Thursday, April 29, 2010

On Writing Gay; On Living Gay by Rick Reed

"Years ago it would have caused me great pain to even write the word gay on paper to describe myself... Writing has allowed me to change my self-hatred and doubt into true self-esteem and self-love." --The late E. Lynn Harris in his 2003 memoir, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

Wow. I was just having a little breakfast, a copy of Entertainment Weekly devoted to celebrities who has passed during 2009 open before me on the table when I came across that quote. To say it resounded would be putting it mildly. It was like someone had stepped into my own mind and eloquently sorted the emotions, memories, fears, joys, and hopes brewing there and instilled them into a few spare, eloquent words.

I am like E. Lynn Harris. Beyond being gay men and writers, I don't know how much else we have in common. But I have traveled that same territory of self-loathing Harris describes. For so many years, I wore a mask and hid my true self in a closet. For most of my young adulthood, I was a married man, associated only with other straight people, and did not know what the inside of a gay bar looked like. I pondered checking out those vile groups that profess to change gay people into straight. I saw therapists, one of whom told me I could change and that my attraction to my own sex was simply my longing for the loving father I never had. My journey told self-acceptance was long and rough, and it pains me to think I was not the only one hurt on that journey. It now either makes me shake my head, laugh, or cry, when I hear people talk about the gay "lifestyle" or that being gay is a choice or a preference. When I think of how hard I struggled not to be gay, it's hard for me to fathom how someone could view this as a choice. These narrow-minded souls have only themselves to ask the question: when did you make the decision to be straight?

Harris's quote made me think about all of the above and why, today, my stories revolve almost exclusively around gay characters. And, with one exception, most of those stories show gay characters for whom sexuality is simply a part of their lives and not their exclusive reason for being. I try, with my work, to affirm my gay characters and to give them lives worthy of respect. It is only my gay villains--twisted, tortured souls--do I demonstrate not that being gay is unhealthy or wicked, but that not loving oneself can be incredibly damaging. I think that's why some of my gay antiheroes, such as serial killer Timothy Bright in IM, want so much to be understood because they are beyond understanding themselves.

In my ebook short, Through the Closet Door, I write about a young man who was, very much like myself, in a straight marriage with a woman he loves (emphasis here is important) who struggles to accept something he doesn't want but can't escape. Toward the end of that story, he begins, just barely, to love himself for who he is and not who he thinks he should be.

It's been about twenty years since I was a young man similar to the one in that story, and I think the reason the quote I began this blog with resounds so much with me is that I never realized until today how much the things I write have enabled me to grow and develop not only as writer, but as a gay man. I can see how my increasingly turning to gay themes and characters has mirrored my own self-acceptance. I am lately writing a lot about love, and romance has taken a huge role even in my horror/suspense stories. That, I think, is more of a statement than I realized.

I have finally cast aside the chains of self-loathing that once bound me. I no longer hide that I am a gay man. And maybe, just as important, I can stand proud and say, "I write gay fiction...exclusively. Because these are my people..."

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In their October 2006 issue, Unzipped magazine said: "You could call Rick Reed the Stephen King of gay horror." And Dark Scribe magazine said: "Reed is an established brand - perhaps the most reliable contemporary author for thrillers that cross over between the gay fiction market and speculative fiction." To date, Reed has twelve published novels to his credit, and his short fiction has appeared in more than 20 anthologies. His novel, ORIENATION, won the EPPIE Award for best LGBT novel of 2008. He lives in Seattle, WA.

Rick's Homepage
Rick's Blog
Check out Rick's latest book, the heart-pounding child abduction thriller, MUTE WITNESS.

43 comments:

runner10 said...

Good luck with your book.

Natasha A. said...

You are a very strong person! I'm happy that you are able to live life without the lie. I wish society was more accepting and no one had to lie about who they live and how they love.
Thank you!

nmulder81 said...

I must say I am intruigued by your writing. This conference has introduced me to so many new authors that I had never had the pleasure of knowing. I was on your site today looking over the books. There were a few that "spoke" to me. The overcoming of any obstacle in life is something that everyone struggles with...its how you handle them that shows your true character. Thankyou for shedding some light on the subject and for writing a genre many are still afraid to do.

Katy M said...

Thank you for your post, it was very moving. I am so glad that you are proud not just to be gay but to be an author of gay fiction. I think authors with your "self-esteem and self-love" express that confidence in your writing and can help change readers' own negative views of themselves - gay or straight.

robynl said...

loving oneself is the key to gaining ground and to being happy; love on.

Toni said...

I am glad that you are able to accept yourself for who you really are. I think that we all at one time or another hide behind a mask that really isn't us. Good Luck on your writing career.

Andrea Becraft said...

My friend Jambrea has it best on her website. Love is love no matter what the gender! Thanks for blogging with us!

Linda Henderson said...

Good luck with your writing, and stay true to yourself.

Sherry said...

Your books sound really good and I can't wait to read them. I think everyone should live life by being honest to and about themselves.

sstrode@scrtc.com

erahime said...

