Paying It Forward – Love Letters to My Gay Brothers – Why I Write
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.
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.
Author’s Note: This is a converted blog entry. It was originally published on 04.21.14 @ 10:10pm, US Pacific.
[NSFW] Not Safe For Work entry! Fair Warning…
So I didn’t post yesterday.
You wanna know why? Cause I spent all of Easter Sunday (I am NOT religious by any stretch of the imagination, so no worries there – just giving a common frame of reference for ya) battling the server that this site is hosted on.
So why the battle that raged since 3am on Saturday morning through the day and well into Sunday evening? Well it seems that the application I am using to build this here site is a tricky bitchy monster when it comes to its built in SFTP capabilities. I put the tech at TMD Hosting through the wringer this weekend. And since I am a network engineer by profession (aspiring to move away from that to full time writing if I can swing it) I knew what they were dealing with on their end trying to get my software ftp client to consistently allow my newly changed files to upload to their servers.
Yeah, it was a monumental struggle. Ticket updates flying back and forth. The really pisser of this whole thing? The FTP builtin client on this web development app just plain sucks (and not in a way that a guy needs things to suck if you get my meaning).
Well, what should be simple has turned into a crap assed convoluted way to upload and sync my files. Not that you give a rat’s ass about it. I don’t expect you to. I am just sayin’ it cause I missed doing my daily writers blog because I was so fucking wrapped up in my server/ftp shit that I plum ran out of energy when it came to actually posting shit here.
[Putting soap box away now]
Okay, so down to the other monster: the one in my Fae Wars saga. I had a vision last night as I was putting my weary head down. And it was monumental in the shift of my story (it’s a good thing that I am still in the early stages of writing the first book). This whole shit though is killer and it’s so gonna rock the story even better. Movie option time better. My Fae baddies just got a whole lotta bad ass-ier…(I know that’s not really a word – but that’s the beauty of a living language: say it often enough and it will be a part of the vernacular. It just happens. Something the hubby rails against cause he comes from a looooooooong line of educational professionals). School runs knee deep with his brood. I’m good with that. He’s definitely my Marco Sforza (and if you don’t know who that is – mosey on over to Angels of Mercy free read in the Works section and find out).
But here’s the dealio with my new and improved super baddy Fae (actually, I need to stop calling them Fae cause they are what started the whole Fae thing – they are the Feigr). They hark back to their Viking roots rather than the Celtic variety. And as such they are a whole lot vicious and vile when they want to be. The Feigr in my story are bringers of life and death. There are two sides and they are at war. This war has spilled over into our world for a very specific reason. I won’t say what it is just yet, but suffice to say that it is a real switch up from the original Viking Feigr. You could say they are the gay version of the Feigr but that’d be such a human way of looking at it. No, my guys are way more scarier than that. Think fundamentally as in the foundation of life scarier. And the people of Earth are nothing but pawns in this war. They don’t stand a chance. They are merely fodder for my Feigr (hence the title of the first book: Fear the Feigr). There’s a very good reason for humans to think that. But as I said, there are two sides to this tale. Two parts to this war. Bringers of life and the bringers of death. The ultimate clash of what is good and evil if you really think upon it.
As a kid I’ve always had a thing for monsters. Perhaps being gay I knew that I was different too and would be persecuted, belittled, followed, chased even. So I identified with their ‘outsider-ness’, their removal from the mainstream but being complex creatures all on their own. Dracula wasn’t evil. Not by a long shot. He was a man in great pain. I got that. I got the pathos. Something that I was so super grateful when my granddaughter (at the tender age of 3) watched the Frank Langella Dracula with me one Saturday afternoon. After we got through the whole thing – she was super still through it all. Never once shirked from any of the vampiric stuff. Didn’t hide her eyes once (granted the Badham/Langella version is a bit overly romantic). Even for a three year old – my girl was on tough cookie. So we got through to the end. I turned off the movie and the TV so she could talk about it.
I asked her – “So, what did you think?”
She’s a wise old soul of a little girl, “It was sad.” (Pathos – I LOVE this girl! No really, even if she weren’t mine, I’d still be rockin’ the whole Keely-monster thing!)
