Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Drowning in a River in Egypt—a guest post by JL Merrow and Josephine Myles

Drowning in a River in Egypt—a guest post by JL Merrow and Josephine Myles

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Why denial can be bad for your (and other people’s) health


Denial can be an insidious thing. The most common thing for a guy in an m/m romance to be in denial about, of course, is his sexuality, or at least his attraction to the man who is clearly (at least to the reader) destined to be his True Love. But there are other forms of denial too, and they can be equally harmful. Society can be harsh in its expectations, particularly in terms of gender roles.



Jamie: Denial isn’t, as a rule, a good thing. Not only is it harmful to the person in denial, it can cause them to behave in ways harmful to people around them. In Pressure Head, Phil was, in his schooldays, in denial of his homosexuality, and this caused him to bully the openly gay Tom. The sad thing is that this bit of characterisation is based on real life.

I attended a talk by the charity Diversity Role Models (http://www.diversityrolemodels.org/), a charity that was set up following the suicide of a fifteen-year-old boy who was bullied because he was perceived to be gay. The charity sends speakers – “Role Models”- into UK schools to run workshops on the subject of homophobia. The Role Models speak frankly about their own lives, answer questions, promote discussion—and show the kids that LGBT people really aren’t any different from anyone else.

The man who gave the talk, now openly and proudly gay, admitted he’d been a homophobic bully in the past. Hopefully the work of the charity will help stop this vicious circle in the future. If you’d like to know more about the work of Diversity Role Models, please visit their website: http://www.diversityrolemodels.org/

Jo, your character Josh in The Hot Floor is in a different sort of denial, isn’t he? But it’s still about an aspect of his sexuality.

Jo: That’s right. Josh’s problem is that he’s absolutely paralysed by fear of his own desires and kinks. He’s out and (sort of) proud, but has suffered a real loss of confidence after his last boyfriend dumped him, saying he was “boring in bed”. Of course, we learn along with Josh that this passivity is an aspect of his denied sexual nature, but it takes a couple of very special men to help Josh realise this.

I think denial of our sexuality is an incredibly powerful area to mine for stories. I grew up in a happy clappy church and as a teenager was told all the desires I was starting to experience were wrong. Fortunately for me, I’ve always been a stubborn individual and decided to make my own mind up about what was right and wrong, sexually. The conclusion I came to (pretty quickly), is that absolutely nothing is wrong between consenting adults. What business is it of anyone else if you get off by wrapping yourself in cling film (Saran Wrap for the Americans), dressing up like a baby or furry animal, or inserting household objects into various orifices? Erm, I’d like to point out here that these aren’t my kinks, and that Jo most definitely did not tell you it was a good idea to stick household objects up your bottom. Ask anyone who works in A&E to tell you why proper dildos are a must.



But joking aside, many people are in denial of their perfectly healthy kinks, and I think that’s a real shame. Literally. Shame is the kind of emotion that eats away at you and can make you bitter.

Are you planning to write closeted characters again in the future? Tim from Hard Tail was a classic case, and I loved the way you managed to keep his journey out of the closet light-hearted, but without trivialising what he went through.

Jamie: Well, in my current WIP ( I keep teasing you with details about that, don’t I? *g*) one of my heroes, David, is not exactly closeted--he’s just not out at work. He’s a building surveyor, and the building trade is a very macho profession where a guy could be forgiven for not wanting to be loud and proud about his sexuality. And it does lead to some problems when he gets together with Jude, who’s so far out of the closet he’s not even sure what one looks like! I wanted to recognise the fact that “coming out” isn’t a one-time deal - LGBT people often come out many times in their lives, to different groups of people.

Jo: Good point. There are all sorts of levels to being closeted, and exploring the tensions involved in keeping different parts of a character’s life separate is fertile ground for fiction. In my next novel I have a character, Alasdair, who is out at work with everyone in his company, but very much closeted around clients. However, he doesn’t really see it as being closeted because he never lies about a fictional girlfriend or claims to be straight--he simply allows people to assume what they will and doesn’t bother to correct them.

Coming out is indeed a continual process, not a one-time deal, and even when it doesn’t make up the main theme of a novel, there is often a moment when a character outs himself to someone new. I always love those moments--both writing and reading them, as it shows such courage.

Jamie: Absolutely! Coming out definitely takes a lot of courage--it’s making yourself vulnerable to the person concerned. Here’s hoping society will eventually get to the point where it ceases to be an issue.


