Monthly Archives: November 2015

Rules, Allies, and Friends

I have been trying to stay out of the debates going on in the M/M Romance world, but they are bleeding into other issues, some of which don’t necessarily belong in the book world but in a larger sphere. That’s why I wasn’t sure I should post this here or on my other blog. Maybe I’ll put it on both, just to keep my bases covered, so to speak, because it does have to do with both.

Because of one person weaving a fantasy world which she portrayed as real, hurting a lot of people in the process, a lot of other authors (and people in general) seem to be coming forward and verifying their authenticity. I find this a little disturbing. What this person did was wrong. If you want to create a fictional world and play around with it, write a book. Don’t lead people on that they’re real people. That’s just hurtful and mean, even if it wasn’t intended that way. I was in a group on Goodreads where something very similar to this happened. The sad thing is the group is still running, and people that were in the group when it happened are still there, which means, to me at least, that they are willing to overlook the hurt that the moderators caused. Whoever the moderator(s) are/is.

The other thing I feel about this is that it’s completely different than having a pseudonym as, say, a gay man. It’s easy for one person to say, “I’ve been homeless, I’d never lie to people just to publish for the money.” That’s really easy to say, because you weren’t in that person’s position. People have their own reasons for doing things. Unless you’re that person, you really don’t know, and you can’t presume to answer for them. In other words, you can’t condemn someone for assuming a pseudonym/persona, because you don’t know them, and you can’t speak for them. Your reasons may be fine for you, but you can’t just apply them across the board to everyone. Yes, some people may have felt betrayed, but was anyone actually hurt?

Bear with me here. Around all this happening, a post came out by Anonymous. I didn’t know all of this was going on when it was going on. As I understand it, this person was upset at the way that gay men were being portrayed by white, heterosexual women in M/M Romance. I may have gotten that wrong, and I apologize sincerely if I did. I also believe that it had to do with objectification of gay males. This was/is a huge, huge post/issue, and hasn’t died down yet. I feel uncomfortable even mentioning it, because I followed some of the debate after it happened, but I don’t really feel qualified to comment on it.

What did happen, for me, because of it, was that it made me hesitate further to write a review of a book that I was already hesitating to write a review of, but I am going to after I write this post, because I’m tired of caring what people think of it. That’s not true–I’m tired of caring what people think about what I think of the book. My feelings about the book are my feelings, and they don’t have anything to do with what anyone else thinks about it. But more on that in the review, not here.

What has come up, again, in some posts, is “rules” about being an ally. Personally, and this is just me, I find things like this really offensive. It’s like the time (I wrote a post about it) when there was an article saying that “allies were doing it all wrong.” My gut reaction is, “fine, deal with it yourself, then.” It’s an immature reaction. I know that, but maybe it’s just in my nature to rebel when being told what to do. To me, it’s sort of like being given rules for being a friend. Because, after all, in a way, isn’t that sort of what it’s like?

Not being a friend like a casual friend, but being a friend like a good friend. If you have a good friend, you don’t speak on their behalf about what they may or may not think about an issue. You don’t assume all your friends are the same and agree with your point of view on how they should behave and act. You don’t assume they all have the same sexual tastes and orientations. You accept the fact that while you empathize with them, they are still different people from you; they are their own person. They have rights that should be respected by you, just as you expect your rights to be respected by them. Don’t expect them to be perfect, just like you don’t expect them to assume you’re going to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. A person doesn’t objectify their friends.

I could go on, but does that make sense? Why does there have to be a list of rules? To me, that’s insulting, and doesn’t show respect. It’s like saying, to be my friend, you have to do this, this, and this. Unless an ally isn’t supposed to be a friend? I know I can’t be friends with every gay man out there, or everyone in the LBGTQ world, but if I consider them a friend, and treat them as I would a friend, doesn’t that work? Sure, there are plenty who may not like me. Fine. There are plenty of people I may not like either. But I don’t like the notion that to be worthy I need to jump through hoops. Friends just don’t do that to their friends.

The other thing is, as a white, heterosexual female, it does make me uncomfortable when there is someone posting a lot of pictures of semi-naked or naked young men in provocative poses. A lot of it depends on the intent. Sometimes, if it’s just a picture of a guy, it’s okay. When they’re blatantly sensual photos, it bothers me. To me, that’s objectifying men. Just as if it were pictures of women, I would say that’s objectifying women. But if it’s a gay man posting the pictures, I’m not going to protest it. I’m just going to avoid it. Because if I did protest it, I would be labeled all sorts of things. Truthfully, if it were a straight man posting pictures of women I found objectionable (most likely I wouldn’t be his friend in the first place), and I complained, I would also be labeled all sorts of things.

Maybe part of the problem is living in a world of technology where so much is unknown, and people can pretend to be other people. People can spin tales, invent whole groups of other people. I hope those people are in the minority. I hope.

