We Don’t Talk About That
Breaking the Ice, a novella about ice-fishing and awakening love between two Wisconsin men, celebrates sports fishing and winter—and it also takes on passive homophobia. Ask your average person in the state about their thoughts on any LGBTQ issue and they’re likely to not say much. Being put on the spot is uncomfortable because, well, that’s not the Wisconsin way, to put people on the spot. If someone’s gay, that’s their business.
What’s the point in bringing it up?
There is a point, of course, but Wisconsin people would rather not get caught up in all that. My home state is maddeningly determined to let some things go unspoken. Friendliness is one of the state populations’ highest virtues, along with a justifiably famous willingness to pitch in and help each other in times of need. Being hostile simply isn’t in a Wisconsinite’s genes.
That isn’t to say people don’t give a darn. It’s just that acceptance of another person is not the same as approval of their lifestyle. I recall a conversation about a gay co-worker that turned to curiosity about what he did on weekends. “Well,” said one man, “He’s in my bowling league. He’s a damn good bowler.” Doesn’t it bother the other guys? asked another. “Don’t know. We don’t talk about that. We talk about work and bowling.”
To be sure there’s homophobia in Wisconsin. There’s also misogyny, and racism, and a deep antipathy to public transportation. For the most part, though, no one will hold much of anything—except for being a vile human being—against you, as long as you respect their right to feel differently. The state motto is “Forward,” and Wisconsin people believe in doing that, despite recent news stories about some well-known state politicians. After all, Wisconsin’s Territorial motto was “Civilization Succeeds Barbarism.” It was too long to fit on the new State Seal.
There’s a character in Breaking the Ice who exemplifies a common kind of passive homophobia not specific to Wisconsin but often found there. If asked, this character would say he’s not homophobic. He’s accepting of gay people. Knows a few. Works with them okay. Sure, he says things, but it’s just in good fun. It’s not homophobic because it’s not hostile… right? Actually, no… it’s not okay. And the story deals with that aspect.
John, who has been influenced by this character, finally wakes up to what he’s been doing while talking with bartender Sally:
She studied him from beneath graying bangs. “Why do you hang out with those loudmouths from the wire works? They only stop by after bowling because stirring up trouble is their idea of having fun. They’ve been coming in here trying to get under Matt’s skin ever since he got that job and they learned he meets here with his friends.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Wouldn’t mind hearing your take on what it is like.”
“They think…. They told me he’s okay with it. He plays along. When bowling, he wiggles his ass and”—was he actually feeling his cheeks turn red?—“he wears rainbow shoes, he encourages them. He thinks it’s funny.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
Maybe not. He’d paid closer attention the other night and had seen the way Wasko’s jaw tightened, his lips pressed into a hard line. He hadn’t looked like a man having fun. Wasko might be playing along… but he wasn’t okay with it. Not even a little.
John felt sick. “Yeah. Maybe not.”
Homophobia isn’t always loud, or in your face. Sometimes it’s sneaky silent.
I asked a relative if she knew any gay outdoorsmen, or ice-fishers. She said, “Probably. But we don’t talk about that.”
So I’ve based the characters in Breaking the Ice on decades of Wisconsin people I’ve known and loved, admired and disagreed with. And some with whom I am totally on the same page because, you know, we have talked about that.
About the Book
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Series: States of Love
Length: 86 Pages
Release Date: April 19
Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press || Amazon || B&N || iBooks
Blurb: For Matt Wasko, February in Wisconsin is the best time of the year, and ice fishing on Lake Winnebago is his idea of heaven. With shanty villages cropping up, barbeques on the ice, monster sturgeon to spear, and plenty of booze to keep everybody warm, things couldn’t be better—until a surprise storm hits and an uninvited guest shows up at his frozen doorstep.
Matt’s not happy to see John Lutz, a coworker who cracks lame gay jokes at Matt’s expense. But John’s flimsy new ice shelter got blown across the lake, and it wouldn’t be right to leave even a jerk outside to freeze. Would it?
In the close quarters of Matt’s fabulous ice shanty, between stripping off wet clothes, misadventures with bait, and a fighting trophy-sized walleye, the two men discover creative ways to keep the cold at bay. And when John confesses his long-running attraction, Matt must decide if he can believe in John’s change of heart—and crack the ice for a chance at finding love.
About the Author
Tali Spencer delights in erotic fantasy and adventure, creating worlds where she can explore the heights and shadows of sexual passion. A hopeful romantic and lover of all things exotic, she also writes high fantasy and science fiction. If you would like to see inspiration pictures for her characters, or glimpse how she envisions her worlds, including works in progress, check out her Pinterest boards.