Last year, I wrote this post about not really giving a toss as to whether an author used a pen name or not.
I did, however, make the point in both the post and the comments that the exception to this was when an author appeared to misrepresent themselves.
A number of people agreed on the issue of misrepresentation and several went on to describe the example in m/m romance and erotica of when an author has created a profile of someone with the opposite gender.
The issue of an author’s gender was a topic that Wave took up in late 2010. She asked if this was actually something which really mattered to readers and the post generated some interesting discussion.
Since then, I have found out a couple of extremely popular m/m romance and erotica authors writing as gay men are actually women.
As I said in my original post, I couldn’t give a flying fuck if the books I like are written by gay or straight, boys or girls, etc because, for me, the question of the authenticity and legitimacy of the work of one author over the other doesn’t come into it. Quality is all that matters.
Ordinarily, that is. Remember that proviso I made?
In these particular cases, what really, REALLY bothers me is that these authors have been deliberately misleading, if not down right dishonest, about their gender and sexuality.
Such is the extent of the complex web these authors have weaved that they have created elaborate bios and lives around this persona. Even going to the length of sharing photographs as well as establishing connections with the broader GLBTQ community to, it has to be assumed, ‘prove’ they are who they say they are.
Flabbergasting. Appalling. Bullshit.
I call complete and utter bullshit.
I hope to the Book Goddesses no one gets hurt by this when the shit hits the fan – as it inevitably will with the m/m community being so small. I can’t help but feel, though, there will be a lot of feelings of betrayal given the popularity of these authors.
I also wonder if it will be really worth it when it’s all said and done? Who knows.
So, what do you think? Is this type of misrepresentation a step too far for you? I mean, seriously. What you would really do if you found out your fave gay author of m/m romance was actually a chick? Can you honestly say this wouldn’t effect how you feel about them or influence your buying habits?
Those who dared:
ouaqquwcgk on my confession dkmhwgijnw on random awesomeness Kris on maybe it’s me, but… kaetrin on maybe it’s me, but… Kris on maybe it’s me, but…
This comment has been removed by the author.
It's one thing if the author is sort of neutral and never really says one way or the other – I don't think that's a big deal. (Although in most cases, the utterly gender-neutral author bio gives the game away.)
I think it's a completely different beast when the author goes to lengths such as hiring someone to be in their author photos or make public appearances as them. THAT I have a problem with. And that's the sort of thing that will have ugly fallout if it becomes widely known.
It doesn't matter to me if an author is male or female. I'm looking for entertaining, and hopefully, well-written stories.
But please don't build up your life as something you're not. Don't talk about your partner, your gay life, etc and then come out and say “Oops, I didn't really want to lie to you but I'm not really that person at all.” And really, photos and appearances? Body doubles? WOW 0_0
As usual I'm out of the loop just hanging out in my little bitty corner of the 'net cause I've no idea who this post is about. LOL 😀
I'm with Lily and Chris on this one. If authors want to keep their gender hidden through the use of gender neutral names, or even pseudonyms, then that's fine. I'm not particularly bothered if I'm reading a book written by a man or woman. By all means keep your author bio a bit vague and avoid the use of pronouns if you want to – but as Chris said that's usually a dead giveaway to me and I've got to the stage where I assume that any m/m author who uses initials instead of a first name is a woman.
I don't want to be actively lied to though – and here's the difference. To lie, to tell people you are one thing when you are not. To go to such elaborate lengths as to hire a substitute person who is pretending to be you. To write a blog and share personal information which turns out to be utterly false. That leaves me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
Chris: Gender ambiguity or neutrality (is that a word?) isn't a big deal for me either, but to go to crazy lengths to perpetuate the belief you are, for eg, a gay male?? That's wrong on so many different levels and, yes, you can't help but think that the fallout will be of the atomic bomb kind.
Lily: “And really, photos and appearances? Body doubles? WOW 0_0”
Oh, yes. It's quite astonishing that someone feels that there is a need to go to such lengths, isn't it. To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they had reason to initially. You have to wonder why, though, they would go so far beyond just maintaining a male pseud and/or gender neutral bio.
Jen: “I don't want to be actively lied to though – and here's the difference. To lie, to tell people you are one thing when you are not. To go to such elaborate lengths as to hire a substitute person who is pretending to be you. To write a blog and share personal information which turns out to be utterly false. That leaves me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.”
