Last month I attended our local writer’s meet up group. We had a number of new attendees which is always great. So we all went around the room to introduce ourselves. I was midway through the group, so I gave my name, mentioned that I edit for a publishing house and that I have a handful of novels out under my pen name Marie Dees.
“Tell them what you write,” the group leader said.
Now the group leader is a professional gentleman in his sixties. I’m, well, let’s be honest. I’m a short, slightly chubby middle-aged woman who could easily be an extra in a hobbit scene for the Tolkien movies. But this group had only recently discovered what I actually write. This is because I brought the cover art for “Lair of the Jaguar God” to share and it’s sort of hard to avoid people noticing that my romance novel has two men on the cover. But now the group was proving to be delighted with the secret knowledge that they had a gay erotica writer in their midst. Of course, I also have a completely non-erotic mystery series out (It does have gay characters and a bit of gay romance) but what everyone wants to hear is —
“I write gay erotica.”
Shock gasps and giggles from the audience. Then things die down a bit as they come to grips with the idea that I just don’t look like the person they expect to be writing gay erotica. So, why come out with it? Why admit in public that I write gay erotica? Well, first, because I’m in a position where I can. I might surprise people, but my job isn’t in danger, and I’m not even going to be judged for my sexuality.
But when we write, we expose part of ourselves to the work. We share our dreams and fantasies. The twisted dramas we come up with when no one is looking. We bring that part of ourselves out and not only show it to the world, but ask them to become a part of it. And this is utterly terrifying for many new writers, regardless of their age. I can see it in the group when someone suddenly realizes that if this short, chubby little woman can write gay stories and even get them published, then maybe the group won’t think their work too strange. With newer writers, it’s a matter of winning small battles. With me, it’s just a matter of saying I’m comfortable with who I am.