gay marriage montgomery county pa

White Writers Get Away With It; No Gay Marriage in Philly; Yes Gay Marriage Braddock, PA

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.

Gay Marriage Montgomery County, PA; Free Excerpt Small Town Romance Writer

Gay Marriage Montgomery County, PA

As most people know, same sex marriage in PA is still illegal in spite of the SCOTUS ruling this summer. In protest, D. Bruce Hanes, who is a Montgomery County Clerk, is straight, and has two children, started issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples this summer.

From my earlier post:

Even though same sex marriage is still not legal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Montgomery County in PA issued marriage licenses to same sex couples today in defiance of the ban on same sex marriage. Tony and I live in Bucks County, PA, which is only a few miles from where the marriage licenses were issued, and it’s s significant move for those who issued the licenses and those who obtained them.

When I wrote that post I was still under the impression I lived in a highly progressive community that stood for equality and cared about being on the right side of history. However, in recent weeks the mayor of New Hope, PA, which has a large LGBT population and is only a few miles from Montgomery County, PA, decided to refuse marriage to same sex couples based on what many legal experts say are weak legal reasons. I posted several times about that.

Even though there are legalities involved here, sometimes it’s important to be on the right side of history in order to make a change. There was a time when people of African descent were not allowed to use the same bathrooms and water fountains as white people. Clearly, Mayor Keller doesn’t believe the issue of gay marriage is important enough to take a stand and challenge.

Today it will be decided whether or not Hanes acted illegally as county clerk by issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, and many people are watching this closely. Here’s a link to a local article.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court will consider whether Hanes acted illegally when he began doling out licenses to same-sex couples on July 24, one month after the U.S. Supreme Court declared part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. State attorneys have argued that the documents have no “value or legitimacy.” So far, Hanes has granted marriage paperwork to at least 157 gay couples.

If the court sides with Hanes, the ruling could bring same-sex marriage a step closer in Pennsylvania, the only Northeastern state that does not permit gays to marry or enter into civil unions. If the court rules in favor of the state, the marriage licenses Hanes issued could be rendered useless.

I have no idea what to predict, but I will post an update soon. Similar things have been happening in other states, too.

This week has seen a flurry of activity supporting the freedom to marry in New Mexico. Three counties in New Mexico have been ordered by district court judges to end marriage discrimination and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. County clerks in three additional counties have followed the lead of these rulings by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in their own counties. These huge steps forward in New Mexico this week bring renewed urgency to why we need the freedom to marry uniformly across the state – and, ultimately, why we need the freedom to marry nationwide.

Free Excerpt Small Town Romance Writer

Along with several other projects I’ve done this summer, I’ve also been working on the final book in the Bad Boy Billionaire series, tentatively titled, “Small Town Romance Writer.” I know a lot of people will be looking for similarities of me in the book, but I never work that way and rarely ever insert anything autobiographical in my books. If and when I do this, I take bits and pieces from my life or my experiences and I embellish them to the point where they are beyond recognition. I think that’s important in writing fiction, because fiction should be larger than life. Otherwise it wouldn’t BE fiction.

The two main characters in this book are writers, but they are totally different writers. One writes erotic gay romance and figures out a way to make billions. The other writes literary gay fiction and he wins awards and gains prestige. The book starts out in 1990 and covers the course of their lives and their careers as authors for the next twenty years, where they experience every emotion there is from, jealousy to closure. I didn’t want the book to run over 80,000 words, but it wound up being 112,000 words…about 400 pages. Here’s an excerpt from the raw unedited version.

1990

           

            When former male stripper Ethan Holmes gained admission to The Iowa Writers’ Workshop he had the best of intentions. And while he often bragged to people it was the oldest and most celebrated writers’ workshop in the country, and he never failed to mention how difficult it was to get accepted, he often wondered in private how he would suffer through the intense academic two year residency requirement without losing his mind.

            By the end of his first year in the program the only two things that kept him in Iowa were his best friend, Travis Lane, and a guy he’d met over the summer, Lance Mannington.

