I’ve done it now. Angels of Mercy won’t be an easy read for the chicks who dig their man-on-man (-on-man?) love action. There’s a cardinal rule there that gay men don’t play on the other side of the fence.
Only, after being around the block as much as I have – and I’ve really been around the block so much I can give muthafuckin’ tours and sell shirts and shit – I know that gay doesn’t always equate to GAY with a big ol’ pink triangle and a rainbow flag. Men are far more fluid when it comes to sex. They won’t talk about it honestly with others if they know they can be identified – but in the course of my Human Sexuality class I took last semester we ran a world-wide sex study and the results were rather enlightening (well, more so for the class than myself). Mostly because the survey was completely anonymous. No tracking, no cookies, no way to link it back to you as the participant. So I think we got really refreshing responses. It turns out that across the over 600 respondents from around the globe, the spectrum of gay vs. straight ain’t so lopsided as one might think. In fact when we added up the queer populace it came damned near EQUAL to the total self-identified straight population within the sampling.
In my past I’ve bedded enough “married straight men” to know that straight doesn’t always mean what it says. DL much, guys?
Honestly put (and this is NOT news, ladies and gents): GUYS LOVE TO GET THEIR ROCKS OFF.
And don’t let all that straight boy bravado fool you – a gay boy will do just fine if there’s no pussy to be had. Just callin’ it as I sees it. And believe me, I’ve seen plenty. Sex positive here and all that rot.
So my literature work is not genre romance. It just isn’t. I never really saw that it was. I mean, I think it could be embraced by that audience, but they are so deeply entrenched in their own genre dogma that they often rail against stories that don’t fit into their nice and tidy rainbow box.
Well, as a fully fledged GAY man, I know that the world is a whole lot grayer than the black and white everyone likes to classify things into. We all like tidy little boxes. Well, human sexuality is not so fucking tidy.
And neither are my boys.
I’ve known gay men who have sex with women on an on-going basis. The difference is they can’t emotively connect with women beyond friendship. Men, on the other hand, turn their little heart crank in 0.065 seconds flat. They become a puddle of emotional goo if a guy begins to woo them. Therein is the difference, sweet cheeks. That emotive quotient that is added to the sexual mix between gay men and their male lovers.
It’s no different than the ‘gay for pay’ adult actors who want to earn more money by doing gay porn than they ever could doing straight porn work. They may get all the pussy they want doing straight porn, but the real money for the men is on our side of the fence and they’ve figured that shit out. And the guys in gay porn who are gay are stretching the boundaries of what gay men look and “act” like (though I grouse at the word “act” when it comes to anything gay – I am only using it here because of the commonality of how many use it in the sex work industry).
Colby Keller is one such man that I admire not only for putting himself sexually out there (which, let’s face it, takes REAL BALLS to do that – and believe me, Colby’s got ’em – and then some!), but also has a brilliant mind and a real sense of aesthetics in art and literature. A man I can really admire with all of his sex-positive stuff going on that makes it oh so sexy to watch in a man. He’s hella sexy and that ginger status only adds fuel to the fire in my book (just sayin’).
But I digress, that’s not what this blog post is about really.
What I did that many readers of M/M Romance genre might take offense, was organically developed in the way that my story needed to evolve. Angels is about choices gay men have to make to try and eke out some happiness in their lives. Some of those choices go epically wrong. Horrifyingly so. Especially within the context of organized/team sports. They (the jocks) have a script that they have to go by to be a fully fledged member of the “club.” Even if there is no literal script to run with.
My protag, Marco Sforza, in the second volume (Angels of Mercy – Volume Two: Marco) is just such a young man. He knows he is in love with the out, but shy, gay boy on campus. But he is also painfully aware that the big bright shiny spotlight that follows him everywhere on campus is not what will bring the love of his life into his arms. He knows that there are other factors at play here. He knows he has to “play the game” so he can play the game (of football, in this case). Marco’s good at what he does. His stats are some of the top in the nation for high school athletes – especially those who are eyeing a college career, if not a professional one. Marco knows he is going to be scouted as he gets to college level playing. But that only serves to put an added layer of pressure to be one of the guys.
This doesn’t do anything for his heart. It only denies him what he wants most in life – to have that boy of his dreams (Elliot) in his arms and in his bed day in and lights out.
But he chooses to “play the game” rather than give up the game he loves to play. So he finds a girl that he’s comfortable with. She’s a good fit for him. She doesn’t pressure him, she enjoys his company, she is everything he could want in a relationship. This is something that takes him by surprise. Something that he doesn’t expect to happen to him. And Holly, the girl in question, is easy for him. Not in a slutty girl way, but rather because he doesn’t feel put upon when he’s with her. This only serves to cloud the issue of whether he really is gay or not.
But each time he goes out with Holly, he finds himself back at that boy’s house, out back in the woods that surrounds his home, just waiting for any sign of the boy who still has his heart. Marco has some big choices to make in this case. He knows he needs to let what’s easy go, in favor of that much harder choice of what will feed his heart and his soul.
But then, there’s the added complication that he’s an hormonally charged teenager too. And despite what mothers and the girls in their lives, that’s never an easy thing to wrestle with. Hormones in a teen boy are massively and epically confusing to deal with. Part of me thinks this is why so many boys choose team sports – it is a way to direct that pent up sexual energy.
Holly has decided that Marco is the guy who will be her first. And for Marco, who hasn’t been with anyone in that way, decides that she will be his. So they have sex. Nailed to the fucking wall, kind of sex. Sex on steroids kind of sex because, as it turns out, Marco and Holly are very sexually compatible. Each one driving the other to new heights of pleasure. And to Marco’s surprise he actually finds he enjoys himself in doing it. It’s just easy, that way. And that is what makes everything so much harder for him.
But inwardly, he knows it’ll never be what he wants most in life so he let’s that slip away from him in favor of what he’s always wanted. But his time with Holly answers so many questions he has about himself. It gives him clarity so when he makes the conscious choice to set all fear aside and move in to tell Elliot (the boy he’s secretly loved) how he feels, he does it with real conviction, no longer unclear about who he is and what he really wants. No one can ask him: “Well, how do you know you’re not straight if you’ve never tried it?”
‘Cause he bloody well has, that’s why! And his boy Elliot, STILL came out on top!
Book one covers their relationship from Elliot’s perspective. It’s heady and very over-the-top romantic. Book two is Marco’s perspective on it all. But I wanted these books to be real character studies. I wanted the reader to know these boys intimately. Seventy percent of the books are inner-monologue. They are fashioned that way so the reader goes through this emotive questioning that all gay men go through. The struggle to answer that question of who am I and what does it all mean?
Gay men do have straight sex. It happens more than people realize. And the reverse is quite true too. Straight men will have gay sex (even beyond the “acceptable” practice of it being prison sex). Sexual fluidity is a far more potent place to write stories. Why? Because all cards are on the table, all bets are off.
The real stories can be told when nothing is guaranteed.
It may not win me any points with M/M genre fiction readers. But I think they are, by and large (though not everyone, I’ll grant you), limited in scope of what are acceptable storylines. There should be no guarantees in the writing of these stories. Only then do we let our true creative sparks ignite and become the storytelling firestorm that they can be. Otherwise, we’re just swapping characters and occupations around and rehashing old ground.
So Angels is not a player of that M/M genre game. My boys won’t fit in tidy fucking boxes. I hope those readers give it a chance. But since one of my main characters (the jock in the relationship) has straight sex in it, I may have just lost that appeal for them. Too bad really, because I think it makes him infinitely more real and accessible. The experience defines him, gives him greater clarity. It also allows him to push for what he really wants without the need to put these characters on unattainable pedestals. Elliot does that for most of book one – Marco is a god to him. Only to have that smashed when it looks like Marco has strayed on the very same night Elliot does with another boy – but now I am getting ahead of myself. Best to leave that for when the books come out.