I know this is somewhat rambling, and I am sometimes frustrated that when I feel passionately about something I do have difficulty writing brilliant, concise posts that just sum everything up in a flash of wit. I feel strongly that if people comported themselves online in a manner that they did offline, it would solve a lot of problems. If being an “ally” means that I have to conform to a set of predetermined rules as opposed to behaving in a manner where I feel like I’m trying my best to be a decent human being, then maybe I’ll just be something else and not bother with having a word for it, and continue to treat people as if they’re all decent human beings who deserve to live their lives the way they want to. Because love is love, and no one has the right to take that away.

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“But She Seemed So Normal”

I hate these words. Especially when it comes to teen suicide. “She was at the top of her class.” As if that’s enough reason not to kill oneself, right there, correct? What reason could someone at the top of their class possibly have for killing themselves, they have everything going for them? “She seemed so normal.”

It makes me cringe inside, want to beat the walls in frustration. Why don’t people understand? Just because someone is at the top of their class, just because things seem fine, it doesn’t mean that they are fine.

What classifies as normal? Who judges what is and isn’t normal? People with no understanding of depression? People who have no real memory of how real and immediate the problems of a teenager seem when you’re a teenager? Much less if you’re a teenager with depression?

As a teenager, you don’t have a lot of control over your life. You can’t vote, you live at home, your parents hold the reins. It’s difficult if you’re a so-called “normal” teen (whatever that is), much less if you have depression, or identify as LBGTQ, or don’t fit in to any other of the myriad ways one is expected to in high school.

People are shocked when someone they thought was “normal” commits suicide in high school. Because the person was hiding a lot. Trying to fit in. Possibly afraid of the stigma of whatever issue they’re trying to deal with. “Why didn’t they talk to anyone?” Some people lament. Maybe they did, but no one really heard them. Not that it’s anyone’s fault, per se, but sometimes others don’t want to hear. They don’t want their images of “normality” shattered. “Not normal” is scary; it takes people away from the expected into realms of the unexplored and leads them into the uncomfortable, where things are difficult to talk about. But the difficult needs to be talked about. The uncomfortable needs to be delved into.

Teenagers today have it harder than they did when I was a teenager. Not only do they have all the issues I had to deal with, they have social media, a whole new wonderful world of torture. And those who use it for that purpose know how to do it well. And as for all of this zero-tolerance for bullying? According to the students I have talked to about it, that’s laughable. Bullying is alive and well on our K-12 campuses.

Some people think that the anti-bullying campaigns think that it’s preventing children and young adults from learning how to deal with these things on their own. I say those people didn’t have to grow up in an environment with social media, and the amount of viciousness that exists in schools today. I don’t remember the amount of hatred that seems so pervasive today, and I had my fair share of bullies. They were mean, but it wasn’t hate. If you broaden that out to statements made by adults on social media, you see a lot of hate there as well. It’s not a huge surprise it exists on school campuses.

But back to suicide. There are many, many reasons some teens feel hopeless enough to attempt it, and it’s tragic when they succeed. When the attitude is, “but they seemed so normal,” it’s no wonder that they hesitate to find people to talk to. At that age, trying to fit in is important to many kids (there are those who are brave enough to say “to hell with this” and find their own paths, and kudos to those kids), but there are some who aren’t, or can’t. They’re desperately trying to be “normal” and hide how they’re feeling, when in reality they need someone to tell them that what they’re feeling is normal, and it’s okay, and to please find someone to talk to them. It’s okay to ask for help, it’s not a weaknesses, it’s a sign of courage.

Being a teenager is hard. Really hard. It’s confusing, and sometimes things do seem like the end of the world, or that you’re stuck and there doesn’t seem like any other way. But wait. There is another way. And I know it’s not a huge consolation to hear it, but things do get better. There aren’t a lot of times I can say that with certainty, but when you’re in high school, and so much of your life is out of your control (you can’t even vote yet!), things really will get better. Find someone, anyone, you trust, and talk to them. Go on a walk. Give yourself time. Call a hotline. If there is ever a time to procrastinate, this is it. Make contact with someone. There are people who will help you, people who care about you, because you are important. Don’t ever forget that. Repeat it to yourself. You are important. You matter. You make a difference.

Normal is relative, and sometimes, being “normal” really isn’t all that important. Being safe, being loved, being accepted for who you are, and finding people who see the things in you that matter–those are the things that are important. Be who you are, not who others want you to be. You are your own “normal”, just the way you are. Your normal may be weird and funky, or depressed and odd, or whatever combination of things you can come up with, but that’s who you are, and don’t be ashamed of it. Let your flag of who you are fly, and be proud of it. There is only one you, and you are irreplaceable.