Dear Cis Gay Men, Here's Why Women in MM Romance Don't Listen to You
I used to call many gay men my friends—in college, post college for a few years. And I didn't think of them as my 'gay friends'; they were my friends.
Until I really started to notice (or rather acknowledge) that their favorite insults to each other all revolved around women: You bitch. You slut. Pussy. You cunt. On particularly charming moments, You ugly bleeding cunt. Sometimes it was simply 'girl', but it was rather frustrating to hear them use these words as insults against each other between telling me my clothes look awful or grabbing my friends' ass, and when we complained about it, telling us 'it's okay because I'm gay'.
And if your immediate response to the above is 'not all gay men' please, respectfully, shut up.
Let's go way way back to the beginning of MM fiction. Which is an offshoot of/strongly tied to BL (boys' love), yaoi, and slash (and before anyone tries to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, this is literally one of my degrees, and I haven't stopped studying it since I finished college), which has always been women-dominated (but not straight women dominated – the majority from what I've seen/read are queer).
And I wish I had screencaps of some of this stuff, but it's been a long time. Longer still for those who have been around twice or thrice as long as me, because I've only been a reader since high school (class of 1999, god do I hate that fucking song) and a writer since…I dunno, while I was in college (class of 2003).
But if I had screencaps, I could show you all the times gay men called us garbage. Called us stupid fucking cunts just using them for our own pleasure (while never speaking up when other men were sexist assholes treating women like objects, but we'll get to that). Laughing at us. Calling us sad, pathetic faghags. Calling us fat and ugly and desperate. Mocking us at every turn. Telling us they'd never read our garbage, and later that they'd never buy it, once we started moving from fanfiction and free original stuff to publishing.
Like, there are many, many reasons all those old writing groups, and later LJs, were locked down tight. Most of it was that a lot of us would lose our jobs or get in trouble with family if they saw what we read and wrote. But there was also the vitriol and harassment we caught from men who decided we weren't allowed to do what we did, even though they have no problem with straight men reading and watching and admiring magazines, pornos, and images of women. Even though plenty of them read the work they could find, sometimes on the sly, sometimes just so they could tell us why we suck. Some of them were even decent and just part of the crowd, but they were by far the minority.
For instance, a few years ago I got into an unpleasant discussion with a gay man, an author. It got ugly. I was upset, my poor then-girlfriend and sister were trying to comfort me. I got an email from an author who told me they weren't surprised by the awful things this man was saying, I should see what he (and other well-known gay men in MM) said about so many women behind closed doors where they thought they were among friends. And this author begged me to keep what they'd said confident, because if it got out, those men would know who had told and they were deathly afraid what those men might do in retaliation.
And that's not the first such email I've gotten, up to and including the fear.
There's a well-known bully in this community who purposely called me straight solely for the purpose of hurting me, to "make a point". But mostly to hurt me, because when I SAID it hurt and I'd just wanted to enjoy a nice dinner out with me wife, he made fun of me. And never once apologized, the way he apologized to a man he accidentally misgendered. This one I do have screen-caps for.
The fact that this was liked by even a few people is disgusting. Plenty of people wouldn't tolerate it when he mistreated another man, but he's allowed to hurt me for no reason (or at least, a reason I still don't understand; he was pissed at me for claiming I speak for trans people, even though I never have).
The point is, whatever I did or didn't do, I didn't deserve to be: a) misidentified and b) mocked for my pain. But how many of his 2000+ followers came down on him for something that entire community wars have been started over?
Three that I saw before I finally gave my phone to my wife so I'd stop looking at twitter and getting increasingly upset. Mostly people just laughed and agreed with him. A few people messaged or emailed me with words of comfort. The rest did nothing at all.