I'm proud to know that you have reached the end of your path towards self-discovery. I also want to congratulate you for being a role model for everyone who is having the same struggles as you have. You opened yourself up in your post and we deeply appreciate it.

Keep up the good work!

sonya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurie Ryan said...

Wow. What a powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing, Rick. And I agree with you so much about how we grow with each story we write. We write about human emotions and I learn something more about myself with each one.
Thanks for the great post.

sonya said...

Awesome post Thanks for sharing with us and your book sounds interguing

Lillie said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Raonaid Luckwell said...

I commend you for being so strong to stick up for your sexual orientation. I too wish society was more understanding and accepting. Love is Love, and you sometimes have no power on who you love.

Rebecca Ringler said...

Very interesting blog, Rick. I have had many ??'s about this subject as I feel I grew up in a very black & white home w/ no middle. I think most importantly of all I have learned not to judge others & I wish I would have learned this sooner. I am a much happier person today than I was several years ago. Thank you for sharing your story.

Valerie said...

I have to second what Rebecca posted. I wish that we lived in a world that did not judge one another for one reason or another. Sadly, that utopia is not right around the corner. I try to live my life along the golden rule of don't judge others lest you be judged. I believe we were all made unique for a reason, each of us are precious, and each of us are crucial to the "plan". I commend you on your journey of self-discovery. Good luck with your writing and thank your for sharing your story. :)

zina seawitch6464@yahoo.com said...

Hello, I like your book cover, it looks like it will be a good story. I think having the eyes only are more powerful than say a whole face or body, it grabs you.
Zina

Cathy M said...

What a profound post, Rick, thank you for sharing that with us.

donnas said...

Thank you for sharing. Good Luck with your books.

Rhea said...

What a wonderful post, and I am glad to hear you are able to live without the lies. Kudos to you for sharing your story.

Rick R Reed said...

Thanks so much to all of you for the wonderful, life-affirming comments you posted. I would be honored if any of you too the time to read any of my work and would love it if you'd take the time to let me know what you think. And thanks so much to Lucy for giving us this forum.

LM's Drama Queen said...

What an ispiring story! I love hearing about stories like yours, where people somehow find the strength to overcome their deepest inner battle. I think it's great you were able to accept yourself for who you are and stop trying to change the uncontrollable. I can only pray that the rest of the world will follow in your footsteps and recognize it is not our place to determine what is "acceptable" and what is not. Fantastic post, Rick!

XOX
~*DQ*~

Jane said...

Congrats on all your success, Rick.

Lady_Graeye said...

Accepting oneself is hard, being accepted is even harder. They both go hand in hand. You seem to be doing a great job. Your story is inspiring. Good luck with you book and others to follow.

etirv said...

More power to you, Rick! Keep writing!

booklover0226 said...

Bravo, Rick, Bravo!

I'm familiar with Rick's works and look forward in reading IM.

Thanks,
Tracey D

Sponge said...

Luved how you boomeranged the question about lifestyle. Your insights from your own journey will give lots of hope to those soring out their identity. Your intense heart-to-heart discussion is so relevant. Many thanks.
Adam

Lucy Monroe said...

Rick...I told you before, but I loved this post. Thanks so much for taking the time to be a special guest at the RAH Conf and I hope you'll come back! :) I now have three of your books on my Sony reader - must simply find/make time to read them! :)

Margay said...

Good for you, Rick! I admire your strength and courage, but mostly, your integrity. I think it is very important for everyone to be true to who they are, no matter what that is, and for each of us to honor and respect that. Best of luck in all that you do.
Margay

Carol L. said...

HiRick,
I am so happy for you that you removed the chains of self loathing.
And that you are living as you want and happy doing it.. A very moving post. I will check out your book list.Thanks for sharing Rick.
Carol L.
Lucky4750@aol.com

Rick R Reed said...

Lucy...make that time! I'm dying to know what YOU think.

And thanks so much for having me on. I'd be more than happy to return anytime.

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Simply......a brilliant post!

Jan said...

Excellent post!

And my DIL is from Seattle.

Dannyfiredragon said...

Hi Rick,

great post. Thanks for blogging with us here!

rhianona said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I think it is important for people to realize that for a person to realize they are gay may not be an easy road, and that that road isn't helped by some of the prevailing prejudices in the world today.

joder said...

I'm a big fan of the m/m genre and enjoy Rick's writing. I'm proud of him living his life out in the open and I look forward to his next release.

Amanda said...

This was such a great post to read!

Nancy G said...

I've come recently to the m/m genre, but I find that I'm liking it more all the time. As one of my favorite authors says, love supercedes gender, and true love knows nothing of it.

Juliet said...

Hi Rick~
Great post! Thanks for sharing your story with us! Wishing you the best in your personal life and your career.

Maria said...

No one should have to hide who they really are. Hoping for success with your writing.

lrwirum said...

I enjoyed reading the post.

Larena

Leni said...

Congratulations on The Blue Moon Cafe receiving the Coffee Time Reviewer's Recommend Award. And just like everyone else I wanted to thank you for such a great post.