This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately and I wanted to make a blog post about it. Bear with me, please, as I sort through these thoughts. I am not married to all of these thoughts. I’m putting them out here for discussion and to own my conflict. Your own thoughts would be lovely.
Facts about me:
1) I live in the South. As irritated as I get about stereotypes and prejudices about Southerners, it remains true that I live in the Bible Belt. The assumption that any given person I talk to on any particular day is Baptist and that they hold all of the beliefs of that tribe isn’t a poor assumption to make.
2) I am not a Christian. I grew up a Christian and considered myself one until I was in my late twenties. I have always been a spiritual person and most days I believe in God–kinda. I am versed enough in scripture to be able to have a conversation with a religious person without offending them. I’m also versed enough to debate their positions very easily and handily win (from my point of view, not usually from theirs). At this point in my life, I’m not sure that I believe in God. Some days I do, some days I don’t. Oddly enough, having a child and watching her grow was the thing that led to my biggest crisis in faith. I watched how she made up things to explain her world, and it was like seeing back in time to when humans made up their current belief systems. She, however, feels in touch with a God and spirit and I don’t argue that perspective with her. I very much miss fully believing in a God and look forward to maybe one day believing absolutely in a God again.
3) Going to church–any church–makes me believe in God less. So, we don’t go to church. For awhile, I was taking my daughter to an Episcopalian church, and we might do that again, mainly for cultural reasons. I felt that it was important that she have an understanding of the predominant faith of our culture, that it was important that if she ever attended church with a friend that she have some idea of how to behave there and what to expect, and that she be grounded in some of the most important symbolic teachings of our culture. Jonah and the whale, Moses and the Red Sea, Mary Magdalene, Judas and the 30 pieces of silver, etc, etc. But going to Church was making me very angry and making me believe less and less in any kind of God. It wasn’t that they were preaching things that were against my morals. Episcopalians are very open-minded folk for the most part. It was just…the ideas they were presenting about Jesus–this is the blood, this is the body–and the rest of it all seemed so incredibly fairy tale like while I was there that it escalated my crisis of faith. Attending church makes me nearly atheist. So, I quit taking her for now.
4) My husband is not a Christian and never, ever, ever goes to church. Ever. Like ever.
5) The above things make us suspicious to our neighbors and I can already see how it impacts how some of them allow their children to interact with us and my daughter. Down the street we have some very conservative Christian neighbors, the closest ones with children Bird’s age, and they allow Bird to play with their girls at their house only. It has led to some uncomfortable moments with Bird’s feelings being hurt that they won’t allow their girls to play at our house.
Part of me thinks that’s fine and good riddance. Part of me feels like it’s incredibly sad to see my child being shut out of people’s lives just because we aren’t Christian. Part of me feels angry. Part of me doesn’t care. Part of me cares a lot.
6) I write gay romance novels (as well as other things, but that’s what I’ve written the most at this point in my career). The why of that is incredibly long and complicated, so let’s just skip that for now. The end result is that I make a very tiny bit of money from these writings and I am not ashamed of what I write. My title for this post says that I am in the closet about my writing, but that’s not entirely accurate. My husband, my good friends, my parents, my in-laws, and my daughter all know that I write romances and that sometimes the characters are gay.
I am not, however, out of the closet about my books to extended family, most distant friends, or even on Facebook/Twitter/my blog with regards to putting a face with my pseudonym. I’ve posted pictures of my kid and husband and myself from behind or otherwise obscured, but I have not posted pictures of my face. I almost did yesterday. I uploaded one to FB of my new bangs. It was a picture that fully showed my face.
My good friend, Random, clicked like on the picture and I thought, “Okay, now, everyone of her friends, of which I have many in common, will see that this Leta Blake person looks a whole lot like their mutual pal, ME.” And then they’d have a look-see and they’d realize I’d written these books. And they’d see they were gay books. And they’d make assumptions. And they’d tell their friends, and they’d mention to other friends, and word would get around, and the next thing I know my kid’s not being invited to her best friends’ slumber parties because her mother writes gay (dirty gay!) books. So, I deleted it.
Here’s a truth, though: I’ve told enough people that I know the word has gotten around to a degree anyway. I’m not a fool. I know my good friends have told one or two of their good friends who probably mentioned it to a friend of theirs or two, and so far there haven’t been repercussions (much) that I know of.
And I’m glad for that. I don’t want repercussions for me or for Bird or for my husband.
7) READ EVERYTHING IN 6 ABOVE AND MARVEL AT HOW PRIVILEGED THAT ENTIRE THOUGHT PROCESS IS!
Because it is. I’m straight and white and married and living a very vanilla life and I get to “pass” in society as someone “respectable enough”. And not having any consequences (so far) associated with writing things that some aspects of society would consider perverted or wrong is very appealing to me and I don’t want to give that up.
At the same time, I’m making money from writing about gay lives. Granted not much, and granted I’m a decent ally, being vocal about gay rights, and I post publicly and often about that on FB under my real name and my pseudonym. I don’t keep my mouth shut when I see homophobia happening in my life and speak up about it to strangers, friends, and family. I support PFLAG and I donate my time, money, and voice to the cause of equality.
But here I am not being really honest about it, right? Here I am only doing what’s “safe”.
There are kids out there with two daddies or two mommies who are, every day, asked to be braver than I’m being daily about my writing. They go to school and they aren’t invited to slumber parties, or kids claim they can’t attend their birthday parties, because they have gay parents. From the outside, I can say, “Screw those families! Who needs that?” But here I sit not being honest about writing books with gay characters? Not being out and proud about that? Wow, hello Miss Privilege! Want a tiara to go with that?
So, I’m conflicted, people. I’ve got a child. She’s seven years old. She’s amazing and often lonely and I hate to see her rejected because people are prejudiced pieces of poo. But at the same time, why do I get to keep her all safe and cozy? Why do I get to take an easier route? Gay people are encouraged to come out every day to promote acceptance in society. I am thinking about what that means.
Those of you who encourage me to keep my mouth zipped, don’t worry. I’m not rushing out to scream in the streets, “I WRITE GAY BOOKS!!!!!” I’m thinking this through, though, and I wanted to acknowledge it. I wanted to open a discussion about it. Because as a mom, I’m conflicted. If it was just me–just me alone–I’d say “Fuck it, fuck them, and here we go. Full open honesty.” But it’s not just me here. My mama bear wants to protect her cub.
Tell me things, folks. Talk to me.