“What do you mean sad?”
“Well, he just wanted to be loved and they wouldn’t let that lady love him. It was sad.” That’ssa my girl!
Pathos – at the age of three. Fucking bloody brilliant moment in my life: given to me by a three year old. So yeah, Keely and I are good with monsters.
So when I started to form the Feigr storyline, I knew who my protagonists were. It’s a love quadrangle (if you can believe it – full of deceit and malice on Seth’s part and love and healing on Sylas’). And the story is very sexual in nature – very liquid in how they use their bodies to augment what they can do.
Without a doubt, Antonio Biaggi one of the sexiest gay porn actors out there.
Doesn’t take away from the hubby, but Antonio’s definitely got it goin’ on…
For the Life Bearers – Sylas (I used porn actor Antonio Biaggi (above and below) as the basis for this character – as his public persona just embodied the part – the man knows how to seed, that’s for fucking sure)) – the reigning King of my Feigr Life Bringers. His first husband (Sylas’ not Antonio’s – just to be clear here) – Thorn, who was the Captain of his personal guard before they were married. Sylas is the ultimate life bringer but also a voracious lover. So much so that Thorn is not the only husband to share his bed.
For the Death Bringers – Seth Stormbringer (porn actor Gavin Waters fits that bill just fine but with all the snarky-ness of a Tom Hiddleson).
These two brother’s carry quite a bit of pain between them. And Thorn and Sebastian are in the middle.
I particularly like how Gavin looks in this picture – and i am not normally attracted to blonds.
But he just does it for me on some level. Maybe it’s just the way he fucks.
Then there’s the golden one – I can’t just say what he is because the entire saga hinges upon it – Sebastian Alexander Collins (where I get my nom de plume). Sebastian is the one that all three men are after – for good reason. Sylas and Thorn because Sebastian came to them for help only to be pulled from any safety they could provide and whisked away.
Out of reach – and into our world. With no memory of who or what he is. But that (as they say) is just the beginning…
My Feigr are fucking dangerous motherfuckers (good and bad). And there is very little that separate them. And the humans of this world can precious little about it. There’s no ‘evil loses because we all prayed it away’ or ‘an infection that they can’t cure takes them out’ or the Hollywood go to – ‘let’s just nuke ‘em.’ None of that will help the human’s involved in this story. It’s gonna be brutal, apocalyptic in scope and scale.
But all is not lost…
Sebastian can turn it all around. If only he can remember who and what he is. But it’s not as simple as just walking up and to him and tell him. There’s a twist in why no one can do that – and the drama is born out of that little twist.
Sebastian is just a senior in high school, got a rockin’ ballet dancing girlfriend and is just trying to figure shit out before he graduates. ‘Cept his eye keeps roving over to his bestest buddy in the whole world: Thorn. Thorn means the world to Sebastian (maybe even more than his girlfriend). And that’s starting to scare him a bit. And a little bit, not.
When you are the beings that live on the cusp between creation and devastation (in equal measures), some bad assed shit his bound to happen. I can’t wait to get it rolling either.
Free Fear the Feigr read to be posted this weekend (5/26) so keep an eye out for it.
Yeah, monsters can definitely kick your ass. But they can also be the best fucking gift around.
Author’s Note: This is a converted blog entry. It was originally published on 04.18.14 @ 10:15pm, US Pacific.
[NSFW] Not Safe For Work entry! Fair Warning…
So today I’ve been thinking. Thinking about my first novel. It’s dark, it’s messy, it’s balls to the wall, in your face covered in man-spooge aggressive. And I really can’t find it within me to make any apologies for that. It is what it is…
This is all over the map – I make no apologies for that. I’m in a mood…you’ve been warned.
So here’s the deal: Men are messy.
Even when we’re neat and tidy and orderly like a soldier straight outta the military, we’re messy. I’m talking about sex. Man sex. Men being the big boys that we are, and being thoroughly unapologetic about it. The only reason there is anything that remotely resembles going all sappily romantic and flowery (as it seems to permeate every facet of the M/M romance genre as of late) is that women are involved. Not that gay men don’t get romantic – there’s just a line in the sand where it gets too damned girly. ‘Sides, inside we still are… messy.
