Sunday, September 20, 2015

Are You a Bully?

     This past week I ran across something that really bugged me. First I was really pissed off and it has basically eaten way at me for most of the week. This was a small portion of why I was staying of FB this week, but only a small amount. I really have been trying to focus on finishing My Hero: The Olympian.
     Writing update: I’m happy to say, I’ve had a very productive week writing, but these guys keep going and going and going… The original My Hero was around 57k whereas The Olympian is now over 110k and still going.
     Back to my previous thought…
     A fellow author, a male author sent me a message. He was… very emotional. He was mad, then sad, then upset and on and on. He sent me a link to a review he’d received to ask my opinion and basically wanting me to empathize with him. This author, who is fairly new and has a fantastic future ahead of him, hasn’t gotten to the point yet where he can let not so good reviews roll off his back. That takes time, but it none the less hurts when you see someone attack you or worse, your baby. That’s what an author’s book is really: a baby, a labor of love.
     So I read the review. In actuality, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve had a lot worse, but I understood what he was saying. There were a few phrases that really stuck in my craw as well. It then struck me… I’d had a very similar review some time ago. Could it be the same person? I went and checked and no, it wasn’t. But what struck me was how similar one particular phrase was.
     Before I go any further into that review, I have to say, I’ve been pretty lucky. I tend to get really honest, nonjudgmental reviews. But like most authors, there are going to be the real stink bombs that will rattle your cage and throw you off your game. Thankfully, those have been few and far between. Of course, I was surprised I didn’t get more pushback from ‘Going Home’. I really expected it to be a lot worse than it was.
     I have been called a racist, a sick and twisted pervert, a no talent hack, oh… and ‘a man’. THAT’s the one that got to me and that is basically the thing that got my young friend. Yep, we were basically referred to as men in a derogatory way.
“I can tell this was written by a man because…”
     I’ll let you fill in the blank. In my friends review, it was for one reason, but in the review I received it was for another reason, but in each case, the sentence started the same. In each review there were a few other small comments, but basically they were both aimed at our gender…negatively.
     I’m going to flip this around a bit… If I were to write a review about a female author in the M/M genre, and I had started a sentence like that, I would have been shredded publically. “I can tell this was written by a woman because ___.” Oh yeah, the women who read and/or write gay male romance would have come after me with pitch forks and torches. Tell me I’m wrong.
     Here we go… I’m going to jump on the up escalator to my soap box. Yeah, I’m going to rant for a moment here…
     A year or so ago I had a reader leave a review of one of my books on Goodreads (yeah, I know…) saying that the sex was unrealistic and most probably not possible. Really? Since when does a thirty-something mother from the Midwest, US have the experience I’ve had as a gay man? Let me tell you now, there isn’t a sex scene in any of my books that I’ve not done! Trust me on this one. To this woman I say: I would be willing to bet that I’ve had more dick than you’d have in ten of your lifetimes. Yeah, I was a big ol’ slut in my youth, so give me a little credit here, I think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to men having sex together.
     When I hear a female tell me that she is really a gay man trapped in a woman’s body, it just kills me. Thank you kindly for your support, but no, you do not know what it is like to be a gay man. Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen. That’s like me saying I know exactly what it is like to have menstrual cramps or to give birth. There are just some things you can empathize or sympathize with, but unless you’ve been there, you cannot know. Those shoes will never fit, so quite trying to walk in ‘em.
     I equate this to being bullied. That is what it feels like to me. Whenever I see one of those little cartoon posts that denigrate men, it’s a slap in the face. When I see some of these reviews, “I can tell this was written by a man…” it’s like taking a punch to the gut. “You’re just a man, what would you know?” That is one that makes my eyes cross. It reminds me of years ago of a teacher saying, “She’s a girl, she can’t do math or science.” Really?
     Here’s a little story for you…and yes it is very true…
     A gym opened up here in the small little city where I now reside. I decided to take a tour and see what it was like. During this tour we got to a place where there were frosted glass doors with a sign saying “Women’s Gym”. I asked the young guide where the men’s gym area was. “Oh, we don’t have one. This is for women only because some feel self-conscious about working out in front of others. My reply? “And some men don’t?” Of course I didn’t get a response, nor did I expect one. Discrimination? Sure it is. Is it okay? Sure it is. I totally understand the reasons and don’t have a problem with it. I pointed it out to let this young lady to let her know that it was just that: discrimination.
     Just like women, gay men also like to have a place to call their own. Some gay men want a place where they can go and not be scrutinized, to be themselves without judgment. So ladies, when there is a gay bar or gay establishment that doesn’t allow women, please remember my little story here. Believe it or not, there are some men who would like to be in an all-male environment. Nothing against women, it’s just that they would like to behave like men and not have to censor themselves for a mixed crowd.
     I will say again that I enjoy the company of women and especially a lot of the readers and writers in the M/M genre, and this is by no means a generalization of all women. But damn, there are a few who make me and other male authors, cringe, bang our heads against walls and downright weep. We are really tired of getting bashed over the head and made to take it while not being allowed say anything just because we have a cock and balls! It is hard enough being a gay man without this kind of shit.
     Okay, I’m moving on… with more coffee…
     I was made aware that there was another blow up over another author writing under a male pen name. There was this big hoopla about the possibility of John Lanyon actually being a woman. Do I care? Nope. I’ve read a lot of John Lanyon’s books and have enjoyed them. Will I again? You bet. My thought is if I enjoy the book, then what do I care if the author was male of female?
     Again, I will say, I have never said a woman can’t write in this genre. Nope, never happened. There are some that do it better than others, but then I’ve read some women who do it better than men. Pass it along please. There are still some out there who, for whatever reason, think I have said this in the past when I have not!
     Now that I’ve said that, I do wish some women writers who so write under a male pen name, for whatever reason, would just come clean, or out of the closet, so to speak. I don’t think anyone really cares who is writing gay male romance anymore. It is the deception that I think most people object to. I also think that if it comes out, they are going to get a lot of kickback, so why not just do it on your own terms and avoid so much negativity. Just my thoughts on it.
     I don’t comprehend why people can’t just treat each other with respect. What ever happened to ‘do unto others’? Isn’t it easier to be kind to someone? I guess I don’t understand the need to tear someone down when it can be just as easy to build them up. There are times when we all feel frustrated, angry and hurt but is that a good enough reason to strike out at someone publically? I don’t get it.
     Personally, I would rather try and help someone, which I try and do each and every day. Of course that doesn’t always happen because I rarely leave the house, especially lately. But I do try to do a little something at least once a week when I do venture out. It might not be much. There are times it is so small but can have a big impact. Remember that as you prepare for the upcoming week.
Just because I can.


