The controversy over gender identities of authors which has recently exploded on Goodreads as well as on other MM blogs throughout the Internet, has taken up a lot more of my time and emotion than I would like to admit. I’m honestly surprised by how much this issue has bothered me.

When I first heard about it, my initial reaction was, “Wow, I’m not going to step into this one.” So many of the people I genuinely care about and respect have weighed in with their opinions already. Many were quite vehement. Some see it as a loyalty issue. Some think of it as a matter of privacy. Others feel it is really about integrity and honesty.

The reason that I have finally decided to voice my opinion is not because I wish to be a part of an argument. I understand and respect the points that have been made on both sides of this issue. I do think we should conduct ourselves in an adult-like manner and refrain from spreading gossip. I do agree that outing people is very mean and vindictive. I do have sincere concern for the author who has subsequently stated that he is suffering from depression and thoughts of suicide, and I will make every effort I can to be supportive.

But there is something about this entire brouhaha that really bothers me. Not everyone is going to understand my feelings on this. Some people are dispassionate when it comes to public figures. While there are some who have certain iconic celebrities that they idolize and respect, many do not allow themselves to become emotionally invested in that manner. These people are the ones who are unfazed when a hero falls from grace. These same people tend to regard the rest of the population as being sappy, overly sensitive, or unnecessarily dramatic.

Well, I admit it. I’m in the sappy category. Having heroes is important to me. Some of the people I look up to the most are authors. Since I’ve been an aspiring author for so many years myself, I tend to idolize those who are successful and talented. I am particularly impressed and encouraged by gay authors. To me, they are like role models.

This being said, as an author I have gotten “fan mail” from readers—particularly young people—who are also like this. When I first began posting my free stories on the Internet, I received over a thousand emails in one week. These letters were heartfelt, and many of the letter writers wanted to know about me. Many were kids who had not come out of the closet, and they thanked me for writing about topics that were pertinent to their lives.

When I think about the possibility that many of these readers may have felt this way about the author who is embroiled in the current controversy, I am saddened.

This author had created an entire identity in which he presented himself as a gay man who’d been the victim of bashing. He wrote a coming out story which was very meaningful to many people. He posted photos of a male model and talked about his gay relationship with another male author.

I hope this author continues to write MM fiction. He’s very talented, and I don’t wish him any ill-will whatsoever. I also hope he gets the help he needs right now to battle the depression and suicidal ideation that has besieged him as a result of this controversy.

But what he did was very deceptive, and it is something that goes beyond loyalty and privacy. I will continue to remain loyal to him, and I will continue to respect his privacy. This doesn’t mean that I think it is acceptable that so many people were deliberately deceived.

Gay youth today have enough enemies. They have enough hardship, including hate crimes, bullying, rejection from their families and loved ones, discrimination in the work place and at school, and just general homophobia. Believe me, they can use all of the positive role models they can get.

When you think about this issue, please consider the bigger picture. It’s about more than an author’s right to privacy. It is about our identity as gay people … and about our right to believe in our heroes.
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Published on November 11, 2011 10:08 • 536 views
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message 1: by J.P. (new)

J.P. Barnaby Gay youth today have enough enemies. They have enough hardship, including hate crimes, bullying, rejection from their families and loved ones, discrimination in the work place and at school, and just general homophobia. Believe me, they can use all of the positive role models they can get.

Amen, Jeff.

message 2: by Lauraadriana (new)

Lauraadriana Thank you for posting this. What you wrote is exactly the way I feel about this whole thing.

message 3: by Jenn (new)

Jenn Great post

message 4: by Bookbee (new)

Bookbee You said what I've been feeling so much better than I ever could. I guess that's why you're the writer! ;) Thank you for expressing what I couldn't.

message 5: by Claudine (new)

Claudine Thank you for your post. You expressed exactly how and why what was done is harmful. I also appreciate that you expressed it was compassion and empathy for the author.

message 6: by Boycop (new)