Boys like mess. It’s what we do best. Gay/straight – it don’t make a bit of difference. Don’t get me wrong. We can be orderly when called for. Men like rules. It’s how we like to run our lives. Responsibilities are born out of the rules that were handed to us, rules we follow or consciously choose not to follow. And somewhere along the line it gets messy.
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Take real M/M sex.
Euphoric bliss much?
From what I’ve read in the genre (which is primarily marketed towards women – as a gay man I find that really astounding) – the m/m sex in it (often written by women who, I suppose, are trying to eke out what goes on in the male psyche in their burgeoning relationships as they come together, meander apart for whatever reason, only to ensure they have a big fat HEA (Happily Ever After) in the end). And if it’s anything I rail against, it’s formulaic writing structures. It may sell books but it sure as hell ain’t literature.
And before anyone in the genre starts to cackle like a hen being chased by a hungry fox – I ain’t saying my shit is high flying literature or that we have to aspire as such. But why couldn’t we? For me there is something transcendent in how two men who come together willingly in a clash of muscle, mouths and bones, so to speak. But what it is, for me at any rate, is honest to goodness male thinking about things that erotically charge my juices (along with a few of my gay male friends about all things – well, uh, male).
Yeah, I know that sounds exclusionary. Look, as a community we’ve been hounded from all sides – ‘too much gay shit on TV, too many songs about gays, too many… whereas I am saying – why isn’t there MORE of it? That’s my reality. That’s the world I move in. You know what it is: It’s all very tiring.
My latest gripe across ALL MEDIA – print or otherwise – is how much in our faces the “success” of a man in any advertisement/movie/tv show, is measured on whether he has some chick tagging along in his wake or trailing behind him in some skimpy getup (and let’s be fair to the ladies, I also don’t like it because not only on account of the guy who seems to need her to establish his studly qualities, but I think it demeans the woman/women in the scene as well). I don’t want my granddaughter thinking this is how her success is measured – by some guy she has to catch. Nuh uh, brother. We need to shit can that crap now.
Another thing I am so tired of? Having to translate the fucking straight world to my own experiences. Substituting the girl for me when I am NOT a fucking girl! If anything I think I might just being going gay militant (at least insofar as my writings go – maybe even beyond by the timbre of my rant here) in my literary worlds.
Way I figure it, somewhere someone else may want to read it. But really I’ve decided I am gonna write my shit my own way. Just get it out there one way or another and not translate or succumb to some marketing ploy/trend in order to appease some quick selling formula that seems to be all the rage at the moment.
This fucking industry needs a shake up. I’m going all gay beat generation on this whole writing endeavor of mine.
This isn’t new for me, not really. It’s a contrarian streak I have – definitely. Which I guess being gay is akin to being a contrarian when it comes to human relationships, I suppose. Then again, I am sure that since gays starting to permeate all facets of life (finally, thank the stars above), that there’s probably now “men who love buildings” or “statues” that will have us gays beat in the off-kilter (hey, they might even steal our ‘queer’ term for their more masonry inclined relationships) relationships arena. But as I said, this way of thinking isn’t new for me.
When I was in my English classes in college having to write academic papers I can’t tell you how often I pushed back on the whole topic sentence with supporting evidence bullshit that academia thrives upon. I wasn’t some kid fresh outta high school that needed that formula to make my report case. If it’s one thing I know how to do is make a strong argument and back my shit up. I know how to write a compelling narrative so let me get down and do my bidness…dammit!
So yeah, formulas and formulaic writing drive me bat-shit cray-cray.
So back to the sex… I am an erotica writer after all.
First off I have two words that epitomizes gay sex for me (aside from the hubby): Antonio Biaggi.
A fucking cock god if there ever was one… and not just because he’s got a rockin look and bone, either. For a guy in the porn business he’s seems to have his head screwed on straight (pardon the pun). And a very centered outlook on life (well, at least the way he expresses his views on things, at any rate.) Confident, without cockiness. Sexy as all fuck and brimming with passion (even when he might have to fake it). He’s intense. That’s what makes great sex – gay or not. Passion. Biaggi’s got it in spades. He’s my definite go to when it comes to visualizing my guys in full on rutting mode no matter the story.
