Category Archives: homophobia

Hopping for Visibility, Awareness, and Equality—Focus: Visibility (Or, on peeing in North Carolina and such)

Hello! It’s IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia), and I’m here (with the rest of the hop bloggers and readers) to talk about visibility, awareness, and equality.HAPHOBIAUMBRELLA2016

Well, that’s a lot to talk about, so let’s break it down. Let me start today by talking about visibility, and specifically visibility in the United States.

This year, Trans-related issues are big on everyone’s radar, what with hater legislation (let’s call it what it is) about—of all thigs—bathrooms being very visibly bandied about and enacted in several states, with North Carolina’s HB2 taking a front and center position though Tennessee and eight other states including Minnesota have similar bills. Yes, visibility is an issue across the LGBT-QIA spectrum, but for now, let’s talk about Trans, baby.

“Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry—which is happening as I write—is one of them.”

~~Bruce Springsteen

Why focus on visibility?

As I see it from a historical perspective, because visibility is the crux of this focus on toileting. Conversely, invisibility has been both a product and a tool of hateful bigotry for… well, maybe as long as there have been humans who hated. If you are a member of any group that has been marginalized (to any degree) by the dominant culture, you very likely have experienced invisibility. Sometimes, it is a protective instinct to retreat into it. If a hypothetical ‘they’ don’t know that a hypothetical ‘you’ is African, Native, gay, lesbian, refugee, bisexual, HIV+, immigrant—anything that doesn’t match ‘their’ perception of ‘like us’—if ‘they’ don’t know, it is possible to avoid being excluded, ridiculed, ignored, followed around by the store detectives, or beaten to a bloody pulp. Sometimes, invisibility isn’t on purpose. ‘You’ can’t or won’t or just don’t happen to hide your color, country of origin, sexuality, gender identification, age (etc), and therefore the store employee skips over you, your job application gets lost, you speak and no one hears you.

But it shouldn’t be like this. Not only does rendering certain people invisible in society result in numerous individual violations of constitutional human rights, it attempts to rob people of status as human beings. You realize, don’t you, that in the sixties, if you had asked school officials about gay or queer students, they very likely would have said they didn’t exist?

I believe bigoted people feel threatened because trans (and other rainbow spectrum) individuals have shrugged off their cloaks of invisibility—a brave thing to do, dangerous, but life-affirming. People have embraced their identity and thus their humanity. “I am this person, exactly as I am meant to be.” That is a joyful thing, to be celebrated.

Except to the person who keeps their mind closed around the training tapes they’ve heard all their lives, which make it clear that if someone is different, they’re dangerous. If that’s the case, you’re likely to be afraid.

Two ways to deal with fear. One: find out why and fix it. This usually involves a willingness to learn and understand—to listen and truly hear. Two: turn it into something else—hate.

Hate= “it’s not me it’s you.”

So we have Hate Bill 2 and around 100 antil LGBT-Q spectrum bills around the US.

Getting back to North Carolina where you might have to flash your birth certificate to get into a bathroom (because hey, what’s more important for a state legislature to spend time on than where people pee?), just today I saw an article relative to North Carolina’s ridiculous law, being trans, and visibility. Singer Laura Jane Grace, founder of the punk band Against Me, decided they shouldn’t cancel their appearance. In her particular case, she thought another approach would be more effective.

She’s a trans woman, you see, so she burned her birth certificate on stage.

© Brian Ach, Invision/AP

© Brian Ach, Invision/AP

“Goodbye gender.”

~~Laura Jane Grace

Thank you for reading and hopping for the cause. Comment on this post and enter your name for a giveaway: $15 Gift Certificate Dreamspinner Press, ARe, or Amazon. I’d love to hear how you feel about visibility, whether you have experiences to share, news, or thoughts on the subject. Or, comment on any aspect of these issues, the hop, or my post.

Here are all the blog hop links, for your convenience! (Thanks all you bloggers!)