So yeah, broke a rule here for that audience. Maybe they’ll take a chance on it any how. I know that the readers who have groused about some of the positions I’ve taken and then previewed the first book found that I really did have something here that is a bit of a game changer. It is different than what’s out there. I am striving for real literature. Beyond genre. Beyond that sort of (IMHO) myopic rule set.
No ‘they must not…’
Because they do. And they will, and I wouldn’t have them any other way.
Until next time …
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So a quick post about where I am after this whole writing endeavor of mine that I plunged headlong into without really thinking about it all.
So what did I learn?
Quite a lot, actually.
I learned that writing is a very quiet, lonely (save for some really great discussions about the craft with my hubby and some writing pals and my betas) business. I sort of knew that, but really didn’t understand the full breadth of it all.
I learned that writing a novel, no matter the actual size, is a very cathartic craft and really does take it out of you emotionally as well as physically (just the sitting for hours on end can be a bit grueling).
But I’ve also learned to listen to others. To truly try to understand where they were coming from (even if I didn’t wholly agree with their positions). I learned that after all these years I still crave to hear what my gay brothers (and sisters) have to say about our lives – even if I feel we have quite a way to go in creating a real and lasting community amongst us.
I’ve conversed (over my social media) with some really amazingly creative people in all facets of their various occupations and social lives. I was heartened to discover that the experiences I’d amassed in my life regarding my sexuality and my perceptions about it weren’t dirty or wrong (I never really thought they were – just that everyone in the mainstream seems to have a bug up their ass about it). In taking a Human Sexuality course this past few months really gave me an appreciation about sex and humans that made it all very real and personal for me.
I’ve liked my on-going conversations with sex workers (like Rocco Steele, Boomer Banks, Tayte Hanson, Colby Keller, Levi Michaels and Armond Rizzo, to name a few) who have been kind enough to respond to my little tweets to them about the work they do and the other things that interest them outside of the porn business. I really am fascinated with all they do – beyond their current incarnations as porn stars. They are truly some amazing individuals and I am heartened to see how truly brilliant they are in how courageously they live their lives.
I am emboldened that the few who have previewed my current work (I haven’t published anything yet – though they’re all going to hit early in 2015) have said that I really have something with Angels of Mercy. That’s been the most rewarding thing of all this past year.
For my wolves of Sparrows Hollow – A BIG THANK YOU – ’cause you’re gonna be my very first release to the world in 2015!
I like that my musical muses – Steve Grand and Jay Brannan have been kind enough to exchange and, in their own way, encourage me to reach for my own stars. It makes my devotion to their craft and their art that much more special and personal. These men, these brilliant writers, inspire me each and every day in the things they do.
To all of my newly formed author pals I’ve come to know and interact with, I am heartened and enriched by our exchange. A special shout out to Jayne Lockwood and Brad Vance for being the great people you are. Thank you.
To my family and friends – you still teach me so much and I am looking forward to knowing what you have in store for me next year. To Michael Rumsey, Matthew Gallien, Vincent Mazza, Patricia Hamilton and the hubby JL. To Zorro and Katya (my two brilliantly smart, and infectiously lovable cats). To Matt Rayne and L.a. Le – two crazy cats in my FB life… I look forward to what you’ve got in store for me next year!
To Keely and Whitney – the girls in my life and the family I cherish.
And lastly, to my cast of characters in my works. Thank you. Even if you aren’t real except in my mind and heart, you mean the world to me because you’re mine. Of my heart, of my mind, of my flesh and blood and tears (there’s been a little of each to create them all).
So I’ll close this first year in the chapter of my writing career and be thankful for what I have and what I know I have yet to do. It’s a lonely craft, this writing thing is, but I can’t think of anything else I want to do.
So in these final hours – I’ll leave you with a simple song that from the time I heard it as a boy it affected me so. It is from the Carpenters – who were my absolute love when I was a boy. Karen’s voice still gives me the chills every time I hear her. I miss her creativity so.
And for any nay-sayers this next year – yeah I got only one thing to tell ya…
Boomer and Rocco both were quick to respond to my NYE tweets – proving yet again, what lovely men they are! LOVE THESE GUYS!
A couple of weeks ago I made some comments from a question posed by an author pal of mine, Jayne Lockwood. We’ve been having an on-going conversation regarding the process of writing, why we write what we do, how it is perceived by others and the process we go through to create what we do. It’s a very rewarding conversation. Well, for me it is at any rate (I can’t speak for Jayne, but she seems to like it – at least so far she hasn’t told me to take a hike and shut the hell up so maybe it’s going good?).
The problem is I said somethings that many women writers took me to task about (both on my pal’s site and on Facebook). Being a father and a grandfather to two women of my own, when women express something vociferously I tend to really take in what they are saying and weigh it heavily. I do this because I fight just as vociferously for my daughter and granddaughter’s right to be equals and have whatever they want in life. Their gender shouldn’t ever play a role in what they do – other than bring their womanly experiences and points of view to any conversation which I certainly believe have merit and weight.
Anyway, one woman in particular really took umbrage with what I said. This despite my attempting to clarify what point of view I was after. Even after explaining myself she still thought my point was “asinine” (evidently in the extreme). Now, being a man, I wanted to do the knee jerk reactionary thing and bash back. It’s an inherently male trait that I am well aware of. It’s why men go to war, it’s why men wage war in the first place, I suppose. But, having the girls in the house I decided to temper that knee-jerk response and really weigh what she said to me. It was written this way:
I’m part of the community of authors who write gay fiction–regardless of what they do or do not have in their pants. I find the gender of the author to be irrelevant and I don’t consider myself to be a part of the ‘straight community’ or the ‘bisexual community’ or the ‘bisexual women married to men who also happens to gay MM fiction’ community. I’m a person before I’m anything else. I’ve read male authors who ‘feminized’ their characters to the point where they are crying every other page and had emotional conversations about love and other crap right after meeting a stranger, as well as women who write male fiction so well that men–gay men–have said they thought the author WAS a man. Fiction should be judged on its own merit–not based on the sexuality or gender of the author–and anything beyond that IS asinine. We need to stop dividing ourselves.
So I sat and thought about what she was saying to me. At first blush, like I said, I reacted strongly to her judgement of my POV being asinine. Then I realized why I was fixating on that word in particular and why I was taking umbrage with it. It occurred to me that it wasn’t the point she was making, because on the whole I agree with her 99%. Why the 1% hold out? Well, therein was my answer. And it was my fault entirely for not being accurate about my first response to Jayne’s query. A point I will come to in my summation below.
With regards to writing, there are various manners of writing. Technical writing, academic writing, literature (with varied genre and sub-genre classifications), etc. So first and foremost I am simply that – a writer. No different than any other. It is a community that I share with the commenter above and with all of the people who have responded on both sides of the discussion (and yes, I had some male writers approach me separately that didn’t want to voice their general agreement with me publicly – those were private and I will not be disclosing who said what – just know that there is still that prevailing difference of opinion out there). But as I say, I am a member of the community of writers. Yet in really examining my feelings on this issue I slowly started to see how I hadn’t clarified my own position or point of view to fully answer my writing buddy’s initial query.
Now to be fair, Jayne and I are doing what we’re doing because we want those surprises in our conversation. We both have bought into the “oh shit, I said that all wrong but fuck me, it’s out there in the heat of the moment and yeah, now I gotta eat crow so pass the damned salt cause this shit is gonna taste hella nasty.” (Sorry, ‘hella’ is a No. California expression that as I write about my teens in the area I live in I use to flavor my boys and girls of my stories – I am staying in the groove with them, so to speak). We wanted these moments in our on going dialog because as writers Jayne and I are all about the reveal. So we sort of know we’re gonna step in it from time to time. I accept that, and in a very real way I am giddy with glee that I did it. Why? Simple: it allowed me to examine where what I said in the heat of the moment came from and why it caused a bit of a shit storm response.
