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Blue Asks a Damned Good Question

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blueI've noticed something odd about recent fic by several authors: Why is it we, as gay writers, editors, and readers, often have negative themes in gay fic? Why can't the gay guy be happy and well adjusted and be the hero, and help out someone else, some other gay guy or some friendly straight guy...whoever?


This is a question worthy of its own thread.

From my perspective it's because gay life in much of the US is a meat grinder that chews people up and leaves them damaged in all kinds of ways or even destroyed. Hated, spit on, outcasts that have been beaten and bashed and seen their dreams turn to ashes over and over aren't likely to write tales of shiney happy people.

Why can't the gay guy be happy and well ajusted and be the hero? As much as some of us have been s**t on from very early in our lives, our mere survival is in itself heroic.

What is a hero after all? Someone that faces adversity and triumphs or at least stands his ground? To me it's someone who refuses to quit and refuses to lose regardless of the odds.

The "gay hero" doesn't have to be well balanced. He doesn't have to be rich, drive a Porsche, date porn stars or be on the cover of GQ. He has to have guts and grit and that's what it takes.

Someday, and I hope for that day, we may get past that but I don't see it happening anytime soon.

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Personally, I think it stems mostly from the genres that most of these stories fall into: Romance and drama. I don't see any more negativity in gay romance and drama than I do in their straight counterparts. The "Big Negatives" - death, suicide, tragically painful breakups, illness, addiction, abandonment, abuse, etc. - they're all pretty universal, regardless of which way you swing. Look at how many stories, movies, and TV shows there are in which a woman is being abused by her overbearing husband - probably a similar figure to the number of stories we see about gay kids being abused by their overbearing parents.

I'm not saying that there aren't a lot of gay authors who went through hell and want to relay the tale of the trip blow-by-blow and brimstone-by-brimstone, because there are. I'm just saying that their number isn't that disproportionate to straight authors who want to do exactly the same thing.

About the "gay hero" thing...quite a few straight leads are rather screwed up, too, and there's a reason: We love to side with the underdog, the guy who can't win a fistfight or afford the nicest car or get the hottest dates. I don't think it's some kind of self-hating gay angst that fuels it - I think it's just what sells. Perfect Heroes ™ are alright for Bruckheimer movies, but when it comes to literature, I want characters with some room to grow.

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Guest rusticmonk86

:: grins ::

Ignorance is bliss. [That's a thesis statement, not a dis.]

Conflict is a natural part of living, Blue. Heros are born of conflict. Heroes are unifiers . . . avengers.

If you created a hereo that was well adjusted, how would that person react with conflict? What would happen in a story line without conflict? Stories without conflict are short stories. Or poems. These things only capture glimpses of life. And it's just as easy to capture glimpses of happiness as it is to catch those of sadness.

In fact, I find that people that won't admit to going through any major conflicts in life don't understand the conflicts that happen around and within others. But those people are nuerotic and in denial. They probably aren't even well-adjusted at all, but fighting an internal struggle against their own egoistic conceptions of what reality should be and what reality is.

If you're wondering why no one writes about hereos who are varitable saints . . . they do. Those people also write predictable plots. Those kinds of stories are written by people who wish they had someone to come along and save them. I'd wager to say that those people are also between the ages of 11-16 and deep in the closet, deeply afraid of ever coming out because of (whether actual or percieved) the way the world will treat them.

Or how about the fact that most authors use writing as therapy? There's a reason why were depressed, suicidal alcoholics (statistically speaking). Now, whether or not we write about the things that have happened or are happening as a way to release some of that energy, is dependable. Some people write of what they wish for. Or even create worlds to escape into.

I don't write for you. First and foremost. I really don't write for you. I write for myself. And I believe that true writers will go crazy if they can't write. The simple fact that you, as a reader, can disappear into the worlds that I create for myself not only pleases me, but makes me feel validated.

And I'm not just a gay author. I happen to be gay. Gay relationships are what I know the most about. Unfortunatly, all the relationships I've had have ended. Cest la vie, so that is what I write about. Straight writers can't help they they're straight, either. So don't get on them because they write about fucked up relationships or situations too.

Above all else, I believe writers don't write about these ultimately good, perfect, blinding white lighted hereos is because they don't exist. And if they did, I'd rather swallow glass than hear someone else tell me, "And then my boyfriend and I did this. Or, "My life is perfect, and this is why." I believe that writing, just like everything else, is born of conflict. (Take a look at the writer's block thread, Blue. Shit happens.)

I believe that we are all the same--regardless of color or any other petty thing that may not make us identical--and we are all affected by drama and negativity. That I write for myself because it gives me a feeling of release. And that it makes me feel good to know that people can relate to what I say.

I'll finish summing this up by telling you that these are my views, of course. And leave you with a few more words about hereos: All my hereos are dead and imperfect. I like that. At least they'll never disappoint me because I've found out they weren't human after all. It would crush me so to know that someone who did such amazing things was something that I could never be.

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See Also:


    [*]Writers Block

    [*]I hate gay stories

      The links above discuss points relevant to this thread.


