I’m finding the blogosphere to be an interesting place for book research. As my character’s lives are moving forward they are developing their own personalities. The son of my protagonist is only five, but already I know something about him that even his dad doesn’t. He’s gay. This leads me to writing about something I know little to nothing about. I’m not gay. I have friends who are gay, colleagues that are gay, a massage therapist that is gay, but no one I really feel comfortable asking awkward questions about gay love and gay courtship and gay feelings. I’m pretty sure human resources would get involved if I scheduled a meeting to ask my two gay teammates about the first time they fell in love.
Bloggers choose what they are open about though, and through the words of my cohorts I can learn. I’ve been fretting about the coming adulthood of my character and worried about how to handle his early relationships and his dad’s reaction. Then I came across this post on The Gay Soap Box and I was elated. Here it was. The story of a girl realizing that she liked other girls, and it was a great bit of writing. I felt her awareness, her awkwardness, her bargaining, and her curiosity. It was like I was in that bus with her sitting in her skin.
In some ways her emotions were foreign, but in many ways they reflected my own feelings in early love: the uncertainty and the awakening. (I’ll never forget my first lust. That dumb Jason guy talking about how he only liked girls who gave blow jobs, and at 13 I had no idea what that was. I did know that I would do anything for him if he would just pay attention to me. Thank goodness he never did.) In some ways I was even jealous of her story. At least she knew what undergarments Jen likely had on. If you have relationships with the opposite sex everything below the top layer is a mystery early on.
Energized by this blog post I started searching WordPress for other enlightening stories using tags like “Gay Love”. Uh mistake. Apparently WordPress is not just about words, but about images too. Thankfully I was on my home computer by myself. I already knew that I wasn’t a heterosexual voyeur, and now I know I’m not a homosexual voyeur either. Give me your racy novels, but keep your videos and images to yourself, thanks. I am a visual prude.
Undaunted I started looking again, but more cautiously. Nothing yet has spoken to me the way The Gay Soap Box did, but as I’ve been searching I have also been thinking. Maybe there isn’t a formula for awakening sexual love: gay or straight. My worries and fears and biases are different from yours regardless of your orientation. (For example, you might like pictures.) Maybe love is a thing without rules and without trends. Am I arrogant to think that I can now write about gay male love because I read a post about gay female love and I have some experience in straight love? Can I use my own experiences as proxy for homosexual, or even other heterosexual, relationships? Was being shunned by a boyfriend’s Jewish parents because I didn’t share their son’s faith similar to a man being shunned by his parents or his lover’s parents because he is gay? I had a crush on a black guy in college and I never acted on it because I didn’t know if he liked girls “like me.” Can I now empathize with a gay woman approaching another woman of unknown orientation? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I am thankful for The Gay Soap Box author for her post, because she was brave, and her risky post made me wiling to write mine. My apologies if I sound naïve, callous or unenlightened in this space. My missteps weren’t made out of malice or intolerance but out of simple curiosity; I’d like to begin this conversation.