  1. I think this may be the first (second?) time I leave a comment in response to one of your posts. I'm not normally among the first to dive in and usually trust that someone along the way will voice my thoughts for me. This subject however has become something of my personal hobby horse, soap box. I am so fed up with the need of people to label themselves and everybody else around them. Or rather, the need to stick a long list of definitions on those labels. If you're male you have to read/write/feel/talk/behave.... in such and such a way. If you're female the rules are as follows. A gay male is always... A straight woman should never.... I don't think I need to go on, we've all seen them and we've all been irritated by them. If we could just except that every single person is an individual and allowed to have their individual quirks and mannerisms, or even better, if we could learn to rejoice in the fact that we are indeed all unique as individuals, bullying would fall on deaf ears. I don't care who or what anybody is or how they present themselves. I judge people by one standard, and one standard only. You are either nice or you're not. If you are I'm delighted to have you in my life. If you're not I don't want you anywhere near me. That's all.

    Thank you for a wonderful post. Until my utopia comes to be we need posts like this to remind the world to be nice and tolerant.

    1. Wow, thank you, Helena. I agree with you. I like positive friendly people around me and have no time for those who are not. :*

  2. An interesting post Max Vos. I've always read a lot of science fiction and fantasy and even today, there is this thing that women can't write science fiction and should stick to fantasy! Years ago James Tiptree Jnr wrote several brilliant short stories and novels; a fellow author Robert Silverberg wrote in the introduction to a collection of short stories that "It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for to me there is something inelcutably masculine about Tiptree's writing" Not long after it was revealed that 'he' was in fact a woman, author Alice Sheldon, who continued to publish short stories under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr and Racoona Shledon. To me this proved that your gender or sexual orientation didn't matter as far as your writing was concerned. What you called yourself, whether you were male/female gay/straight was irrelevant, it was the writing that either stood the test of time or not.

    I now find myself reading another genre, that of MM romance. It doesn't bother me if an author chooses to use a male name or an asexual one on their stories,what I'm concerned about is the content. So long as the author does their research and the story is realistic, including the sex scenes, then I am a happy reader. Like you, I don't enjoy the need some people, authors or not, have to point out that their story etc. is better as they are more suited to write as they are a gay male, a straight female, a gay female a straight male. Who cares! It's the writing itself that should stand the test of time.

    To go back to Tiptree, I still re-read her stories from time to time, and does it may a difference that she was female, not male - not to me. It's what she was saying in her fiction that was important to me.