      :: Waves hands franctically. :: Guys, guys! Y'all are getting off on the wrong track1, that's not quite what I was saying.

      I was definitely not asking for "a bad play where the hero's always right" filled with "shiny, happy people," like those songs say. Life is messy and complex; a story needs dramatic conflict drawn from real life, or it isn't relevant.

      Heck, even a fun, escapist fantasy often has conflicts. Think of action flicks and thrill rides and heroes battling evil wizards.

      The more serious stuff provokes thought and shows how people did and didn't solve things. If it's done well, it motivates change and offers solutions, or at least the support of, "hey, man, you aren't alone, we've been there too, and we made it out alive and kickin'."

      What I was trying to point out is the need for more stories that offer positive gay people and relationships, healthy stuff, people helping others, that there *is* a way to achieve that.

      Guys and girls, there are stories here that offer that, some of you have written them. Some of you do things in real life to help out, volunteering; or have a good relationship with that special guy or girl; and the support of a group of friends and/or family. You haven't had a perfect life; the characters you write about haven't; God knows, the readers haven't. -- But you, as writers, have the great opportunity to show your struggling readers that things can get better. There are people who are friendly. There are support organizations. There are ways to help and support others, and stand up for ourselves.

      Yes, I read the darker stories too. Whether they have a happy ending or not, I do pay attention. There's truth in there. Even the ones with unhappy endings have a point to make on how to live and how not to live. I know the darker stories also have their ray of hope inside, usually. Some of my favorite stories have both dark and light threads running through them.

      I know y'all aren't dissing. I know we write mostly for ourselves, because we have to. (Yes, that's being a writer.) The funny thing is, we seem to be on the same page (heh, pun, sorry) on most of this. Most of us have experiences that haven't been all warm, fuzzy, and nice (read: massive understatement sometimes). Yes, it's important to write about those things. How else is some poor, lonely guy out there going to know that he isn't the only one who's ever been through some awful thing like that... and that there is a way out, back to life and light and healthy relationships, people who'll care?

      I am simply saying we also need more stories that focus on ~bringing about~ those positive things. So let's hear about the gay and lesbian partners raising their kids. Let's see the gay nurse working his ass off in the hospital. Let's hear about the guys and girls who volunteer at clinics and shelters. Or what about the teens who founded their school's GSA? Or, and here's one, the ordinary guy doing his job who just happens to be gay? Or the teen who's in or out, with a regular life in his neighborhood and school?

      ...Or the kid hurriedly finding gay stories and forums, scared that any minute someone will notice he's looking at things like that, because he doesn't know whether he can talk to anyone safely, to admit how he feels, scared of how he feels, and not sure it's OK. -- Sound familiar to anyone?

      Those people are us. They aren't boring, they have stories too. Let's tell those stories. Let's remind the readers that there are people like that, living next door, working in the next cubicle, at the next desk in school, sitting beside them at church... all of it.

      Um, look, I know you are all aware of these things. I know that's why you write, for yourselves and to reach out to others. It's why I write, edit, and post too. -- I'm just pleading for some more uplifting stories along with the darker stories, for balance.

      OK, I'm kicking the soapbox aside and handing over the microphone. Now who else wants to get up and speak?


      And now for something completely different:

      (Hey, this could use a little humor.)


      <aside> Getting off on the wrong track? Only if there's a train coming. Otherwise, getting off seems like a good idea. :roll: Oh, sorry, guess I'm discovering my randy campy side. :coff: </aside>

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Oh, Scared Teen --

Relax, OK? You'll figure this stuff out. Enjoy the stories and the forums. Take care of yourself. You're not alone and you matter. Don't ever let anybody tell you otherwise.

:hugs: ~Blue

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What I was trying to point out is the need for more stories that offer positive gay people and relationships, healthy stuff, people helping others, that there *is* a way to achieve that.

Ooohhh...now I see what you were talking about. I think there's a lot of stories like that, though. From what I've seen, they outnumber the completely dark stories. Of course, maybe that's just because I tend to gravitate toward that kind of story in the first place.

<aside> Getting off on the wrong track? Only if there's a train coming. Otherwise, getting off seems like a good idea. Rolling Eyes Oh, sorry, guess I'm discovering my randy campy side. :coff: </aside>


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What I was trying to point out is the need for more stories that offer positive gay people and relationships, healthy stuff, people helping others, that there *is* a way to achieve that.

Sure there is. But if a story is all sweetness and light, there's no adversity for the hero to overcome. Without conflict and drama, you don't have an interesting story. You wind with a very bland series of events where nothing really happens, where everything is happy and beautiful all the time. As nice as that might be to experience, it's not pleasant to read. That's an ongoing critique of mine with a lot of amateur fiction on the net.

Granted, that doesn't mean every piece of gay fiction has to have extreme emotional roller-coasters where the hero is perched on the ledge of disaster, ready to commit suicide at a moment's notice. I think a balance can be made so that things don't go too crazy.

BTW, Blue, if you want to practice what you preach, show us something you've written. I think you've got a good head on your shoulders and some good ideas, and I'd like to see what you say be put into practice. Instead of telling us you'd like to see more positive stories, WRITE one and show us exactly what you mean.

