Saturday, November 12, 2011

A letter to the entire M/M Community; This must stop.

Dear readers, writers, bloggers and the like,

I write this with a heavy heart. I’ve been watching this latest controversy unfold, I’ve stayed on the sidelines through most of it, expressing my concern at what I see going on only in a few instances off blog. My concern not for any single author, but for the community as a whole, for what I think the backlash of this is going to do  is doing.

I see so many people asking for, calling for, even demanding that authors prevent this feeling of betrayal that so many have by revealing truths to the public, by changing their bios, by not “misrepresenting” themselves.  I don’t think you know or understand what you ask. You don’t fully understand the impact this firestorm is having. With voices raised high you’ve gone after the author at the center of this, but there are other authors as well, authors on the side lines watching as this all unfolds and the cry goes from one author, or authors in general.

I wrote a post last week, an outburst at what I called the panty policing gender patrol. I didn’t write that in regard to any one person, I didn’t write that in regard to any one author. I wrote that in an emotional outburst, because I’m deeply troubled at the impact this firestorm will have in the broader scheme of things, in the genre as a whole. Days later, after watching more of this unfold, I stick to my opinion. Stronger than ever. We can NOT police the gender of our authors. We can NOT require them to reveal gender and/or sexual orientation if they choose not to.  

Who are we to ask them to? Who are we to decide what is truth and what is misrepresentation when it comes to gender identification and/or sexual orientation of the person behind the pseudo? How can we do that when we do not understand the fluidity of gender in the first place?

Our authors have a right to their privacy. Our authors have a right to identify however they choose. Or authors have a right to the protections of their pseudo. Our authors owe us nothing more than the satisfaction of a good book, our monies worth for what we are buying. We are not buying them. We are not buying their lives. We are not buying the right to know the person behind the pseudo.

Before I’m again accused of refusing to admit the culpability of the author at the center of this, I will say, again, I refuse only to engage in the firestorm as it relates directly to that single author. I understand that people feel betrayed. I understand that people don’t want to feel that way again. But I also understand that the solution is not found in betraying the rest of the authors in the community by demanding that they owe us the person behind the pseudo; the pseudo they have chosen as is their right to do.

I’m told this isn’t about gender. I’m told this isn’t about sexual orientation. I say yes. Yes it is. It is in that the preconceived notions about gender and the lack of understanding of its fluidity are at the heart of wanting to know, is the person behind the male or the female pseudo a woman or a man? And is that man or woman L.G.B.T.orQ… which label can we put on them? And is it accurate?  I’m told, we as a community don’t care which category authors fall into. Male, Female, L.G.B.T.Q.Straight. But don’t you see? It’s in the trying to label that is the problem.

I will tell you who the person behind the pseudo is. The person is neither. The person is both. The person is…  a human being. They are a human being with the right to identify and present as they, and they alone, chose to. That is all.  

With a heavy heart, I say to you all. If this doesn’t stop, you run the risk of losing fabulous authors.

My heart is sad, because you don’t even realize it.

With love to all,
Amara Devonte


Scarlett Parrish said...

I understand that certain readers feel betrayed because they were "lied to" -- so they claim. Whether or not this is true, I think we need to ask some questions, the first being, "How did we get to the stage of believing only gay men can write M/M or even have the right to?"

I'm of the belief that authors are not the characters; we write people different to ourselves all the time and that should apply to gender, sexuality, age, you name it.

But that's probably a different subject to what you're getting at. The main problem I see in all of this is a matter of privacy.

An author owes their readers nothing. Absolutely nothing. If someone buys one of my books, they also buy the right to an opinion on it. That's all. They don't have the right to the truth about my gender, my sexuality, ANYTHING beyond the book they've just purchased and an opinion on it.

Of course I can only speak from my perspective which is why I give my opinion above. There are plenty of writers and readers, some people who are both, who would disagree.

I'm far from being a big name in the M/M community; I doubt many people have even heard of me. I've only published one purely M/M book. But recent events? This? This is everything I hate about erotic romance epublishing -- the smallness of the community, the petty squabbles, the demands for more than the reader has a fucking right to.

I have a few more story ideas to see to, but after, say, 2012? If I never published another erotic romance, at least in epublishing? I wouldn't give a damn. I'd probably feel relieved to be away from all this crap and moving on in my career.

I hope that feeling changes, because I love the genre. I just hate all the immaturity that goes with it from certain quarters.

/rant off

sue laybourn said...

Well said.

As a new writer to the m/m community, I've found the events of the past week appalling. Honestly, the intransigence, hatred, vitriol and intolerance I've witnessed make me think about packing it in and taking up knitting.

I've seen one or two people, in high dudgeon, talk about 'boycotting' publishers. Seriously, what is that going to achieve, apart from punish a whole load of writers. It's a petulant, childish crusade and I've seen more reasoned debate from a kindergarten class.

