M/M Romance … does gender matter?

Okay, so I know I am going to piss some people off with this, and I usually avoid doing so. However, I have seen this argument go round and round in the “gay romance” community (oh and don’t get me started on “gay romance” versus “M/M romance”), and I just wanted to get my thoughts down.

This started as a Facebook discussion after a dear friend had a friend state that “[they] can’t stand any M/M book written by a woman”. This is one of those topics that goes around the Gay fiction/MM Romance community with regularity. I usually just quietly say, “your loss” and go on… but maybe it is because I am in pain, or maybe I have just heard this one too many times… so hear goes.

I am going to get bitch slapped for this, but bear with me for a minute…

Here is what I don’t get. Love is Love (we are all agreed on that, right? If not then I am really confused). We are a community of people who do not look down on anyone because of whom they love, whom they choose to have in their beds (assuming consensual, etc.). We are a considered a minority, though growing daily. If you don’t want to read books written by het, bi or (gasp!) lesbian women (all of which are represented well in the genre), then don’t do it. There are plenty of fabulous male authors out there in the genre (I think you are missing out on some FABULOUS books, but what do I know, I am female). However, do you turn around and applaud those same women as allies of the community? You likely do. You likely thank your lucky stars there are straight people that understand that you should not be looked down on for your orientation. If you don’t then, you are just hurting your own cause.

I, for one, grew up in a very conservative small Texas town. The first time a friend came out to me, I honestly thought he was pranking me; I didn’t think it was a real thing (yes, sheltered… this was Texas in the… umm… 90s). To this day I am embarrassed by my initial reaction and want to find him and apologize, but alas I have lost touch with him and his high school boyfriend, who was also a friend (they lived in another town so we lost touch almost immediately). I didn’t really know what “gay” was until I got to college and it turned out two of my best (male) friends were dating (one of whom just got engaged! but that is beside the point). That time, I had a much “better” reaction. I didn’t honestly understand the “issues” until even later than that. I have long held a “do whatever is right for you” philosophy in life, and my love of MM fiction is an extension of that. That being said, I was never what you would call and “advocate” until I got involved in this wonderful community. M/M Romance did that. FEMALE M/M romance authors did that.

I think this genre (whether you call it Gay fiction, M/M romance, or something in between) is so important to the community as a whole. I think limiting it to only “gay male” authors is just hurting yourself. The genre has grown because of the females writing and reading. Every time you find a new reader in the genre, you find one more person who could potentially stand up with you against hate and discrimination. When you are standing there, trying to make yourself heard, you really shouldn’t care who the person standing beside you takes to their bed. Just as they support your right to take your chosen partner to bed. Each and every one of those female gay fiction authors is standing with you, and sometimes in front of you, screaming to the world that you are a human just as they are and you deserved to be treated as such.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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24 thoughts on “M/M Romance … does gender matter?

  1. I fully understand. I screwed up a high school friendship when she came to me as transgender. It was before I’d even begun to write, much less in the MM world that I’m in now. Growth happens to us all. Hopefully, this limiting idea continues to expand, because it really is for the betterment of society. Scorning any facet belittles the effort. Heck, the first MM book I ever read was from a female writer. That made absolutely no difference to me — and still doesn’t.

  2. I’ve never understood the gender divide when it comes to authors. It’s plain daft. A writer should be judged by the quality of their writing, not what hangs or doesn’t hang between their legs, and talent is *NOT* defined or limited by gender!

  3. I agree completely. I especially like the point you make about allies. We have “fought” long and hard to get the military to accept that it doesn’t matter who is fighting next to you. We shouldn’t have to remind folks that the concept is the same here.

  4. I’m sad to say I have seen this kind of backlash before with regards to women’s rights. When I was gainfully employed, I worked for a government backed women’s rights organisation, which gave grants and backing to groups dealing with women’s issues. I wholeheartedly supported this and made many friends, many who were lesbians. However, as things progressed and we became a more powerful voice men, rather than being just the opposite sex many of whom supported women in various campaigns, became the enemy and were actively scorned and belittled. This I DID NOT SUPPORT and I left. You do not win ‘wars’ by alienating your allies in the battles. Where novels and writing are concerned, it is a bit daft to say you can only write about things directly a part of you, as in only men can write m/m romances etc. We would have no Hobbits, no Sci-fi aliens, no Americans in books by English writers and vice versa and you get my drift. Plus, Brandilyn has spoken very eloquently above but I will add further …these male authors do they have to be gay or straight? Born male or transgender, bottom or tops, into anal or not…The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If a work is good and well written and does what it is supposed to does it matter the sex of the author?