Readers: Have you been affected by denial? Or can you tell us about how finally accepting something impacted on you or someone you know? Was it a good thing?

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Comment to win! Jo and Jamie are both offering a choice of a book from their backlist to one lucky commenter on this post, and all commenters will also be entered into a draw for the grand prize (details here), to be announced on 8th October.

About the books:

Pressure Head

Some secrets are better left hidden.

When Tom, a plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, is called in to help the police locate the body of a missing woman, he unexpectedly encounters a familiar face. Phil, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case.

Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent? Meanwhile, the evidence around the woman’s murder piles up...while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.
The Hot Floor coverThe Hot Floor

Two plus one equals scorching hot fun.

Every time Josh overhears his sexy downstairs neighbors, Rai and Evan, having loud and obviously kinky sex, Josh is overwhelmed with lust…and a longing for a fraction of the love he’s never managed to find. On the night a naked Josh falls—quite literally—into the middle one of Rai and Evan’s marathon sex sessions, the force of their mutual attraction takes control. But just as Josh dares to hope, he senses a change. Leaving him to wonder if the winds of love are about to blow his way at last…or if history is about to repeat itself.
About the authors:

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com/

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com

Denial pictures courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

33 comments:

  1. Ah yes, denial. I suppose mine was more of the traditional gender roles thing. After I got married it was my job to work all day, come home, cook, clean, do laundry, etc. because I was the WIFE. Ack! I'm not sure we ever really figured it out, although we did have the discussion a few times and he assumed I liked doing it. Seriously? Who LIKES working for 8 hours then doing everything else? Hey we're divorced, I still have to do everything but it's by necessity rather than choice. :-)

    I never really thought about the fact that GLBT people come out over and over again until the last few years. I have several gay colleagues and I sometimes wonder if the first time they throw out "my boyfriend's computer broke" they kind of tense to see how that will go over with whomever is in the room. My workplace has a very open policy, but employer policy and employee personal feelings are not necessarily one and the same, even if it's not blatent.

    I hate when kids are afraid to tell their parents, the one set of people who should love you no matter what. Perhaps parents need to be more open about their acceptance of it. I did dream my daughter decided she was bi in university. She's a pretty straight arrow but I mention these things to her in passing hoping that IF the day comes she decides to bring home Brenda rather than Brendan, she knows I won't flip out or fall into a rage of tears and recriminations. (Not really my style, but you never know.)

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    1. It breaks my heart when I read about parents rejecting their kids for being gay. How can they possibly do that? And although it's heartwarming to hear stories about kids plucking up courage to come out, only to hear "we've always known, and we're fine with it", if the parents had said something first it'd have saved the kids an awful lot of worry! So yes, more parental openness can only be a good thing.

      I think most of us, male or female, gay or straight, suffer to some extent from the hangover of gender expectations from the past (witness your housework burdens). At least we're moving in the right direction now, and hopefully, eventually we'll get there.

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    2. You're right, and I think that's why we should all be more open about our acceptance and affection for all things queer. You've inspired me to start wearing a rainbow badge, you realise!

      The gender expectations thing bugs me too. I know a lot of fairly enlightened men, but you still come up against ingrained bias sometimes.

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  2. I remember Susie Bright saying that she feels *everyone* has a need to come out in one way or another, whether or not they're gay--it could be about having kinky desires, having sexual needs that aren't being met, and so forth. Interesting.

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Interesting, but personally I'd say people don't all experience that need to the same extent. When what you're coming out about relates to your whole identity, and can have an impact on every part of your life, it's got to be a much bigger thing for you than, say, something that impacts on only one aspect of your life.

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    2. Good point--Susie Bright has some fascinating theories. Of course, some of those comings out will be more private. We don't necessarily need to announce to the world about our kinks in the same way we would need to be open about sharing our lives with someone. That's much more difficult to keep to just a few close friends.

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  3. A hard comment topic today. I think we're all probably in denial about something and hopefully for most of us its fairly small and not life threatening. I hate to read about people who are in abusive relationships who continue to make excuses for their partners behaviour - I'd just want to take them away from that situation if I knew someone like that.
    Suze
    Littlesuze at hotmail dot co

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    1. Domestic abuse is a very difficult topic. It's easy to look on from outside and say, why does s/he stay? But in practice there are often economic considerations that make leaving difficult, and kids who love the other parent - and if you love your partner, you WANT to believe them when they say it'll never happen again. Or they may have worn you down so far you don't think you deserve a life free of abuse.

