Speaking to gay men a few years older than me, I realised that ‘once upon a time’ in a past not that far from now, reading gay literature, or books with gay characters, was an act of courage and defiance.
Nowadays, if you care to look on Amazon, you will find many books with gay characters, some which I would class as gay literature, others simply tapping into a fascination with gay sex (where the divide between sex and romance is in fact quite blurred), with covers often portraying two hunks in very erotic positions.
Although most gay literature has refrained from going for the easy catch of the erotically overcharged cover art, m/m romance, mainly novels written about gay men, or what is perceived by some as being gay sex life, seems to have championed this type of cover art, so much so that I personally find it hard to distinguish such titles by the cover, as there is only so much variation that can be offered on a theme.
But I am digressing… Or am I?
This seems, at first sign, to be an encouraging sign, the sign that finally we can read what we like and not risk discrimination on trains, buses, on the underground, in parks! But hey, there’s the rub: while men a generation older than myself really risked being bullied (beaten up, assaulted…let’s not forget even murdered) for being openly gay in our very cities and towns, and a book cover can say so much about a person’s sexuality… Book covers are no longer what we present to fellow passengers on the train. In fact, we now present a sterile and anonymous device, called a Kindle (or similar appliance), which has liberated us from fear of homophobia…or has it?
I wonder how many of these readers could open a paperback copy of the very same books on a nigh bus, even in London…
So, just a reflection…isn’t your Kindle just another closet?