White Writers Get Away With It
Before I get into this, I think the title should be more like “White Straight Writers Get Away With It.” But the focus of the article is how white writers seem to get a free pass when it comes to writing about minorities, and yet minority writers don’t have the same freedom to write about the same topics. In this case, Asian American author, Bill Cheng, wrote a novel about rural black Mississippi and you should see how the readers have received it. Not what I would call a warm welcome.
Unfortunately, most reviewers and interviewers seem to care less about the quality of Cheng’s writing than they do about the answers to these questions: Did the Chinese guy get it right? Can an authentic picture of the South come from a man of Asian descent who grew up in Queens?
Instead of addressing those questions directly, I would like to take a step back and look at the assumptions with which they’re laden. In doing so, I can’t help but recall the reception of another book I recently read, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it won the Pulitzer for fiction earlier this year.
In taking this another step forward, I’ve always found, from personal experience, the same brand of passive discrimination as an openly gay male writer. There’s no issue at all about straight white women writing gay fiction. I’ve been a long time staunch supporter of straight white women writing gay fiction and I just released an anthology where straight white women are included in gay story lines. It’s acceptable, it’s encouraged, and many do it very well. However, if an openly gay male has a few gay books out and he wants to write something more mainstream, it’s not going to be simple and he’s most likely going to have to do it with a pen name.
There used to be more freedom, in an odd way, when gay writers were not open about being gay and were not known for writing gay fiction. They could write hetero novels like Breakfast at Tiffany’s
and they could get away with it…if the author conformed to what “they” wanted him to be. In Truman Capote’s case it was the stereotypical effeminate gay man who never actually spoke about being gay openly. And now gay men who are openly gay and who are breaking the stereotypes are still facing more difficult odds in mainstream publishing. My posts about Matt Bomer
, as an openly gay actor, have gone into detail about this. This quote came from a Matt Bomer FAN. Think Rock Husdon, and how he was accepted because of the way he kept his sexuality hidden all his life.
“Only problem for me is Bomer is gay and knowing that, not that I have anything against it, is that it’s a turn off for me,” one fan wrote. “I would know the whole time he’s not really ‘in the mood.’ Sorry if that sounds mean, it’s just about suspension of disbelief. I’m sure many fans who don’t know this detail would find him perfect.”
In fact, in a post written by a well respected straight white woman who writes M/M Romance it even goes so far as to state that she’s never experienced any form of discrimination as a straight white woman writing m/m romance. Of course she totally overlooks the fact that she’s a straight white women in the post. She doesn’t question why she’s always received a warm welcome from all reviewers, even those that are not exclusively gay review sites. I don’t doubt this for a second. I’m not posting her name or linking to her because I don’t want to single her out in any way.
But she’s lucky to have been born straight and white. Fortunately for her, she’ll never know what it’s like to be a gay man and fully comprehend the same brand of passive discrimination I have had to deal with all of my life in the publishing industry, and many other gay male writers just like me. She’ll never know what it’s like to be Bill Cheng, an Asian American writing about rural black Mississippi and have reviewers question his abilities as a writer. She’ll never know what it’s like to be a gay literary agent who keeps his gay identity hidden from his staff, including his partner of forty years, so he’s not labeled as “The Gay Literary Agent.” She can quit writing gay romance tomorrow if she so chooses and write heteronormative romances and still get that warm welcome from the list of web sites she named in her post.
I don’t have that option unless I change my name and identity. And I can’t afford to be glib about it.
I personally applaud Bill Cheng for writing what he wanted to write, and I’m going to read his book very soon.
No Gay Marriage in Philly
It seems yet another mayor has refused to perform gay marriages in Pennsylvania, this time it’s the liberal Democrat, Mayor Michael Nutter.
Mayor Nutter, a staunch supporter of marriage equality and gay rights, will not officiate at same-sex weddings until after court challenges to the legality and licensing of such marriages are resolved, his spokesman said Monday.
That decision was met with disappointment by a Philadelphia couple who recently asked the mayor to oversee their wedding after obtaining a marriage license in Montgomery County, which has been issuing licenses to same-sex couples – in defiance of state law – since late July.
In taking this stand, Nutter has now joined the ranks of Mayor Keller of New Hope, PA.
You can read more here about reactions around Philadelphia. And I think it should be noted that Mayor Nutter has always received support and money from most of the LGBT community throughout his terms. It’s nice that he’s a supporter of equal rights, and it’s nice that he’s supporting gay marriage as a concept. But when you get down to the bottom line, Nutter let a lot of people down this time.
As a side note, Philadelphia is also one of the most dangerous cities in the US, and Mayor Nutter has done very little to make it safe during his terms as mayor.
Yes Gay Marriage Braddock, PA
I waned to post this article back to back with the one about Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia refusing to perform gay marriages because of the significance, and to show that it’s not impossible to stand up for equal rights in America when it comes to unjust laws, and that there are a few politicians left with the courage of their convictions like John Fetterman of Braddock, PA, who is performing same sex marriage to challenge the law in PA.
A Pennsylvania law banning same-sex marriage is quickly losing its authority, as a growing number of state officials are choosing to openly defy the legislation rather than wait for the result of a federal court challenge.
Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock on Monday officiated the first same-sex marriage in Allegheny County, after the couple, John Kandray and Bill Gray, obtained a marriage license from another official-gone-rogue in Montgomery County, about four hours away. D. Bruce Hanes, the register of wills in Montgomery County, began issuing same-sex marriage licenses two weeks ago, and Kandray and Gray decided to seize the opportunity.
“It’s an act of civil disobedience,” said Fetterman on MSNBC Thursday. The message to Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, he said, referencing President Reagan’s iconic challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is: “Mr. Corbett, tear down this law.”
You can read more here.
Notice they mention D. Bruce Hanes, the man I’ve posted about tons of times in the past few weeks. Many are even calling him a hero because he had the courage to stand up for equality and to go down on the right side of history, unlike Mayors Nutter or Keller of Philadelphia and New Hope, PA.
And now there’s another hero, Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, PA, who actually had the courage to compare the unfair law that bans same sex couples from marrying in PA to President Reagan’s stand against the Soviet Union many years ago. You see, history always repeats itself, and there’s always going to be a law the needs to be challenged for various reasons. In this case with same sex marriage it’s equality. And it takes courageous people in power to do this, and to set examples.