Indeed, it does. I also wonder how it would make those GLBTQ fans and readers feel who have not only related to the books but the personal life of these authors. I imagine that some would be extremely upset if the truth was found out.
It also has me wondering about the new rules for the Lambda Awards – that authors need to be GLBTQ. If the author isn't actually, but is hiding behind a well-developed persona that is…
Dear God. Can you imagine?? Of course, the author could always say that they were trying to make a point…
It's one thing if a m/m romance author uses a gender-neutral name or more masculine-sounding name — so many do. I think creating a male persona goes over the line.
Hi Kris 🙂 It's been such a long time since I've posted here, I'm feeling like I should get up and present myself before the rest of the class 😉
You know, masking one's gender has never bothered me, not much anyway; our sexuality is such a delicate and personal matter I'm not interested in judging an author just because they want to keep their biological gender shrouded in mystery. I've always assumed that maybe they are more comfortable assuming (most likely only up to a certain point) a different gender identity – and internet can surely help exploring this possibility. That's why even an outright lie wouldn't *exactly* outrage me, even if, of course, that's only natural I think, I would feel a tad disgruntled. The scenario you're painting is different, though; as Lily said, “body doubles”? That's… astonishing, really; I don't know if I would have the time to feel anything but incredulity. I mean, we are talking about a level of deception that's worthy of a spy book. False appearences? False photographs? Well, I don't know. Were it a one-person operation I would likely think that they lost touch with reality, or that they started with a simple lie that progressively became bigger and bigger, a lie from which they are not able to districate themelves – but asking someone to impersonate yourself seems… too perfectly executed. I don't know if I'm conveyng my meaning… it seems cold, too well-thought. That would bother me, yes, and probably would tarnish my appreciation of their work.
Maybe, if we were talking about one of my very super-über fav authors, I wouldn't stop buying their (her) books; I'm sure plenty of people would do it, though.
Ahhh, it feels so good to pontificate about things concerning the m/m community once again ;P
The question does arise about genderqueer authors. There they are writing from their real self, which the body does not necessarily match.
Me, I don't care. I only read a few male or male-pseud writers. It's a taste thing.
I'm with everyone else here I think – I don't mind whether a m/m author is male or female but creating a fake persona with photos and appearances is a bit insulting to the reader and also, I suspect, to gay people.
Since I don't read much m/m, it really doesn't have any impact on me.
I do find it bizarre that anyone would go so far as to hire body doubles to make it seem like they're this person they made up.
Having said that, some of the greatest female authors in our history came out with male pseudonyms because they couldn't sell as women. It was usually only after their death that it came out that they were actually women.
I still don't get it.
There are so many women writing m/m romance, and so many women reading it, how can an author figure to get a leg up, so to speak, through falsification of her entire identity? Good writing is good writing and should speak for itself. That's where an author's credibility lies, not with gender or orientation.
Deception doesn't even make sense if a writer aspires to be accepted within gay literary fiction circles. Because, if you write truly exceptional gay-themed fiction, you're going to be accepted in ALL literary circles (except Lambda, of course).
But…haven't the female authors in question all come out as women by now? I can think of several about whom there was some confusion for a while, but I was under the impression they'd all come forward and come clean. And none of them ever concocted really elaborate deceptions.
As usual, what have I missed?
Besides, the vast majority of wildly popular writers in this genre are women who've been writing as women from the start. So again, what's to be gained by trying to pull the wool over readers' eyes?
Emilie: It's definitely a line crossed for me too. I just don't really understand it at all.
Sara: Hey there you. 🙂 Yes, it's about time I got off my arse and did a serious post. 😛
“Were it a one-person operation I would likely think that they lost touch with reality, or that they started with a simple lie that progressively became bigger and bigger, a lie from which they are not able to districate themelves – but asking someone to impersonate yourself seems… too perfectly executed.”
Like you, Sara, I can totally imagine it would be difficult to extricate yourself from a situation like this. However, to dig an ever deeper hole for yourself by going to such lengths?? It seems very calculated to me.