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Filed under blog hop, Contests, homophobia, IDAHOT Blog Hop, just a category, Transphobia

HAHAT 2014 blog and giveaway—Celebrate, but stay for the long haul, because *this is beautiful*

HAHAT 2014

Another year has gone by, and equal marriage rights have been popping up all over the USA.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is a yearly event on May 17th, and the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia is one way some of us bloggers participate. (Click that link for a list of all participating blogs!) Since last May, the US Supreme Court has made a landmark decision, believe it or not, helping to prevent California state law from undermining marriage rights for people who love another of their own gender. And several states have found their conscience and passed laws equalizing marriage rights. And some state courts have overturned bans. Even the IRS has joined in to treat people in same-sex marriages equally with their heterosexual counterparts. The list of accomplishments goes on—there’s a lot to celebrate. In that spirit

I’m giving away $15.00 in money for (what else) books from Dreamspinner Press.

All you have to do to enter is comment below, naming the one event since May 2013, personal or public, that most spurred your hope for equality. You don’t have to use a lot of words, a few will do and they don’t have to be fancy. I just want to cheer when I read your comment. 🙂

But I’m no believer in blind optimism. I think there are many good reasons to hope and envision a day when who a person loves is not hung from the town hall for public judgment. We’re not there yet, though. I recently was asked why I write homophobic events into my stories. Well, my characters are gay. I’m bisexual. Homophobic stuff happens. Hate crimes happen. Bullying and abuse of LGBTQ spectrum teens continues to happen, be tolerated by some who should know better, and to cause despair to the point of suicide. And as for marriage equality, here is a map of the US. After you’ve looked at the map,

consider this: Only the solid dark blue states have fully legalized same-sex marriage. I count sixteen.

For a greater eye opener, look at the full legend, here.
US states by same sex marraige status

Honey, we have a long way to go, just for the legal stuff! Changing minds and hearts, stopping homophobia and transphobia, is another layer—a thicker, crustier, more corrosive one, and it moves glacially slow. I remind myself of this so that I

don’t lose heart, and do dig in for the long haul

.

Why does it matter?

Because this is beautiful:


logo web (smaller) jpg

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Filed under Contests, HAHAT 2014, homophobia, Marriage equality

HAHAT 2014 will start May 17th—stop by on your hop!

Yes, I will be participating in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia again this year! Hopefully a fun blog post, and of course a prize drawing. Hope you’ll stop by on your hop!
HAHAT 2014

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by | March 26, 2014 · 2:51 pm

And the HAHaT winner is…

Penumbra! Congratulations! Thank you to all who participated in the hop, read A special thank you to the HAHaT organizers and the people who keep the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (otherwise known as IDAHO) afloat.

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Filed under Contests, homophobia

HAHaT 2013: Thoughts About Legalities, Love, Fear… oh, and there’s a freebie

Hello blog-hoppers! This post is my contribution to the Blog Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, or HAHaT 2013. I hope tons of you visit, and we can discuss some serious matters, while having some fun, too. Read all the way to the end to find out about the small but noticeably free-of-charge thing I’d love to give you…

The hop supports the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Undoing the knotted mass of threads that is homophobia/transphobia is a necessary focus, because, well, it’s all over the place and it’s messed up.

“But,” you or someone you know says, “it’s all coming up roses, isn’t it? Laws are being passed, people are getting married. It’s a brighter day!”

Yes! It is a brighter day, indeed!

But before we assume that laws leaning more toward fairness and equality mean the demise of fear and hate, let’s think about history. Some questions to ponder:

  • Did legalizing the right of women to vote and work give them equal standing in the community? (If you think so, you and I should talk.)
  • Did abolishing legal slavery create attitudes of fairness and equality toward African Americans?
  • Did laws prohibiting brutality lead to the end of child abuse?

In the USA, we’ve had eleven states (I think) pass laws saying GLBTQ people can marry. In some of those states, the spouses can also adopt children, should they wish. These changes have led to many lovely, loving moments and years, and beautiful images, for us all to cherish, that have made it into our lives.