But as I said, I am a member of the community of writers. And it was in that that my answer lay in why I have the point of view I have. It is also where my most vocal critic’s argument runs afoul to my mind. It is the one percent on where I completely and whole-hardheartedly disagree with her and will NEVER give ground on it. You see, I am also a member of the LGBTQIA community. And more specifically, the gay community of brothers that while I rail within it about how badly we can cut and tear at each other when we’re amongst ourselves (bitchy twinky queen much?) I still love each and every one of them because they exist. With them, I don’t feel alone in expressing how I feel what I feel. And herein is why I am writing to finally clarify my point of view. It also serves to finally answer the question for myself on what I am doing here, and why I write.
As a gay man I share with my communal brothers the trials, tribulations, euphoric, insanely giddy moments of our community. It is something that we all share regardless of how we all came to the road we are on as gay men. As a matter of record, I have grown to become quite pissed at the “community” of gay men because we spend an inordinate amount of time not supporting each other as we should. Something our lesbian sisters have taught us time and again when they’ve nudged us (they were one of out greatest allies during the whole AIDS crisis in the 80’s and 90’s and continue to do so – for which I am grateful). But the work has to come from within. We, as gay men, must rise above the in-fighting and the bickering that permeates our own community and truly hold each other up. No one else will do it for us. Our allies commiserate with us on how our often our community is maligned and disparaged, but they are allies in the fight for dignity and equality. But they are not the community. That lies solely with my gay brothers and myself.
And herein is why I will never cede ground to my critic’s point on this 1% – where the 1% will always trump the 99%. I know this to be true because it happened to me.
When I was sixteen and dealing with the fullest meaning of what was going on inside of me – my budding emotional responses to the boys around me in school and in my day to day experiences – I felt utterly alone.
I wasn’t a member of the mainstream club.
Now to be clear, I had tons of friends, I had family members who knew about my burgeoning gay life as a young man taking up the reigns in what that meant for me going forward. So I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me in many ways. But let me be absolutely clear about this:
I was alone in a sea of people. People who were there for me in every way than could be save one – they weren’t like me.
I soon sorted out for myself that I craved another gay man’s voice. I needed to know there was a community of men who shared my passions (however varied they were) and also understood implicitly what that meant – from the inside as a man. I was hungry for their words, I wanted affirmation that what I was feeling meant I wasn’t alone. I had my parents and siblings unconditional love and support – for the 70’s/80’s this is rather astounding as there wasn’t much out there for parents to latch onto that what I was becoming was positive in any way. My parents, I suppose, just trusted that I was the same good boy they reared and as such I would apply myself to this new avenue in the journey that is my life. Despite all the love and support they had for me, they could never be what I needed most at this point in my life. I wanted to be amongst my own in the worst way. But I was sixteen. No way for a boy at that age to easily accomplish that.
But I could find a book to hear what they had to say.
So I began looking. I knew that what I wanted from it couldn’t readily be found in a library. Mostly because what I was curious about in my hormonally charged teen boy days, was the topic of sex and love between men. It took me several visits to the bookstores I’d disappear to in the local mall my parents would take my brother, sister and me to on occasion. It almost happened by coincidence. I found some books that were not in the right place on a shelf that was slightly above my eye level, I shifted them around and a book that would become one of my bibles was there – nearly glowing with angels singing it’s praises to me. That book was The Sexual Outlaw by John Rechy.
John’s book was transformative. It was gritty, unabashed writing that spoke to me in ways that no one else could. It was as if his words were for me and me alone. They were powerful, their imagery was stark and bold. I emerged a very different boy with that book. So here we’ve come to why I will never agree with my critic’s point of view. Because it is from my own community of writers: gay men writing about our worlds as we are. Those words I’ve said before but not in the context of how I truly meant them and why. As a boy I wanted that affirmation from my own kind and no amount of brilliant writing, witty and powerful prose from anyone outside of that sphere was going to satisfy. It just simply wasn’t. It never would. I wanted to hear it from the source – not some random author posing what they thought it might be like. I wanted other gay men’s voices in my head. I wanted to swim in them, I wanted to be immersed in their minds, in their worlds, in their lives. I needed to understand what being gay was all about.
John satiated my lustful thoughts. He colored them and gave them such a compelling narrative that I was living and breathing it every time I opened that book. But he didn’t have all my answers – I wanted more. So I sought out others as best I could and I happened again on another gay male author: Gordon Merrick. Merrick satiated my heart. He gave me the perspective of a gay man in matters of love and relationships between men. And you can bet your sweet ass, no woman’s perspective no matter how beautifully written was going to give me that. I wanted a definitive male perspective. And let me be abundantly clear about this – the nature of the writing, the quality of the characters, the style of prose didn’t matter. Not really. It was that I had another gay man’s voice in my head. That belonging to a group of men like myself was paramount — almost more than the work itself. And herein is a salient point I’d like to make to my straight women allies who write about us in the here and now, we may have M/M romance as it is today and many of my critics site that it came from the fanfic/slash fic of the 90’s and that it is from these straight women who have given birth to this genre – yet I say to you all, unless you were doing this in the early 70’s when this book broke and was on the NY Bestseller list, then no, Merrick was one of the first. And he did it at a time when no one else was doing it. I know because I was there. I lived through this period in time. And it could be argued that it existed before him – EM Forster’s Maurice was penned earlier in that century as no doubt there were a few others. These courageous men were the men I craved. Men I could admire, men I could aspire to and say to myself ‘I want a piece of that pie… I want me some of that.’
I know that the argument could be made that this was all before the advent of the internet, that now it’s easy to find them. And yes, you’d be right about that. BUT, herein is the subtle but profound difference, and herein is why I discovered why I write: I still require gay men’s voices. I still want to know why Zachary Quinto is taking umbrage within his own community in the here and now about his perception of how his fellow gay brothers have grown “lazy” with regards to protecting ourselves against HIV/AIDS when we have drugs like PreP out there (he is getting slammed for starting the conversation – I, for one, am THANKFUL that he took the time to pose the question in the first place). I still want to know from my gay brothers what stirs up our shit about things in general. And yes, that information isn’t as hidden as it was back in the day when I was struggling to find affirmation and confirmation that I wasn’t alone. It doesn’t matter – I still want more of my own. I want to know today why Perez Hilton goes off on a fucking tangent and makes an ass out of himself and fails epically, I want to know the struggles of Michael Sam as he tries to elevate us all by simply being and showing us how equal gay male athletes are in the larger sports context.
For me, and I think for a great many within my own community, gay men’s voices will ALWAYS trump another author from outside my community – no matter their intent, no matter the quality of their work, because they simply AREN’T a member of our community. They don’t live it day in and day out. They may write beautifully and profoundly but to my mind, there is still the inherent tick box that says – lovely work but not of our own. It is that nugget of living it that puts it over the edge for me. Not because of the quality of the writing – but that by their very existence they affirm that I am still not alone. I need them. I need them all. Good, bad or indifferent. I need them because together we still have a “community” (such as it is).
Does this mean I think others outside our community shouldn’t write as they do? Absolutely not. I’ve said so time and again even though most of my straight allies took me to task as if that is what I was saying. But in this my absolute truth began to emerge. I began to truly see what kind of writer I am. I’ve begun to define myself as a writer and the audience I am truly seeking. I’ve learned that my road won’t be an easy or profitable one.
I am a writer. Period.
