Sunday, 6 November 2011

On using a marginalised pseudonym

There has been a drama in the m/m genre with a popular author using a male pseudonym and fake gay bio (quite an elaborate one at that) – and it turns out that (SHOCK HORROR) she is actually a woman. Several people have rightfully condemned said fraud. And others are shocked, SHOCKED that such deceptions have been practised.

I sometimes wonder if these people practice their shocked face in front of the mirror to maintain its authenticity – or whether they have problems with their memory because, really, at what point does a thing have to be repeated for you not to be shocked by this?

I was going to write a long long post about it, but, again, I remind myself that this is a shark tank I don't want to jump into and those who get it already do, those who don't will defend just about anything (though I will say I am vaguely amused by the people commenting in threads saying how terribad such behaviour is when they have done/defended such in the past) and, frankly, I don't want another migraine causing inbox full of privilege, entitlement and gross homophobia which I always get whenever the subject is touched on.

My general posts on m/m genre are still in my tags and I won't repeat them

I will say that using an identity like this is out of line. When you pretend to be a marginalised body you are claiming an experience you haven't had. At the most basic, this is like putting “Dr.” before your name when you don't have the qualifications to back it. But it's worse than that – because you're not only claiming an experience you don't have – but you're claiming a marginalisation you haven't experienced – your claiming an insight into a persecuted body that you do not have. You are exploiting our persecution for your own gain.

But further, I will say that I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that it's difficult to nigh impossible to find an actual book about gay men written by gay men – especially if it's a romance. There are only a relative few gay male writers in this genre I can say that I know are gay men with any degree of certainty. Oh there are many with male names and many with male biographies – but how can I trust that? How can I pick up a book and know it's my own people's stories and not Julian McHomo, the pan-name of Suzy Nym?

And, yes, that matters. Not because all books with gay male characters written by women are horrible and unworthy (far from it and it was straight female writers in the genre who first saw and called out this particular arseholery) – but because I want to read stories from that experience, who have lived it from men who have been there to a man who has been there (and from men who have been there to young men and teens who are there and are going to be there). So please, ye gods, please don't dismiss this, don't say “it doesn't matter whether the author is straight or not” because to many of us it does, it matters a lot – it matters to have our stories told by ourselves.

And to head off the usual excuse – no, I am not against pseudonyms nor am I against avoiding persecution by hiding a marginalised state. But there is a world of difference between calling yourself George Elliot because a sexist society won't listen to a woman or calling yourself Fred Lasers because sci-fi is so riddled with misogyny – and calling yourself Julian McHomo so you can give your books “more authenticity” (and it takes more than a bloody name to be authentic). One is escaping consequences of marginalisation, the other is APPROPRIATING marginalisation. And, frankly, I don't believe ANY of you don't understand this – so if you do raise this tired excuse I'm going to assume you're just a homophobe desperately trying to derail, deny and excuse.

Oh, and for crying out loud people, no these authors are NOT being “OUTed” as straight and they're not “coming out” as straight. Seriously, do I even have to say why that's not freaking ok?

It occurs to me that this post is not likely to stop the inevitable inbox siege. But then, nothing ever does so perhaps I should not spend so much effort tip-toeing through the text