Like this one:

And this one:

But eleven states is only twenty-two percent of all the possibilities. To me, the progress of human rights in terms of marriage equality has seemed like a snowball rolling downhill. But there is no guarantee that the ball will keep rolling! If anything, I think this is the point in the battle when so much can go wrong, simply by virtue of a broader, shifting field–and this is even more true because the fight for fair laws is an international one.

And the fight for legal equality is also, moreso, a fight for the hearts of all good people.

Forgive me, for I am about to commit the fiction writer’s sin of thinking all points can be illustrated by a scene in their novel. No, really. This is a very brief excerpt from Saving Sonny James, the finale to the Vasquez and James series, which has been submitted to the publisher a few days ago, but not yet accepted. Here, Luki and Sonny have recently been through hell (which anyone who’s read the series has come to expect 🙂 ). In this case, hell is in Paris, France, where equal marriage has recently been codified as law, in the real world.

The black car rolled up to the embassy, an elegant building with an expanse of lawn, a pair of huge flags—US and France, and a red-trimmed, white fabric canopy over the entry walk. Jean Baptiste let them out at the street curb, and they walked along a paved semicircle drive, hand-in-hand, though they weren’t conscious of it until they got some looks from the Gendarmerie in their peaked hats. Sonny might have tried to extract his hand, but Luki held on tight and gave one or two of the gendarmes his iciest look.

When they reached the canopy, he quietly said to Sonny, “Tell me those bigots don’t have the power to make you ashamed of me… or of who you are.”

“Of course not, Luki!” Sonny was emphatic, but he chuckled and added, “But they do seem to have the power to make me nervous.”

Luki glanced sideways at him and back at the police—whose attention had gone elsewhere, now—“Fuck ‘em, baby. We’re legal in this country, you know. Just like at home.”

“Yeah but honey, when Washington State decided we could marry, that was a vote of the people, and the people that didn’t like it didn’t join up in mobs and start beating people up and killing folks wholesale in the street. Here…”

Luki heaved a tired sigh. “I know, but it’s—”

“Safer to be right up front with it. I agree. Thanks for holding my hand, husband.”

I invite your comments and discussion! I’d love to hear about fictional characters (movies, books, TV, ballads, whatever) that have put the haters in their place. Can be humor or badass-ness, or whatever. Tell me about your fave, and you’re in the drawing for a $15 certificate for Dreamspinner Press, anything at all from their catalog. The contest runs all ten days of the blog hop, and you can enter more than once as long as you have new material in your comment. ‘Kay? Please play! (By the way, I’ve had to put comments on moderate for awhile because of ugly spammers. Please don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)

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Filed under Contests, Dreamspinner Press, Finding Jackie, homophobia

Jamie Fessenden interview, *By that Sin Fell the Angels* excerpt, and other stuff

Click the cover image for the buy link at the Dreamspinner Store.

By that Sin Fell the Angels is published by Itineris Press, an imprint of Dreamspinner Press that presents quality GLBT faith-based fiction.

It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.

At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.

Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open for the devil—and for a second tragedy to follow.

Jamie Fessenden set out to be a writer in junior high school, but it wasn’t until he met his future husband, Erich, almost twenty years later, that he began writing again in earnest. Ten years later, with the legalization of same-sex marriage in their state, Jamie and Erich have married, rescued a black lab pup from the SPCA, and purchased a house together in the wilds of Raymond, New Hampshire. Jamie currently works as technical support for a computer company in Portsmouth, NH, but fantasizes about someday quitting his day job to be a full-time writer.

