But I have always promised that I would never discuss politics, religion, or hot topic issues on this blog, and I'm not going to comment any further on Trayvon Martin. This post is about the tragedy itself, it's not a political rant where I'm going to scream and shout who was right and who was wrong. In this respect, I agree with the statement President Obama issued:
President Obama called the death of Trayvon Martin a tragedy on Sunday. But after a verdict that sparked charged reactions nationwide, he urged Americans to focus on "calm reflection."
I'm nobody special. I'm just a small genre author who tries to entertain people as best I can, and I never expect to make billions of dollars or have large publishers knock on my door. But I also don't believe that any form of violence or discrimination has ever resulted in something positive, and to remain completely silent isn't right either.
I once read a comment that went like this, paraphrased, "Don't get into any online flame wars unless you're willing to go up on that hill and die." I wish I had been clever enough to come up with that one first. This advice works wonders, however, we all have something in our lives for which we would be willing to go up on that hill and die. And I do understand the emotional outcries that have happened all weekend for Trayvon Martin. For me, I would be willing to go up on that hill and die for anything that involves an LGBT issue, that brand of LGBT discrimination, and the form of racism/abuse gay men and women experience.
Just like any other gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer person in the US, I experience various forms of discrimination and gay racism all the time. Sometimes it's more obvious, sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it comes in the form of assumption. By assumption I mean that people who aren't gay decide to tell me what it's like to be gay, as if they know better and that my personal experiences as a gay man mean absolutely nothing to them. One good example I can give deals with a few books I've written that have movie tie-in themes. All of the books are my brand of parody, and I've posted about this openly so many times I'm just going to link because I would only be repeating myself if I did it again. In other words, my parodies were not taken from bestselling books like Twilight and turned into multi-million dollar bestsellers by big crafty publishers like some books I won't mention right now. And my books were never taken from gay films with gay content like Brokeback Mountain, or other gay movies, also like some books I won't mention right now.
When I was growing up there was nothing with gay content at all in the mainstream. For a gay person who liked romance of any kind there were films like Pretty Woman and An Officer and a Gentleman and we made due with what we had because we didn't have any choices. "They" gave us no choices. And to this day, I'm in my early forties and I still don't see many gay romances in the mainstream for the entire community to watch. I post about gay films all the time that are trying to get funded through kickstarter. And just look at how many studios turned down the Liberace story. They had to go to HBO. When I was growing up, the majority of the LGBT books released were hard to find if you didn't live near a small indie bookshop (most of us didn't), so we didn't get a chance to read LGBT romances either. I grew up completely void of any romance with even a hint of gay content. And the very few romances out there that had minor gay characters almost always ended up in suicide.
So I not only wanted to tackle a few age old storylines with my books, like Pretty Man with the Cinderella trope in the film Pretty Woman, but also make them lighter, a little humorous, and give them the strong erotic scenes I always thought would add to the parody. I didn't want it to be a bitter political statement, but I did want to make a statement I thought was important...and still do think is important. But what was intended to be fun and satirical has often turned into a brand of gay racism that I've experienced all my life. This is something that someone once said about a parody I wrote:
This isn't humorous or satirical. Good parodies are clearly commenting on the original author or a touchy current political event in a satirical way, et cetera. In fact, the US Supreme Court ruled that a parody is "the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's work". This doesn't seem to be clearly commenting on anything.
That was left by someone who didn't think one of my books with movie tie-ins was satirical or a parody, which leads me to believe they don't know much about what it's like to be gay in America and face discrimination all the time. Or what it was like to grow up in America thirty years ago. I don't mind people who disagree with me or what I write, and I respect everyone's opinion completely. However, as a gay man, and as a gay man who has experienced the kind of blunt dismissal almost all gay people have experienced, I happen to think that my social comment by writing gay parodies on straight romances was not only touching on current political events (gay marriage for one), but also past political events that involved the LGBT community long before the term LGBT even originated (the fact that gay men were so closeted and hidden in Take Me Always). And once again, to dismiss me in such a way, and to question my motives as a gay man who has experienced this discrimination first hand is something that bothers me enough to go up on that hill and die.
The list of books I've written that parody straight romance movies isn't that long, at least not compared to books and stories I've written that didn't parody anything. I didn't want to make this movie thing a career goal, but in the same respect I wanted to make my own political statement by writing those books and telling the mainstream writers and producers that we're here, too, and that we deserve a movie or book like Pretty Man or An Officer and Gentleman sometimes. They don't even throw us that proverbial bone unless there's something highly sensational about the story.
I know some people get what I did, and I thank them an I truly appreciate them for getting it because it validates me as a gay person (not just a gay man: I think we're all part of the LGBT) who is still surviving inequality just by living in the Commonwealth of PA where gay marriage is not legal. They also know that I never tried to hide the fact that my books were my brand of parody...for a gay audience or for those straight men and women who like to read gay erotic romance. Gay racism, just like ethnic racism, religious racism, and rape culture, does in fact exist all over the world, not just in the US. Sometimes it comes in the form of slamming gay people, sometimes it comes by dismissing them and ignoring them, and sometimes it even comes about by telling them that they are wrong and what they've experienced as gay people doesn't matter.
But I know deep down that anyone else who is gay out there knows what I'm talking about. You know how excited you were when you first watched that Harvey Milk documentary in PBS many years ago, or when you saw a minor gay character in a movie when you didn't expect it...even if he or she jumped off a bridge in the end. Or how excited you were when Will and Grace came on TV in the 90's. And you were excited for one reason: you had nothing else with which to identity in the mainstream. The feedback I've received from younger gay men and gay men of all ages with the movie tie-in books has been phenomenal. They understood the parody and they even identified with the characters in the books. And that's the most important thing, and the most cherished thing any writer can expect. It makes the gay racism easier to deal with for those who don't get it, or are unwilling to acknowledge it.
So this past weekend was very emotional for a lot of people, especially in the LGBT community with the loss of Cory Monteith. Monteith was part of a TV show that broke ground for the LGBT community, even for those who didn't like the show as much as others. He was, in many ways, the ultimate hero at times on the show. At least he was for me. I don't watch Glee religiously, but Monteith was one of the main reasons I did watch.
The magnitude of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin has been felt ten times over each time something related to his death has happened in the past year or so. And the most recent event was the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. I've seen such hurt and such disappointment it's hard to write this post. As I stated earlier, one woman author I know wrote something so eloquent I felt a sting in my eye without even realizing it. And I'm so used to racism and discrimination that doesn't happen often for me.
We have race issues of all kinds in the US. I'm not going to get into other parts of the world because I'm not familiar with them. But we have to continue to work on things here in the US in order to move forward and to make things better for kids of all ethnic backgrounds, including LGBT kids. And once again, I'm going with the President on this one, and I'm not coming from a political place right now. This is coming from the heart:
We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that's a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin.
A blogging author I follow who is a straight white male wrote a middle grade book that I read and loved. He recently posted about his book, which included a mixed-race character, and how he thinks we need more mixed race characters in YA and middle grade books. After that one post, he lost more blog followers in one day than he'd ever lost before.