Angelia: I can understand how the question would be raised when it came to authors who identified as gender queer or gender fluid. I've noticed, however, that these authors are usually very open about this aspect of their lives. This seems to me to be something very different to the scenario of misrepresentation.
Having said that, if an author did 'come out' from behind a male pseud to identify as gender queer or gender fluid, I think this would be more likely to be understood by readers than any deliberate falsehoods.
“Me, I don't care. I only read a few male or male-pseud writers. It's a taste thing.”
That's very interesting, Angelia. I might annoy you at some stage about this and develop a post on the topic. If you don't mind, that is. 🙂
Kaetrin: “… but creating a fake persona with photos and appearances is a bit insulting to the reader and also, I suspect, to gay people…”
One of the reasons why I decided to post on this topic was because of a discussion with a friend about how potentially devastating it would be to find out that the gay author who's work and life inspired you turned out be a complete fabrication. I can't even imagine what that would feel like.
Bridget: “Having said that, some of the greatest female authors in our history came out with male pseudonyms because they couldn't sell as women. It was usually only after their death that it came out that they were actually women.”
Very true. It is also true that some – only SOME – authors of m/m romance have used male or gender ambiguous pseuds to publish and sell books. Still, I would have thought it is now widely accepted that female authors write gay romance. Therefore, there is a question about why there remains a need for such secrecy and lengths. I'm not sure I really understand why there would be.
KZ: “But…haven't the female authors in question all come out as women by now? … And none of them ever concocted really elaborate deceptions.”
Nope, and, oh my love, the stories I could tell you.
“There are so many women writing m/m romance, and so many women reading it, how can an author figure to get a leg up, so to speak, through falsification of her entire identity?”
The only thing I can think of is if the author in question has been writing in the genre for some length of time, before even the existence and popularity of epublishing. In these circumstances, I suspect it would be extraordinarily difficult to reveal the 'real' person behind the persona you have used for many years, but…
okay – so WHO is it? 🙂
How on earth do you manage to get the inside track on this stuff?
Holiest of shits, that just isn't right (not your inside track — I've no doubt you deserve it. *g*) Deception for the sake of any kind of gain or advancement rubs all my spots the wrong way, but were I a gay author, I'd be outraged.
'Cause this isn't simply akin to a kid playing dress-up or an adult getting Botox injections to erase signs of true age. Pretending, however implicitly, to have borne the scourge of prejudice most queer people have endured is absolutely unconscionable.
If you haven't paid your dues, you've no right to claim membership in the club. (That's not meant to trivialize the issue, by the way; I'm just being a metaphor whore.)
Oh…and it's immaterial if the persona was constructed “back in the day.” At some point between that day and this, it could have and should have been gracefully shed. The longer a mask is kept in place, the more it's taken at face value by greater numbers of people — which means the more egregious the deception becomes.
Yikes, I can't begin to imagine…
Kaetrin: Sorry, hun, I have a policy of not naming names on my blog. Very irritating, I know.
KZ: “Pretending, however implicitly, to have borne the scourge of prejudice most queer people have endured is absolutely unconscionable.”
Yes, it can be seen to be very insulting and dismissive – no matter what the original intention was.
I also agree with your point about masks, KZ. If one of these authors has had an opportunity to, as you put it, 'gracefully' shed the persona, but has decided not to… well, I think that is pretty, damned unconscionable.
I can understand how difficult it must be for an author who was there from the infancy of the genre, who felt that the only way to published and read was to assume a male identity. And if that person is also genderqueer and feels male inside… well, like I say, I wouldn't really hold it against them.
I don't particularly like the idea of hiring someone to pretend to be you, but I guess after so many years of everyone believing you are male, making the choice to come out as a woman would be terrifying. Someone that popular would have to worry not only about the shitstorm that would erupt and losing a lot of online friends, but about losing their livelihood too. It wouldn't be an easy choice. I can see it being something I would lose a lot of sleep over were I in that position.
I hope no one publicly outs these authors and lets them make that decision themselves so that they can at least retain some dignity.
Josephine: “It wouldn't be an easy choice. I can see it being something I would lose a lot of sleep over were I in that position.”
Despite how I feel about this issue, I completely understand what a truly uncomfortable position this would be to be in and, like you, I would find it very distressing.
“I hope no one publicly outs these authors and lets them make that decision themselves so that they can at least retain some dignity.”