I write because I love to tell stories and I love reading and writing in this genre but this whole sorry business makes me wonder if it's worth it.

Amara Devonte said...

I could not agree with you more, on every word.

I'm less familiar with other genres and what goes on there, I've been pretty wrapped up exclusively in the M/M genre for awhile now, but no matter the genre, this behavior has to stop.

Thanks for leaving your comments Scarlett. I'm just a reader, just a blogger and I'm told I don't understand the "real problem". It's good to see I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Good luck with your books. And from reader to author... hang in there. We need good authors, no matter the genre.

Scarlett Parrish said...

I think the 'real problem' is that some people set themselves up as moral arbiters of authors' private lives, but hey, it's called a PRIVATE life for a reason.

Buying a book does not give you the right to be a suppurating dickweasel to the author. That's what it boils down to.

And some pretty big editors and publishers agree -- that's why some of the loudest whingers have been sacked from their publishers and forced into self-publishing. No self-respecting professional would touch a manuscript if it's accompanied by a whole heap of trouble from the author.

Amara Devonte said...

@Sue: Thank you.

I've never seen anything like this before. I'm shocked and appalled. I really am.

I've seen the boycotting talk as well. The more I look around at the knee jerk reactions in this firestorm, the deeper my concern gets. I've already begun to hear the rumblings of authors just not sure it's worth it. Hearing the same now from both you and Scarlett only confirms what my gut is telling me.

I honestly can't say I blame you.

But know, that there are readers that support you. And I for one would be sad to see you go. I know I am only one, but I will fight tooth and nail for you guys, for whatever that's worth.

Hang in there. I sincerely hope you continue to make good book for people like me. I value you, and what you do.

Thanks for leaving your comments. It means a lot. Best of luck with your books.

Amara Devonte said...

@Scarlett: Agreed. I've been looking the problem as it relates to the private lives of the author's gender or sexuality only because of the current conflict and resulting cry. But, it's no less valid to me for any other area of the author's private life. The author's private life IS the author's private life, all areas. I don't at all understand this thought process that we as readers are owed anything more from an author than the book we've bought. I can't even wrap my brain around it.

I'm actually not familiar with the authors screaming the loudest right now. I do know this reader, will NEVER buy their books. As far as them being sacked from their publishers...that wouldn't surprise me one bit.

Tiger Gray said...

I don't know the situation itself but I will say no one has the right to police someone else's gender identity. Many trans people (including myself) find the notion that we are 'faking' or 'deceiving' to be very triggering and aggressive. It's bad form at best and an attack on another human being at worst. It's also disgusting gender essentialism to claim there is a "real man" and that only biological men can then write a "real man." Gross. 

Amara Devonte said...

Hi Tiger. :)

I agree. 

They say that the deceiving in this case wasn't actually the authors gender or gender identity, but writing about experiences related to being a gay man w/o the experience to back it up. I can almost understand that, right up until you factor in the authors claim to be trans*. It's just goes all kinds of wrong from there. Every thing from not believing this new claim to total lack of understanding of transgender and this black and white thought process of male/female gender. 

It's all such a mess. Which is why I've stayed out of the discussions relating specifically to the author in question at the center of this.

My problem comes in at seeing the cry for authors as a whole to reveal to us their private lives. Any part of it. Who will be the judge of what is real and what is not? By what measuring stick will it be judged? What is "real"? What if they aren't ready to reveal the things we ask? Who are we to try to make them?  

With regard to the author at the center of the firestorm, what's done is done. But what about the next? Who will decide if the person behind the pen name is "real" as stated in their bio? 

Why can't an author just write books, and readers just read them? How much of a person's life am I entitled to for a $10 book? It's ridiculous. 

Every day I hear more authors wonder if writing is worth all this. I can't say I blame them at all. Every day I grow more and more troubled. It's all so very sad to me. 

Kassa said...

While I undertand your point and applaud it IF that were the issue, I'm very sad that people still relegate this to the totally wrong issue of gender. No one has the right nor the care to be the panty police or have anything to do with someone's gender. What's also sad is that people are making wild assumptions that the author at the core of this has never said. People are running this into the ground about gender or gender fluidity or labeling people when in fact the author has not clarified exactly what they think of themselves, but people are fine to declare it for them. 

What is the most bothersome is the continued insistence that this has ANYTHING  to do with gender, when it doesn't. At all. It's sad that real issues that affect our community are ignored because people confuse the issue with gender. I think everyone agrees someone's gender or identity is their business, but let's not pretend this ISN'T an issue for the community. 

Author behavior has always mattered online - whether it should or not is a totally different issue - but it always has and likely always will. Saying this is strictly an issue about gender is sad and misleading. I hate that this whole thing has turned so ugly on all sides. No one can express an opinion anymore without being told to shut up or called names. It's wrong - intelligent discussion should be allowed. For example you think its about gender, I think it's about nothing to do with gender. It's ok to disagree and examine how this affects the community. Or I wish it was....

