Why I Had to Embrace My Inner Gay Man to Feel Whole as Myself
The more I write stories about men who are not straight, the more I discover they are about me as well.
In pursuit of creative spark, I throw questions into the air and open to receive. The story that comes will not be one I should write or hope to write. If I try to boss Story to stay inside the lines or hurry up or be marketable, inspiration suffers.
My job is to download, fingers on keyboard to move inspiration into materiality. Attempt translation. Try again. Listen for the pure sound. Apply paragraph breaks. Revise. Ask. Be still. Wait. Feel.
To open and receive is to stare at the sun and step into the chasm at the same time. Here I am: writer willing to feel. Bring it. I’ll trust and step off the edge. It’s a blink into the glare, a free-fall in honor of receptive silence. In the blank face of the rock wall zooming past, a door slides open to reveal an orchestra. Hey, I can float.
Inspiration sings a story about a man. The man is gay and falls in love with a man who is bisexual. I accept the whole: backstories, woven scenes, personalities and side characters, settings, fragments of poetry, quotation marks for dialogue, a final period. I accept.
A friend of mine complained for decades about not finding her passion. When faced with someone else’s enthusiasm for their fascination, she would listen and grow small, stuck on comparison, and label herself an uninspired loser. She wanted to feel the passion without the pain. But open to receive means accepting the download in trust. Wonder and analysis come after, when we see ourselves anew because of what came through.
At the mirror in the bathroom, I gaze at myself and remember times I felt like an alien, as if what came through me in my cautious attempts at openness back then did not mesh with the world. In a lingerie store in my thirties, I asked for help finding an A-cup bra for my flat chest, one that finally wouldn’t pinch. The clerk laughed and whipped out a tape measure. C cup. Huh. How did I miss that? A family friend marveled at my lack of jewelry and never-colored hair, encouraged me to gussy up for the backyard barbeque and a certain single young man she knew would attend. All the painful exits from my body to avoid my truth and other people’s expectations.
I grew up more, gained perspective, wrote and wrote, searched for… something. Finally, I sat in receptive silence and began to write novels as myself. Characters pound on my door, download clumps of personality as I wash an apple, interrupt phone calls with plot details, insist on my attention. And they are men.
A message I’ve gotten all my life, from multiple sources, is that I am not quite right or enough, like I am out of focus or jagged at the edges, a pain to try to categorize. In school I hunkered down and got studious to avoid the socializing going on around me — the teasing and laughter and complex codes I didn’t understand or, more accurately, didn’t care about enough to try to understand.
I created a bubble. The differences between me and my surroundings (schools, jobs, American society, Earth), my inability or lack of awareness about how to integrate, stashed real me inside a bubble and everything else outside.
Sometimes, in my reflection on the inner curve of the bubble, I see a man. I don’t mean that I am a transgender person, although I would not mind that. I don’t mean that I am living a double life or feel divided as myself. We can explore masculine and feminine energies, and I am on board with that. But what about this bubble?
The stories that come to me when I am most open tell of romance as the chaos and reward of integrating the whole self, with a bonus of intimacy with someone else who is also doing the work of truing. This is the vital lesson in the best stories in the romance genre, this self-love journey from judgment to acceptance.
I believe our safest place is at home in ourselves. Maybe, for some of us, for some periods in our lives, that safety is only as big as a bubble. We need the bubble, right up until the bubble is what hurts. The best love story of all is to figure out how to pop it and survive.
“Hiding our authentic self over long periods of time is not just an act of suppression; it is an act of quiet violence, it damages our lives and the lives of those we love. It holds us back from our own potential greatness and our ability to love authentically.” — Ken Page, Psychology Today (1)
Isn’t this what we’re trying to do to repair our society: apply acknowledgment, acceptance, and love to heal the scars made by inhumane attempts to excise parts that don’t fit within the shoulds? Not only whole people judged to not fit, but parts of people as well. What in you feels like it doesn’t fit within the shoulds? Are you willing to fall in love with that part of you, no matter what? What you go through to achieve that love is the chaos of healing.
My ongoing grapple with these personal topics (now also professional topics) leads me to study and to talk with people in search of clarity and expansion. One of the most interesting and resonant explorations of the issue of who writes LGBTQ+ romance is Guy Mark Foster’s article, “What to Do If Your Inner Tomboy Is a Homo: Straight Women, Bisexuality, and Pleasure in M/M Gay Romance Fictions,” in which he poses this question (among others):
“What happens when human agents develop self-conscious strategies, such as a specific practice of reading and/or writing, by which they are able to sidestep the societal injunction against homosexual attachments in their persons by reimagining those attachments in another form?” — Guy Mark Foster, Journal of Bisexuality (2)
In the enigmatic space of inspiration — silent and orchestral — in which Story spins reflections into sunlit air to gain the author’s attention, I am me, trying to write as my whole self. The title of Foster’s article strikes a deep chord for me: What if my inner tomboy is a homo?
Is there room for this variation in the plus sign of LGBTQ+?
- Ken Page, “Lady Valor: Kristin Beck, gender role freedom and love,” Psychology Today, September 1, 2014.
- Guy Mark Foster, “What To Do If Your Inner Tomboy Is a Homo: Straight Women, Bisexuality, and Pleasure in M/M Gay Romance Fictions,” Journal of Bisexuality, 15:4, 509–531, 2015.