Gay For You or Out For You?

This commentary was written by old management with the support of many authors in November 2012. The opinions here do not necessary represent the opinions of the new owners. This article will remind posted for archival purposes.

Gay For You in M/M romances (which is the only place where you’ll ever find this trope) refers to when a straight man falls in love with a gay man, has sex with him and they live happily ever after. I’m sure this does not happen in RL but that never stopped our authors from writing literally hundreds of these stories which readers snap up as soon as they hit the publishers’ shelves. What is it about GFY that female readers can’t resist? Many of you have said that you’re not into reality you just want the fantasy, but shouldn’t the fantasy have some basis in something that makes sense, or is that too much of an oxymoron? 🙂

A few years ago my blogger friend and fellow Canadian MaryM used to rave about GFY as she devoured every book with this trope – she just couldn’t get enough. Now she can indulge her fantasy to her heart’s content because there are tons more GFY books published, but I think today she’s more involved in slash i.e. Kirk/Spock. 🙂 Ingrid and Tam are two readers who are like many of you, they just love GFY, so let’s examine why so many female M/M readers and writers love this trope.

Is GFY the forbidden fruit which makes gay romance even hotter to female readers than if it were just two gay men? Is it because it’s the ultimate fantasy of female M/M readers to hook up gay men with their straight counterparts? Is it the idea that anyone can be turned? (No, I’m not talking about vampires :)). Author Marie Sexton has a different idea about the whole GFY phenomenon which she discussed on this site a few months ago.  She called it Out For You. Her idea was that the MCs in GFY romances were always gay, not straight, and when they fell in love with another man they came out of the closet. Whatever the explanation, GFY has taken hold of the imagination of straight women who read M/M romances.

My first GFY romance years ago was The Assignment by Evangeline Anderson recommended by the abovementioned MaryM, then I read the Heaven Sent series by the queen of GFY, Jet Mykles, and The One That Got Away by Madeleine Urban and Rhianne Aile, a free read every week on Rhianne’s blog. Later I read Caught Running by Urban and Abigail Roux and I was dragged, kicking and screaming, until I read Cut and Run, by Urban and Roux (it was 350 damn pages for chrissakes and I hate l-o-n-g books) 🙂 which naturally led me to Faith and Fidelity by Tere Michaels. After that  it was all over for me, but I have an explanation it’s all about the writing! When I examined the GFY books I loved I realized the reason was that I loved the authors and the writing not the trope. In fact I read just about everything by these authors as long as it’s M/M. That’s my explanation anyway, because I know logically that GFY does not make a damn bit of sense and it’s ridiculous.

Jet Mykles did a post not so long ago about GFY and she doesn’t see any change in the direction of her writing because as she says –

“It’s too much fun. It’s also a built in conflict. Besides, I love that shock that a guy feels when he has to admit that he’s hot for another guy. There’s something too terribly sexy about it.”

Jet made an interesting point that in all but one of her stories the straight protagonist was the receiver not the pitcher, which would be ass backward. 🙂 It seems to me that it would make more sense if the straight partner were the top, but what do I know? Who said that this was logical? lol.


What do gay men think about all this?

I asked Damon Suede an M/M author and guest reviewer on this site what he thought about Gay For You. Here’s his take:

I don’t believe in “Gay for You” actually, either as a trope or a designator; the popularity of the term within the genre always makes me laugh because only someone who had never come out or seriously questioned their sexuality could think that same-sex desire works like a rigid boolean switch. We know that’s bullshit.

I tend to think of it as “Out for You” as Marie Sexton calls it. The thing is, “Out for You” is how most gay men figure themselves out sexually, at whatever age they come to terms with their sexuality. They meet someone who arouses feelings that make them question their self-image.

Desire exists along a very complicated four dimensional spectrum. What we want over the course of our lives changes radically, and that’s only one set of desires!

Gay For You is an outdated label we give stories when men who are “straight” fall for one special guy….who “makes” him “gay”. As if this character would have been happily straight for the rest of his days EXCEPT for this accidental meeting that realigns his existence and his heart.

There’s another term for that in the gay community: it’s called COMING OUT.

When a man realizes that he has romantic and erotic feelings about another man and acknowledges those feelings as part of his identity, he COMES OUT of the closet. He isn’t Gay-For-Anyone-But-Himself! He is Out-For-You (as Marie Sexton puts it so beautifully). I’m not talking about extreme circumstances like prison romance or military canoodling… but for the record that is the way 80-90% of GLBT people discover their sexuality. Duh! Actually that’s how ALL people explore sexuality in their adolescence: they meet someone that makes them feel differently than they have before.