            Ethan had met Travis Lane the day he’d started the program. At the time, Ethan hadn’t planned ahead for housing and he’d spent his first night in Iowa in a dumpy hotel off-campus. He was from a small town on Florida’s Gulf Coast and he’d always been able to find affordable housing as an undergrad student there. No one had mentioned to him that affordable on-campus housing at the University of Iowa was so scarce in September. He thought he’d show up the day he arrived, sign a lease, and everything would fall into place for him the way it usually did. He’d always been charmed that way, and he knew it. Evidently, all these people had planned ahead.

            On the first day of class, the other grad students all looked and sounded so aggressive and competitive Ethan wanted to hide behind a door. It didn’t take him long to realize this wasn’t small town Florida where he could get away with anything by flashing a seductive smile, opening his shirt a little, and moving his hips just the right way. When he overheard the female students discussing feminism and rape culture, he knew casual flirting with them wouldn’t get him anywhere. When he overheard the male students talking about gender politics in fiction he groaned aloud and turned in the other direction.

            Then Ethan spotted a young man standing in the corner leaning against the wall, glancing down at a thick book. He seemed to want to remain separate from the others. There was a green canvas backpack at his feet stuffed with books, and he seemed oblivious to his surroundings in a forced way no one would have noticed if they weren’t paying attention to him. While he looked at the book, his eyes kept darting up at the other students waiting to go into class, which Ethan found interesting. The guy wasn’t even reading the book; it could have been upside down. He was only pretending to read the book.

             This unusual guy stood about six feet tall, had a slim, lanky body, and his short, straight hair reminded Ethan of the wheat fields he’d seen on the bus driving through Iowa. He wore a crisp white button down shirt that day, and flat front khaki slacks that bunched up at the hem around his brown oxfords. When his eyes went up and he noticed Ethan staring at him, he looked down at the book so fast Ethan didn’t even get a chance to send him a smile.

            So Ethan walked over to him, with his hands in his pockets and his head held high. He’d worn his tightest jeans that day, the ones that made his crotch bulge. He hadn’t brought any books or materials to class because he hadn’t unpacked any of his things yet. He leaned back against the wall next to the nervous young man, and said, “Hey, man. I’m Ethan.” He extended his right hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

            The young man hesitated for a moment, and then he shook Ethan’s hand and said, “I’m Travis Lane.” He spoke with a soft, cautious tone, as if he’d lost his voice.

            But Travis didn’t hesitate to look into Ethan’s eyes, which made Ethan feel more at ease. At least there didn’t seem to be anything fundamentally wrong with him.  “I was wondering if you could loan me a notebook and a pen, buddy,” Ethan said. “I just got here last night and I haven’t had time to unpack my shit yet. You should see the shithole hotel where I’m staying. I still don’t even know where I’m going to live yet.” He laughed and scratched the back of his head. “I guess I should have thought about that a while ago.”

            Travis sent him a look. His head jerked back a little and he asked, “You didn’t secure housing beforehand?”

            Ethan shrugged and smiled. “You know how it is, man. I figured I’d worry about it when I got here. I’m from a small town in Florida and it’s pretty easy to find digs where I come from.”

            Travis bent down and pulled a notebook and a pen from his overflowing backpack. He handed it to Ethan and said, “I waited a year to get my apartment in Hawkeye Court. Around here you really have to plan ahead for these things. Didn’t anyone tell you?”

            Ethan laughed. “I probably didn’t pay attention to them. You know how it is, man.”

            “Well you’re going to have a tough time now,” Travis said.  

            “Clearly,” Ethan said, taking the notebook and pen. “Thanks for letting me borrow these, bro. I appreciate it. I probably shouldn’t even be here in this program, but I figured I’d give it a shot since they admitted me.”

            “I don’t understand,” Travis said. “I worked hard to get accepted. I killed myself.”

            “Where are you from?” Ethan asked. He could see they’d come from two different worlds, but he wanted to make a point.

            “Connecticut,” Travis said. “I went to Yale and I’ve been planning to come here for the past four years. It was my only goal all through undergrad school. My mom and dad are both attorneys and they wanted me to be a lawyer but all I ever wanted to do was write. I had to get into this workshop; otherwise they would have made me go to law school. I wouldn’t have had a choice.”

            Ethan looked at him and smiled. “I’m from a small town on the Gulf coast of Florida. My mom’s a waitress and my dad’s a trucker, and neither one of them graduated from high school. I worked my way through undergrad school as a male stripper in both gay and straight strip clubs all over Florida. And I still don’t know how I got into this workshop. I heard about it one day last year and I figured I would apply and see what happened. I’m still shocked they let me in.”

