Just the facts, man.

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Lately I’ve seen a lot of classist, shaming statements on the internet. I’m not usually one to call people out online—at least while I’m wearing my author hat (which, I’m told, is all the time now). IRL is different because conversations don’t tend to degenerate quite so quickly there, and though I haven’t been compared to Hitler IRL, I have been called a devil.

 

In addition to not calling anyone out personally, I’m not going to talk about the statements that prompted this post. I really just want to talk a little about my own holiday experiences, whether direct or observed.

  1. Some people can’t afford to buy all the ingredients to make a “traditional holiday dinner.”
  2. Some people have one or more of these attitudes toward cooking: I can’t; I won’t; I don’t give a fuck about it. All of these are okay.
  3. Some people don’t have families to gather with—either blood or made—and they’re fine with it.
  4. Some people don’t have families to gather with—either blood or made—and they’re not fine with it.
  5. Neither #3 nor #4 is “better” or a more valid way to feel than the other.
  6. Some people are grateful for the chance to work a holiday because they need the money to survive.
  7. Some people have to choose between food and holiday gifts, or between food and heat, or between heat and internet. Some of those choices are easier than others.
  8. Almost all of these people were born into a socio-economic class which precluded their participation in The American Dream (or, as it’s known to us, The American Myth).
  9. It doesn’t matter how smart they are or how hard they work, most of these people will be lucky to rise from the class into which they were born. Very few people are that lucky.

If you’re still with me, thanks for reading.

I won’t tell you what I hope you’ll take away from this post. That’s not my job. These are facts. I hope you’ll take a moment and think about them, even if you don’t see yourself in any of them. Especially if you don’t see yourself in any of them.

As always, I welcome kind, thoughtful comments. Any comments that are not kind will be deleted without acknowledgement or remorse. I love comments, please don’t make me delete yours.

Happy Holidays!

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Who’s allowed to write, and what are they allowed to say?

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I seek out good news. News about an athlete who, after many attempts, finally accomplishes their epic goal or about a scientist who makes a discovery that will change lives. Good news gives me hope, makes me feel like this planet just might be an okay place to live.

Sometimes, though, this kind of news carries undertones that hurt and belittle and erase people—or portions of people. If the accomplishment is made by someone who identifies QUILTBAG, it’s impossible to escape the attempt to straightwash or gaywash them. (Since I’m an author, my examples will use authors.) If the news is about a gay author someone will say—but why do they have to say they’re gay? Can’t they just be Accomplished Author? If the author is bisexual, someone will say that but also, why don’t they just say they’re queer?—or—but being pansexual is so much more inclusive—or even—I don’t go around saying I’m straight so it doesn’t really matter if you’re bi { or  asexual, gay, lesbian, trans, fluid, etc.}.

I’m sure most people don’t say these things meaning to hurt and bully, but if you’re straight and telling someone of another orientation that “orientation doesn’t matter”, then that’s what you’re doing. Almost nobody has to say they’re straight, because straight is the default for our society. Everyone is presumed straight until proven otherwise—and sometimes you are expected to prove it, even inside the QUILTBAG community. When someone says “orientation doesn’t matter”, what an LGBTQ person hears is a variation of “you don’t matter” or “don’t remind me that you’re different”.

Everyone should write the stories they feel inside and everyone should identify the way they choose, without worrying about backlash. Most people would probably agree it’s not right to censor another person’s fiction, to tell them (for example) that authors should only write characters who are of the same gender and orientation as themselves. I hope everyone will think about it before trying to censor another person’s identifier.

I am a bisexual woman who’s been out since the early 1980s and writing fiction about LGBTQ and straight characters since the early 1990s. I didn’t get published in more than small literary journals until I started writing about two men falling in love. Are my stories less valid because I’m not a gay man or a straight woman?* Ultimately, that’s not for me to decide, but I think I have as much right as anyone else to tell the stories of the people who live in my head, regardless of gender/orientation/etc..

My orientation, my right to identify as bisexual, is as important to me as being treated like a human being. Because they’re the same thing.

Erasure = discrimination = dehumanizing = wrong.

Please think before you speak.

tilted rose*This post wasn’t inspired by anyone attacking me personally, or any single post/comment, but by a mindset that I’ve been trying to change for decades. I’ll keep trying until it goes away.

You’re not alone

 I want to send out a big hug to everyone who feels left out during the holidays.