But I write from my own rooted experiences. I write to my sixteen year old self – telling him about what I’ve learned along my varied and roller coaster past. And they are rooted in life, they are my own and my fellow gay brother’s shared experiences. We live them. The situations I put my characters through may be imaginary but they are deeply rooted in my own and my gay male brother’s experiences. Words we’ve shared amongst ourselves. Words that both soothe and harm one another. Love, anguish, hurt, coupled with friendship, camaraderie and bliss filled euphoria (as a sidebar my husband, a brilliant writer himself, rails against my using bliss and euphoria in the same sentence – he said to stop over stating – it’s redundant – I smirk at him and say that in my own way I am railing at convention and want to be over the top emphatic about my blissful euphoria – but this too is why I write). My stories will have strong romantic threads but they are definitely not romance novels. Not in the sense of that particular genre as it stands now. And herein I believe that the genre needs to grow beyond the limitations and restrictions or the genre will wither on the vine and it will grow stale from the same formula cranked out over and over again – merely swapping out vocations and locations to keep things fresh. That can only go on for so long. My men will fall in and out of love. Because that is how we are – but I won’t guarantee a HEA (happily ever after) or even an HFN (happy for now), because it doesn’t work that way in life. This I will not adhere to. That I think is ludicrous in the extreme. In that manner my straight women allies can have at it. It is not for me – but my stories will have strong elements of love and loss. To my way of thinking that makes them infinitely more compelling and powerful if you don’t have a guarantee. End it the way it is supposed to end – not because some prescribed “way it has been done before.” I rail against that too. But then again I come from a community that has had to fight tooth and nail for every inch of acceptance and happiness we can. Where simple expression of affection is ridiculed and denied us. That is a compelling dialog to write from. That is what I will explore and show how we as gay men struggle against that – culled from our own collective pasts.
This is what separates me from the straight women allies in the M/M genre (romantic or otherwise). I am not writing to them at all – and that was an amazing revelation for me. They are not my audience. They can certainly come to the party and I would welcome them with as much humility and humbleness I can muster for their wanting to see what I am all about.
But they are not the focus of my prose.
In that sense, I am a very different writer. I am not writing to become famous, I am not writing to make the all mighty dollar. I am not willing to write to a formula that sells. My stories are what they are. And you can believe that if there are gay characters then those points of view are coming straight from the community of gay men I surround myself with and delve into their pasts, carefully editing out names and distilling the shared experiences for future works. I cull from my own and my gay brother’s lives. So when I put a gay character down – I’ve walked through what makes him tick. I do this for that sixteen year old me and any others out there that are like me. They want that affirmation from another gay man. Because we are gay men.
Men are the object of my desire. Men are the object of my interest. Doesn’t mean I won’t write strong female characters in my stories (I have two very important women in my own immediate family that I must answer to so you bet your ass there will be very few weak women in my tales – I want my girls to know everything they can be as well – I am all about spreading the wealth). But in that, any women characters I create is more from a desire to express what I want my girls to take away from them. Doesn’t mean for one moment that I know what the hell I am writing about them from the inside – I am simply not a member of that community, and I don’t have the gender parts or psyche that make up the foundation for that community. I aspire to do it justice, just the same, but I must embrace that it will never be able to write from that intrinsic truth that comes from within. Are there shared human experiences between the sexes that I can speak to? Certainly. But I have to embrace that I am simply not a woman and being a happy well adjusted gay man – I can definitively say I wouldn’t want to. I am very comfortable in my skin and where it’s been in my life thus far.
But what I am doing is writing to my brothers – love letters of a sort. Words to add to the dialog amongst ourselves. I am putting my words out there in the odd chance that some gay man out there might find it and its contents to be of interest. I’ve come to embrace that it may be in vain. It may never be in demand. It may ultimately come to naught or may rise in popularity after I am long dead and gone. It wouldn’t be the first – EM Forster’s Maurice was only allowed to be published after his death. I am okay with this. I will write either way. Why? Because I am doing it as a matter of posterity. I want my work to be added to the annals of other men in my community, Gay men’s voices. For ourselves, to express what our journeys are to each other. Others external to us may pick them up, others may find them interesting and may even glean an understanding from them from inside the community and what it is like to live within it. This too, is welcomed – but not germane to my craft.
So in a way, I am glad for my critic’s words. They helped me define myself and what I am doing. I wish her nothing but luck with her own journey as well as any other writer out there. The stage is big enough for us all no matter why we do what we do.
What I want out of all of this is to urge my fellow brothers to step up and write about us – we need to define ourselves in a fictional literary sense that are rooted in who we are, as we live it. This is a call to action – to my own community. There are those of my kind out there doing just that. What I want is more of the same. I want to hear what my fellow brothers are experiencing, what their journeys have been thus far. Where have they stumbled, what have they achieved? I am inspired by them – by these men’s voices. They speak to me like no one else can. They enrich me.
Men like Jay Brannan (who I think is one of the most contemplative and imaginative men I have ever had the honor to meet).
Brannan’s work is my go-to. His words give me hope and such determination to aspire to his level of writing. I am enriched to know that as an older gay man, with this young out gay artist our story is in very, very capable hands. He is nothing short of a modern day bard. I have an on-going love affair with his prose. I admire his mind – the truly sexiest part of Brannan’s work. And his voice is like salve to the soul. It’s clarity and beauty is truly astounding. And he was gracious enough to allow me to quote his magnificent work within my own. One gay male artist supporting another. I am deeply humbled by his generosity and creative spirit.
Men like Steve Grand – who has taken his bold take on the mainstream country scene and through his profound presence and sheer will of the struggles of our loves and lives has garnered followers and fans from both within and external to our community. I admire his journey as a whole. It’s brilliant, it’s bright and all encompassing, and I am in awe of it taking off like it has. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him perform live but as a kickstarter supporter of his, I am already part of his conversation, if from a distance. I am still heartened by his journey.
Authors (in addition to EM Forster, John Rechy and Gordon Merrick) like Christopher Rice, TJ Klune, Gore Vidal, Larry Kramer, Felice Picano, Brad Vance, Eric Arvin and the like.
Men like Michael Sam, Jason Collins, and Tom Daley. Men like Dustin Lance Black, Shane Bitney Crone, Zachary Quinto (pictured below), Anderson Cooper, Greg Berlanti, Wentoworth Miller, Matt Zarley, Chris Salvatore, John Barrowman, Ryan Murphy and others – the list goes on. This includes gay men in the porn and sex industry – for many of them are my gay brothers too. Brilliant men who I admire for their minds as much as the work they do because they have productive lives outside of the industry (they are forward thinkers) – men like Colby Keller, Levi Michaels, Antonio Biaggi, Boomer Banks and Rocco Steele (pictured above) – such courageous and brilliant masculinity on display there. Even in this with them, I am inspired. What happens to them is of great interest to me – because it is reflective of my own in one way or another. Men who have to be weary of the world around us. A world where we are slowly seeing a rise in acceptance and tolerance (despite the occasional setback and fucktard conservative voice pushing back). In a real but absurd way, I am okay with the push back. It gives me a treasure trove to plunder for my characters to struggle against. And in that I also rail a bit at my critic’s sentiment above. She laments that we need to stop being so divisive amongst each other. Yet, I can’t help but think that while a lofty goal that may be, I don’t know that we’ll achieve it in what years I have left on this Earth. But again, it’s great fodder to write from certainly. We humans love our drama.
As my good fellow opera singer, Joseph, from my days in Opera once said, “No one wants to come see a happy Opera.” He’s right. Drama springs from life – it both reflects it and informs it. I am a writer of drama. More specifically, gay men’s drama. Might be limiting in scope but with the pathetically few books written by us rooted in our own collective experiences, I’ll stick to that course to add my own to my community’s slowly growing literary library.