As I said, I don't name names on this blog and I will not out anyone. I believe that the people who know me understand my position and will respect it. Anyone who does, however, will have their comment immediately deleted. Yes, I am that nasty. 🙂
I tried to read this at riding and my damn phone won't let me past the adult warning then I forgot. Duh.
Okay, to be honest, I don't really give a damn. I think it's tacky and rather dismissive but I can understand that the author gets kind of trapped. Maybe they did need that name to start with and now are kind of stuck. What's worse, continuing to pretend and hoping it doesn't come out or admitting you're a big fat liar. Although if someone actually hires people to pretend to be them or uses false pictures to say “this is me and my dog” when it's not, then yeah, that's just kind of sleazy. However if I like your books I'll likely keep buying them.
I guess I tend to be a bit of a skeptic and until I know you quite well I tend not to get too attached and wouldn't be “hurt” if it happened. I think it must be quite stressful to have to censor everything you say on-line through the filter of lies. To be afraid that one day you'll drop an accidental pronoun which will give it all away. Ugh. Who needs it.
I don't really care if the writer is male or female.
I can understand that when the first (couple of) book was (were) published someone suggested using a pen name to make it seem like a man wrote the book. But to then go on and fabricate an entire bio and life for said pen name, and put up photos to support the claims is just plain Wrong. (Yes with a capital w. I'd even put it in all caps if it weren't rude.)
Same goes for 2 authors writing under the same pen name. Instead of just saying on the author site who is co-authoring the books you get another falls bio.
But then again I remember hearing of an author having 2 pen names and a 3rd which is a supposed collaboration of the first 2. So, not much will surprise me in the m/m writing world.
Wow. This is just beyond bizarre. And pathetic. (What I'm saying isn't aimed at you, Kris. I understand not wanting to be at the center of a shitstorm!) But it seems a whole lot of people have been intent on cocooning a liar so the liar isn't outed…for being straight. Outed for being freakin' straight! Do you realize how utterly insulting that is to queer folk?
“However if I like your books I'll likely keep buying them.”
Really, Tam? Ack. Not me. I simply couldn't keep fattening the coffers of an individual who's made buckets of money through fraud — not when so many talented authors who've played by the rules are struggling.
In addition, when deception is carried this far, how can you know where it ends? Maybe Author A has several different personas, or maybe a few different people are producing books under one name. It just gets to the point where trust and respect are destroyed beyond the point of reclamation. My attitude toward this person would be so soured, it would totally destroy my reading experience.
No thanks; I'll pass on fiction created and sold under those circumstances. There's too much good material out there to throw my money at someone who's financially comfortable yet ethically bankrupt.
I agree with you K.Z.on numerous points. I think we even need to go a level deeper than this, since some of these author/s that are being discussed are writing non-fiction articles as “Life as a Gay Man.” Since I found that out, I can no longer support the work. As a woman, I can not even fathom the betrayal the GLBT community would feel.
By the way, the name is J.J.
But everyone is still hiding it and protecting them while saying how awful it is. No one wants to say. I figure you can't get your panties in a twist about something you won't reveal and change. Mind you, I also realize that outing someone (as straight – there's irony) is risky, but I can't say I won't buy books from X if I don't even know what they've done. Once I know the facts, then I'll decide.
I don't think there ARE any rules. No law says you must reveal anything truly personal about yourself and it appears to be a well-worn tradition in publishing to pretend to be someone you're not or hide in reclusiveness. Although now that's frowned upon but in theory, if the story sucks, it doesn't matter if you say you are a gay man or a straight woman, it won't sell well for long.
If you are writing articles about being a gay man when you are a straight woman, then that is low and I will likly avoid you. However if you just created an on-line persona, well, I think many people do, it usually comes back to bite you in the ass though. Weird I agree.
There are quite a few authors (TQ seems famous for them) who write different books (styles) under different names or who team up to write as different people and it's not always revealed. I just don't know how people keep their pretend lives straight.
I really don't give a flip if the author is male or female. I just want to know which pronoun to use if the pseudonym is gender neutral.
However, it does bug the snot out of me when an author hires a man to make public appearances and blogs/tweets about being in a same-sex relationship with another author. I hate the farce, and I am no fool. If you want to publish under a different name, fine, but don't start building a soap opera of a life because it will eventually collapse. Then, readers are going to be pissed off.