  5. You’d think people would have better things to do than manufacture reasons why they won’t read particular books. It doesn’t matter who writes what, all that matters is the story. Sadly, it seems to me that the MM readers/writers community are more outspoken, more awkward, more prejudiced than the M/F lot. There is clique community and I’m not one of the gang – nor do I want to be.

    • Yeah, sadly there’s a definite “cool kids” and then the rest of us mentality – I don’t know if it’s more than I’ve experienced with my het or mmf writing, but it’s definitely more INTENSE, and gets much more emotional.

      I’ve never been a cool kid. Gave up on trying after high school, so I doubt I ever will be. The… intensity of it in m/m has definitely caused me to be a lot less outgoing than when I first started writing it – and (with today as a fairly notable exception), I tend to keep my thoughts to myself and avoid the “mean girls and boys”. I’m VERY good at avoidance, lol.

  6. When there is a person who can imagine what’s going on in another persons head or heart and can explain it to me in a most entertaining way by writing about it, I don’t care if this person has the same gender as the main character of the book or not.
    By the way that’s not an issue of M/M books. I heard people say that a female writer is not able to write a proper male POV and vice versa. I think you don’t have to be a murderer to write an excellent thriller, you don’t have to study medicine to write reasonable about a doctor and you don’t have to be a (gay) man to write realistic books about two men loving and desiring each other.
    It’s about being open-minded and empathetic.

  7. This reminds me very much of an article a former student posted on my “IRL” FB page regarding the Macklemore/Ryan Lewis Same Love performance on the Grammys. I’ll preface by saying – this is what the article said and it hurt my feelings and pissed me off.

    First point: How dare they rap about being gay when they aren’t (I’ve got a whole rant on that – Mack doesn’t claim to be, in fact he gave a whole interview about how he had to find the right voice for the song because he couldn’t be authentic from the pov of someone who is gay). Second point: How dare they rap about being gay when rap/hip-hop is African American music. They aren’t black – how dare they give voice to to being black and gay when they aren’t either. Third point: That gorgeous woman who sang with them (I’m blanking on her name) – okay, so she’s a lesbian. She’s a *white* lesbian, though, so she doesn’t count.

    Okay, I’m exaggerating the language (though not by much) to get the point of the article across. My comment to my student was that this hurt my feelings. It made me feel like, as a middle class white straight female, my support was meaningless. I should just put up my laptop and go back to my Harlequin Romances.

    But then I remember my very first fanboy, Brien Michaels, who, every time I talk to him makes me feel like I’m way more brilliant than I could ever hope to be. And I remember that student my last year teaching who discovered Harmony Ink, and books by primarily female authors, and said to me “I finally found stories about people like me – it’s like all of a sudden I really exist.” And when I remember that, I decide not to let the prejudices of others stop me from what I need to do – which is write, and what I LOVE to do, which is write m/m.

    • The Grammy fallout was part of why I was frustrated enough to say something. I didn’t read any specific articles about it and I didn’t watch the Grammys but the general sentiment of the act and the fallout had me shaking my head.

      • I actually blocked that particular post on my FB page because it upset me so much – I get that there are struggles I will never fully understand. I don’t write mufti-cultural for that reason – I don’t think I can do it justice. But I was so upset by the idea that because I’m not gay I shouldn’t have a voice… Dialogue is good. Verbal attacks, not so much. AND, to those who refuse to read Amy Lane or KA Mitchell, or any of the amazing female m/m authors, all I can say is you DESERVE to miss out on the fabulousness. And you are REALLY missing out!

  8. Chris Quinton :
    I’ve never understood the gender divide when it comes to authors. It’s plain daft. A writer should be judged by the quality of their writing, not what hangs or doesn’t hang between their legs, and talent is *NOT* defined or limited by gender!

    I totally agree and you said it with such elooquence too 😀

  9. Great post – I don’t get why gender is an issue with regards to m/m stories. As a reader, I choose books I read based on several different factors – the sex of the author is not even a consideration. Most of my favorite gay romance stories have been written by women 🙂

  10. as a female hetro reader of M/M, I can honestly say I am now more aware of GLBT rights and will post and promote on behalf of the community

  11. This is not new. No, no, I know you guys all know that this attitude and this question isn’t new to M/M Romance. That’s not what I meant. The attitude of “you can’t possibly write this or that well because of X” isn’t new.