Of course this means the term “Gay For You” HAD to have been coined by someone who had never faced that kind of radical realignment of their assumptions about gender and identity. Gay For You is a relic of another time in M/M and I’m praying to all the gods that it finally falls out of favor. I’m trying to not even USE it anymore because of the lie at its heart as a designator.

Only a person who has never questioned their erotic preconceptions could point at that situation and call it “Gay-For-You” because (again) to do so implies that sexuality is something you put on like a hat, and can take off just as easily. Or worse, love is something that you can only find with one person, no matter how evil, abusive, or disinterested. And as the genre has grown, it has lingered like an idiotic mole that we don’t address because it’s too entrenched or benign.

For that matter, this is why it is now considered unacceptable to use the phrase Sexual Preference  as opposed to Sexual Orientation when discussing GLBT issues. “Preference” implies that Gayness is a choice made of a menu of possibilities. Or that straight people simply obeyed society’s wishes and “picked” correctly. Again, not how sex works for anyone of any gender.

If anyone doesn’t think “Gay-For-You” is a stupid, vicious term, imagine if I started asking heteros who married their first love if their spouse had made them straight… or worse, consider rapists who argue that victims seduce them. Love and sex involve mutual participation.

So I don’t hate what is popularly referred to as Gay For You in books, I hate that it is CALLED Gay For You because the term is literally moronic and misguided. It’s something coined in ignorance that persists out of familiarity

On the other hand I love a beautifully written coming out story in which a man who had assumed things about himself makes life-changing discoveries that transform his future. What’s more romantic than that? 🙂

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So readers/authors, what do you think? Is “Gay for You” outdated and should the term be changed to “Out for You”? Or would that make the fantasy too much like real life? 🙂

 

Author

I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports – especially baseball

Glori

I don’t like the term Gay For You and prefer to think of it as Out For You or Bi.

The issue I have is that if you are saying someone is straight but chooses to be gay because they met the right person, then the people who think a gay person can make a choice to be straight would have a valid argument.

Wave
The issue I have is that if you are saying someone is straight but chooses to be gay because they met the right person, then the people who think a gay person can make a choice to be straight would have a valid argument Exactly KZ’s point. She did a post about that some time ago about the so called reparative therapy to make someone who was gay straight. Sure there are many men and women who are bi but that’s not the same thing. In GFY books the so called straight man does not seek out partners of the… Read more »
Teddypig
I am not as stunned by the whole GFY trope because I have seen it done right. Brokeback Mountain is an excellent example of such a use of the trope despite the fact it has no HEA. BUT! That may also be the key problem with GFY in my mind as a gay man. I do not associate taking a man’s virginity which is what we are talking about as a great setup for an HEA. I just honestly see this as an extension of the whole older man or hunky male guardian seducing the young ingenue from the old… Read more »
K. Z. Snow

I don’t think BbM is a GFY story, Teddy, because I don’t believe Proulx is naive enough to try selling the idea that a heterosexual can be flipped into a homosexual. My impression was that neither Jack nor Ennis was a “natural-born” straight guy. They were either gay or bi to begin with but obviously in denial about it — until their feelings for each other drew them out.

Teddypig

But that’s my point about referring to “Gay for you” as “coming out” is a misnomer too.

The focus was on the couple not their identity. Coming out or out for you makes it sound like they were seeking that. They never did. The focus is not there.

K. Z. Snow

Very true. It was definitely not a coming- out story, either.

Wave
I thought that Brokeback Mountain was about two closeted gay men, not a straight man falling for a gay man, which is the premise of GFY. I just honestly see this as an extension of the whole older man or hunky male guardian seducing the young ingenue from the old Barbara Cartland days. Never having read Barbara Cartland’s books I don’t know how well that worked other than it was just another trope that readers bought into. Probably readers at the time did not question the premise and went with the flow. A closer look at some of those books… Read more »
Teddypig
“I thought that Brokeback Mountain was about two closeted gay men, not a straight man falling for a gay man, which is the premise of GFY.” Not the story I read. One was gay from the hints the writer gave and the other was probably bisexual but too damaged to figure it out. “A closer look at some of those books now would probably reveal the huge pot holes in the plots and characterizations.” Well sure, but that does not make them wrong just reflective of earlier ideals about romance. My point is that any GFY stories I have read… Read more »
Wave
Not the story I read. One was gay from the hints the writer gave and the other was probably bisexual but too damaged to figure it out I think that’s my point. Neither character was exactly straight so they weren’t “turned” by each other, which is the premise of GFY. I’m not advocating that GFY should be called “coming out stories.” That’s not what Out for You means. The suggestion is that these stories should be called OFY to more accurately reflect a situation where one MC comes out of the closet because that’s exactly what happens – the character… Read more »
Sarah Black
I used to love those Barbara Cartland romances when I was a teenager. But then I started to grow, and by sixteen I was 5’8”, strong, a jock. I found myself feeling like a thug in gym shorts next to her tiny, delicate, helpless heroines, who were always described as ladylike, of good breeding, because of those tiny hands and feet. When the time came and I realized people could not tell if you were a virgin by looking into your eyes, and I spent some time thinking about that concept, I got madder and madder, and put down romances… Read more »
Wave
As I said to TeddyPig, I never read a Barbara Cartland romance. The blurbs were so far out I couldn’t relate to them and I knew there was no way I would enjoy them. Those tiny feet and hands of Ms Cartland’s heroines were from a different time, probably when dainty virgins were sitting down to tea every day. lol I’m sure millions of lovely young ladies from good families read and enjoyed these books. 😮 Identity IS tied to more than sexuality but sexuality is a huge part of who we are. Many teenagers are influenced a lot by… Read more »
K. Z. Snow