One last point: I was recently reminded why I get so turned off by a lot of gay "literature" out there, even among such highly-acclaimed authors as Armistead Maupin and Gore Vidal. I recently bought and read a few classic collections of gay fiction published over the last 40-50 years, but was appalled by the overwhelming negative tone of most of the stories. Many of them ended with the hero on the verge of suicide, or (literally) dissolving into death as the story concludes. Others were just terribly downbeat and depressing, either with the hero rejected by his lover, or the lover dying, or otherwise getting rejected, without a single optimistic note. (The recent acclaimed novella Brokeback Mountain suffers from the same problem; well-written, but uplifting it ain't.)

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Yes, actually I have some things in various stages of writing, just none finished yet. You will see some, though. There will be some that are brighter and some that are darker and some that are both.


I said above that I'm not expecting a story to be entirely without conflict and totally happy. Please don't confuse that with a generally positive story. Overcoming adversity is positive. The attitude and outlook of a story and its characters can be positive. Such stories are one way to bring about that better, brighter, more tolerant and whole future that we want and need, simply by showing that such things are possible.

My point was only that positive stories are needed to balance out the darker, negative stories, and it's possible to write positive stories with exciting plots and interesting characters and dramatic conflicts with which people can identify.

There are some positive, well done stories out there already. There are also some fine stories that deal with some very tough things. I have no quarrel with them; I like them and think they are needed. I simply think we need a balance of all kinds of stories, so that readers have some of each to read.

What a poor message we'd deliver, if some potential reader sees only dark, troubled, disturbing stories; sees no health and hope in them; and concludes that there is nothing to support himself or herself or some loved one. How appalling, if that potential reader concludes it's wrong or unworkable or even unliveable to be gay. Because I know that, despite the bad times, there are also good times and better times ahead. That is especially important, when around us, there is so much that claims bad, wrong-headed, harmful things about being gay, and when so many people want to add to the negatives that gay people experience.

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Guys, I'm tired. I'm so weary of having to have discussions like the one above, of having to defend my life as a good thing, against all the nay-sayers and conservative idiots that feel they have the right to preside as judge and jury over my life. When will this end? When will i be able to write a story and not have to worry about whether it will be looked upon as a positive or negative influence by an audience that so desperately needs an affirmation?

I'm sorry to be a downer, but i needed to vent a little.


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  • 2 weeks later...
When will i be able to write a story and not have to worry about whether it will be looked upon as a positive or negative influence by an audience that so desperately needs an affirmation?

Gee, call me crazy (and many do), but I don't see any comments posted above that directly relate you to or your work at all.

Blue just posted a general question about the reasons for having negative themes in gay stories. I see no problem with having a discussion on something like this, and it seems like a reasonable topic to me.

Hell, I have all kinds of ongoing negative themes in my stories, beyond the usual "gay harrassment," including murder, blackmail, drug abuse, violent car wrecks (several), and the death of literally dozens of characters. But I see no reason to get "weary" having to discuss anything, and it's not a question of defending your choices as a writer.

If you don't want to participate, that's cool. But don't slam the whole discussion because it makes you "tired."

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I don't think that's what AJ was trying to get across.

AJ, please correct me if I didn't fully understand your point.

He raised a good point. I was busy talking about positives and role models, which is good. But AJ's point was just as big, and maybe even more fundamental.

AJ was saying, I think, that the problem is even more basic than showing positives or negatives. It is about simply showing gay people as ordinary, normal, everyday people, prone to all the same strengths and weaknesses as anybody else.

AJ also talked about affirmation, simply saying that yes, "you see gay people;" that we're here, we're real, live, human beings, and we should be treated as such and accepted as just another part of humanity.

:: blue puts down the virtual flag. ::

OK, no sermons here.

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Yup blue, you're on the right track. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to be concerned with writing good role models for gay youth, because all the negative stereotypes wouldn't exist. I can't think of many straight writers who are concerned that if they write a story about straight people acting out in self-destructive ways, that they're going to confirm anyone's suspicions that all straight people are drug addicts, swingers, or freaks in general. Yes, there are straight people who live with those issues, but everybody knows they aren't the majority, and no one tries to paint the entire group with that particular brush. Not so with gay people--when a kid reads a story about self-destructive behavior on the part of a gay person, all those warnings that they've heard about "Those People" come rushing into their heads and they have to worry "Is that what i'm going to become because i'm gay?"

My comments were actually inspired by a conversation with Jamie, wherein we talked about the easygoing attitude around sexual orientation experienced by he and his friends on the european continent. According to him, it doesn't carry a stigma there--it's seen as a natural part of the human experience, and well within the parameters of normality. Thus, the gay people there don't have the same angst and neuroses that so many of their american compatriots show. If you think we don't have that angst and neuroses, all you have to do is take a look at the drug addiction figures for the gay community versus our straight counterparts. I don't know about the gay populations where all you guys live, but Crystal Meth is ravaging the community here. *sigh*


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