BTW, I am talking about one person in particular here. You can bet I'll never be reading his/her books again.
However, that goes for authors in any genre. Don't be a mystery writer who tells me you were a retired police detective when you were actually an unemployed former librarian. Just be vague. I buy the book for the story, not for the author's autobiography.
Those initials only bring certain openly female authors to mind.
Oh, well. There clearly isn't anything that can be done about it. I can only hope I don't inadvertently buy one of this person's books.
Tam: “However if I like your books I'll likely keep buying them.”
I stopped buying books by these authors. I'm not as nice as you are.:)
“But everyone is still hiding it and protecting them while saying how awful it is. No one wants to say. I figure you can't get your panties in a twist about something you won't reveal and change. Mind you, I also realize that outing someone (as straight – there's irony) is risky, but I can't say I won't buy books from X if I don't even know what they've done. Once I know the facts, then I'll decide.”
That's fair enough, and answers the question I posited in the post.
Eva: “But then again I remember hearing of an author having 2 pen names and a 3rd which is a supposed collaboration of the first 2.”
Really?? Now that I hadn't heard and, well, is a bit… odd.
“So, not much will surprise me in the m/m writing world.”
Word. Some days you really wonder how high your eyebrow can go.
KZ: The shit storm doesn't bother me, KZ. I've posted on different topics where my opinion hasn't necessarily been the popular one before and I have no problem being in that position. The reason I don't name names on my blog is my deep belief that it is not my place to reveal such things.
Yes, perhaps that is overly simplistic; yes, I'm not unaware how insulting this may appear to GLBTQ people; and, yes, someone else on another blog or similar forum may feel comfortable and righteous enough to say who the authors are.
For me, however, the fact remains that it is not my secret to tell.
There is also no doubt in my mind that the truth will out. I'm certain of it, particularly with regard to the two authors who inspired this post. Too many people know and/or finding out. I give it 6 – 12 months. It's going to happen and I can only hope that posts like mine get these authors thinking about revealling the truth themselves.
JJ: “… some of these author/s that are being discussed are writing non-fiction articles as “Life as a Gay Man.””
I had heard this had happened. I was staggered and angry. Okay, I was fucking furious. I can't quite believe someone would actually go this far with a persona.
I wonder what would happen if someone contacted those particular magazines??
Eyre: “However, it does bug the snot out of me when an author hires a man to make public appearances and blogs/tweets about being in a same-sex relationship with another author. I hate the farce, and I am no fool. If you want to publish under a different name, fine, but don't start building a soap opera of a life because it will eventually collapse. Then, readers are going to be pissed off.”
Yes, we will be. We are also obviously thinking about the same author. Like you, I will never buy her books again.
I have mixed feelings about this. I can understand why a woman writing m/m a few years ago might have wanted (or been encouraged by their publisher) to use a male or gender neutral name. But with so many successful female m/m authors now, I can't imagine why a new (or newish) author would bother to try and hide it. As it is, if only initials are given I assume it's a female writer. Still, if a female writer wants to say in their blurb that they are a gay male, it doesn't really bother me (mostly because I rarely pay attention to the author blurbs). What you're describing goes far beyond that, though.
My main problem with all this is that several male (at least I thought they were male) authors of m/m romance also write blog posts etc (often on larger blogs like Wave's) about their experiences as a gay man. I think a lot of straight female readers (myself included) look towards them to gain information and understanding, and, so, yes, I would feel a bit betrayed if I found out one of these authors had lied.
Ohhh…two writers. Who claim to be having an affair.
Hm. I vaguely recall having read about two m/m authors getting romantically involved. I think I remember one's name but not the other's, and my reaction was, Aww, how nice for them.
Since I obviously can't trust my memory, I'll have to let the whole thing slide. I really don't want to think ill of the wrong person.
Another OH! The poster's name was JJ, not the author in question.
I really need to get my totally befuddled ass back to doing something productive.
I think to me it's more of the misrepresentation aspect. If you are quote in your author bio as being a straight middle aged man that lives with 2 dogs and later on your readers find out you are a 50 year old woman….I dunno that kind of bothers me. Totally different when nothing is disclosed such as: Author's name lives near the beach and lives happily ever after with (author's name) french bull dogs.