I am a gay man who craves the voices of my own. It was that way when I was sixteen, it is that way now. I am thankful for those outside the community who want to write about us. I may even enjoy their work and praise them for what they do (I have done so with my carefully thought out reviews). But ultimately I am inspired and aspire to the men of my own world. I am enriched by their journeys and their experiences. I write to them. I write about them. I am informed by them. This is why I said what I said. I may not have clarified it as well as I should have but that was sort of the point with Jayne’s and my on-going conversation. In a very real way, this slight stumble has helped me define who I am and what kind of writer I am. For that, I can only be grateful.
So my fellow brothers, get out there. Write about us, write about our lives and our struggles, in a literature format. Root it in our lives, as they are or as you’d like them to be. Do it not for profit alone (though it certainly wouldn’t be frowned upon if you did), just do it to ensure our voices are present and accounted for – central to our experiences and our lives. Do it for posterity, do it so our thoughts in this point in time is captured in our own voice. Do it because we need to remind each other – both gently and, at times, purposefully – pressing against our own foibles, follies and prejudices. Teaching and enriching each other to aspire to be better with one another as much as we strive for equality in the greater mainstream community.
So, to my critic I say this – I agree with you up until we talk about my community from within. Then it is my own brother’s voices that hold sway, that have that nugget of truth, that sense of community that only they can speak to because they live it every damned day. It is our world – inherent to us because of the perceptions about us that we have to embolden or deride where they are true or are rooted in prejudice and bigotry. In this they will always hold my interest to a greater extent than any other voice out there. I may not agree with what they have to say but goddamn it, I will be thrilled that they are out there saying it – if anything just because it is still an affirmation that we matter, that our voices matter and should and need to be heard – from us – from the source itself. Only then, through our expression of our lives as they are, no matter the format of expression, will the narrative be central to our collective life’s experiences. I am tired of just sitting on the sidelines. What little years I may have left (I have recently reached my half centennial mark), I choose to be as forceful in presenting our world from our collected experiences as I can.
Others may claim that this is xenophobic in nature. It is not, I can assure you. I am being patriotic within my own community – there is a difference. I do not write against the mainstream heteronormative but rather try to embolden our own collective voices from within and champion them – doing what I can to promote and encourage them to do more and, at the same time, try to raise my voice — though not at the expense of others. And a word to those who would argue against that, they would be exercising the grandest form of bigotry.
If others, outside of our community, want to learn from my journey then great – I welcome them. But I write to my brothers. They are my love letters to them. I may not know them individually, I may not know their journeys or the road they walk in life, but if they stop and bother to tell me, I will always spare a moment to listen. That sixteen year old self is still hungry for their words, their thoughts, their minds. It is a hunger for which I never want satiated. When I take my last breath the only regret I want to have is that I’ll want more but be denied access in what is to come. That is what I will lament and rail against but know that it is for naught. Life just doesn’t work that way. I get that. But I lament the brilliant and colorful lives I will never know – lives to come that will be beyond my mortal reach. So I write from a fictional perspective to create those worlds that would explore what I crave from those voices as yet unheard.
Love letters to my gay brothers. I cherish each and every one of you. I admire your spirit, your courage and your minds. It is a love affair I am all to happy to be a part of. It is a love affair I never want to end.
I know no other way.
Author’s Note: Okay, apologies – I’m all over the map on this one – it’s more of a stream of consciousness… sorry!
This one is both historical in reference as it is in the moment. It has to be. There is no other way to deal with what I want to explore here. It has to have context and only time will provide that.
Primarily because it deals with time. It deals with aging.
And before we get started let me be clear – it is (as I clearly state above) a generalization. I am completely aware and cop to the fact that there are anomalies within the spectrum of youth that don’t adhere to this generalization I am commenting on – either they’ve been brought up to respect the value of age or they just don’t feel the need to express their ideas and opinions when they clearly don’t have the life experience to back it up.
This was born from a post from Instinct Magazine that hit my FaceBook account this AM. The original Instinct Mag article can be found here.
Now, admittedly my first reaction was to do a stupid knee-jerk response and go all postal on their ass – succinctly demonstrated by one such responder to the story by posting a fairly accurate summation of my in the moment response:
It all stems from what seems (on the surface) to be a carefully metered expression of why this certain boy (and in this case I am using the term deliberately) decided to make his point about those of his age bracket and how immature they are only to subvert his argument that the older men who congregated or patronized the local gay bars or clubs as ghosts of their former selves – the Peter Pan Syndrome is the term he cites. Needless to say his youthful myopic observations were completely colored by his youth striving to rise above his own at the expense of those who came before him.
You can read his original post here.
While I believe I understand what he is saying, he doesn’t realize that by using older (gay) men who seek a life outside of the clubs as the ideal progression, he completely undermines it with a rampant disrespect of other’s freedoms or those who have paid the social price (something his generation NEVER had to deal with on the scale we older cats have) and therefore he feels an entitlement to take what he perceives is his turf and scold those who aren’t “moving on” to “better” things in life.
Many men have commented on this posting and it has created a social media shit-storm both within and external to the community.
While I think it’s admirable that he is willing to cop to the fact that life beyond the clubs is the end goal for achieving a degree of personal success in life, it is by no means the barometer for how we choose to express what is success for any of us – whether it be individual or as a greater community.
Secondly, the myopic expression of how the men who are in the clubs past 30 are ghosts of their former youthful selves is both ludicrous in the extreme as it is laughable that he even pretended to use it as a sound footing to begin his position.
You see sweetie, as Edina Monsoon would say (and if you don’t know who she is then your pop-culture refs need some brushing up), age happens to all of us. There’s no escaping it. You’d do well to embrace it because the only way to stop it in its tracks is to die young. And that’s not really a viable option, or at least, it shouldn’t be.
The folly of youth is that once they achieve the blessed state of adulthood, eschewing their teen years and the awkward expressions of emotions that clouded them as they struggled to establish who they were going to be, they seem to think that that act (in and of itself) has earned them something that they can postalize to the greater (and decidedly more aged) community.
To put it bluntly – as my mother says – Kid, you ain’t old enough to know how to wipe your ass correctly let alone talk about things you have no business talking about. Yeah, mom can be like that. She is very good about kicking you in the rubber parts to knock you down a peg or two.
But to understand this, you’d have to know something about my past. You see, in my house the family dinner table was ground zero for debate and discussion.
Nothing was sacred.
We talked about it all. From the weather, to relationships, to sex and yes even the topic of shit came up once that ended in a hysterical fit of laughs to where dinner had almost grown cold before we could finish. You don’t want to know how that one got started… it’s innocuous enough as a discussion of linguistics was the topic of debate but then devolved rather quickly to the evolution of the word shit. It started there.
Why did I take you down that dark and scat laden road of my youth? Because I wanted you to know that my parents withheld nothing. Not a damned thing. If we asked, and it was in earnest, then we got an answer – straight up. My parents were strong proponents of knowledge at all costs. In that I learned a very valuable lesson: my elders did know a thing or two about life.
Did I take their advice at every turn? Hell no. I was a teenager for fuck’s sake. We teens are driven to separate from our parents only to try like hell to ally ourselves with another group our age where we can blend in and become just like them. Seriously, sometimes I wonder how any of us make it through our teen years (I guess the reverse is that some of us sadly don’t). I lament these lost souls – probably far more than it’s healthy for me to do so.
I remember being boastful with what I’d learned in life as I had conversations with others. But here is the rub – here is what separates me from the guy who posted this drivel of an argument – I was fully willing and able to pick up my stick I’d put in the sand on any given topic and be willing to move it once I had new information that bore contemplation and reflection. That came from my elders. The ability to step back from my own youthful exuberance and to listen, truly listen, to what was being given to me by my elders.
The “gay community” (I often use the term with implied air quotes because I feel we haven’t really reached a communal level yet – we still bicker and pick and throw shade upon our own when we get enough of that from the conservative segment of the hetero-normative quadrant) is not much of one. We’d do well to embrace and take care of our own. We’re down enough in many people’s eyes – no need to do it ourselves. Though sadly, we do. This article from this well intentioned but maligned young man, as highlighted by Instinct Magazine, points to that fact.