I can promise you that if Julio had been a woman rather than a man engaging in this behavior, and I'd been a queer man, Julio would have been DESTROYED. How do I know? Because Kindle Alexander was rightfully lambasted for her abhorrent behavior recently. Kindle said they identified as 'a gay man' but with their friends constantly joked and made light of transmen and all that they go through. This carried on for days, and honestly people are still feeling and recovering from the fallout (especially trans people, who are by their own words really fucking tired of this shit) But Julio gets away with similar all the time. Men get away with atrocious behavior ALL THE TIME in this genre, because they're men, and gay men, and I guess that means they're too high up on their pedestals to be touched.
That is my point. Even in a genre that is woman dominated, that was built by woman and will always be mostly for women, men show up to treat us like garbage. To tell us that we're wrong, that we're not doing it "right", even though right is pretty damn subjective when it comes to storytelling (not subjective across the board, obvs, writing stories about say, Jewish people falling in love with Nazis, or slaves falling in love with plantation owners, is never going to be okay, there are some lines).
Even today I saw a post written by a man complaining that women don't listen to him.
"I've been stunned by the number of women who don’t seem to want to listen to gay men. I find that stunning because we're the topic. We're what you’re so interested in."
First off, just because they're not listening to you or other gay men in your immediate vicinity doesn't mean they aren't listening to gay men. Or bisexual men. Or trans men, etc. There are plenty of men in my life I can talk to when I need their input. I don't need a bunch of strangers I don't know, and who don't even write what I write (in that, I write high fantasy, which is completely different from contemporary, which is what this particular author writes to my knowledge) telling me how to do a job I have been doing well for over a decade.
Next, too many gay men show up acting like their way is the only way. That if we don't write our stories, our characters, the way gay men tell us we should, we are doing it wrong. Never mind there is no single one way, or even ten ways, to be a gay man. Just as there's no single way to be lesbian, bisexual, asexual, etc. So of course that "advice" gets ignored. We're not stupid. You are not the Voice of All Gay Men. We are not obligated to listen to every single gay man who shows up to the genre acting like a gift from heaven.
Three, this genre has always been dominated by women. It's largely written by women, for women, and increasingly by a broader spectrum of queer people for queer people. So gay men are hardly the only voice that needs to be heard, and frankly, it's exhausting that after all this time, it's still gay cis white men that are the voice and the face of the queer community and the rest of us are just on the fringes being told we're doing everything wrong (and this is such an oversimplification of one element of a huge problem, because let's be real, it's queer POC who are most shit on by the community).
Four, women are damned tired of men policing our sexuality. Slash, yaoi, BL, and MM are for women to enjoy stories that are predominantly romantic and/or erotic in nature. There is a long, long list of reasons they focus on guys fucking other guys, too many to get into in this post. Are there problems with it? Yes, yes, yes. Objectification is certainly one of them. Disrespecting the gay community is another. Yaoi alone has a host of issues. I have ranted about these and other problems at various times and places. But it is still a place where women can enjoy sex and romance without men telling them they're wrong or crazy or stupid or should be ashamed.
Except that still happens time and time again.
And exactly as happened to me today, when women try to point all these problems out, be it in response to articles, blogposts, or whatever, we get at least one of three responses:
1. I'm sorry you feel that way.
2. You're just not reading what I said correctly.
3. Not all (gay) men
So in summary, a lot of women ignore what gay men have to say about how we should write our books because for a long damn time, gay men told us our books were garbage and we were ugly, desperate, pathetic fatties who should stop ruining gay fiction with our stories.
A lot of women ignore what gay men have to say because we're not writing about gay men. I'm writing an asexual man, a bisexual man, and a pansexual dragon in a high fantasy world with a culture vastly different from ours. Your input isn't relevant.
A lot of women ignore what gay men have to say because gay men are sexist, entitled, and ignore us when we try to explain these things. Because so many gay men still say awful things about us when they think no one is listening. Because we're still afraid to name names because of what might happen to us. Because even the men who are pretty decent still say NOTHING when their fellows act like jerks, which means they can't be wholly trusted either. Because gay men are still men, and we're women, and when men get angry at women, rarely does that end well for us.
I, and countless other women, will treat you like peers when you treat us like human beings.