Gay for You? Not for Me …. by Rick R. Reed

Rick Green Orange (1)

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

Here I am on my wedding day July 1981. Was I straight for her?

Here I am on my wedding day. Was I straight for her?

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?

Rick R.Reed’s contact information

Visit Rick’s website at http://www.rickrreed.com
or follow his blog at http://rickrreedreality.blogspot.com/.
You can also like Rick on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rickrreedbooks
or on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/rickrreed

Author

I am never sleepless in Seattle, because there’s always another book to read or another book to write.

86 comments

  • I don’t believe in gay-for-you. At all. Being bisexual, I think that there are combinations of factors that define attraction, and I’m not entirely sure that one of them is even gender. You are an excellent example – you fell in love with a woman, and then a man. But (barring the fact that you’re married), what would happen if you fell in love again with a woman? Sexuality is a fluid, dynamic thing. It merely means you’re human and who you fall in love with is more than just a sum of their…er…parts. 😉

    Reply
  • Rick
    GFY is another of those M/M romance myths, like gay men humping each other 24/7 in books – in the kitchen, in the hallway, in the garden, on the couch and on every other surface before they hit the bed. I don’t recall ever reading about a gay man in an M/M romance who suffered from sexual dysfunction. Maybe they don’t, but it would be nice to read every once in a while about real issues gay men may have, not necessarily sexual. I know these books are fantasies but I have to suspend disbelief in the majority of the books, especially cop stories. One of the reasons I love your books is because they are real and address important real life issues.

    Great post Rick – Out For You works for me.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Wave. All fiction requires some suspension of disbelief, but when it takes you so far out of reality that you are no longer lost in the story, then the problems come in. And all that humping? I’m not so sure that’s a myth–especially not for new lovers. LOL.

      Reply
  • Hello Everyone,
    Rick, thanks for introducing me to GayForYou….first I heard of it. I’m 59 and when I was younger (maybe 10 and on) I’d hear adults talk about men who suddenly woke up one day and realized he became gay overnight. I’m sure those men just came to terms with the issue; but I believed it at the time. Over time I figured out I’m bisexual, which sometimes is like being in ‘no-person’s land’, stuck in the middle. I’m over that but it was a stage. Being analytical I’d say GFY is ‘possible’ but extremely unlikely.

    Since I was in 3rd grade I knew I liked boys but in a conservative environment I hid it. In 6th grade I got into girls but boy-love always hovered, but it made it easier to play-straight. At 22 I fell in love with my best friend (guy), and we had one sexual event and we both dove back into the closet.

    Many writers (books, films, plays, etc.) are ignorant to reality or are after the entertainment dollar. Just look at what’s on TV and in movies. As a retired police officer I refuse to watch cop TV or movies. PTSD aside, it’s because of the falsities (did I just invent that word?). Such bullshit! Stupidity and insult comes in when they won’t alter their work after being told of the errors. That’s one reason I love Jon Michaelsen. Years ago he wrote a story that had a few false concepts of police work. When I shared my feelings with him (as his beta reader) he eagerly made changes, thus my huge respect for him. He ‘got it’. Unless any person has insight into a scene, profession or lifestyle, he/she will believe (for the most part) what is served or has been served to him/her.

    Maybe ‘Gay For You’ belongs in ‘fantasy’. Entertainment but still fantasy.

    Sincerely,

    David

    Reply
    • All romance, to an extent, is fantasy, but you still need to create a credible world in which a reader can immerse himself or herself. If you’re being pulled out of the story because you feel like the author isn’t sure or doesn’t know what he/she is talking about, then everybody loses.

      Reply
  • I agree with Shae! I think “gay for you” is really “out for you”.

    The issue I have with “gay for you” is that it implies someone can flick a switch, and suddenly everything changes. I also don’t like that “gay for you” implies “and nobody else”. As though it’s true love that’s somehow overcome a character’s former straightness. If that true love ends, does the character just jump back into hetero relationships like nothing ever happened? Doubtful.

    In the only novel of mine that I’ve seen called GFY, it was never my intention that the character was straight beforehand. Just angry, self-loathing, and oblivious. And if I ever get organised enough to write a sequel, I’ll make it clear that yes, he can look at other guys sexually, and yes, he does. 🙂

    Reply
    • “In the only novel of mine that I’ve seen called GFY, it was never my intention that the character was straight beforehand.”

