Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Different Kind of Coming Out

Funny how, until very recently, I’ve never given the issue of coming out much thought in my books although it is such an incredibly important one for so many people. What does it feel like for a queer (queer as in umbrella term for any kind of sexual orientation that is not “plain hetero”…) person to be faced with the matter of coming out to their families and friends? It's an incredibly hard moment, definitely, and one that takes a lot of courage. But there is also a different kind of coming out, which is what I’m looking at a bit more closely.

You see, I write all-male erotic romance books. To me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s what I like, it’s what I’m comfortable with, so you could say, it is a part of who I am. So far, so good. Now here’s the crux. I live in a very rural area. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about: it took our local newspaper until last week to pick up on the success of Fifty Shades of Grey (You know, that book). The article summed up the story line in brief and, rather shamefacedly, explained a little about BDSM and a bit more about e-books, making it sound as though either was rather obscure and not altogether morally acceptable – just what I imagine the mini-skirt to have been considered as back in the days.

In other words, these are things and inclinations that exist somewhere out there, but not in this little quiet corner of the world. Needless to say, that this is the same attitude homosexuality is perceived with. Discreet looks, a whisper behind a shamefully raised hand, but not something that is accepted as just another flavour of life.

This short newspaper article reminded me all over again of what it’s like to write – and read – MM erotic romance in such an environment. I’m using an e-book reader obviously, so no-one knows what I’m up to behind the sleek black cover of that little reading device. Mind you, it’s not as though I’d be able to just walk into a bookstore around here and buy a print book of that genre. I’m not sure how people would react if I ordered one. Hmm, might be worth a try, just to see.

Well, anyway, I’d been reading those books for a few months before I wrote the first of my own, and contrary to what I expected, submitting to a publisher and exposing that part of myself to the eyes of complete strangers, was blissfully easy. It still is. But telling my family about what it is exactly that I’m writing about? Friends? Phew. That is a different matter entirely and yes, this is where I’m beginning to draw the parallel to what it must be like for a queer person to come out. It's also a moment that all of my characters have been through at some point in their lives, although the matter of coming out has, until recently, never been much of a topic in my stories. It may be a smite naïve, but I don’t perceive homosexuality – or queerness – as anything other than just a way to live, so I’m finding it hard to relate to the issues some people still seem to have with it.

I have finally tackled that topic in Harlequin, which deals with a closet case. It releases today and you can find out more about it at the bottom of this post, but before you rush off to look at it, I’d love for you to linger and share your thoughts on this topic. Since you’re reading this, chances are that you enjoy the MM genre, too. What’s in it for you? How do you handle your… inclination to reading that kind of books? Do you hide behind the neutral cover of your e-book reader or would you be happy sitting on the bus or underground, or say, in your doctor’s waiting room holding a print copy in your hand with two (or more) sparsely dressed hunks on the cover? What are your thoughts as readers and how do other authors deal with this?

 Harlequin - Out today on

How can you become a family without admitting to being a couple in the first place?

They're an unlikely couple—Harley Sinclair, pilot and openly gay, likes fast cars, easy boys, and late nights. Quinn Lancaster, lawyer and deep in the closet, likes his life quiet with just that little bit of extra spice that engaging in a ménage with his wife, Miranda, and Harley adds. Neither of them can admit that there might be more to this affair than just indecently hot sex.
A lie soon breaks them apart, but when Miranda dies in an accident, Harley and Quinn are reunited by an even more unlikely couple—twin sons with different fathers. While Harley is willing to commit to the responsibility of having a family, Quinn's fear that accepting Harley at his side will destroy everything he has worked for keeps them apart. But when Harley makes the ultimate sacrifice, Quinn realizes that sometimes, what appears to be the worst case isn’t quite so bad after all…
[Siren Allure ManLove: Erotic Alternative Romance, M/M, with M/F and M/M/F elements, HEA]
 This title is offered at a 15% discount. Offer ends midnight CST, August 4th.


  1. Hello, Sage,

    I'd never really thought about the similarities but you're right on the money here. In many environments, it's at least as difficult for an author to admit to writing erotica (especially when it's not hetero, vanilla erotica) as to admit to having an attraction to one's own gender. It might even be harder, because some people are willing to believe that sexual orientation is not a choice - but hey, you CHOOSE to write this filthy, perverted stuff you're pretending is valid fiction...

    I've "come out" to very few people in my life. For one thing, I don't want to make them uncomfortable. And I don't want to endanger my real world job or position, a distinct possibility. It's galling, though, because I'm proud of what I write (and I'm sure you feel the same way about your books) and I'd love to get some credit.

    Excellent post.

    1. Thank you, Lisabet.
      I'm sorry to hear that you feel like you can't admit to this "side" of yourself because really, as an author you have such a special connection to your work and you should be able to take credit for it - especially if it's as good as yours :)

      In an ideal world, we as lovers of filthy, perverted stuff would have to hide no more than people with a non-standard sexual orientation, but hey, there is always room for improvement, right?

