From Goodreads: In the ‘Gay for You’ (GFY) genre, a character who was not previously gay, or at least didn’t know they were, meets ‘the one’ and embarks on a gay relationship with him/her. The implication is usually that one or both protagonists wouldn’t be in a same-sex relationship except with this one special person.
Recently, someone on one of my Facebook groups posted a solicitation looking for a good “Gay for You” novel and it bothered me, not as a writer or a reader, but as a gay man.
This post will probably cause some controversy, so I’d just like to say first of all that I am not trying here to convince anyone of what they should read or write, but simply to present my own and deeply personal perspective on why I am bothered by the whole “gay for you” thing.
For me, it’s not real. For me, it’s a bit of an insult to the many, many gay men and women who have struggled to define and accept their identities.
Over the years, I would venture to say I have known hundreds of gay men and women and been friends with
dozens of gay couples. Of those couples, do you know how many I am sure would say their union was the result of a “gay for you” epiphany or realization?
None. Zero. Zilch.
Looking at my own life, I could probably shape it into a gay for you story. I met a wonderful and beautiful woman when I was in college. We fell in love, had mad sex, and later got engaged and then married in a big summer wedding. It was magic and I thought I’d found true happiness. Things only got better when our son was born.
Fast forward to eight or so years later, when I would meet the first man I would fall in love with. This could be construed as a “gay for you” moment. After all, none of my friends or family knew I was gay (or if they did, they weren’t saying) and I had pretty much followed the roadmap for young, straight, suburban husband.
And then I met Ron—and the stars aligned. I was in love—with a man.
Gay for you? No way. The truth of the matter is I had struggled since adolescence with same-sex feelings. But I fought with myself. I hated myself. I thought of killing myself. I struggled like an animal in a trap to free myself from these shameful, secret longings. I consulted therapists. I looked into ex-gay programs.
The long and short of it was that I was a man filled with self-loathing, a man who wore a mask to hide the person buried deep in the closet. I was a man terrified of himself, of being something I desperately did not want to be. The thing is, to an outsider, it may have looked like, when I met Ron, I became gay for him, leaving behind my straight life.
But here’s the difference: I didn’t become gay for anyone. I was, as Lady Gaga sings, born that way. I can remember, as far back as early childhood, having inexplicable feelings for other boys, feelings I masked as wanting to be friends with this or that particular boy. With adolescence, the feelings became more pronounced, more sexual. Still, I denied them—and sometimes it was only in the relief and horror of dreams were these feelings ever allowed to come to the fore.
The crucial point I am trying to make is that I doubt very much that anyone becomes gay for someone else. Sexual attraction doesn’t work that way (or if, in some rare case it does, it’s the exception, not the rule). And when I run across such a plot device in a book, I seldom finish it. The book loses credibility for me.
Can you have characters that struggle with their sexual identities? Absolutely. I am one of those characters. Can you have characters that maybe bury their sexuality so deeply that they might be surprised when the force of someone’s magnetism is so powerful it breaks down the barriers and causes the person to lose a battle they were most likely already losing? Yes. There’s drama there; there’s fascinating, credible reading.
A crucial distinction I learned on my long, protracted, and often very painful journey from the closet to proud and self-accepting gay man was that knowing is one thing and accepting is something else entirely. I can’t deny that I had these feelings, these urges, these attractions, from a very young age, but I hid them from myself and, under no circumstances, would I ever accept them.
See, I told myself, I could change. I could get married and I could be, well, straight for her.
It didn’t work. The harder I fought myself, the harder my inner core persisted in staying alive.
My sexual identity was a hard-won battle. And I guess when I hear of a gay for you novel, I cringe, because those books simply don’t get it. They’re not real.
At least not for me. How about for you? And why?
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