Sunday, 13 November 2011

Sunday Sermon - Discrimination

In the furore of the last week, some issues arose which were accused of obfuscating the central problem. THIS POST IS NOT ABOUT THE ORIGINAL ISSUE!

One of the issues was the age-old thorn of women writing in the male/male genre. Many times, I have come across the usual complaint from men that women should not be playing in their bedroom. In the discussions this week, it was a little more specific. In an authors’ forum, I discovered that male readers will discriminate on the basis of how an author chooses their pseudonym. In one instance, all women and androgynous names are immediately rejected.  Another blog calmly said they rejected all stories written by women because women didn’t have a clue about gay men, all their stories were too voyeuristic, the men always cried etc.

Now, apart from the fact that these readers are missing some amazing books, why does this bother me? After all, I have readers. I have male and female readers, and I thank them for it. Why does it bother me that some men discriminate so blithely on the basis of gender? After all, that’s hardly new, is it?

Before you sigh, and think Oh God, another feminist diatribe, nope, well not a long one.

I know that I am not a) a male, b) gay, and c) living in America.

I put the third one in because although homophobia is just as rife in the UK, our laws are national and we are not subject to extreme religious intolerance affecting our schools, health care and benefits. We have the postcode lottery of the NHS, but that’s a whole different story.

So let me say that I have never had to deal with discovering I am gay during my adolescence, deal with coming out to my family and friends in the vulnerable teen years (I did it thirty years later), cope with the homophobia rife in a divisive school system, the religious intolerance, being discriminated against for healthcare and pension benefits, and being beaten up just for being who I am etc.

I want to say that up front , and I thank God for it. Coming out later in life has its own issues, and I’m still partly in the closet. Not as far back as Narnia, but certainly not in the light of day.  

The fact is, as a woman, I understand discrimination in a way men never will. At this point I can see some men throwing their coffee at the screen. Just wait one moment.

I’m going to ignore the thorny issue of women in the third world. As a woman, I expect less pay during my working life, to have restricted career prospects, to lose ‘control’ of my body during pregnancy, to live in a world where feminine is perceived as weak, whereas masculine is strong and where rape has only just started to be taken seriously. Need I go on?

I am a writer. To understand beyond IKEA sex, I’ve spent a long time talking to gay men (and women) to research my genre. I ask lots of questions and keep learning as I go along. I read articles, I read books by gay men, and I do my best not to fuck it up too often.  But the fact is, I’m not a gay man, therefore people won't read my stories because I don't have a dick.

We are lucky in the West. We can choose what to read and which authors float our boat. I read many books in many genres, and I avoid some authors because I know that I dislike their style. But I don't choose to discriminate against men because they may not know what it is like to be a woman. What bothers me is that the very people who are discriminated by who they choose to love (and fuck), practice discrimination on the basis on a lack of a dick.It isn't being bigoted against heterosexuals, but being bigoted against women.

It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.


  1. Sue, it bothers me too. I've talked to a few people about this over the last few days. Bottom line, if we all stuck to 'what we know' when we write, some wonderful stories would never have been told.

    Being a writer is about imagination and empathy. We don't have to 'live' someone else's life to write about it, we just have to understand and hope that we can do our story justice.

    I wish people could just accept authors for their work and not for what they are off the pitch.

  2. It bothers me that in the LGBT community as a whole some of the worst discrimination is within the community. But hell, we're human and subject to human failings. Look at the job market. Employers who choose from a multitude of CVs by whether it is understandable by a fourteen year old! Whether the applicant has used buzz words? Please.

    Discrimination happens at many levels and some surprising ones. Trouble is, if you practice discrimination with your choices, then ultimately, you lose out. You might miss that excellent PA you've been looking for because Ms Thing hasn't used any buzz words because she's too damn intelligent. You may miss the work of an amazing author because she isn't a man. Let's hope this is a nail in the coffin of discrimination and let's learn not to miss out.

    Excellent blog btw. More power to you.

  3. THank You I would stand and clap if you said this in the real world

  4. Hello, I have this same problem. I published three free stories on my website. My pseudonym are letters of my name and surnames, but it's hard to say if I'm a woman or a man behind this letters. Everything was fine until I wrote about myself on my website and men thought I was a man. Some of them even argued with me, after I posted 'about me', they said I'm gay man and pretend to be a woman. A didn't know if I should cry or just laugh.
    The sad part is, now they are dismiss me most of the time. Even if homophobia in Poland has tragic level, and I write for them, wanting to change something in peoples minds. Make them to see more, understand more, feel more...

    Sometimes I want to just ask; how can you don't know what he/she is feeling when he/she is hurting... crying. When he/she love? Isn't it obvious?


  5. "What bothers me is that the very people who are discriminated by who they choose to love (and fuck), practice discrimination on the basis on a lack of a dick."

    It's that hypocrisy that leaves me speechless, really. Your post is on target and well written but my own reaction consists mainly of "WTF????"


  6. @Sue... the concept of 'fiction' seems to have passed many by.
    @Jessie... I know discrimination is a part of life but it just seems as bizarre and frustrating, as gay people suffer themselves.
    @mimhm45... Thank you.
    @AkFA... That's what frustrates me. We are dismissed, just like that. You are brave to write in such an atmosphere.
    @Cooper... yeah WTF is usually my response.