      Having good advice from outside the relationship is vital. And I'm glad that, in the UK at least, the police are now taking the matter seriously.

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    2. Ditto what Jamie said, but I know from personal experience it can be incredibly tough looking at an abusive relationship from the outside. Often the person being abused will go to great lengths to hide how bad it is. It was a matter of pride with the person I'm referring to--she didn't want to look weak or like she couldn't cope, and there were two young children to consider. Thankfully she's left him now.

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  4. Wow, what a hard hitting topic.

    The whole thing with parents rejecting their children just really kills me. I can't imagine rejecting my child for something like that - I mean, literally the thought is ludicrous to me. It's my child, I'm going to love my child no matter what.

    As for denial, I have to agree, I think we're all in denial about something.

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    1. Oh, yes, I think denial is extremely common. Even if it's as little as "calories eaten while you're out don't count." The mind does like to shy away from hard truths, doesn't it?
      And yes - parents rejecting their kids is very hard to understand.

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    2. You have to wonder at the depths of denial and fear in the parents who reject their own children. It's so tragic that it still happens in what we want to think of as enlightened, liberal cultures.

      I'm in denial about my tendency to workaholism, I realise that. I might have a perfectionist streak too. Good when used in the right way, but very easy for me to burn myself out.

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  5. I liked the fact that Jo wrote about a different type of denial, and closet, in The Hot Floor. I started reading it when it arrived just after midnight, half-dreamed about it when I gave up trying to stay awake, and devoured the rest today! Loved the depiction of Bath, the variety of characters, and the gradual awakening of Josh. His shyness and lack of self-confidence were very well shown, I think, and it was good to see what an effect genuine affection had on him.

    I agree with Jamie that denial is with us all at some level and in so many ways.

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    1. Yes, there's a danger in m/m of thinking that the "gay" closet is the only one that affects our characters - it's great to see a different type of denial tackled, and I think Jo did a sterling job in conveying the emotional complexity of the issue, as well as some scorching hot sex scenes! :)

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    2. Thank you, Helena--I'm so thrilled you enjoyed Josh's journey. Josh is in the kink closet--although in some ways it's not even that. It's the dynamic he craves: having someone to dominate him and take charge, but in a loving way.

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  6. I was in a kind of semi denial regarding a chronic illness for many years. Denial shields us from things we think we can't handle, but it catches up with us in the end. Phil, in Pressure Head, was so ambivalent about his image of who he should be versus.who he was. Our fragile sense of self hides in denial of truths we'd rather not face.

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    1. Yes, I think there is a positive aspect of denial - it gives us time to build up our strength to deal with an issue - but the danger lies in letting it carry on too long.
      And you're so right about Phil! Self-image is something he really struggles with. We'll see more of the origins of this in the next book... *tease* ;)

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    2. I loved the way Jamie showed us Phil's vulnerability under the rather brittle shell of denial. Faulty self-image and the ingrained desire to conform are at the root of so many people's fears and pains.

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  7. I was never in denial about my sexuality, but I did live a pretty sheltered life, so I went through many stages of "Oh! I can ____" Until I figured it all out (Ahhh, the internet!)

    Slightly off topic...I wish coming out wasn't a thing. By 'coming out,' it's bringing the focus on being something different and having to announce it. While I understand the need for it, it saddens me. Personally, when talking about dating in front of my family, I talk about bringing home a partner or significant other. Recently my mom caught on and has done the same for me. She shouldn't be surprised no matter who I bring home, but I didn't have to bring attention to my non-straightness either. It also keeps me from having to 'come out' as something specific (gay, bi, etc), when my gender and sexuality are extremely fluid.

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    1. Oh, absolutely! Hopefully one day we'll get to the point where people don't just assume their kids/friends/colleagues etc are straight - because it's just not an issue who they're with.

      Labels can be pesky things, particularly when you're growing up and you're not even sure which one applies - or if any of them actually do.
      Glad to hear your mom's on the same wavelength about it! :)

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    2. Excellent point, Alex. The assumption that everyone is straight unless they announce otherwise really aggravates me. I tend to assume everyone is bi, even if they've never acknowledged it to themselves, because I've never got on with binaries.