    Thanks for this post Max, no one should be bullied for who they are or what they write - one day maybe.


    1. As always Carol, your views are insightful. Thank you. :*

  3. Great blog, Max. Treating people with kindness and respect ... in 2015?? Who'd have thought it?

  4. I don't normally comment but--I happen to agree. I follow several M/M authors--some are men, some are women. It doesn't matter to me--I just like their writing. Did I know that Josh Lanyon was a woman? I suspected merely because I had never seen a picture, but it doesn't matter. Josh's work is still some of my favorite.

  5. I get where you're coming from, but I don't think people are ticked because it's a woman writing the books but that she lied about being a man; it was the deceit that some are reacting negatively to.

    I've never read anything from this author so I can't speak on the quality of her work but from what I've heard her work is pretty damn good.

    The author's gender or sexuality doesn't matter to me; as long as the writing is good and solid, I couldn't care less.

    I'm just confused as to why (since the genre is dominated by female authors) did she feel the need to represent herself as a man when it's not necessary to do so?

    And isn't this the second or third female author that's done this?

    If this keeps up readers are going to turn into old elementary school math teachers demanding that authors "show their work."

    1. Many do it because if it comes out that they are writing m/m romance they can loose their jobs, their family and so much... I worked at a job one time who fired three of their housekeepers because they read m/m romance.. at the time I didn't but I hear so much from family about the fact that I read it... couldn't imagine what they would say if I wrote it

  6. Thank you for this excellent post Max. Literature is an art ... it is a passion. Whether one gains fame or not ... it is because of their "voice". It speaks to others & resonates within. Your "voice" speaks to us of kindness & empathy. You tell a well constructed, cohesive story with a point to be made. I still don't get the ridiculous banning of Going Home. It was a tight extremely well written story that examined all of the questions & came to an excellent HEA conclusion. A writer's voice is uniquely their own ... that is what I look for ... a "voice" that touches me ... that informs me ... that makes me think about the characters ... not the author! I have the greatest respect for both you & your "book children". Keep speaking Dad! Your other kids are listening too. Don't let the bullies win! Love from Alaska

  7. Preach. It isn't about gender, its about talent, but when someone holds up a hand and says, 'wait, hold up a second, what you wrote....that isn't us. That isn't true.' Isn't,' you can't write this.' What gay people are saying is, this isn't true, you shouldn't day that, it hurts.' Its about talent, not gender, but when someone critisizes-with a legitimate bitch- don't dive behind gender and say, well, you can't say that.
    Have a seat. Because, yes I can. And I will. Because sometimes what gets written, hurts.
    What part of, that hurts , don't people get?
    People are always going to be critical of art. It's the nature of the beast. But somehow, critisicm has passed through this membrane, given the power of social media, to a full on hate fest.
    And. You . dasn't. Make. A. Peep.
    I forgot who said it but they're a saying that goes like this, 'speak up and speak out. Or they'll beat you to death, then convince the world, you enjoyed it.'
    Stereotypes aren't okay, overall sweeping generalizations, its the product of a lazy mind. In some instances its called racism, sexism, and sometimes it's homophobia.

  8. A few years ago, I was writing MM under a different pen and I had a male MM writer message me, asking my gender -- saying there was a "problem" with women writing MM and he intended to out them all. It really bothered me that he felt the need to go on this crusade. What did it matter and why did he see it as a problem? I've also seen reviews that use gender as a weapon. For those reasons, I've tried to remain genderless as Kelex. I don't list a gender anywhere. I see reviews for my books that use male pronouns, others that use female ones--and I correct none of them. I don't think it really matters if I am a male or a female, as long as I've entertained the reader. If pointedly asked I might answer the question (depending on who's asking.) I'm not trying to be obtuse or hide anything. I just don't see where it really matters. I've enjoyed MM books by both male and female writers, so why draw a line? Great post, Max :)

  9. So true Max, great post and I stand on that soap box with you, instead of people criticising, they should be encouraging. Without books what is life? I mean, who the fcuk cares whether it's a man or woman writing mm romance, as long as they do their required research. I say this now and will say it long into the future even after I am gone from this plain of existence to the next, we need to thank authors who have the courage to actually put pen to paper and write a story and put it out there for the likes of you and me to read whether the story is crap or not, at least they have the talent to come up with an idea, put it into a story form, spend hours of their time (months even) to complete that story for us to consume. So to all authors I say here on Max's Sunday Blog, thank you for your time, patience, talent, when you could have been doing something else.

    NB: I don't see the critics' names on books or on various book awards.