    It’s not so long ago that women weren’t supposed to be able to write at all. Respected educators and sociologists said that we were incapable of sustained, deep thought and our poor little brains wouldn’t be up to concentrating long enough to write and entire novel.

    The world changed.

    Even less long ago, the pundits of science fiction scoffed at women writing in the genre. Please *snort* women don’t understand science or math. They can’t possibly understand tech and that’s all that matters in an SF story, right?

    The world changed.

    Right now, we have this argument (which is getting a little tired and worn – there are terrible M/M romance writers out there of all gender flavors and fabulous ones in all human formats as well) AND we have the argument that men can’t possibly write romance.

    Sit back and watch.

    The world will change.

  12. I only have one thing to say about all of this and that is that the material put out by people are not offensive but it’s the way people view such material that makes it offensive. So for those who believe that females are inferior at writing m/m fiction or believe that females should not be present in m/m stories I feel sorry for you. Such attitudes are what makes this world a less pleasant place to live in.

  13. So glad this was posted! I honestly worried about this a lot when I began writing M/M (I even considered using a male pen name but then decided against it) I live in a small town in northern Mississippi and when I told some of my family about my books, not all of there reactions were positive. I got some “Why would you write that,” and then of course some “But you’re a straight girl.” I have received so much support from this community since I first published that I wasn’t aware that this was really that big of an issue. I’m proud of the m/m books that I write and I’m a proud supporter of the community. Just because I’m a married woman doesn’t make my work any less well written that it would’ve been by a gay man. Agree completely with what has been posted above. It doesn’t matter who write it as long as it’s well written. Thanks Brandilyn!!

  14. I read your post a couple of days ago and it’s stuck with me. In the incident you describe, in which the ‘friend’ says “they can’t stand any m/m book written by a woman.” You didn’t state this explicitly, but I’m guessing the friend was a gay man? I’m going to assume that it was.

    First, let me say that while I believe writers should listen to any and all criticism, criticizing someone, or some kind of writing, on the basis of their genitalia is not constructive. That said, I’ve seen comments made online by female readers that they prefer their m/m come from female writers. In fact, I’d speculate that this bias is much more common than has been acknowledged. This is a positive and, for a lot of writers, lucrative, gender bias. Which does not make it any more fair, or any more acceptable than a bias against.

    The m/m genre covers a wide range of sub-genres and structures and heat ratings. I think the more erotic the work, or sometimes the more erotic the work is perceived, the more gender bias comes out – both positively and negatively. While I realize sexuality is a spectrum and men and women are not monolithic, the majority of women prefer erotica to porn while the majority of men prefer porn to erotica. Generally, there is a difference in what men and women want from a written sex scene. This, I think is the basis of gender bias in m/m. Readers assume, often incorrectly, that they’re going to get what they’re looking for from someone of the same sex and, again incorrectly, that they won’t get it from someone of the opposite sex.

    Now, I don’t believe that women can’t write sex scenes that appeal to men, nor do I believe that some women aren’t writing those scenes right now. And, vice versa, men are writing scenes that appeal to women. I am simply pointing out, that no matter how wrong-headed the bias, it does have a semi-logical starting point.

    I do think there are distinct differences between gay fiction and m/m. For one thing, romance is a very small segment of gay fiction, while it is the primary focus of m/m. For another, the rules about what you should be writing are very different; but I won’t go into that here it’s too complicated. Also, gay fiction has been around for hundreds of years, while m/m is a relatively recent development. I realize there’s a lot of flux and overlap at the moment, but they are still very different.

    Recently, a woman told me online that she was considering buying my mystery series but when some of her m/m friends told her it didn’t have an HEA she decided not to. She also went on to imply that there must be something wrong with me because the books don’t have HEAs. This is a situation where the distinction between gay fiction and m/m becomes important, at least personally. If I thought I was writing m/m then obviously I’ve failed. I’ve written the books wrong. But, since I consider myself a gay fiction writer I don’t feel that way at all. I do think that many readers enjoy both kinds of books – a large percentage of my readers are also m/m romance readers. And, I think readers who enjoy gay fiction should sample m/m to see if they like it.

