of a message I got a few years ago about my fanfiction stories. I wrote a lot of stories before I started delving into the world of m/m romance. There were general fiction stories, parody, humour and snark, angst and drama, as well as non-explicit m/f romances.

    Then I started writing m/m stories and realised that those who also wrote them warned for them on their blogs. I figured I had better do the same, especially since not everyone reading my journal was going to be looking for m/m romances, not in light of my older stories anyway.

    I was also aware that a few of my readers were not exactly enthused about m/m stories and since I was still writing the other stuff too I decided better safe than sorry.

    Then I got a message from someone berating me for warning for m/m romance. In fact I also marked those that were m/f romances and those that were high angst. My “Fic List” as I call in actually lists all genres of all stories.

    No one had ever taken issue with it before. But warning for m/m is a hot button and I had inadvertently pressed it.

    I didn’t take the warning down and nor did I alter it, but it remains in my mind to this day that when it comes to warnings you simply cannot please everyone.

  7. A big thanks to everyone for stopping by, posting, and supporting our cause!

    Jase, you aren’t the same Jase from the Goodreads group, are you? If so, HI!!!!

    And also congrats to L.M. Brown, you’ve won the digital copy of my book! I sent you the details as a Facebook message, be sure to check your spam box!

    Thank you again everyone! I hope someday soon homophobia will be a thing of the past.

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