      It’s funny you should mention this because I’ve had a book labeled as GFY and I’ve never been able to figure out why. The guy was gay from the get go. Maybe it because he was a virgin? Not sure. Anyway, I’m glad to see someone else had a book labeled GFY by a reader even though it was not a GFY story.

      Reply
  • Thank you for saying this! I find GFY stories insulting to those who have struggled to define who they are. In general I avoid them and yes I am OK with reading out for you stories but I give wide berth to GFY stories. I do have to say that I give some room to GFY stories where the guys are in their early 20s. If the story is set up that individuals are just starting to explore their sexuality then I am a bit more lenient.

    To me the worst offense with some GFY stories is when after the relationship is established the attraction to the person of the same sex is just to that one person. I have been happily married for 12 years and I have to tell you that I am not blind. I check out other guys (and girls), the attraction is there but it is not something I would ever act on. So, if you find your partner attractive how can you not find the same attributes on others attractive as well? That just doesn’t make sense in my book.

    I love reading books about people falling in love and maintaining that love in a realistic way Realizing that you like men in your 40s or being attracted to just one person is not realistic to me.

    Reply
    • I have seen stories where what you mention, where the attraction is solely to one person, and I find them hard to swallow. Love is one thing, attraction is another and even those most deeply in the closet cannot always control where their gaze may go or their dreams may end up. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • I’ve encountered at least two real-life”straight before fandom” stories which aren’t quite “gay for you” but close.

    In both cases, middle aged women who had previously assumed they were heterosexual, never had any sexual feelings or romantic feelings for a woman before, met a woman through fandom, and fell head over heels in love with her. In both cases, it was reciprocated.

    I think it has to do more with age than anything else. Both the women were 7-10 years older than I was. Apparently late-blooming lesbianism was not an uncommon occurrence in women of that generation and my mother’s.

    But men? Most of them know early, as far as I’ve seen. I don’t find GFY stories particularly realistic (although a friend is writing a rather hot Marcus Flint/Percy Weasley GFY in which both of them have wives and kids and proper families, but never left off the “schoolboy fooling around”) but then I’m no a contemporary fan to start with, and most of them tend to be contemporaries.

    Reply
    • Angelia, I like your comment about gender difference and orientation. I have known several women who have identified as straight, then had a full-on female/female relationship (or more than one) and then gone back to being straight again (or not). I think this kind of thing seldom happens with gay men (although a straight man may fool around with another guy, the taboo is so large that it would rarely go beyond a sexual encounter). Why this is the case I don’t know, but I could guess that woman might be more fluid in their sexuality and able to incorporate strong affection into carnal feelings as well. But I am only guessing here… I just know that I have known at least three women in my life who were primarily straight, but did have lesbian relationships at some point. As I think of each of those three now, one is single and dating men only, the other is in a long term committed relationship with a man, and the third married her highschool sweetheart and has been with him for years now.

      Reply
      • I’ve known a couple of straight men who have had intense connections and/or relationships with other guys, but who ultimately determined that their sexual preference was really for women. In one case the guy was pretty young; the other was a bit older and more sure of his sexuality but found himself drawn to a man who had made it clear he was attracted. In both those cases it sounds like the attraction was primarily intellectual or emotional, at least that’s how they described it. Obviously there was a sexual interest too, but that part didn’t last so long. The men they were involved with were gay and very compelling flirts… overall the way these guys talked about their experiences was that they had made them quite certain they were Definitely Not Gay but that they’d learned and grown from the relationships, were not repelled by the sex and came out the other end very relaxed and certain about their sexuality. I know straight women who’ve had short lesbian affairs who say much the same thing.

        Reply
        • I also know of a man who had a sexual/emotional relationship with another man that lasted a shortish length of time which seemed to clarify his sexuality as mostly-entirely-straight. It was the sex that made that clear to him more than the emotional relationship which he found very meaningful. The sex, however, was not what he wanted and liked, so the relationship ended as friends. He’s very open about his experience and supportive of all sexualities, but has fallen into the “prefers women” category after his experience. Unlike your friends, though, he didn’t really enjoy the sex.

          Reply
  • I find that most “gay-for-you” stories are more accurately described as “out-for-you.” In nearly every case, the character in question has had same-sex interest or attraction but hasn’t acted on it–as in your story–or has only done so in secret.

    I will admit to a weakness for the idea of someone being so intensely attracted to another person that gender doesn’t matter. I also believe that attitude and perspective can affect people’s reactions to their own innate sexuality, which can manifest as what looks like a later-in-life “change” in sexuality.