      The vast majority of my female friends are bi, but men seem to find it much harder to admit any same-sex attraction they might have. Society's expectations of masculinity have a lot to answer for.

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  8. I'm more on the avoid instead of deny...I avoid thinking about things so I don't have to live in denial :) Its easier in the short term but its harder on me I think, than just processing the 'McGuffin' and getting on with things...Michelle
    chellebee66(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I think this too is a coping mechanism (see comments above) but yes, eventually it's healthier to get down and deal with things, no matter how much it hurts. Which is a piece of advice I know I should be better at following myself! :)

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    2. Hi Michelle. I'm wondering now if avoidance isn't in itself a type of denial? Denying that you need to deal with something, perhaps?

      I'm particularly good at avoiding my intray, especially when I know there's stuff to do with accounts in there...

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  9. I can't really think of anything I'm in denial about (perhaps it is buried too deep!) but I agree with other commenters that I cannot imagine rejecting my child for his sexuality. Given how he has a breast fascination at the moment (he's 9, so HELP!) I think he's probably straight, but we have talked a little about sexual identity and how it's not wrong to be gay. Marriage equality is something we've talked about a bit too. I hope I'm raising an open-minded boy. :)

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    1. *g* I've worked it out - you're in denial denial!

      Seriously, I'm glad to hear you're being open with your son about sexuality and equality. I try to do the same with mine, and it's a little depressing to realise how many negative attitudes they can pick up at school/by reading the Daily Mail etc. We parents need to make sure we do our bit to combat all this absorbed prejudice! :)

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    2. That's great to hear that you're frank and open with your son about sexual identity. Kids pick up so much rubbish in the playground. It really angers me to hear them using the word "gay" as an insult.

      My daughter is only six but she's used to me talking about men who love men and women who love women. It remains to be seen which direction she's pulled in when the hormones hit...

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  10. sorry, forgot to add my email address: hankts AT internode DOT on DOT net

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  11. To be honest... The fact that I LOVE and read gay romance is a secret to my family. only my friends know i'm obsessed and love it so much. I'm afraid to tell my family, not because they're homophobic or anything, it's just that my sister does always say things like... "I'm fine with it, and I'm all for gay couples getting married, I just can't watch them TV." she said she could barely get through brokeback mountain without flinching. And my other sister and mom and well... everyone else agrees. they'll vote and support all things pro-gay, but they cannot even think of watching...
    so I think to myself, What the hell with they think of me when I tell them I freaking love watching/reading about two men getting it on? I find it freaking hot!!... I'm afraid of what their reaction will be... so.. for now. >__>;; and I think for a while.... I'll be "in the closet" in that perspective... but at least all my other friends know and love it as much as i do. :p

    As for the other topic... I am happy though, that growing up, if my parents were in a way put off by gay couples they never reflected that on us. Love just was. I'm so happy because now, when I truly think about it, I never before thought of a person "gay, straight, bi..etc" everyone just was. when some of my friends in high school came out as gay or bi It was all just smooth sailing and ok! I didn't understand (seriously) until later, why they were so happy that I was just like "ok!" and didn't give them the stink eye or something when they told me they swung one way or another. I'm happy that I was brought up being able to make my own opinion about something like this, when now I see how awful the rest of the world is.


    Judi
    arella3173_loveless(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Hi Judi! I have a best friend with exactly the same sort of attitude as your family--she won't read my stuff and finds even pictures of men kissing make her uncomfortable. She really is fine with the concept of me writing it, though--although she does keep asking when I'm going to write her some het erotica!

      That's wonderful that your LGBT friends found such ready acceptance in you as a teenager. What a wonderful confidence booster it must have been for them :)

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  13. I had a huge crush on this guy in high school. He was cute, funny, well dressed, nice, had tons of great friends, female friends. He was gay, we all knew it, but still the crush. He was so perfect just that one little thing. Now I realize I wasn't in denial about his sexuality (his boyfriend is the sweetest!) but I used the crush as a way to avoid real relationships. I didn't need to try to find a boyfriend because this crush that was never going anywhere. Just a little insecurity!
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

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    1. Fascinating, Juliana. I know it's fairly common for women to crush on gay men, so perhaps you've hit on a key reason why. I've got to admit, I only ever really fancy people when there's some sexual chemistry between us, which might explain why I've so far avoided the whole crush on a gay guy thing. Now a bi guy? Well that's an entirely different matter! ;D

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