The thought of that makes your blood run cold, doesn’t it? Well, rest assured, there’s no reason to be scared … well, maybe not that much of a reason to be scared…
The thing is I haven’t really talked a lot about myself for a while so I thought it would be a fun little experiment to post a series of essays about little ol’ me: where I came from, my professional journey, being an editor, being a publisher … and even my hopes and dreams for the future.
Hope you like!
Queerer Than You Can Imagine
Wanna hear a funny … well, if not funny then at least odd … story? In our previous installment you heard of my journey from amateur to professional writer. Pornographic (mostly) but a professional writer, nonetheless.
Since I published by first story in 1993 I’ve been – to put it mildly – writing up a storm. I’m not going to inflict my entire bio on you (that’s at the bottom of this piece as well as on my site at www.mchristian.com) but let’s just say that I’ve written quite a few stories – that have been collected into quite a few collections – as well as more than a few novels.
Onto the funny: quite a few of those stories, more than a few of the collections, and most of those novels – plus a serious number of anthologies where I’ve been an editor – feature gay or lesbian characters. In fact I’ve had stories in the celebrated Best Gay Erotica, Best of the Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Transgendered Erotica, and I was even a finalist for the gay literature award, the Lambda’s…
Anyway, I think you get the build-up, so here’s the punchline:
Not even bisexual. Oh, sure, I’ve gotten more than a few offers (very flattering) but, as I like to say, Mr. Happy only responds to women. Now I also like to say I’m politically gay in that I vote a very purple ticket and consider gay rights to be the litmus test for any politician, nation, city, and so forth; socially bi in that I have no problem kissing and telling my male friends that I love them; and sexually … like I said: straight.
Now I want to be very clear that my reason for being a non-queer author in a queer world did not spring from any kind of deception: I am very out about being a straight guy (though a few of my gay friends don’t believe me), and when I teach classes in smut writing I tell my students – with great emphasis – never to lie about who they really are to sell a story.
How I got to where I am is actually a simple – but important – story, especially for writers. It started very simply: a friend of mine suggested writing a gay story for a special anthology. Now, I had never thought about anything like that – hell, I’d only just selling stories so I hadn’t considered much of anything – so I gave it a shot. Surprise: it was bought. This put me on the gaydar, so to speak. Soon I was not just writing gay (and lesbian) stories but editors and publishers were actively seeking me out to write for them. No dummy, I wrote what people wanted to buy … which puts me close to where I am now.
While I may, at worst, be a literary opportunist – one of my taglines is, after all, is that I’m A Literary Streetwalker With A Heart of Gold – I truly feel honored to be not just accepted but in many ways honored by the gay and lesbian community. I’ve been brought to the verge of tears more than once by a gay, lesbian, bi, or transgendered person telling me that anything I wrote has touched them, or when a member of the community asks me to write for them.
In this, I feel, is a lesson for any writer: I did not know – at all – that I could write queer stories until I tried. Who knows what you could be good at until you try? I tell my students all the time to try, experiment, with everything and anything – even if it’s something you may not even like. The worst that happens is that you find out that a certain genre is not for you, but then you could be wonderfully surprised that you not only enjoy, but are quite good at, writing for that genre.
Stretch, play, have fun, try, experiment … in writing but also in life, to get a bit philosophical.
Before I close, I want to touch on one final thing. Often I get asked is how I can write about characters that don’t share my sexual orientation. Now, writing beyond yourself is what fiction is all about: horror writers don’t really kill people, science fiction authors don’t – mostly – come from other worlds … you get the idea. Fiction is fiction, and good fiction suspends our disbelief to the point where we forget that what we are reading isn’t exactly true.
But I do have one bit of advice that’s come from being a straight guy in queer clothing: I don’t write about queer characters … I write about people.
While I may not know what being a gay man is actually like, and I’m not equipped to know a lesbian one, I do know about hope, fear, delight, wonder, the giddy thrill of arousal, the nervousness that comes with the first few moments of sex, the lightheaded joy that comes when lust turns into love … I may not know a few (ahem) details but I know what it means to be a human being, and no matter what anyone says we are all, down deep where it matters, more alike than not.
Yes, I write about gay characters, but – following my own advice – I am also constantly trying to expand my repertoire: challenging myself as much as possible. I’ve tried my hand at romance, horror, science fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, historical … sometimes I succeed, sometimes I feel I need a lot more work … but no matter what I write, and where my life goes from here, I will always hold in the depths of my heart a love for all the gay men and women who have been so kind and supportive of me and my work.
I may not know everything about what it means to be queer – but I certainly, absolutely, totally know what love feels like.