Why I Write Gay Romance


June 19, 2014 by Anne Tenino

Recently, the issue of why I write gay romance came up (again). I was prompted to attempt an answer (again). Here it is.

And FYI? I’m moderating comments and blocking insulting ones.

Why do I—a straight woman—write about two men falling in love? I have a list of answers longer than my arm, but mostly I’ve stopped trying to explain it. I haven’t fully figured it out myself, yet, even with the help of my therapist. However, in this post, I’ll tell you what I do know.

The people in my head who speak to me are men.

I suffer from a non-clinical neurosis peculiar to authors and screenwriters, wherein the voices aren’t trying to tell me to kill the neighbor’s cat or top that ice cream with fish fertilizer. Instead, they want to tell me their story, and they want me to tell it to others in turn (unless and until I get a PA system wired directly to my brain).

I suppose I could try to write about women—give a quick sex change to one of the characters nattering on up there—but I cannot fully express how falsely icky that feels. I’d be suppressing not only my truth, but someone else’s truth; that of the dudes in my head, who are very real to me. And very male. And sometimes, very gay (and less so other times).

If that’s not enough of an answer for you, I’m very sorry. I can offer an anecdote from my early days, when I was still trying (and largely failing) to write about heterosexual couples, that may help you to see it my way. Back then, when I told my mother about my aspirations, her response was “You could write anything, why would you want to write romance?”

At the time I think my response to her was along the lines of, “yeah, whatever.” Now my response would be “Yes, Mom. Yes I can write anything, and the thing I want to write is romance.”

Because, as I recently told another author (Ethan Stone, FWIW), I’ve got no patience left for people who think writing romance is a lesser art. I see value in it, and I love it. I also feel it’s difficult to do well, and it takes dedication and skill. I’m committed to writing it to the best of my abilities, with honesty. I’m dedicated to honoring the tradition of the genre—taking readers along for the ride when two people fall in love.

I just happen to write mine with men in it. And to everyone who thinks that’s somehow wrong, all I can offer is that it feels wrong to me to write any other way.

I’ll close with another anecdote, how about? This one is very recent—minutes ago, in fact. I asked my friend if he’d “read over my post about why I write gay romance.” I meant for typos and such, but I think his response pretty well sums up my own reasoning.

He said, “I don’t think you need a reason, so I’m not your guy.”

17 thoughts on “Why I Write Gay Romance

  1. I love your reasons, and there are no better reasons than the ones you listed. As a gay man I greatly related to this paragraph:

    I suppose I could try to write about women—give a quick sex change to one of the characters nattering on up there—but I cannot fully express how falsely icky that feels. I’d be suppressing not only my truth, but someone else’s truth; that of the dudes in my head, who are very real to me. And very male. And sometimes, very gay (and less so other times).

    While seeking publication for my Men of Myth novels, I was told to do exactly that. People would really like these books, they said, if only I made the characters straight. I could sell a ton of books, they said, why would I limit myself by making them gay? Because they characters in my head are gay! This especially hit home since I’d been asked so many times in my life why I wasn’t straight. Because, I’m gay. Period.

    So, Anne, thank you for being true to both the characters in your head and to yourself!

  2. Katyna says:

    People shouldn’t have to defend why they do what they do (unless they are hurting someone else). You write books that make people happy. Romance is hard to get right. I’ve read every type of combination of people/werewolf/knight/viking/alien out there (except dinosaur) and it is not easy. And comedy is hard. It’s easy to make someone cry, just have a character in your book kick a puppy. It is not easy to make someone laugh until they cry. You write funny romance books. I don’t think there is enough credit that can be doled out to a person that writes funny romance books. And you wrote meta romance. I don’t think there is award in the romance community nice enough for a person that wrote a funny meta romance book. I can’t even imagine how hard that must have been.

    I’m happy that you write about guys. You do a great job. I hope that you don’t ever take anyone’s negative comments about what you do seriously. I look forward to your books as much as I look forward to the next David Sedaris or Christopher Moore or Jennifer Cruise.

  3. karihiga says:

    I think Thory is right, you don’t need a reason, a rationale, or a justification. You write them, we read them. And if they are good, like your stories, then I don’t care about your gender.

  4. suzanawylie says:

    You may want to have a read of one of my posts here — (I also write M/M romance.)

  5. kat. says:

    I agree with your friend Thorny! You do not need to explain yourself to anyone – write what you want, the way you want. The rest is all fluff.

  6. Jaycee Edward says:

    I’ve had the exact same questions. Everyone thinks it’s wonderful I’ve decided to write. Then comes the disappointment. “Why would you want to write about that?” And the one that really galls me, “I think that’s a waste of your talent.” Really? And you even KNOW I have talent because….? It’s not like you’ve even READ what I’ve written…or ever will. My first attempt was a het romance. I struggled and struggled with it. It just wasn’t coming. I was forcing the characters to speak. They never once spoke on their own. But two guys were talking VERY loudly in my head. About that same time, a very good, virtual, friend said, “You should write what you want and screw everyone else.” So I did. It’s not done yet – life has gotten in the way – but they are still speaking LOUDLY and I’m listening to every word.