To everyone who has been disowned by their “family” for being LGBT, or having a criminal record or a mental illness, or any “reason”.

To everyone who doesn’t have anything “extra” in their budget to spend on gifts or a tree or a big fancy dinner.

To everyone who grew up dreading December because it shone a bright light on all the ways you were different, on all the things you didn’t have, or just because it was the most dangerous month of the year.

I’d hug every one of you if I could, just so you’d know you’re not alone. Because I get it. I grew up being teased because The Salvation Army brought my presents in a truck while I was in school.

I get it. I spent most of my adult life volunteering for any and every holiday shift and saying it was to help co-workers who had plans to travel out of state or do special things with their kids, when I really needed the money to turn on my heater.

I get it. I took a lot of shit for being bisexual. My “family” kicked me out of their little club after my daughter came out as trans.

Don’t let the holidays get you down if you can help it. Do something that makes you happy and join me in resisting the urge to compare our private lives to the public lives of others…as much as possible, anyway. Down that path lies a world of hurt, and besides, most people—especially on social media—take great care to show only their best side. You probably don’t show most of your struggle and pain in public, and most people are the same way.

If the whole deal seems to be too much, reach out. Someone will be there to help you through the next minute, or the next hour, or the next day, until things feel manageable again. Because they will. I’ve been there and back enough times to say that with confidence.

Check out my Resources page for a worldwide collection of hotlines and websites just waiting for you to reach out or use your Google-fu and find a new one.

Hang in there. *hugs*

tilted rose

pictures 1-4 taken by Charley Descoteaux.

In which i pitch my $0.02 while trying not to shoot myself in the foot.

It’s been a long time since i posted something likely to be incendiary, but that doesn’t mean i haven’t been pondering. Oh, i ponder like nobody’s business on a slow day. The plan is to come back later today and post a snippet, but until then here are my thoughts on something i’ve been hearing/talking/thinking a lot about lately. These thoughts are purely my own, so you know who to blame if they’re incomprehensible, offensive, or both.

To Mainstream or not to Mainstream, that is the question?

As someone who started grade school in the 1970s the word “mainstreaming” has a very specific meaning. When I was in first grade it had just become trendy to send kids who weren’t “perfect” to school with everyone else. During my time on the little kids’ side of the playground my classmates were deaf, legally blind, and some of them had cerebral palsy or Down syndrome. They were also every color of the rainbow: Asian, Latino, black, Pacific Islander, Native American (and I have a feeling I’ve forgotten someone so I apologize; that was a long time ago!).

Mainstreaming 1970s style was met with some strenuous opposition from some corners of society but for the most part the kids on the playground couldn’t have cared less about someone’s disability. All we cared about was who was nice and who wasn’t.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

The latest push for mainstreaming is surrounding the LGBTQ community. There are good things to be said for fitting in and becoming an active part of the larger community of humans we all live in. However, there’s a big difference between a nice stew and paté. A nice hearty stew can contain dozens of flavors, each morsel retaining the qualities that make it special—you won’t mistake a bite of carrot for a whole clove of garlic, even if the garlic has been deliciously mellowed by its exposure to the mixture as a whole.

On the other hand, once an ingredient goes into a paté it loses its unique characteristics in order to contribute fully to the overall experience. The onion in a paté doesn’t resemble the onion in a stew.

Sorry if it grosses anyone out to liken humans to food products but hopefully at least the metaphor is clear.

I don’t want to live in paté.

If someone else does, fine, but the push to create a society where the rainbow brigade is indistinguishable from our straight white middle class neighbors just makes me sad. I have this attitude in part because I’m not straight or middle class, but mostly because I’m afraid the push toward mainstreaming will result in homogeneity—and since the overwhelming majority of people are straight, I can only guess what that would end up looking like.

I enjoyed growing up with people from all over the world, people who were differently-abled or didn’t speak English at home or who were just plain unique in their own way. My feeling about the mainstreaming of the rainbow is that it’s less about becoming fully accepted than it is about fitting in. It feels like the difference between being tolerated (gee, thanks for allowing me to continue to live), and being genuinely accepted as fellow humans. And that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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xphoto credit: bkdc via photopin cc

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia!

Hello and welcome to my stop on the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia!  Almost 200 people in the LGBTQ writing community have banded together to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia and raise awareness, acceptance, and love around the world.