So on one hand I commend this misguided young man for holding to an ideal. BUT it is in the expression of how he sees the path to it as the definition of success on the backs of his elder brethren, those that have paid a price to society for the freedoms he takes for granted, that shows his lack of maturity that only years and experience can supply. Say nothing that he is trying to apply the hetero-normative standard as the benchmark of success. Believe me, there are many hetero counterparts that have no business being in the business of breeding and having families. Though sadly, they do and they fail spectacularly. Sometimes, news worthy and epically so.
Ya know, I never thought I’d get to the age where I could look back and see what asinine things I got up to thinking I knew better only to look back on them now and face palm my youthful self. But I have oodles and oodles of fucked up moments in my past. Years and years of it to draw on and say I learned. I got by. Perhaps this young man will one day look back with a face-palm moment of his own. In that, he will grow and mature immensely.
My mother has a head of silver hair. When it first started to come in she used to color it. Pushing back on it’s advancing sign of age creeping in on her. Then she had a sudden (well, it seemed sudden to me, anyway) change and let it all go grey. I asked her why she was no longer coloring it. I thought she’d say that it grew tiresome to keep chasing that youthful rabbit. But no, you’d have to know my mother, she has a unique way of looking at things that truly astounds me from time to time.
She’s a bitty thing, but her wisdom is monumental and often knocks me on my butt time and again. So when I asked her why she wasn’t coloring her hair she said,
“I just realized that my grey hair wasn’t something to be ashamed of. I call them my trophies. They let the world know I survived, and I earned every single one of them.”
Yeah, I needed to take a page out of that book, I’ll tell ya.
It’s something I try to impart to my granddaughter. Learn from our pasts to get ahead where and when you can. I think she gets it. My granddaughter can be quite humble at times. Humility, when called for, can be a beautiful thing.
Part of me thinks this club happy gay guy poked the ageist hornets nest just because he knew it would get a rise and thus, gain him notoriety. He epically succeeded on that front.
But I am also cognizant of youth in it’s other folly where they try to stake a claim as they mature. Young adults and sex. The internet is rife with it. Something my generation certainly didn’t have anything of the sort to stand upon and learn from.
I am taking a Human Sexuality class right now. Being an erotic writer I thought it prudent to get the official 411 on the topic. We’ve had one meeting but the takeaway from it was rather astounding. To set the mood it was in a collection of portable trailers that are now somehow permanent when they were supposed to be transitory. I suppose that the subject of talking about sex was such an awkward one (though from the turn out immensely popular) that we had to be relegated to the outskirts of the campus (beyond the Physical Ed building which you need three donkeys and a camel to get to, but I digress).
I took a seat along the far wall in the front row. From my perspective, it was a proper viewing spot to gauge the rest of the class. I’m a people watcher – it stems from my being on the stage since I was a child. Actors are trained to watch people because it is those observations that color how we play who we play on the stage. You can’t breathe life into a blow-up doll so flesh and bone people are the only real source.
It is very interesting to watch the faces and listen to the comments (or lack thereof in most cases) from the young people who are taking the class. On one hand it is emboldening to see so many youthful faces on a topic that, while it has importance in their young lives, often is an awkward one to approach openly. Some of the young men tried to project that they were über cool with it. They had it down. They were bonafied stud material.
If they only knew of my past… but again, I digress. (Very, very few would probably exceed the breadth of my experiences.)
Some of those young men walked in with no small degree of swagger – all tatted up and seemingly confident in their skins. Their body language professing their assumed comfortability with the topic and their prowess in the bedroom (or whatever room is at hand). I get that. Even being young and gay at one time, I had no small degree of that – now, compound that in a room of other men with the exact same drive and the situation escalates. This is something our straight brethren don’t seem to fathom.
Our straight brethren seem to hold onto the old (and foolish) concept that all fags are swishing queens. Nothing could be further from the truth, though I suppose (and this is just a generalization but there are ample proof around that the perception is still pervasive) that their belief in this somehow keeps them elevated about those swishing queens who crave cock. This is why I write and blog about this misconception – to put our voice out there. I have my work reviewed by every gay man I can get my hands on (head out of the gutter now, I am a happily and devote married man – the openness of our relationship is confined to the characters I play with in my head and on digital paper in my books) – I want my stories to ring with a degree of truth in how we experience our lives – as gay men of every spectrum.
Sadly, M/M romance is the equivalent to mommy-porn for the most part. It is rife with novels written BY women FOR women. Often they devolve to chicks with dicks, in my opinion. In fact you’ll find I only have a couple of female authors I follow. The majority of them are male. It may be prejudiced, but there is something intrinsically male that all the wishing from a female just can’t put her finger to it quite as well. Which is why I am adding my voice to the mix. I need to represent and clear the air from a real gay man’s perspective. It may not win me many female author friendships but I am not doing it for that. I will write what I want to write and I really am not considering whether there’s even a market for it (though my beta readers would disagree whole-heartedly – they are fairly across the board ravenous to find out what’s next… so that’s a good sign that there is an audience out there for what I do).
Yeah, here’s the deal: At least, as gay men, we own our shit (in this hopefully ever increasing world of tolerance) and are man enough to swim upstream while owning it. It would be akin to a straight boy trying to get married to a girl, have babies and such with no sex organs to speak of with which to accomplish the task. It can be debilitating. It can be extremely tiring to have to keep coming out to people and clear up the fog that permeates their hetero-normative and myopic precepts when it comes to queer life.
You may be the majority, though I’ve certainly seen enough on the down-low to challenge that concept in its entirety, where enough “straight” boys/men have played the other side quite passionately as long as it wasn’t talked about or that no one else knew. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge… yeah. They’d be surprised how many “straight” men were doing gay porn (and sure it’s for the money… yeah, that paycheck ain’t gonna keep it hard or allow you to fully “go there” if there isn’t some facet of who you are that is intrigued and titillated with the prospect of slamming man on man action – just sayin’…).
And the gay porn stars who are gay – and own it whole heartedly – get my absolute respect. This is a muthafucker who owns his shit – and how! I fucking LOVE this guy! Levi Michaels is very witty and he is doing something so sex positive that I find it utterly amazing to watch. He’s humanizing the industry, putting a normal face to it – a human face in all its varities. I think it’s bang over the moon brilliant. He and Colby Keller totally rock my senses on all levels and are wickedly sexy guys because they are brilliant and so thoughtful in how they express themselves. I admire them both greatly – and the sex scene they did together was one of the hottest in gay porn history in my book!
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On the flip side though, emotively those gay for pay sex workers may connect with the opposite sex, but the homosex is undeniably hot when they are banging some guy on a video set- they’re into it on some level. And before there are any detractors, let’s be clear – I’ve been on porn sets, I’ve been on “legit” sets, I know it’s work. Hey, I’m on your side when it comes to the porn industry you glorious sex workers. So no bones there. If you’re in the drivers seat in your life and are controlling your own destiny and OWNING YOUR SHIT, then I am all for ya.
But the reality is that it’s much more basic than that. Society places restrictions or boundaries on men in the arena of sex (and to a great degree on women as well, but my blog isn’t about that side of the fence so I’ll stick with what I know).
Men love to seed – it’s how we’re built. We think about it on average every 8 seconds. We can condition ourselves or convince ourselves that it doesn’t happen, but it does. It’s in our DNA to so what we’re anatomically and biologically built to do. To seed, to breed. We smell it, we see it, we taste it (even if it’s just on the air). Pheromones. Heady, musky stuff that it is. One of my all time favorite smells is a debauched bath house or an adult bookstore with a particular “reputation.”