Visit Jamie at http://jamiefessenden.wordpress.com/

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Very important. I spend a lot of time on baby name websites, searching for names that resonate with the character. Often, I’ll narrow it down to a few and then spend a few minutes saying the names to myself out loud, while visualizing the character, to see which one fits the best. On more than one occasion, I’ve changed a character name while I’ve been writing the story, because he or she seemed to outgrow the first one I chose. Titles are extremely important, but I’m really awful at coming up with them. I often ask friends for suggestions.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: I’m currently working on a cyberpunk novel set in a near-future Seattle and Vancouver. In a science fiction or fantasy novel, of course, the locale is often part of the story and can strongly affect the plot. Certainly the streets of Seattle and the surrounding countryside had a huge impact on the chase scene I wrote for part one! I’m also working on a contemporary psychological drama. For most contemporary stories, I prefer to use New Hampshire as the setting. This is partly because it’s what I’m familiar with, but also because I love the New Hampshire countryside and have a strong desire to convey the beauty of it in my work.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: Quite a lot. If I write a scene in which the characters don’t seem to be acting naturally, I go back and rework it until it works for them, even if it means changing the direction of the story. It always improves the story to pay attention to what’s right for the characters.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: When I was a teenager, just coming to terms with my sexuality, nearly everything I read was about heterosexual characters. I felt extremely isolated, because it was almost impossible to find gay characters in fiction who weren’t miserable and alone. All I wanted was to read about gay characters who found someone to love and lived happily ever after. In early stories I wrote, I tried to write about straight characters, but it really didn’t feel right to me, so I eventually realized that I needed to write the type of stories I wanted to read: stories with gay protagonists that have a happy ending.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: I’m afraid I have so many stories in my head struggling to make it out onto paper that I don’t really have the time to write what other people suggest. My usual reaction is to tell them, “That sounds like a great idea! You should write it!” (An exception to this might be requests for a sequel!) I do listen to feedback on my stories, though. If somebody tells me that something really didn’t work for them, I certainly give it serious thought and consider how I might do things differently in future stories. I don’t believe in turning my nose up at suggestions that will improve my writing, even if they sometimes sting a bit.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Ideally, readers will provide useful feedback for an author about what does and does not work for them, and the author will be responsive to that, taking into account things that pushed a lot of readers’ buttons, for instance, and learning to work with that. I’ve also had readers nudge me to get back to work on my cyberpunk story and I think that’s great! I love knowing that there are people out their interested in knowing how the story will work out.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: A useful review is one that points out flaws in the story or characters in a way that’s specific enough that it suggests a way to fix the problem. “The story was terrible,” isn’t particularly helpful, but “The ending was confusing,” certainly can be, and so can, “I wasn’t sure if they were really committed to each other.” One of the best reviews I ever received was from someone who pointed out specific details of the time period and culture I was depicting that I’d gotten wrong. They were things that only someone living in England might pick up on, and I just wish I’d received that feedback before the story went to publication!

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: I think perhaps Josh, from “Saturn in Retrograde.” I grew up in rural New England and the guys I was attracted to when I was young tended to be a bit rough around the edges: crude, rugged, often dirty from working on cars or other manual labor, often sweaty. Josh is a college nerd, but he lives in a single room and he’sA: a slob, leaving his dirty clothes everywhere. (But of course, he’s still gorgeous!) When Patrick is caring for him, after Joshua becomes seriously ill, he ends up cleaning the apartment, in order to make it more livable. This sort of detail is unappealing to some readers, but to me it makes the characters real. They aren’t fashion models. They’re just regular guys. And it’s that extra level of reality that makes a character sexy to me. Judging from some reader comments, I’m not completely alone in this.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: From the gym shower scene in “Saturn in Retrograde”:

While Joshua’s own eyes were closed, his face tilted up into the shower spray, Patrick took in the young man’s naked body and marveled at it. If Joshua had reminded him of a Roman senator when they first met in the lab… naked, he was a Roman god.

Too late, Patrick realized that Joshua had opened his eyes and was watching Patrick’s eyes drinking him in. Patrick glanced quickly away, embarrassed, but Joshua said softly, “It’s cool.”

“What’s cool?”

“I mean… you can look.”

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: While I’ve picked up the cyberpunk story again, the one I’m really caught up in is a psychological drama about a psychologist who’s fallen for a man with repressed memories of child sexual abuse. I’m excited about it, because it gets very dark, but unlike my novel about teen suicide (“By That Sin Fell the Angels”), this one also has a romance at the core of it. The working title is “Billy’s Bones,” but I’m planning on changing that.

An Excerpt from By that Sin Fell the Angels

JONAH woke to the sound of his mother screaming. He jumped out of bed, grabbed his robe, and nearly collided with his mother’s twenty-six-year-old boyfriend in the narrow hall outside his bedroom door.