    • Jaycee Edward says:

      This post just crossed my timeline today and I wanted to comment. Glad I decided to read the comments before posting, because, boy, was I shocked to see I’d already commented! LOL! So, here I am, seven months later and by now I’ve ‘met’ Thorny, he actually lives near me – so his comment made me smile so big and he’s right. You don’t need a reason. None of us do. We do it because we want to.

  7. I love the beautiful simplicity of this answer. Thank you for sharing it. It makes perfect sense to me🙂

  8. Ulysses Dietz says:

    Love what you said. While I AM curious as to why it’s male characters who speak to you; who feel right to you, I don’t really care. I’m glad you write about men falling in love with men. As a gay man who reads gay romance, I NEED these guys in my books, because there aren’t enough of them in real life. Simple as that.

  9. TracyTG says:

    Great answer, Anne! And I’m sorry you got asked this (again.) I’m so tired of this question, and its often underlying theme of what women are “allowed” to write about. Queer women writers get asked the same thing, and often followed-up by, “What aren’t you writing about women? Shouldn’t THAT be your focus?” Like somehow who we are dictates how we are supposed to express ourselves creatively.

    I vote for a moratorium on answering this question of “Why do women read/write gay romance?” Unless the response is, “Why are you asking why a woman does this? What is a woman supposed to write/read about?”

  10. Margaret says:

    I want to write gay romance (Fantasy or Si-fi with gay coupling) but in my country (Someplace in Asia) the publisher tend to be picky. they Forbid gay script (because of the sex scene and of course the ‘gay’ itself), HELL they even WRITE DOWN (in the contract) they wont accept FANTASY or SI-FI script (is too many already), so to me (not yet debuted) only leave with HET romance (but forbid sex scene as well).
    I found it difficult to write romance moreover I have to write HET romance (not to said with so much limitation), I’m struggling just to finish every page (I’m crying in blood everyday). as you said we could try to write about women give a quick sex change, but THEY wont fit, I cant rewrite their affection.
    so, Just be yourself and be proud, because you still can be published, can write what you love to write. someone in far far country. not so much lucky to publish what she want to write most (MM fantasy romance). screw everyone else, trust me I’m on your side🙂

  11. Susan says:

    Hi Anne, I haven’t posted in a while but I wanted to chime in here.

    It should be simple, if some asks again (and I’m certain they will because sooooo many people just can’t think outside of their own little box) you could just tell them: “I write gay romance because I enjoy it and I’m good at it.” (And by the way, you’re not just good, you’re GREAT at it.)

    That’s it: no qualifiers, no “reasons”. No one should have to qualify their choices to anyone else. Your choices in life, from what you wear to how you hold your fork during meals are YOUR choices. If someone doesn’t like it, tough cookies. And on the plus side, I’ve found more often that not, when you give someone a short and confident answer it stumps them and they just shut the hell up. And if they keep asking, just repeat the exact same thing and give them the ‘ol stare down. They’ll get the message. Unless of course, they’re aliens from another galaxy, homophobic jackasses, or over the age of 90 – and in those cases you’ll NEVER be able to give them a good enough answer no matter what you say.

    I’ve had people ask me why I like reading gay romance. I give them a similar simple answer: “Because I enjoy it.” And for the few people that dare to venture further to say something idiotic like: “Doesn’t it bother you that it’s about two MEN?” I usually say, “Uh, obviously not, or I wouldn’t bother to read it.” This is often followed by my patented ‘you’re a moron’ stare. (I have been told I can be a bit of a hard ass though. lol ) Because if someone is going to ask me if it “bothers me”, then what they’re really saying is that it ‘bothers’ them and THAT is not MY problem. If someone is genuinely curious and not judgmental, I might explain that my favorite part of traditional romances is usually the guy anyway, rather than the girl, and in gay romance it’s not just about one guy but two! Double the fun for me!

    So keep doing what you love and the rest of us will thank you for your hard work and amazing stories.🙂

  12. What really gets to me is the way on the one hand, women are told that they shouldn’t write m/m romance because it’s “not their story”… and on the other hand, writers are told “we need more ‘diverse’ books with gay characters.”

    Political correctness rides again – in opposite directions.

    Write whatever you like, and people can read it or not as they please.🙂

  13. Anne Tenino says:

    I’ve been really remiss in responding to comments on this post, partly because I’m kind of overwhelmed by them. I knew other people in the genre agreed with me, and have struggled with bias, but being faced with all of your support . . . I guess I didn’t know how to thank you all.

    Then it occurred to me that I could just say “Thank you.”

    (((((((group hug))))))

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