    For a true “gay-for-you” story, though, I do have to suspend some disbelief. 🙂

    Reply
    • I was going to say what Shae just said. 🙂

      The bigger point, for me, is that most of these “Gay for You” books are truly mislabeled. So when someone puts down “Gay for You” they also put down the “Out for You” books. Having written two novels with Out for You themes…. Yeah. You get my drift. 😉

      Oh and I don’t believe in suddenly converting your sexuality overnight just by randomly meeting someone. While sexuality is fluid, it’s already there whether you know it or not. I think realizations coming along and circumstances changing make those “A-ha!” moments happen, but there are no “Something for Someone” events in real life.

      Reply
  • Rick, thanks so much for saying it like it is, it was about time someone set the record straight. No pun intended.
    The other issue in many m/m books that really rub my feathers the wrong way is the perfect gay world the characters live in, where everybody accepts and celebrates the couple’s love, and not getting out of the closet before it was actually silly, because in the end, there was no real reason to stay closeted.
    Yes, every day in our country a new state legalizes same sex marriages, but there is a long way to go for real acceptance. I don’t think that writing a fantasy world would make it come true, or ignoring the reality many gay people must face every day with their families and coworkers will transmute tolerance into true support.
    :biglove:

    Reply
  • Thanks for the comment, Tash. If I made it seem I was “straight” for anyone, I apologize. I never was. What I was was conflicted, closeted, and in denial. Like you, I do not find a story that is TRULY GFY credible; I think if it ever happens in real life (and, allowing for the amazing variations in the human condition, I would never rule it out completely) it happens rarely. I think most stories, as author Marie Sexton, has said are actually stories that are about someone being OUT for you, which I find infinitely more palatable. Because therein does lie MY own story.

    Reply
  • Hi Rick,
    Great post 🙂
    Reading your post, you make it seem as if you were straight for you. (For a little while at least) why don’t you believe it’s not possible the other way around? I think if a person is open and loving the gender of their partner will never be an issue. But that’s real life 🙂
    In books, it’s the escapism of having a man/woman entering into a same sex relationship that makes it more interesting and makes the story complex. I am bi-sexual and most people just think I’m lazy and don’t want to make the choice. I just find both men and women attractive enough to want them.
    Anyway, I have found very few authors have got the GFY story believable, so maybe that is why most people don’t think it’s possible.

    Tash

    Reply
    • Hey Tash – Hope you don’t mind me putting in my two-cents. I think the important difference with you is that you are BI sexual and not gay or straight. This allows you to be “straight” for someone or “gay” for someone. But if a person is GAY, they aren’t going to be able to be straight for anyone. Like Rick, I too found a woman, left Chicago to come to Kansas City to be with her and had a child. I loved her. DEEPLY.

      She and I are not together anymore. Because I finally came to see that I was gay. I had thought that her gender shouldn’t make a difference. I loved her. So what if she was a female! I figured of could love the “gender of [my] partner [didn’t need to] be an issue.” I thought, well if my lover was paralyzed from the waist down and couldn’t have sex ever again, wouldn’t I still love them? Of course I would. So who cared if she had female parts instead of male parts?

      But then I finally came to realize that it did make a difference. Because being gay was more than just preferring a penis over a vagina, a man’s chest over breasts, a rough jaw over a smooth one.

      For me I found “gay” wasn’t sex. Or not just sex. It was spirit. Soul. I realized that I had fooled myself. That I was NEVER “in-love” with my daughter’s mother. That I had never been “in-love” with a female in my entire life, although I had dated women, had sex with women, lived with women, and loved women deeply. I still do. It is no mistake that out of my four closest friends, three are women.

      But to my shock I saw that every time I had been “in-love”… As I looked back at my entire life, from toddler to that fateful day… Every time I was “in-love” it was with a male. Every true crush (and not hero crushes) it was with a male. Every time my heart had gone pitter-pat and I got rushes of emotion that made my soul sing, it was over a male. I had LOVED women. But it was more like…hmmmm….what I feel for my mother. Powerful and deep and REAL and it was/is love.

      But not in-love.

      And no one should settle for anything less.

      I think any male/male couple that gets together where one is straight? The could stay together for awhile. They could love each other deeply. But finally the gay man is doomed to have happen to him the same thing that happens to women who marry gay men. They will be alone. Because that male partner is going to have to wake up and be where he can be truly and deeply fulfilled. In the case of a “gay for you” relationship, that straight man is ultimately going to need to be with a woman.

      My two cents and I hope you don’t mind.

      Reply

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