This is a post I have started several times in the past. I start it and then I talk myself out of posting it and yet, this same issue seems to pop up again and again. I guess you could say it’s more a bunch of smaller issues that are part of a larger whole. Each time it happens I become more and more disheartened with social media, with the gay romance writing community, and with people in general.
I started writing gay romance, not because I wasn’t good enough to break into straight romance—although I’ve been accused of that in the past—but because I believe wholeheartedly in equality. I believe that it is a human right to be able to love whomever we want. That love is one of those things that is precious and should be celebrated.
I believe in treating people with respect; in accepting people for who they are, quirks and all. I believe that we are all different for a reason and each and every one of us can learn something valuable from those who appear so different at a glance.
At its core, the gay romance community is supposed to be a group of people who support equality and inclusivity. After all, we are a band of misfits and outcasts, most of us. Are we not? Of all people, we should know how it feels to be treated unkindly, to be judged at a glance, and to be hated for something outside of our control. If those things do not make us more compassionate, then the bullies, the haters, the ones who want nothing more than to remind us that we are different, they win.
With the growth and acceptance of the gay romance genre and the LGBTI community, I think we forget how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. So when I see things like authors bullying reviewers because they didn’t like the review they got, or reviewers writing hateful reviews that are less about the books and more about the writers, or the never-ending debate about whether or not women can write gay romance, or authors taking advantage of readers, bloggers, or other authors, those things make me sad. I haven’t been a part of this community that long and yet I have seen all of those things multiple times. It’s like there’s a cycle to them, one that needs to be stopped.
Each time you sit down at the computer, or pick up your tablet or smart phone, you need to remember that there is a real live, flesh and blood, human being on the other side of that screen. One that has feelings, feeling that can be hurt. Whoever wrote the rhyme, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” They were wrong. Bones heal and with time we forget the pain of that break. Words, however, they never really go away. Once said, an unkind word can haunt us for the rest of our lives, becoming part of that internal voice telling us that we are not good enough, smart enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, just…ENOUGH. Words can do more damage than anything else.
They can also heal. They can change the world. They can repair bridges and foster friendships.
As a group of avid readers, and of writers, you’d think the power of words would be obvious. That, we, of all people, would be more careful with the things we say.
Even as a writer, I don’t always say things the right way. Sometimes it takes me many, many drafts before I get it right. I like having the screen between the world and me. Not because I’m shy or anything, but because I often say things without thinking and I know I have inadvertently injured people in the past. This screen allows for me to be more thoughtful of my words, to edit myself in a way I can’t do in person.
As I stated at the beginning of this post, I have gone back and forth about posting this online, more times than you can know. I worry that in doing so some people may feel like I am calling them out, when the truth is, I’m not. I’m not pointing fingers or referring to one specific incident. If you feel that I am, then I apologize, because that is not my intent.
The reason I decided to go ahead and write this post was because it is only when we bring things into the light and examine them honestly that we have a chance of changing who we can become. By acknowledging and making a conscious effort to be better, to do better is the only way we can grow. Keeping your head down and pretending that everything is fine, does nothing but perpetuate a society of bullies.
I refuse to be silent any longer. So I’m standing up and saying, “I know we can do better.”