Is it pervey of me to say that? I don’t think so. It is what it is.
What I find interesting is what will become of that swagger these boys/young men express now with potential women partners in the classroom or beyond (and don’t kid yourselves boys, I know exactly how you “see” the room you walk into). I may be gay, but I know my sex – probably because I’ve spent a great deal of time with it – in the gay and straight world. I get you far more than you know.
I write about male relationships in all their varying degrees. I get how we think about them. I listen, and I listen, and I listen – whether I am listening with my eyes or my ears. As my father said, if your talking too much then you’re not listening and therefore you aren’t learning. Men get a lot of grief from their female counterparts that they don’t share enough about themselves.
Here’s the secret – they do. But what those women don’t often understand is that they share it usually with their male friends in ways that men understand. Men bond in a way that women don’t get or often don’t understand. And often if we really click it is for life. We need to – its what we count on in times of war and strife.
We may go our separate ways for a bit, but when we come back together it’s like the party never ended. We need to. It’s how we survived defending and hunting back in our Lower Paleolithic ancestry days.
Men are very expressive creatures. It’s just a cleaner line in how they do it (even when they’re messy about it).
I’ve found that women often want to examine a singular thought or emotion from every angle. To the point of ad nauseam. Men state their feelings plainly – at face value. There is nothing there to mine that’s deeper. But that’s what women want – depth. What they fail to realize is that men feel deeply. We’re just direct and succinct in how we communicate that. Brevity is key. Men can often communicate with one word or two to convey what it takes women several words to accomplish. Sex is the same thing.
It doesn’t mean we don’t like conversation. We just don’t have the need to over examine every subtle nuance. It’s not because we can’t – we’re often accused of this – but because it isn’t worth our time to do so – and not because we don’t value our partners, we do, we just have other things that press upon us that we’re better at. Men are still very much the hunter gatherers. We are pressed from the time we’re small to produce. If we err, as we no doubt do, we learn, adapt and move on. Women, on the other hand, when they err, have to examine it to the point of absurdity. It is this over indulgence of examining a point or facet of an emotive moment that separates us. Perhaps the ideal is more in the middle.
This is where gay people can be ideal. It’s something that a few have figured out.
In Native American cultures (many of them – though not all) have traditional values that recognized the duality of gay people in carrying ‘two-spirits’ – a blending of the two. In some nations with those native peoples, they even held an elevated position within the greater community. It was just another facet of life but one that was valued because gay people appeared to be of a balanced nature and the community recognized it and put it to work to help them prosper as a whole.
Sex, when it’s hot and heavy and coordinated, is a dance. No matter the partnership arrangements – though, to be honest, my lesbian friends would say it is dancing with a huge amount of critique because again, they over analyze about everything. Seriously – the joke goes: how do lesbians have a three way? Two women go at it while the third sits nearby and discusses what it means. I make light of it but it’s just how people are.
I am excited to see how this Human Sexuality class will play out. The girls not so much. But don’t get me wrong ladies, I think you’ve got it in the can. Women are far more empathic and inclined to absorb so they can analyze it later, with careful reflection. The men however, I can’t wait to see them lean into what makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable. Something tells me when the gaybone gets thrown into the room there will be some fairly awkward moments to be had. That’s what I can’t wait to see.
American males are so fucking hung up on themselves.
They are such damed babies about what’s out there that isn’t like them. The straight guys I think are sexy? Fucking smart guys (James Franco, Mark Morford, and Jared Leto to name a few) who have figured it all out and while it may not be their particular cup of tea, they are not freaked out about it – they chose to lean INTO it. They also don’t pay it lip service in that they’re cool about it like most American men do when their eyes and physical deportment clearly reveal it is the reverse. Men from around the world are far better with it than their American counterparts – a generalization too, I grant you. But one that does bear out.
So back to my entitled youth.
Quick switch, right? Not necessarily so. What I did want to swing back to so I can tie it all up is that while the impetus for this little rant of mine has covered quite a bit, it is all about the folly of youth and the on-going, ever meandering conversations between and within the sexes. I find it all utterly fascinating to watch. Sometimes it’s quite breathtakingly beautiful – and at other times, it is like watching a slow train wreck with no signs of stopping. Either way its awesome to behold.
Such was the case with that seemingly well intentioned but grossly maligned young man who penned that absurd blog post.
I hope what he was really after was his 15 seconds of fame. Cause that’s what he ultimately got.
Now to keep them coming back, he’s got to top himself – which means he’ll have to make himself more absurd to garner the same or greater level of interest. Eventually he’ll become a caricature of himself (*cough* Perez Hilton *cough*).
That would really be a sad way to carry forth. I hope the maturity that he holds in high regard actually comes to him and he gets what he professes he wants: a life outside the clubs – after 30 of course if we’re following his template for success, with a man by his side in a steady and domesticated relationship (and PLEASE refrain yourselves from guessing who will be the woman – we’re gay, fuckers, women don’t enter the equation – period) with the 2.5 kids (though I never got the whole .5 of a kid thing cause uh, yeah, bun in the oven not on my list of thinking even when kids were on the way in our family) and the big home with a two car garage and the… wait, whose dream is this?
I mean, I live it.
But my success in this doesn’t mean it’s someone else’s. And therein lies the rub of that silly blog entry – each person gets to define success for themselves (man/woman – gay/straight or anything in-between).
It’s like I tell my girls (especially when I see a fucking diamond commercial – don’t get me started on those fucked up pieces of shit marketing) – “Don’t buy into that get the rocks before you suck the cocks” mentality. That relegates you to being a whore. If you want to be a success as a woman – do it on your own terms, but not at the expense of your partner (no matter what sex they are). And if your goal is to be a whore, then fucking embrace it but don’t say your not and then go about setting a double standard by driving your man to bedazzle you like some fucked up Disney Princess. Set a goal for yourself and do everything in your power to get there. You may not be perfect, you may not get there in one piece, but godddamn it it will be your journey, your achievement and nobody or no one can take that away from you… and that makes you a success! Your terms, your life, your control.
Freedom to be – it’s a beautiful thing.
No SHADE required.
I’d like to think we live in a growing enlightened age. I’d like to think that. I can’t.
And for an author in M/M erotica, it’s a serious question to ponder.
The reason I think we are still somewhat bassackwards when it cums to sex is that we still can’t put down the whole ludicrous morality issue over it. This is where I think gay men have the slight advantage in coping with society’s overall view with regards to sex. As gay men (of which I am a solid card carrying member – got the toaster oven and everything), I think we are fully cognizant that we’re outside the mainstream box. In a way, that’s completely liberating. We’re sort of expected to be out of the norm. In a real way it can be absolutely terrifying for those not ready to deal with the whole maverick “go your own way” label that gets slapped on you.
This whole inner debate I am having about this was furthered this morning when I happened upon a huffpo gay voices article regarding a gay porn sex worker (Levi Michaels) who had decided to put some of his un-porn life on the web via a YouTube channel.
It was a short, if refreshing, read. I find I am often more fascinated with what these guys do with their non-business life – and not because I am working on my stalker cred, either. Porn is so fleeting for the workers in the business. I have, like many, heard several horror stories of men who couldn’t cope with being in the industry and succumbed to it’s pressures and social stigma’s often associated with it. Sometimes I worry about these men (Arpad Miklos, much? Who I really, really liked as a performer) who may not be planning for their future beyond porn. So it’s sorta refreshing and a sigh of relief that a segment of them do think beyond tomorrow (you go, Levi).
But there is a disparity in how some men approach the business and how it can back fire on them if they aren’t truly forward thinking in their careers. After all, the cock or the ass or a rockin’ bod aren’t the real sexual elements in this equation. We’d like to think it stops there – but it’s the mind that is the truly powerful sexual “organ” we possess. What makes Michaels so off the rails sexy, I think, is his brain. Ditto for Colby Keller (who’s blog I follow religiously) – I fucking love that guy’s mind.