Sometimes I am not even sure that the women who write in this genre are involved in gay men’s lives at all (aside from the simple mechanics involved) where they have a no holds barred open door policy on what they think and feel (provided to them by GAY men – and I don’t mean the stereotype nelly gays either) when they are intimate with another man. There is so much within the genre that I’ve run into (not all of it, mind you – I’ve found a few authors in the genre who actually have a clue – so refreshing to find them when I do) that the majority of them are really nothing more than chicks with dicks.
I love a good circus style fuck, don’t you?
I realize that might not win me readers in this genre as the market stands now. But I’ve come to a realization: like a proud black woman, I am a proud gay man.
And as a gay man, I wouldn’t take it upon me to write about the black experience in this world. I’m not black. I simply have no real context (and this is coming from someone whose parents were in a (nearly) all black gospel choir (my parents being the sole exception) – so I was knee deep in the community and the church at the very least. Grew up with it all around me). Still – I am not black, so therefore I can’t speak with any authority in that genre. It just wouldn’t ring true. Not as a focal point to my stories. Write what you know – isn’t that the old saying? I’d be a big time pretender and trying to make money on it if I did. I just can’t go there. Sure I’ll have multi-cultural characters in my story – that’s a part of life. I am not being exclusionary or ‘gated’ in who I will write about, but what I won’t do is center my story around a culture or a people that I don’t have any real context for. No life experience.
Now the kicker? I am a trained classical singer – been not the stage since I was a kid. So I get the whole – let’s pretend and role play thing. I get it, I do. But even when I read some books written by men where women were the central character I never really quite go all the way with the – yeah, that was truthful emotive core. And I am a big Joss Whedon fan, so yeah, I can give props that he gets awfully close. But even so, it still has that maleness about the strong women characters within his stories that I sorta go – meh inside just a lil’ bit. I can’t help it. He’s a dude trying to write a strong female character that comes off a bit too – male.
I guess I should be happy that there’s a market at all for things that are even remotely speaking to my life experiences. I get that. I do, I swear. Yeah, I know it’s a mass of contradictions. It’s a straight up mess.
…and like my man on man sex, I like it just like that.
I am soooo going to use this position in one of my books at some point…
So in my stories, my boys/men will be messy. Covered in man-milk both in and out. Gay guys are all about that (yeah, ladies, I get it that you know our straight counterparts are all about the cumming as well – we’re dudes, it’s all the same shit no matter which sex you are inclined to bed) but you just don’t get the whole need to seed that goes on every 8 fucking seconds in our heads from the time we pop our first boner til the time we draw our last breath. It’s RELENTLESS… even when we aren’t ‘thinking’ about it, we are. And believe me – it’s messy.
Let’s face it, men are built to breed. We’re built to seed. While I may write about Natives battling a menace from another universe (Cove Chronicles), or the ancient Feigr (Fae Wars), or my gay bashed artistic gay boy and his athletic quarterback boyfriend (Angels of Mercy), you can bet on one thing from me. No translations. No apologies. No fucking safety’s applied just because it might offend someone who can’t take the mess men make of their lives. My guys will be balls to the wall bonafide stud muffins that give into their baser needs whenever the moment arises. I’m cool with that. And I’ll make sure to wrap it all up in a good story too. I swear I will. I don’t write porn (though I know I could), I write erotica. So the story is what’s important. But it will be VERY male.
It’s what makes us fucking interesting. It’s why I love surrounding myself with men. Not just because they are the object of my desires. But because I emotively connect with them (there are so many straight guys in my life that don’t have a fucking clue about what I am all about – the private sexual conversations we’ve had about their wives, girlfriends or office temptations), I understand men. Why? Because I am one. A gay one, to be sure – unabashedly so.
And I’ll make no translations to anyone for who my male characters are in the world’s I create. The stories are what they are. I may have to self-pub and just hope I find an audience. It may not be a big time seller in the M/M genre out there or maybe, just maybe, I might shake things up a bit. Make a mess.
…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.