Everyone is running their own giveaways in this hop, and mine is a $25 donation to The Trevor Project in the winner’s name, along with a $10 All Romance eBooks gift card. I considered offering some Trevor Gear, but don’t want to exclude my international friends. Check out the end of the post for ways to enter.

I really didn’t know what to post about for such an important event. Usually at big events I’m the quiet one in the corner, observing. But that’s not exactly what I signed up for. This is the sixth post I’ve written for this hop. The others weren’t bad, but they were all too something:  too personal, too political, too sad or too angry.

So instead of any of that, I’m going to shine the light on one of the most important groups I know of: The Trevor Project. I wish they were local so I could volunteer, but I’ll have to settle for sharing their Lifeline number and their message, and sending money.

Many kids, regardless of orientation, experience a time when things seem too hard, too big, too impossible to overcome. Even though it’s wonderful to be unique, it’s not always easy to be different. It can feel like nobody cares, or like nobody has ever gone through anything so awful. I’ve been there myself. When you’re in crisis, it’s hard to feel anything but horrible and hopeless.

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But you’re not alone. Someone cares. The volunteers at The Trevor Project are always there to listen. They care. The people who give money to keep the phone lines open care. The team keeping the web site up and running, they care. Even if they don’t know you, they care what happens to you.

Parents and friends of LGBTQ youth—let the young people in your life know you care. Even if they seem to be handling things okay, everyone needs help sometimes. The strongest kids can break the hardest and with the least warning. Texts, phone calls, hugs—don’t let someone you care about forget you’re there.

Trevor Lifeline: 866 488 7386

Thanks, everyone, for getting this far with me, and for participating in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. To enter my giveaway for a $25 donation in your name to The Trevor Project and a $10 All Romance eBooks gift card, leave a comment with your e-mail address and a suicide prevention hotline number or similar resource serving LGBTQ youth or seniors in your local area (worldwide). I want to compile a list and make it available 24/7 on my Resources page. Because even though the greatest sign of strength is asking for help, you have to know who to ask.

For more entries, follow my blog, Like my FB Author Page, catch up with me on Twitter, or share my Resources page–anything goes!

Let me know what you did in your comment, and then hop on!

I’ll e-mail my winner within 48 hours of the conclusion of the hop on May 27th. Break a leg!

 

Why Erotic Romance?

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I’ve seen some of the recent buzz in reader and writer circles about the erotic content of Romances and how the different heat levels are (or should be) marketed.  Don’t leave!  I wouldn’t dip even my little toe into those piranha-infested waters even if I did believe explicit content has anything to do with the quality of a story.  The only pot I like stirring anymore is the fictional kind. But, I read stories of all heat levels and the conversation has gotten me pondering. Like Flannery O’Connor said:  “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

I’ve always loved the idea that magic could be real, that if you turn over a rock or turn a corner you could find something amazing that would change your life forever.  For me as a reader, heat level is less important than magic (both literal and figurative).

I’ve written in a few genres in the past *cough* few years, under three names and for many different reasons.  I’ve written articles on sports and court decisions to pay bills, literary short stories to experiment with different ways of showing character, and more than one manuscript started out with the lofty goal of writing The Great American Novel.  Even though one school of thought insists that sex sells, period, nothing I sold before 2012 had any sex in it whatsoever.  All the steamy stories (long and short) were turned down flat by agents and publishers of all sizes and specialties across the country—even the ones who insisted they enjoyed my writing and would like to see something “more marketable” in the future.

For me, writing about the entire relationship between two (or more!) people is fun and reading about it is even more fun (not to mention easier).  I’d written about love, and some of my characters got their HEA/HFNs, but I hadn’t written a Romance before last August.  I tried once or twice but my characters revolted because I also tried to make them all straight.  But, that’s a post for another time . . . maybe June.

By the time I made it halfway through the draft of Comfort and Joy I was hooked.  Even though it deals with a pretty heavy subject (long-term emotional recovery from an assault), just knowing the guys were headed for happiness made me happy too.  Once Etopia Press offered to publish it, my conversion to the sexy-side was complete.  Instead of cutting the steamy scenes (which always managed to sneak in somehow), now I’m polishing them.

I wrote two more short novellas last fall and barring any disasters both should be released this summer, so it’s pretty safe to say I’m happy with my decision to follow my heart (yes, my heart) and continue writing Erotic Romance.  In fact, I’ve been working with one of my editors this weekend on the 9/June release (Jake’s story, hence the gorgeous trumpet pic), working on the blurb for the other summer release (Directing Traffic, formerly known as Sea Change), and polishing up a longer story for submission (CS).  As if that wasn’t enough to make studying difficult, my PNR guys sense blood in the water now that CS is almost done and their conversation off in the corner is getting louder.