    2. Lisabet,

      I, too, want to put it on my Facebook, share my pseudonym with anyone and everyone, because *I* am not the one ashamed of it. I'm damn proud of what I'm managed so far and will manage in the future. But it is other people's shame I have to avoid, and I have to carefully vet people before I come out to them about what I write.

      And as a still ashamed, closet queer person who had to come out a few times, coming out writing erotica (and specific kinds of erotic) is not quite as intense (because as you said, writing erotica is actually a choice and it's what you do, not what you are), but the feelings are still very, very similar.

  2. Hi, Sage. It's interesting that you come out with this post because I've been through the same thing. I got lucky with my family being okay with it, but I skirt around telling exactly what genre I write to my friends. I sum a book up for them real quickly without actually saying it's m/m. And I too live in a more rural area. Not so rural as your's, but enough that there's no way I'll ever tell my neighbors what genre I right. I just bought my first house last September and I love it, but word spreads quickly in small towns and I'd like to keep living here without troubles.

    I also say this post is interesting because I wrote a similar one a month ago.

    So I know exactly how you feel. It's a shame some of us have to go through such lengths to write what we love, but unfortunately that's the world we live in - but it really needs to change. I'm not embarrased by what I write, but again, I don't want to be shunned by my town.


    Oh, and also I was amazed out how easily my book was taken on by TEB.

    1. Hi Jen,
      thanks for stepping by and sharing your thoughts. I read your post on this topic and I'm sorry to hear you were having such a hard time enjoying MM romance.
      It's great though that you have chosen to "come out" to those close to you, and even more so, that it has worked out for you so far - and congrats on your book!

  3. Your post makes me feel incredibly lucky about having the family I have and the people I work with--my supervisors and coworkers and the entire Mercer clan came out to my book launch. But when I think about it, I realize that while The Prince and The Program is definitely M/M, and the romance is the central issue, it may not be counted as one of *those* books because of the overwhelming SciFi/Fantasy aspects and the utter geekiness. I do know that if I'd written 50 Shades, I'd *never* come out of the author's closet.

    I think there are two different issues at play -- having gay main characters, and writing erotic romance. One or the other can get you into hot water, both together may get you lynched....

    1. Hi Aldous,

      thanks for visiting and leaving a comment!
      You're right, you are lucky having such a great supportive family and friends. It makes me sad to think of all those who are less fortunate and get discriminated against because of their sexual or literary orientation.
      Maybe it's not quite clear from my post, but I don't have a real problem being "out" to my family. My partner just shook his head and said, "I hope you didn't use me as a role model" and his family are also pretty cool about it. My own Mum has yet to officially acknowledge the genre but I guess all that really matters to her is that I'm a published author ;)

      Oh, and lol re your comment that you wouldn't admit to having written 50 Shades. I wouldn't either, but that has little to do with the fact it's erotic romance...

  4. I hope you have lots of success with your book!
    Interesting article you posted.

    Funny thing is, I've been coming out as a lesbian/gay woman (I would personally never use the word queer) routinely for over 30 years in many different situations to a lot of people, but telling that I write erotic-romances that are published in e-book format? I do it, but it's not as easy as saying "I'm married to a woman and we are the parents of 2 sons."

  5. Yes, I agree - this is funny and not what one would expect. I admire you for being "out and proud", it probably hasn't always been easy for you. Hopefully, if the world grows more tolerant of erotic romance, admitting to enjoying it will become easier, too ;)

  6. Great post, Sage! I am lucky I've not had to hide what I write about from my family and friends. Do they all read the same genres, not by a long shot but I've been very surprised by some of the older family members embracing it all. Take my grandmother and my great aunt. Both are in their late 80's and tickled pink I'm an author and even more giggly that I write erotica and erotic romances. I recently made the decision to try writing M/M using another pen name so my readers don't get a rude shock. Have I kept my pen names a secret? Nope. Again I've been lucky to have such great support. I write first of all for myself and hopefully my readers will enjoy it too.

    1. Hey Tammy,
      thanks for visiting! Hehe, I love the story of your grandma and aunt. I can just imagine them giggling away over a nice cuppa ;)
      Congrats on having such a supportive family!

  7. Great post and great comments! It's been an up and down ride for me -didn't mean to make a pun there - lol! But seriously, at first I had planned to keep it completely hush-hush from everyone except my hubby - he was all for it. (he's also openly bi, so perhaps that's part of it) I knew my adult daughters would have no problem - they were raised in a liberal household. But Mom? Certain friends? Co-workers? I've sort of felt I had to pick and choose. Although, my very Mormon co-worker found out and told me "I don't see anything wrong with it." (She may be an exception from her church!)So you can never tell.
    But to speak to Lisabet's concerns - I am generally careful in a work situation, just because you never know who might take offense, and then you have a problem. And there are still certain acquaintances that know what I do, but I won't share my pseudonym. That's probably why they are acquaintances - and not true friends! I believe that my private life is my own - and what I do there is either accepted by my friends and family - or that's their problem. I'm still a little more careful though when it comes to the workplace.

    1. Hi Morticia,

      Thanks for stepping by! Wonderful comment, I totally agree with your views :)
      And it's great that your hubbie and daughters are okay with it, as they're the ones most affected by your, er, passion, lol