To anyone who has been following the recent years’ development of what passes as ‘gay literature’, I am sure that the great proliferation of gay vampires, werewolves and other such exotic creatures has not passed unnoticed. When I first bumped into these books, I must admit I was fairly pleased. Coming from a time when books with gay characters had to be hidden from view, epitomised in Giovanni’s Room, through the age of kindle, where you can hide your cover from your fellow passengers on the train, or, as a matter, not even go to a shop to buy a book, the explosion of such life (or death) forms on the ‘literary’ scene was, at first, refreshing.
i attempted a few, diligent and gay as I am, thinking that I would enjoy them. And in a way I did, more as comedies than what they purported to be: erotic romances. For anyone who has had a male gay experience in life, it is clear that these books are not written for us gay men. in reality, I see that many of them are not even written by gay men, but often by pen names who, on closer scrutiny, appear to have no experience whatsoever of what it means to be gay. They certainly have a macho vision of what it means to be gay, as the apparatus necessary for such sexual feats is, in fact, superhuman. So, how did this craze come about, and what have been the consequences on gay literature?
I have done a bit of research, mainly asking readers on various sites, nothing scientific, but mainly anecdotal, but the maths seems to work. The suspicion arose when I read in one f the biggest forums dedicated to this ‘genre’ (it’s not a genre, I am well informed by experts, but merely a tag) a thread asking if anybody knew any gay people. Then, only then (silly me), I started checking the profiles of the people taking part in the forum: mainly women, mainly from the US, with a few exceptions. I have nothing against women fantasising about gay sex, don’t get me wrong, and I need to owe to them that they do not call this format ‘gay’, but m/m romance. Still, if you look up gay, you will find m/m romance as the biggest and first choice. And this is what I resent. As a gay man, mine is a matter of gender and sexuality, not of a sexual encounter. Sexuality runs deep in the foundations of personality, occasional (even if repeated) sex gets swept under the carpet of denial and soon forgotten.
Personally, I do to fantasise about lesbians having sex. If I did so, I would consider doing the honourable thing and having the operation, then living the life I dream of. But I am not here to tell people they should be living by my principles. If they prefer to read about gay vampires having sex (though I keep feeling vampires must be ridden with all sorts of venereal diseases, due to their eating habits), then transport their imagination into the bliss of their marital bed, good for them.
What I object to is the representation of gay men (vampires, werewolves etc) as ‘others!. A quick flick through any literary handbook, and the idea that vampires and the like (seen from a psychoanalytic and post colonial perspective) is exactly the same of ‘the madwoman in the attic’, of the creole, the foreigner with dark skin and a deranged personality we find in Jane Eyre. I resent being described, yet again, as ‘the other’, ‘the alien’ and ‘the exotic’. This creates a wall between the reality of our situation and the way we are perceived which, in it’s own way, is no less homophobic than calling people ‘faggots’ or ‘poofs’. I am not different; I’m an individual.
Can we blame fantasies? Certainly not. Yet feminists, post-colonial critics and others have argued along these exact same lines against prejudice, and why shouldn’t we? Why should feminists have a right to say that women are presented as weak, irrational etc in books, and we gay men not have a right to say that we are yet again presented as weird, not human and ‘other’?
My last point concerns literature. What has this explosion of gothic gay sub-human characters brought about in terms of gay literature? Real, honest gay literature, even very creative in some cases, is out there, but the names of gay writers, or writers who discuss gay issues in their novels are overshadowed by the incessant flow of quickly produced gay vampire novels, written by people who often won’t even put their real names to the stories they write (maybe ready to change pen name and move to the next craze, a bit like vampires sucking lord out of their victims?) that the mainstream readership sees as ‘gay novels’, thus again giving gay people a stereotype they never looked for, imposed by others and by fashion…sex addicts from beyond the grave… Will this stereotype stick with us like campiness etc? I hope not, but I fear so.