Kassa said...


I just wanted to comment on what you said because I've seen this comment before and it kind of makes no sense to me. So I just wanted to comment back to you for a moment.

You said an author owes the readers nothing, which is absolutely true. I'm confused why this is being said in this instance because that (to me) has no bearing on anything. Of course authors don't owe readers anything. 

For example, if you wrote a book that I happened to review and say (for this example) you were angry at my review and wrote a scathing email to say I'm an idiot. Now I didn't owe you a review anymore than you owed me a response to said review. But we both did those things because we wanted to. Say I wrote a blog about your response and told the online world what you said. Again, no one owes anyone anything but that's what we chose to do. No doubt those actions have consequences - in this case you've no doubt seen the fury that can happen when an author dares to respond badly to a review. There are cries of never buying that author again, etc etc. 

Once again no one owes anyone anything but actions have consequences. 

I guess that's what I'm trying to say. It's not about being owed anything - information or otherwise, even truth or lies - but actions and more so deliberate actions that people take are going to have consequences. We can disagree on what those consequences should be sure but there are consequences, even online, for actions. 

Amara Devonte said...

I only keep talking in terms of gender because of the "AJ claimed to be a gay man, when AJ was really a woman" thing. The "AJ now claims to be trans* and we don't believe him" statements. 

Gay man, really a woman, claims to be trans = gender/orientation.

when in fact the author has not clarified exactly what they think of themselves,

My problem is this... "when in fact the author has not clarified exactly what they think of themselves. 

I don't agree that the author, ANY author needs to clarify exactly what they think of themselves... to anyone. 

What concerns me is that all of this has resulted in a great cry for honesty from authors so that readers can avoid the feeling of betrayal when we find out that the author behind the pseudo is someone different than we thought they were. I don't feel that they owe us this perceived honesty, whether the honesty relates to gender, orientation, or any other part of their real lives. 

I hate that this has turned so ugly as well. 

No one can express an opinion anymore without being told to shut up or called names. It's wrong - intelligent discussion should be allowed. For example you think its about gender, I think it's about nothing to do with gender. It's ok to disagree and examine how this affects the community. Or I wish it was...

I agree. I've not told anyone to shut up, I've not called anyone names. I've had people come to my blog and call people names but I myself have called no names, shut no one down who was trying to have an intelligent discussion. I have shut down rants that digressed into name calling as is my right on my blog. 

Kassa said...

Hi Amara, I just wanted to clarify a few things because I didn't want you thinking I was accusing you personally. My last paragraph was talking in general about posts on this topic - not your post specifically. I'm sorry if I wasn't more clear as I wasn't accusing you more so discussing other posts, which I should have been more clear about that. 

I also agree that the author's gender isn't anyone's business. That's why I'm not assuming the author is trans. They haven't identified themselves with that term so I'm not assuming they are. Other use the term but since the author hasn't then I think any term in general is assumption. Perhaps a safe or obvious one but still in a topic that is littered with right versus wrong on what to ask / expect thats a big one. 

I don't think an author owes honesty but authors write blogs, use twitter, facebook etc to promote not only their books but their lives and their author persona. Readers are encouraged to interact with authors, to read interviews and to be invested in author lives and mechanics of making the books - all of this beyond just the writing the author does fictionally. This two way street is encouraged and developed everywhere on the internet. It's not two separate groups - readers and writers - but a community where real life details get mixed in. Think about how often authors have mentioned hardships, personal struggles, disappointments, surgeries or simply things that upset them. Whether the authors mention this on twitter, in blogs, wherever - they are people and we're encouraged to see them as such. Therefore they have the same failings as well - lying, hypocrisy, bullying behavior. These are the crux of the issue when it was first disclosed. Now it's become a muddled mess where the only answer is for authors and readers to have nothing to do with each other at all. I find that sad.

Amara Devonte said...

Hi Kassa, thanks for coming back to clarify. I guess I jumped a little, emotions run high right now, lol seems mine included. 

I no longer remember if the author used the term trans or not. I'd read the apology post, and all I remember at this point was the description. Quite frankly I have no desire to go back and read it again, I don't need the label, and I have no desire to question the authors description or claim or... whatever. It's just not something I feel I'm qualified to question.

I do agree, this has become one giant muddled mess. It's a giant mess I hope I never witness again. What are the answers? I don't know. All I know is that I have friends who are deeply, DEEPLY upset by what they've seen and felt as a result of all of this mess. All I know is that everyday I see or hear about another author saying it's not worth writing the books I love for various reasons all related to this mess. All I know is that I woke up this morning to a tweet that my favoriteEST author is leaving the genre because of the behavior wrapped up in this mess.And while I was writing this comment, I read the blog post I never wanted to read on my favorite authors blog. All I know is that this, THIS is the sad day I never ever wanted to see.

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