An Ordinary World

books, blabberings, and a life semi-common

Gay Shouldn’t Matter

On my Twitter feed yesterday, I found a link to an interesting (and appalling) blog post, thanks to the incredible Melissa Marr. In the blog, author Jessica Verday discusses her reasoning for pulling out of an anthology being released this fall called WICKED PRETTY THINGS. I want to state, right now, that I had no idea this anthology was being released nor have I read anything by Verday. However, the link caught my attention and so did the post itself.

She states to her readers:

The simple reason? I was told that the story I’d wrote, which features Wesley (a boy) and Cameron (a boy), who were both in love with each other, would have to be published as a male/female story because a male/male story would not be acceptable to the publishers.

I’m not an affluent reader of the gay and lesbian genre though I’ve read a few. It isn’t a genre that naturally catches my attention and there isn’t any particular reason for it. It’s not my usual “cup o’ tea” in literature though I will admit to reading much of it in certain fan fiction.

Immediately upon reading Verday’s explanation, I have to admit to being incredibly astounded, not only because it is clearly foregoing the idea of a gay relationship as opposed to a male/female relationship but also because how can someone suggest such a massive and incredible change in another’s writing? While editors and publishers often make slight changes, most of it comes in the form of questioning the way a particular scene is written or correcting sentence structure, etc. Yes, of course there are bigger changes that sometimes need to be made but the thought of asking such a central relationship (as this particular one seems to be) to change its very make-up is so wrong in my mind.

Verday is also quick to note:

I’ll try to keep the “not-so-simple” reason from becoming a rant and just sum it up by saying that that was SO Not Okay with me. I immediately withdrew my story and my support for the anthology.

to which I applaud her. She simply states what happened and her stance on the matter rather than writing a vengeful post of any sort. More than that, I am glad she stuck to her beliefs and ideas regarding the relationship of two males in her submission.

Every now and then, I read of someone who changes something crucial in his or her writing (whether it is for a professional piece of work or something done for fun) that I have to wonder if that particular author just wants to be seen or be known. While the process of writing is both difficult and eye-opening, it is obvious when someone changes his or her mind on a whim in order to satiate the crowds and Verday definitely does the opposite which is something refreshing to actually hear about nowadays.

In the publisher’s defense, the editor of the anthology, Trisha Telep, responded to Verday’s post with the following:

Oh dear. Might as well give you my two cents. Not that it really matters but… Don’t take it out on the publishers, the decision was mine totally. These teen anthologies I do are light on the sex and light on the language. I assumed they’d be light on alternative sexuality, as well. Turns out I was wrong! Just after I had the kerfuffle with jessica, I was told that the publishers would have loved the story to appear in the book! Oh dear. My rashness will be the death of me. It’s a great story. Hope jessica publishes it online. (By the way: if you want to see a you tube video of me wrestling a gay man in Glasgow, and losing, please let me know).

While I appreciate the admission that it was her own decision and not that of Running Press (which, I believe, publishes gay and lesbian titles separately), the response left a bad taste in my mouth.

First of all, the connotation of “Not that it really matters…” seems like a cry for attention that is being held at bay in order to make one’s self look more humble. It doesn’t come across as anything but “I have more to do right now than attempt to save my name in the face of hundreds of readers.”

The second part that really annoys me is the comparison of sexual content and coarse language in an anthology of YA short stories to the sexualities of the characters. What, exactly, do those things have in common? It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges, if I can use such a cliched phrase. If that is the excuse Telep is giving, I am, to be honest, afraid to wonder what else she may compare in the anthologies she creates. Will race matter in the next one, just as much as how many times a character says the word shit?

And finally, I honestly do not understand the merit of her parenthetical ending in the response. Is that particular video supposed to act as a sort of proof that she has no issue with those in non-traditional relationships (used here only because I’m too lazy to keep typing out gay, lesbian, transgendered, etc. even though I just did anyway)? Look… Telep may have had her own reasoning, however unwarranted or unfounded, for wanting the sexual preferences of the characters changed. Perhaps she was of the belief that the anthology would reach a wider audience if it did not included stories such as Verday’s (though, why, I have no idea). That being said, writing something as asinine as “By the way: if you want to see a you tube video of me wrestling a gay man in Glasgow, and losing, please let me know)” as a comment to a blog that is quickly becoming scene as an outstanding stand for one’s self and the issues faced daily for many people, is horrid and truly makes Telep sound like someone uneducated in the face of today’s issues as well as in light of the stereotypes that so often hurt others.

These are problems that happen all the time – the slighting of preferences (sexually or otherwise) in media that people don’t often see. I say kudos to Verday for bringing it out in the open in a classy way and for being steadfast in her knowledge and belief that the story she wrote is how it should be read.

If I’m being honest, I want to read the story because this entire situation caught my attention, which is not something I probably would have thought had it just been in the anthology. As I’m reading through the comments of the blog, I have a feeling I’m not alone in that sentiment.

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2 responses to “Gay Shouldn’t Matter

  1. Sara 24 March 2011 at 3:25 pm

    That woman’s response claiming responsibility for the story getting cut should have ended after she said that the publishers would have loved for it to be in the book.

    Also, her saying that she wrestled a gay man and lost is wildly inappropriate. 1. Not relevant to her point. 2. What does it matter that he’s gay?

    I read something about talking to gay people today that is almost relevant here. “Asking which gay guy is the ‘woman’ and which is the ‘man’ is like going to a Chinese restaurant and asking which chopstick is the fork.” But that’s what went through my head when you said, “It’s a bit like comparing apples to oranges, if I can use such a cliched phrase.”

    I hate people who make a big stink about gayness, race or otherwise. (To clarify, not you in the blog, more like people pulling stories from anthologies.) Does it MATTER? A guy loving a guy is no different than a guy loving a girl or a girl loving another girl. It’s just love. I hate that people are so scared by it.

    Okay, I’m rambling. Time to end this bitch.

    • Mary 24 March 2011 at 3:27 pm

      Oh, I hate that so much two about which role a person plays in a relationship. Any time I hear someone ask that, I want to answer for them, “The role of a lover, a friend, and a man (or woman, depending on the relationship) in a committed relationship.” Because truly, that is all that should matter and all that is relevant!

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