    The thing is, since the two genres are so closely aligned there will always be readers who mistakenly pick the wrong book (for them) and are upset because their expectations were not met.

  15. Yeah, this argument has been going around for as long as I remember. It always crops up somewhere women are where ‘they shouldn’t be’. Misogyny, straight up. Even gay men (generally speaking, obviously it’s not universal) still see women as below them, behind them, irrelevant unless they can somehow be used to raise men up. This Jezebel article spells out rather neatly: http://jezebel.com/the-myth-of-the-fag-hag-and-dirty-secrets-of-the-gay-ma-1506868402

    When men get into something ‘not meant for them’ they become lauded and fawned over. When women do the same, they’re treated as stupid and interfering, or flat out ignored.

    Even Eric Arvin is an example of it. Last I looked, $60,000 has been raised to help them out (and that’s awesome, this not me saying they don’t deserve that love and support, and I hope all they’re enduring comes to a happy end). But a woman in the genre, a reader and reviewer who has been around for years and just wanted help with funds to bury her husband? I’ve barely heard a peep from anyone about her. People go on and on about the support of this group, how we’re one big extended family, but that love is not spread equally, I’m sorry.

    I get the same BS in fantasy. I am a woman writing fantasy that also includes gay romance. I will never be considered a ‘real’ fantasy writer, even though I am. Because fantasy is still largely a boy’s club, even though J.K. Rowling has blown all of the men out of the water.

    Look at the way the entire romance genre is treated. All people do is make porn jokes and ask if I write any ‘real’ books. Romance drives the publishing industry, but it’s looked down on by so many because it’s dominated by women and we dare to write about sex. I get really tired of people being surprised that m/m fiction is dominated by women. It’s a sub-genre of romance, which has always been dominated by women. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. But instead of anyone commending us for bringing m/m into romance and making it a strong genre in its own right, instead of anyway giving us props for building a place where literally anyone can write romance, from the schmoopiest to the filthiest, from the silliest to the serious, we just get jeered at for daring to write about men because we’re not men. We constantly get labeled as straight women writing gay porn, instead of a more accurate label of straight and queer women writing queer romance.

    And don’t get me started on how dismissive the vast majority of this genre is about anything that isn’t about one cis white gay boy fucking another cis white gay boy. The whole rest of the rainbow, and all PoC, have a depressingly small presence. Because it always comes back to white men, and anyone not catering to that is ignored or told they don’t belong.

    So yeah, it’s the same tiresome, depressing BS: women aren’t as good, women shouldn’t be in a man’s world, they should go away and leave men with all the credit.

    • Hi Megan. I would donate to the fund you are talking about if you include a link. I followed TJ Klune, watched his videos and proposal, so their love story became personal to me, and many of their fans. If I had never heard of them, I would still see the links on many reviewer sites, because they have many friends promoting them. At the same time, my 14 year old cousin has only raised a few thousand to help with two major surgeries. Sometimes it is who you know, sometimes it is who knows you.

      Please post your friends link, either here or in an email to me, and I will gladly support her.

      I am a straight white woman who supports GLBTQ rights and loves gay romance and erotica. I love character and story driven books, no matter the author. I don’t watch any porn, because it is sex without a story.

  16. All I have ever been able to do or will be able to do is look through the world with my own lens. Does that totally negate what I have to offer? I don’t think so, and if it does, then no man has ever had the right to write about women nor woman to write about men.

    But, we write creatively. What does that mean? It means we use the tools at our disposal to put ourselves in other people’s heads to see the world how they do. What are those tools? Empathy would be the first thing I use. I’m not a gay man, but I’m a bisexual woman. We have similarities in some ways, and in those areas I lack, I can make up the difference by doing research.

    Am I going to get the “gay man’s experience” represented on the page perfectly? NO! Because there is no perfect experience. Everyone lives life differently, which means no human being is ever able to truly represent another’s experience outside of there own.

    That, my friends, is why is it called fiction. If you want anything else, go look in the autobiography section!

  17. Bravo! I don’t pick what I read based on the author’s gender. I pick the books that sound good to me. And if the author engages my interest in the first book of theirs that I read, I’m very likely to start stalking their webpage or goodreads page to find more. And if someone else decides to limit themselves to only one gender of author, then they are definitely missing out on some quality entertainment.

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