Does “straight for you” make sense? 😕 Well, there ya go. GFY is the flipside of the ex-gay or reparative-therapy coin; it ignores the fact that sexual orientation is determined in utero.

“Out for you” or “bi and willing” is the only realistic (and, as L.A. suggested) respectful approach — if, that is, there’s an HEA involved. Certain straight men are curious about homo sex, but it’s extremely doubtful they’d ever commit to a relationship.

Wave
Hi KZ Certain straight men are curious about homo sex, but it’s extremely doubtful they’d ever commit to a relationship. I think those straight men are called bi curious and most of them don’t go so far as to have sex with another man to satisfy their curiosity unless they are seriously questioning their sexuality. Does “straight for you” make sense? Well, there ya go. GFY is the flipside of the ex-gay or reparative-therapy coin; it ignores the fact that sexual orientation is determined in utero This whole reparative therapy seems to be trending. Hello!! (Michele Bachman’s husband) ???? I… Read more »
eva
I admit I’m one of those readers who like GFY or Out for you (however you want to call it) as long as it’s well written and we can see why the MC’s got together and what they saw in each other. Also, in most of the GFY books I’ve read, at the end you see it really is Out for you since more often than not it turns out that the supposedly straight guy has been know to check guys out before but for one reason or another never acted on it. I think one author (can’t remember who… Read more »
Wave
Hi Eva I think one author (can’t remember who or what book it was) got it right when their character described the whole gay/straight/bi thing like a scale where on one end you have totally straight, on the other totally gay and then in the middle you have varying degrees of being attracted to both sexes I do remember that book and I think I reviewed it. Now it will bug me until someone else comes up with the title. 🙂 Most of the GFY books that I have read and reviewed fall into the other category of being totally… Read more »
L. A. Witt

GAH. Sorry for the multiple comments, all. Between my crappy connection, Firefox, and the website, it was acting like it didn’t want to post anything, then posted EVERYTHING. Wave, feel free to delete as necessary.

L. A. Witt

“”…but I think it’s more important that female readers and writers understand some of the turmoil of coming out, and the mental games you play to avoid revealing your “secret identity””

Not even so much female readers/writers, but *straight* readers/writers. But yes, I think anyone who writes about gay people (male, female, or otherwise), should absolutely make an effort to understand that.

Wave
I think part of the problem is that these books are formulaic and it’s “follow the leader” most of the time. Readers know the story will go from the initial set up – straight man meets gay man, there’s an uncontrollable attraction that straight man fights until he can’t resist the coils of TWU WUV anymore and he succumbs. Instant HEA. i know that M/M romances are fantasies but I still feel that like Tom Clancy said – “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” Of course paranormal stories are exempt because the reader knows going… Read more »
Brett
I guess it’s all about your perception of the “straight” man in these stories. I mostly agree with Damon, though I’m not as offended as he is about the term. In my mind, the “straight” character in these stories ISN’T straight, but they’re not necessarily gay either. I’m a strong believer in the Kinsey scale of sexuality; sexuality is complicated, and messy, and dependent on a lot of factors. It’s possible to be wholly straight or gay, but not find anyone who you’re attracted to for a very long time. In my mind, the men who identify as straight in… Read more »
Wave
Hi Brett Damon tried to respond to your comment but WordPress is screwing with everyone today. Here’s Damon’s comment: ***** ******* I agree with you, Brett about the spectrum… which is why I use the phrase Boolean switch derogatively. Nobody is either/or anything. Uncontrollable desire is a sexy plot development any day, but people are not switches. Again, I’ll say it: coming out books with tremendous struggle: awesome. Instant brainwashing because the author didn’t know any better: silly. So it’s misguided to make a straight character gay by FORCING him to be gay by introducing someone who can “infect” him… Read more »
L. A. Witt

(having a REALLY hard time posting, so this is going to be multiple posts)

I agree with “out for you” more than GFY. Sometimes people just don’t figure out or accept their sexuality until later. I myself was hit with the cluebat when I was 23. I’ve known people who were well into their 30s and beyond.

