Alexi Silversmith lives in England, and has been a published author in another genre since the age of twenty-one – but only wrote her first M/M story this January. I’m sure we’ll hear from her frequently as she builds a base of loyal M/M fans.
Hello everyone. Today on this Bat-Channel, you’re going to be exposed to the ramblings of a newbie author – so new that I don’t even have any published M/M work yet, just contracts.
But I’ve been hanging around on a lot of blogs and participating in lot of discussions on M/M writers’ forums and I’ve noticed something a little odd. Something about pen-names. I posted about it on my blog, and the lovely Wave saw it and asked me to expand on it for all of you. So if you hate this post, blame Wave 🙂
I’d say, at a rough guess, that nearly 80% of the e-published authors I come across write M/M fiction under a non-de-plume of some kind. It’s expected. In fact, I’m stunned when I talk to an M/M author and realise that they’re using their real name. You probably are too. But I wonder how many people realise what a huge percentage this is, when compared to conventional, print publishing? In my day-to-day life I have met many writers, and I have never met one single author who used a pseudonym for their print work.
There are good reasons for this tendency in e-publishing. I should know, because I write my M/M stories under a pen-name too.
I’ve spent the last several years of my life building up a career as an author of books for young adults and children, under my real name. The implications if I used the same name for M/M work are sticky in more ways than one. I don’t want to read an email from a puzzled ten year old asking me to explain gay sex. I’d rather not read one from an homophobic parent of a ten year old (and it’s stunning how many parents reveal heretofore unnoticed homophobic tendencies when it comes to their kids) asking me to drop dead. I certainly don’t want one from a large group of librarians who’ve decided to ban my YA work based on my lack of moral fibre, an all too real possibility in the US, though perhaps not in the UK.
Other writers that I spoke to about this were teachers or child-care workers or people with other sensitive jobs. Many of them were convinced that despite discrimination laws, their jobs would be under threat if it was discovered that they wrote about sex at all, let alone gay sex. Still others had family members who feared for their jobs or businesses, and had sworn them to secrecy.
One lady I spoke to said that she had a church group that she and her family love being part of and whom they rely on for many different kinds of support. This M/M author said she knew for a fact that her church group would reject not only her, but her entire family, if they found out about her M/M writing.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I got to the last example I felt my mental gears grind to a halt.
Although the author in question described her church group as being ‘genuinely nice people’, and used language like ‘conservative’ and ‘traditional’ to describe them, I think it’s pretty clear that what the church group must actually be is ‘bigoted’. These people wouldn’t just stop talking to her at the annual charity bake-sale if they found out that she wrote gay fiction for a hobby. They would reject her entire family. That is harsh. So let’s call a spade a spade here. This church is anti-gay. Homophobic.
The lady writes romantic novels in which men fall in love and enjoy beautiful, erotic homosexual sex. Surely, then, she believes in gay rights and abhors bigotry? Yet she’s happy for her family to associate with a group of people who are teaching them that hating gay people – and rejecting those who believe in equal rights for gay people – is just A-Okay?
The problem is that once you question this last example, you find yourself going back through all the other reasons – like the ones from people who fear that their jobs would be under threat, and my own excuse about not wanting kids to accidentally read work not meant for them…and suddenly it all seems a bit feeble. You start to wonder how the hell society is ever going to evolve if people don’t stand up and take that risk one day? Why anyone bothered to write anti-discrimination laws if none of us trust them? If kids go ahead and read stories that depict gay sex despite all the warnings posted on them, it’s not like the world will end, is it?
Gay, bisexual or transgendered people who want to live anything approaching a real life don’t get to come up with a pen-name and a bunch of excuses. They either come out and face all the hatred or they live a life of lies, repression and loneliness. And once again, I should know. I’m bisexual. Coming out was no freaking cakewalk. It still comes back to bite me in the ass (and not in the fun way).
When my mind had been working like that for a while, a sudden thought occurred to me: we’ve got a hell of a nerve writing M/M fiction with an attitude like that.
This is why some gay male writers of gay male fiction seem to hate all female M/M writers: By hiding what we do as if it were actually something to be ashamed of instead of a cool hobby or career, we turn what should be a legitimate romance genre into some kind of prurient, nasty secret that we use for jollies.
I know that there are people reading this who live in countries where gay people’s lives are still under threat from the authorities. Where, if anyone found out that they were reading M/M stories, they could face very real, and very nasty consequences from the law. And yet you’re brave enough to be here on this blog, reading and participating in the community you love.
So just what are we all thinking with this pen-name stuff?
And the answer is…I don’t know. But maybe I – and all the pseudonymous M/M authors out there – should think about this issue a little more.