Boycop It seems I missed a lot while being in the wilderness, mostly without Internet connection. I admit, the whole controversy went on without my knowledge. I'm lucky, I suppose.
I do agree with you that there are things that need to be private and gossip about one's private life is totally unnecessary.
I was surprised when this author you probably are referring to was outed to be a trans* person. I honestly believed he was a man. My fault - never much thought about it. Do I feel deceived? - Not really. Surprised - definitely. It does not mattered to me what he does in private. As you said, he is a very talented writer, and as a reader and buyer of his works, it is the most important thing to me and I certainly want to read more of his works in the future.
Indeed, he created a totally new author fictional identity, but so many other writers do that as well, to keep their private lifes private, and there is no fuss. The main difference to me, seems to be that he changed his sexual identity. Is that really so different? Apparently it is, but I believe it shouldn't. Certainly, I'm not interested in reading about women having sex one way or the other, but if there is good, BELIVEABLE gay sex, I'm certainly interested.

message 7: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Erno For me the issue was never about his private life, nor did it matter one iota to me that he was trans. What upset me were the disparaging comments he made to female authors and the fictitious coming-out and gay bashing stories. Some of the best authors are female or transgendered. Their "sexual identity" is irrelevant.

message 8: by T.A. (new)

T.A. Webb Jeff, I agree with you, and thank you for being eloquent where I am not. I do reviews and have been pounding the point in when I am asked - not my business the gender of the person behind the name. What matters to me is the work.

I have two problems though. One is, the hateful words out there attacking this person. It scares ME, and trust me, I am a BIG guy, nobody messes with me. Secondly, when the person asks another person to impersonate them in public, even though it was at one event, it put this writer in a VERY slippery slope. It crossed a line for this writer's fans.

I admire the works this writer puts out. That is all I am entitled to, is the works. The rest, not my business.

And Jeff - I admire your works.


message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 18, 2011 10:11AM) (new)

Boycop wrote: "It seems I missed a lot while being in the wilderness, mostly without Internet connection. I admit, the whole controversy went on without my knowledge. I'm lucky, I suppose.
I do agree with you tha..."

Boycop, just to clarify. Jeff wrote this about A.J. Llewellyn. Aleks Voinov's coming out as trans* was collateral damage from the angry fallout following A.J.'s announcement. Since you were out in the wilderness when this all fell apart, I didn't know if you realized there are actually 2 different authors who came out as trans* in the last week or so.

message 10: by Boycop (new)

Boycop Oops, my mistake. I wasn't aware about A.J. Llewellyn, at all.

message 11: by Boycop (new)

Boycop And thanks Kate for clarifying this misunderstanding.

message 12: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Erno One thing about the gay community that I'm not particularly proud of is the way we've been so slow in welcoming and supporting our trans brothers and sisters. I think we need to be very careful to make clear that this particular issue in question is not about transphobia. We also need to search our own hearts individually and ask ourselves what it is that really bothers us. Is it the fact that AJ potentially hurt a lot of fans/readers/followers with his deceptions and unkind words, or is it because he dared to call himself male when he doesn't have the correct genitalia? We as individual members of larger community need to remember that we are GLBT... and the "T" is not just an afterthought.

Another thing that I think we forget is that our society as a whole still is not entirely accepting of Gay, Lesbian, and bisexual people; but it is even less understanding of our trans brothers and sisters. The literary community (particularly the MM genre) has been a place where it's been safe for trans authors to be their authentic selves. Now that we have started to go around "outing" them, we are no better than the bigots who for years have openly discriminated against gay people.

Can't everyone PLEASE just quit being so mean to each other??? I don't really care who has a penis or a vagina. I care about the person you are inside... authentically.

message 13: by Boycop (new)

Boycop Jeff, I do agree with you, and I also agree with your original blog post now that I have had some time to understand what it was referring to (I really was offline most of the time).
Outing is definitely something I have to condemn. I'm out and proud now, but it took me 25 years for me to understand it/myself. I came out when I felt I was ok with it, not when someone else decided I should be outed.

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