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Point of View: A Little Respect

Respect - deposit photos

Last week, a new gay male author popped onto the scene on one of the social media sites I frequent, and immediately started taking potshots at women who write gay romance.

I won’t go into details or traffic in names here (so please don’t ask), but suffice it to say, his post engendered a flurry of responses. Many of these were thoughtful and measured, trying to engage the poster on an intellectual level, to which he responded with naked fury and out-of-bounds name-calling.

I’ve run Queer Sci Fi for almost ten years now, and there’s one subject we never talk about on the group because it always descends into chaos… the fact that women write MM romance. I’m not going to get into that now, except to say that of course women can (and should) write MM romance. Denying this because they are not gay also would mean I should never write a straight character, or a trans character, or a winged man who lives on Oberon, because I am none of those things. How could I possibly do them justice?

So I’ll take a deep breath here, gather my thoughts, and then say my piece.

We face enough common enemies – greedy distributors, Gen AI, escalating costs, and an indifferent and troubled world. Attacking and belittling another author (or an entire community of authors) strikes me as the essence of insanity in this current environment. Surely we should be making common cause and supporting each other instead.

What’s lacking here is the basic idea of respect.

In my time as a site admin and community moderator, I’ve learned that respect is fundamental to everything else. You’re not always going to agree with others in our groups – and oh boy, would it be a boring world if we did! But you need to at least respect their right to have that belief.

Without respect for other’s points of view, everything devolves into chaos. This is as true for an online writing community as it is for a political system or a place of work. I’ve seen many a flame war start over a simple disagreement over a single word in someone’s post that someone else took offense to.

It’s never okay to attack and dehumanize your opponents simply because they believe something different from you. The poster referenced above not only objected to non-gay writers writing gay characters (his opinion), but then tossed out unfounded charges of “pedophilia” and “homophobia,” words like “sick” and “perverted” with casual abandon, causing pain, hurt and confusion instead of fostering understanding.

I don’t know what brought this poster to this dark place. Perhaps there’s a truly sad tale that helps explain his feelings, if not his actions. If so, I feel empathy for his situation. Life sucks these days, and it’s especially tough on new writers trying to make a name for themselves.

But to attack others, about whom you really know nothing, and to do so in such a hateful way, causes me lose all sympathy for him and his own personal plight.

I may not know this poster, but I do know that the people he attacked. Far from being a monolithic block of cisgender straight women, they include folks from all parts of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. I know that many of these same women that they decry fought alongside us for marriage equality, and that their stories (often read by cisgender women – most romance readers are and have historically been women) helped open a lot of hearts and minds to the LGBTQ+ cause over the last fifteen years.

I know these people personally too. They come from all races, have disabilities, are neurodiverse, are all kinds of queer identities, and often several of these at once. They are everyday humans dealing with family crises and imposter syndrome, with money issues and health issues and so much more. A casual reading of author names and bios would never fully reveal the vibrant rainbow of folks writing queer romance.

During my tenure in the queer romance world, I have come to respect them all, and to appreciate what they have done to help build a strong and welcoming community of queer and queer friendly writers and readers.

Sure, it would be nice to have a less competition for my work. Can I convince all of you (LGBTQ+ folks and allies alike) who write gay characters to take a year off, so I can get a little traction here? LOL…

But when I look around at the queer romance ecosystem, I feel a great sense of pride. It’s a rare and special thing to find so many people with so many different viewpoints, who have coalesced around the LGBTQ+ community and the idea that we deserve to be happy (and equal), just like everyone else.

These are my people.

You all have my respect and my gratitude. If each of us (especially those who seem to take delight in throwing flame bombs) respected those around us just a little more, the world would be a much better and safer place.

So take heart. You are loved and welcomed here.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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