What do you think?  Does the heat level in a Romance have any bearing on your decision to read it?  Would you ever be upset if a blurb or other marketing gave the wrong impression of a story’s heat rating?  Give me your $0.02 in the comments so I have something juicy to read on my next study break.

photo credit: gilles chiroleu via photopin cc

My blog is wearing red!

For the next two days my blog will be wearing red in support of Marriage Equality.  (Close enough … yeah, I have a problem with conformity across the board.)  I’ve spent many hours and have had literally thousands of conversations on this subject.  Not because I’m waiting for my chance to buy a marriage license, but because Marriage Equality is symbolic.  It’s symbolic of the struggle that’s been going on forever—the struggle to be treated equally, to be accepted for who we are.

I try not to get too political in this space but when politics and love intersect I figure it’s fair game for Romance authors.  Same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equality are the civil rights issues of the 21st Century, and something I’m very passionate about.

What you and I do, or don’t do, right now will shape the future for people all across the US.  Be on the right side of history with me and support same-sex marriage.  To learn more about how to get involved, click here or find a group close to where you live—we’re everywhere.  😉

Just please don’t call it “gay marriage”.  Same-Sex Marriage, Marriage Equality, the freedom to marry…   Any of these will do.  The term gay marriage marginalizes at least half of the LGBTQ community.  I realize it’s tres mainstream to use that term, but just think about it.  If I were to marry a woman (I should be so lucky!) I’d still be bisexual; I wouldn’t become a lesbian, my queerness would just become more visible to the casual observer.

Thanks to the amazing photographer who made this beautiful “wet heart” image available via photopin.  I may not take it down on Thursday, it’s so gorgeous!

photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc

A short break from Romance, in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

I’m going to school three mornings a week this term and Wednesday when I left class, my brain happily numbed by oversaturation with legalese, I was greeted by the sight above.  In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month the Women’s Resource Center on campus sponsored this T-Shirt Project to get people talking.  It’s not a romantic subject, but it’s one where I have to contribute my $0.02.  Change happens when we refuse to stop talking about something.

Love makes people do crazy and often stupid things, like make excuses for the bad behavior of others.  I’m happy to notice that this abdication of personal power seems to be getting less acceptable.   And not in the “s/he’s stupid if s/he stays” kind of way of 20-30 years ago (at least not exclusively).

Today on the train into town a young man was acting inappropriately.  It started with what he may’ve seen as flirting, and it would’ve seemed like flirting if he hadn’t followed it up the way he did.  He sat behind the young woman beside me and after a few minutes she turned around and told him not to touch her hair again.  She said it nicely but firmly, probably giving him the benefit of the doubt whether it had been intentional.  Well, I didn’t hear or see his answer, but she told him more loudly not to do it again.  A few moments later she stood up and moved to the doorway of the train.  I’d been paying attention in case she needed me to step in but didn’t see him do anything so I’m not sure of all the details, but we both got off at the next stop.  Another young woman talked to her before I had the chance, she said he’d been walking around hitting on women and wasn’t it horrible.

Now, I figured he wasn’t going to stop until/unless something or someone made him, but before I could figure out how to get the driver’s attention the gal did it herself.  She marched right up to his window & knocked & told him what was happening.  It would’ve been so easy for her to just go on her way and try to forget it ever happened, but she didn’t.

Obviously she had no feelings for him prior to this exchange, and what she felt afterward was nowhere near love, but her actions spoke loudly to me.  This gal has boundaries and doesn’t suffer their breach in silence.

I can only hope her response would be the same if someone she loves and trusts were to cross those boundaries.  Given the right support system and her habit of taking such actions seriously, she could end up staying safe in the long term.  And if more and more girls (and boys!) grow up with this kind of awareness it’s reasonable to expect Domestic Violence to become far less common in only a few generations.

None of us can control the actions of others, but we can control how we react to them and to what extent we give them power in our lives.  If you know someone who’s struggling with Domestic Violence, the conversation could save their life.  Feel free to use this story to open the door—use anything, just get the door open.  You can’t make them walk through it, but I guarantee that if you don’t open it they won’t even realize it’s there.

Thanks for listening.  Be safe out there!