“Christ!” Bill snarled, though Jonah couldn’t tell if it was aimed at him or at his mother. The man rubbed his eyes, growling like a bear awoken from hibernation. “What the fuck is all the racket about?”

Bill was naked, though apparently too groggy to care. He staggered down the hall ahead of Jonah and stopped at the entrance to the kitchen. The boy had to stretch his six-foot-two frame to see over the man’s freckled shoulder.

Shirley Riverside was standing against the wall near the fridge, her gaze fixed on the floor, her mouth trying to say something. But no sound was coming out. Jonah had never seen her looking so frightened.

Pressing up against Bill’s back (but not too close) he was able to see that his mother had walked through a puddle of something in the early morning half-light. Her bare feet had left a trail of dark prints on the worn linoleum. Her hand was still on the light switch beside her, the one she’d turned on to see what she’d stepped in.

It was blood.

Somehow a large puddle had formed in the center of the floor. Jonah saw something small drop into the pool, causing ripples to spread on its surface. The boy looked up and saw that the blood was seeping through the suspended ceiling, spreading along the seams between the tiles and collecting at the corners to drip down.

“Jesus H. Christ,” Bill muttered, and it was an indication of how frightened Shirley was that she didn’t rip him a new one for taking the Lord’s name in vain. Never mind running around bare-assed in front of her son. “Call 9-1-1,” Bill ordered. Then, when she didn’t appear to hear him, he added impatiently, “Can you do that?”

Shirley was staring at her bare feet now, as if she wanted nothing more than to get the blood off them, but she nodded mutely.

Jonah had to flatten himself against the wall to let Bill get past him. The man turned on his way to the bedroom and pointed at the boy. “You’re going upstairs with me to check it out, soon as I get some pants on.”

Jonah didn’t see any reason to argue. “Okay.”

He was disgusted with himself for letting his eyes linger on Bill’s tight ass as the man turned to enter the bedroom. Jesus, forgive me for lusting after my Mom’s boyfriend. But Bill wasn’t all that much older than Jonah, and hours of putting up sheetrock had made the man lean and muscular.

A few moments later, Shirley was sobbing into the phone as she tried desperately to wipe the soles of her bare feet with a wet paper towel. Her hand was covered in blood.

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, homophobia, Writers on writing

(Blog) hop against homophobia…

I’m going to keep this short, because I know if you’re on the Hop Against Homophobia blog hop tour you probably have a lot of blogs you want to visit. Yes, May 17th has been dubbed the International Day Against Homophobia. Sad that we have to have such a day, but—reality being what it is—I’m glad we do. Just a few more words: The gay lovers and partners and spouses in M/M romance love profoundly, sweetly, and—most of the time—hotly. Just like their real world GLBTQ counterparts—they love and laugh and cry and succeed and fail and have children and have parents and grow old or become ill and gnerally make do, as does everyone. Really, what’s to fear, or hate?

I like to think my own characters, Luki Vasquez and Sonny James, have in different ways become people whose love for each other make the world a better place—though they seem to be on the brink of disaster in each book. The prize I’m offering for the blog hop is an ebook copy of the winner’s choice of the Vasquez and James books: Book one is Loving Luki Vasquez, book two is Delsyn’s Blues. These two are mystery/suspense/thriller romances, and both are out from Dreamspinner Press and available now. The next book coming out (this summer) is about a far more personal battle, because Luki Vasquez is fighting cancer. I’ll point out, though, that it is a romance, and it does therefore have a happy ending. It’s titled Yes: A Vasquez and James Novella. If you’ve read both the other books (thank you!), and you’re the winner and this is your choice, you’ll get an ebook as soon as it’s out.

All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment letting me know you’d like your name in the hat for the random pick. So come on! The more the merrier…

Go to Dreamspinner Press to find excerpts and blurbs for my books and hundreds of other great M/M romance titles.

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Filed under Dreamspinner Press, homophobia, M/M romance, Vasquez & James