            “Well you must be good,” Travis said. “They don’t just let anyone into this program.”

            “I guess they liked something I did,” Ethan said. He’d always been able to write and he’d never had to work hard at it.

            Although Travis didn’t seem stunned, he did tilt his head sideways and ask, “Do you want to be a writer?”

            Ethan shrugged. “I want to make a lot of money.”

            Travis laughed and said, “Well you can do that stripping. You don’t need The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. If I had your looks and your body, I might not be standing here right now myself.”

            That was when Ethan knew they were going to be friends. Though Travis looked like a tight-ass at a glance, he was far from it. Ethan looked him up and down and said, “You could strip with that ass. You wouldn’t starve to death. They love it when the smart looking guys pull down their pants. And you’re cute as fuck.” He made the remark about Travis being cute to see if he was gay. All of Ethan’s instincts told him Travis was gay but he wanted to be certain.

            Travis didn’t seem offended about the cute remark. His face turned a pale shade of pink and he said, “Well, thanks for the compliment, I think. But I think I’d better stick to writing. As it is, I still might starve to death doing that. At least that’s what my parents think will happen.” Then he stopped and hesitated for a second. He rubbed his jaw and thought as if he was choosing his words with caution. “I’m curious,” he said. “Are you gay? I am; just so you know.”
            Ethan didn’t mind the bluntness of that question, and he had come to terms with being gay when he was in high school. But he liked to play games, especially with someone who asked such a direct question without knowing anything about him. He shrugged and said, “What if I said I don’t like labels?”
            Travis lifted his eyebrows and said, “Then I would think you are mostly likely gay and you’re not ready to admit it aloud, or you are still lying to yourself. Your type is always like that.”

            “My type?” Ethan laughed at his innocence.

            “The rough-looking, straight dude who can pass whenever he wants to pass as straight,” Travis said. “Your type likes to hold out for a while.”

            “Well you would be wrong,” Ethan said. “As it happens, I’m into dudes and I have no problem admitting it aloud to anyone. If anything, my problem is that I’m into dudes a little too much. I can’t stop thinking about anything but men.” He glanced at a young woman in the hall with long flat, dark hair parted in the middle and he frowned. She wore a gray plaid skirt and black ballerina slippers. She didn’t have ankles, and her legs reminded Ethan of tree trunks. There were so many flawed people in the world he found it exasperating sometimes. “From the way it looks, all I’m going to be doing is thinking about men, because I haven’t seen a single man or woman yet that’s even halfway hot enough to actually fuck.”

            Travis blinked. “Well thanks.”

            Ethan patted him on the back. “Present company excluded,” he said. “I should have said that you’re the only cute guy I’ve seen since I got off the bus in Iowa.”

            “You’re full of shit,” Travis said.

            “Sometimes,” Ethan said. “But you are hot.”

            “What about beauty from within?” Travis asked. “Doesn’t that count for something? I like to think it does.”

            “That’s what yourtype always says,” Ethan said.

            “My type?”

            “The good-hearted elitist who cares about issues and all of humanity,” Ethan said. “You’re only fooling yourselves, and you’re the first ones to jump into the sack with the first hot piece that comes along.”

            Before Travis had a chance to reply, the other students began filing into the classroom and Ethan turned to join them. Travis followed him, and Ethan and Travis sat next to each other that first day.  After class they went out for coffee, where Ethan made sure he pulled Travis’s chair out on purpose. Even though they came from completely different worlds, they balanced each other in a natural way and finding things to talk about never seemed to be an issue. Ethan couldn’t believe his luck once again, so on the way out of the coffee shop he asked if he could see where Travis lived and Travis brought him to the small on-campus apartment he’d rented.

            It wasn’t much of an apartment, but the moment he walked inside Ethan knew it was better than the shabby hotel room where he’d spent the night. There was an open floor plan that had a living, dining, and kitchen area. In the back, there was one medium sized bedroom with a double bed, a closet large enough for two people, and a basic bathroom with a shower and a tub. Although nothing was elaborate, and the gray carpets and old white bathroom tiles had been around since the disco era, Ethan didn’t want to let this opportunity slip away without doing something about it.