So here’s the reverse side of that:
I mean, take one such individual who for all intents and purposes is gay for pay (but seemed to be doing fairly well at first): Cody Cummings. He presented himself as a fantasy for gay men. Yeah the guy is hot, but ultimately it was very clear that he wasn’t into having sex with men. His ‘gay’ site had a fair amount of straight sex on it. How many gay men love to watch that – I am guessing the numbers aren’t that high. (It’s the same reason why I gripe on Pingay when we get guys posting straight porn pics of guys with mammoth cocks next to some pussy – um, where’s the gay in that?) It was during that whole miserable phase in the industry “Straight Guys for Gay Eyes” bullshit where a number of cross-over guys who were straight in their own lives thought they could fake it well. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few who do it quite well (I could wax eternal about G4P Bo Dean over this very point).
What is so sad about this scenario is that for a couple of years was that gay men were following him – were subscribing because the guy is hella hot (gay, straight, or whatever) but soon discovered just how un-gay he was.
However I think Cody found himself in the crosshairs of his own audience who really weren’t interested in his having sex with women (we are gay after all, big guy) – in that he had for the most part only let guys suck him off and barely touched another man’s cock (using his toes to do so). There’s a built in homophobia in this sort of phoned in performance. I’m reminded of my high school drama teacher who advised we doe eyed future stars and starlets – “give yourself to the performance 110% – if you phone it in, the audience can tell.” (Truer words were never spoken, Mr. Ray) This is what I believe happened to Cody and it apparently did a number on his numbers (read: subscriptions) and a backlash started to take place (in blogs and in the reviews of his site). In short, he went into damage control mode. But here again is how the whole mainstream morality regarding sex hounds we gay outsiders (sex workers are in with this bunch – gay or g4p). We fall for this sorta shit because we want to believe the fairy tale of it. Even if these fae boys/men wouldn’t dream of actually carrying on a real relationship with a man in their daily lives.
Gay for pay isn’t new. That much is evident. But when you stack someone up like Cody with someone who is also straight (but thankfully gets the whole 110% in the game mentality) like Bo Dean, then the tissue paper facade of Cummings offerings begin to really become apparent.
And before detractors and haters comment on my calling out Cummings on his meager offerings – let me be clear: I don’t wish him any real harm or ill times in his future. I truly want all performers to succeed. Having a theatre background, I get the whole putting your shit out there for ridicule or reward mentality. Sex performers get aces in my book because the go where most actors don’t publicly. Cody (or whatever his real name is) is probably a very decent guy just trying to survive and pay the bills (of which I guess also have to deal with a rather hefty alimony to his ex). He knew he had the looks and could play well to the camera (which isn’t always a given in the industry – you may have looks but fall flat because you don’t have that spark that lights up and takes notice when the cameras are turned on). Bo on the other hand gets it. It’s clear from his early work over at Cock Sure Men that he was a straight guy trying to break into the gay porn business. He has a rockin’ look and seems pleasant enough to be around (this from the behind the scenes vids I’ve observed). So Bo Dean gets the gig. He understands and works towards what Cody simply misses the point on. I’ve seen some of Cody’s latest offerings and while he has ‘pushed his limits’ a bit, it is a little bit too late in cumming (sorry, I couldn’t resist – I’ll try and restrain myself).
So how does this go back to that article from Levi Michaels in HuffPo? Well one thing I got from Levi’s interview was that even he sees the change in society’s perception about sex industry workers. Wonder of all wonders: sex workers are people too! Holy shit! Stop the presses (do we even say that anymore?)! Whoda fucking thought, right?
This is some serious good gay man sex going on here!
But what I find so refreshing is that, though it isn’t the prevalent opinion yet, that Levi sees some of the stigma of being a sex worker is being lifted the more accessible the performer becomes to his audience. It is this interactivity that humanizes the performer with his fans. Personally, I think this serves the actor as much as it does the audience member. I find that there is a very gratifying feeling with that veil being lifted just a bit. I mean, I am not one of those porn stalker types who can’t separate the fact from the fiction (I work in fiction for Chrissake). But that Levi would ponder doing this himself and finding that others are open to it is really remarkable. Perhaps a small faction within the larger community will sexually liberate themselves from the oppressive social mores and find their own path to sexual awareness and freedom. This is why I like what Levi is doing. Why he is putting a bit more of himself out there. Plus I love his playfulness while doing it. I know it’s not the whole enchilada. I wouldn’t be so bold to ask that of him. I want his privacy for him as much as he does. Maybe that’s because of my many years in semi/pro theatre. I get it. The public vs. private persona. Yet, Mr. Michaels is finding a way to make media work for him personally. I think that’s great. I wish him nothing short of success in that (even if it only is a personal one) I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.
This is something that I think some of the earlier performers never had a chance to connect with their audience and use it to not only further their careers but also to ground them a bit in ours. That’s bloody brilliant, I say. I wish some of the other actors had this much insight or fortitude to do something like that. I think it would completely humanize the industry – and in turn, I would hope, de-stigmatize it.
Okay, I fully get that I may be asking too much.
But like my takeaway from Michaels HuffPo interview, I think what he has set out to do is a win-win for not only him but for the industry at large. Not that everyone in the biz should run out and do it. Like coming out, each will have to find their own way, find their own thread to tug upon and put their spin on their public persona. For some it stops at Twitter, others it maybe to tweet and instagram. Who knows where this will all lead? I’d like to think gradually to an enlightenment and acceptance that sex is not dirty – it is integral to who we are as humans. That it is no longer the thing that titillates us because of the ‘dirty’ status that the mainstream conservatives want us to hold onto. But that trip is all about control. I don’t know about you, but I’d welcome a little true freedom – a little sexual liberation. It’s been a number of decades since the last big hoorah for sexual liquidity and acceptance.
Here’s a thought that I’ve always held about porn – when its REALLY good, then its fucking art. And you can tell the difference. It fucking smacks you in the face like the porn actor just spewed his love juice all over you. A fucking shower of erotic sensations. THAT’S ART! Why? Because of the work that goes into it. These guys really do work at their craft (and believe me – most guys probably couldn’t take the hours or the upkeep to stay vital and desirable in the industry). So yeah, in my book, guys like Antonio Biaggi (my personal go-to), Colby Keller, Anthony Romero, Bo Dean and Levi Michaels are all guys who get their craft and apply their talents and work at making it all work for us. It may be titillating art, it may be provocative art, but it is ART nonetheless. But ONLY when it’s good (sadly, a large chunk of it is purely out for the commercial buck schlock).
So as I contemplate my characters in my books, I am thinking about this. Indeed two of my characters decide to document their love by recording it digitally. For one of the guys, it is because no porn around will equate to watching him making love to the one person he cherishes above all others. He thinks that capturing that is the greatest expression of his love. It’s defiant against the norms, it is forging their own path – and in their case, it won’t devolve into a nasty get back at you if we ever break up moment. My guys get their Ever After, Happily. So for them, it is a way of keeping memories alive. For my football quarterback so enraptured with the geeky gayboy on campus, he can think of no other deeply moving thing than to wrap himself around the love of his life, to know he has him in every way possible. It’s freeing and totally terrifying. The not knowing what new heights they’ll reach together – that’s the adventure he’s signed up for.
So thank you Mr. Michaels. You’ve given this author something to chew on – I mean, I’d already had my boys toying with the whole new media thing in their lives at any rate. You’ve given me something else to ponder. A new trail in the forest that I didn’t realize that was there. By letting my boys in my story explore what it means to be in this technologically enlightened age (even if we’re still striving toward that enlightenment), your musings will give me some of my own. And for that I am grateful – you’ve liberated me.