L. A. Witt
(part 2 of 3) One of my books, Rules of Engagement, has been labeled GFY a few times, and I strongly disagree with it. The MMC isn’t gay, nor is he gay just for the other guy: he’s bisexual. Prior to meeting Brandon, he’d married young after an oppressive youth, spent ten years in a turbulent marriage, and simply hadn’t had the opportunity or the headspace to figure it out. When he does so at 28, it creates somewhat of an identity crisis for him (rethinking your sexuality in your 20s will do that to you…been there, done that). I… Read more »
L. A. Witt

(part 3 of 3) I agree with calling it OFY instead of GFY, if only because “Figuring Out I’m Not Actually Straight Now That I’ve Met You And Gotten Whacked With A Cluebat” makes for a bit of a lengthy acronym. lol

Neeley
I agree as well, to a point. I’ve always read those books as if the “straight” guy was just straight-identifying bi and then met the “one” and so was “Out for You” but also in a way, “Gay for You”. The best of these is Matt from Maie Sexton’s “Promises”. While he’s coming to terms with his feelings, he goes out, checks out some men and it’s all “Nope. Nope. Nah. Whoa!”. Then later in the series theres a throwaway line about how he wouldn’t mind going to see female strippers. So the character begins and remains bi. I guess… Read more »
Wave
Neeley I must apologise. I overlooked your comment. I’ve always read those books as if the “straight” guy was just straight-identifying bi and then met the “one” and so was “Out for You” but also in a way, “Gay for You”. Maybe what authors need to do in this trope is simply more vocally acknowledge bisexuality and not make it seem so much of a breaker switch thing. The thing with bisexuality is that the authors would have to have the bi protagonist have sex with a woman in an M/M romance to establish that he is bi. This wouldn’t… Read more »
L. A. Witt
I agree with OFY more than GFY. Some people just don’t figure out or accept their sexuality until later. Developing a super strong attraction to a person of the “wrong” gender, getting past social obstacles (cultural conditioning, homophobia, etc), and realizing their sexuality isn’t what they thought it was. I myself was hit with the cluebat when I was 23. I’ve known people who were well into their 30s and beyond. One of my books, Rules of Engagement, has been labeled GFY a few times, and I strongly disagree with it. The MMC isn’t gay, nor is he gay just… Read more »
Angelia Sparrow

I suspect it’s a female thing. I know women who suddenly discovered they were attracted to women in their 30s and 40s. They had never had a real inkling before, until the right person walked into their lives. (I once ran a discussion panel called “Straight before Fandom” because a number of us had the experience)

The ?FY trope is partly heteronormativity, the assumption we are all straight until proven otherwise, and partially female sexual desire patterns being mapped onto male characters.

Wave

Hi Lori
I remember reading Rules of Engagement a long time ago (2009) but from what I recall Dustin always thought he was straight but Brandon knew he was gay since he 13 and it wasn’t until he discovered women at 21 that he knew he was bi. At any rate it read like a GFY to me, but what do I know? 🙂

I wrote this post because the more I heard from gay men the more it seemed that this trope was more similar to paranormal books than real gay men.

Tam
I think part of the appeal (unrealistic though it may be) is that a man overcomes his supposedly basic hard-wiring, for TWU WUV. We’d all like to believe that someone would love us soooooo much, everything about us, that even if they are straight (or gay in my case I suppose), that the love would overcome their first choice sexually. And with gay men, I suppose the challenge they face would be even greater, revealing their choice to family, friend, coworkers who knew them as straight all their lives. So kind of the ultimate proof of massive love. Likey? *snort*… Read more »
Wave
Hi Tam And with gay men, I suppose the challenge they face would be even greater, revealing their choice to family, friend, coworkers who knew them as straight all their lives. So kind of the ultimate proof of massive love. I guess your comment also reinforces the point that it’s not that the guys are straight, but that they are on the down low or flying under the radar until they meet someone who makes them come out. These books are almost always premised on one of the MCs being straight, not that they’re in the closet. I guess that… Read more »
Tam

But I think a truly straight man (at the extreme end of the straight scale with not even a passing interesting in men) who does a 360 flip and ends up on the other end JUST BECAUSE they fell in love, is about as realistic as vampires. 🙂 But I find the concept romantic.

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