Hi K.Z. No I'm not the author in question…
I am just an avid m/m romance reader who found out the truth about the author everyone is most likely writing about. 🙂
I have family members who are gay and were offended by this author's actions so it touched on a personnal level. It made me furious for someone to say they have walked in the life of a gay man and write about their experiences as such.
I do not have a problem with pen names. I just feel that it is wrong to tell your readers about your made up relationship and make them feel embarrassed by lying to them.
Sorry, J.J., but I wasn't paying close enough attention!
I fully understand and appreciate your position. This issue obviously grinds my gears, too, for the reasons you mention. I'm just not sure who these people are. I might've guessed one, but I certainly don't feel comfortable reviling somebody based on a guess. So I'll just have to let it go.
The sex (or sexuality) of the author doesn't matter. If they would prefer not to disclose their gender, that is one thing. But…misrepresenting yourself? In order to sell more books? My question would be: 'Why can't your books stand on their own?'
And I have to say, I have absolutely no idea which author is being referred to, but then I was offline yesterday.
@ Kris. As a person who doesn't like not knowing the end of the story, your policy challenges me! 🙂 (But then, I still want to know what was in the damn suitcase in the movie Ronin. Stupid suitcase. Stupid movie. Grr. Hubby just laughs. Grr again!).
However, I completely understand the policy and besides, your blog, your rules.
I still want to know though…. it probably wouldn't count if you just emailed me or something. I would promise not to tell… that's probably not going to work either is it? Oh well, can't blame a gal for trying! 😀
Richelle: “My main problem with all this is that several male (at least I thought they were male) authors of m/m romance also write blog posts etc (often on larger blogs like Wave's) about their experiences as a gay man. I think a lot of straight female readers (myself included) look towards them to gain information and understanding, and, so, yes, I would feel a bit betrayed if I found out one of these authors had lied.”
And there you hit the nail on the head. To go so far as to represent themselves as a gay man that they took about their 'experiences'? That, to me, is immoral and unethical.
KZ: Two authors who inspired this post, but only one of them claimed to have an affair with another author, who, if the rumours are true, is just another pseud for that same author. Very convoluted.
KC: Indeed. Be ambiguous and vague in your bio by all means, but don't lie for fuck's sake. You'll be found out sooner or later.
JJ: I'm positive we're writing about the same author.
Orannia: “But…misrepresenting yourself? In order to sell more books?”
I'm pretty sure that at least one of these authors constructed their persona specifically for this reason. The other I don't think had this really in mind at all.
Kaetrin: *snort* No, I can't blame a girl for trying. 🙂
Yikes. The plot, it thickens.
Word Veri: “dumpti.” But I wanted the “humpti” part!
I don't care if an author is male or female, but I agree that there's a difference between 'masking' which of both you are and 'pretending' that you are the one when you're the other. The first is okay, the second isn't, imo.
I'm wondering about where you pick up these kind of rumors, Kris. Like Lily, I'm out of the loop and clueless, as usual. 🙂
Janna: “I don't care if an author is male or female, but I agree that there's a difference between 'masking' which of both you are and 'pretending' that you are the one when you're the other. The first is okay, the second isn't, imo.”
I think that is an awesome way of summing up the situation, Janna, and I agree with you. I have the feeling that one of the authors who inspired this post was more along the lines of 'masking' or being ambiguous about their RL gender etc.
I guess I should tell everyone, now, that I'm a woman.
Yes, I know. Mia is such a neutral name. We all know TONS of male Mia's out there.
But seriously… pictures, too? I think I need to pay more attention to my peers. I had no idea they'd pushed it that far. 😦 God, it makes me want to apologize for the industry as a whole. <--- which will prolly get me in trouble now.
You're so in the shite now. Also, I won't believe you're a girl until I see a pic of Mia tattooed across your boobies.
I hate being lied to. 😦 I'm not a fan of cagey and mysterious either, but it's better than outright deception. I can deal with it.
More than that, I hate that the cliquish nature of the m/m community and the absolute SNOBBISHNESS of the “real GLBT fiction” community make authors feel that it's necessary to lie to fans and readers.
I didn't realise that. Thank you!