Everyone knows my name isn’t really Amelia C. Gormley, right?
There. Now you know everything anyone who reads my books or has any knowledge of me through the world of m/m romance will ever need to know about me. Probably way more than you need to know, actually, considering how much 100% legitimately personal and TMI stuff I share on my blog and Tumblr.
In the past few months, the m/m romance world has had at least two instances of cis-(het?) women being exposed as having presented themselves to readers and reviewers and other authors in the genre as gay men.
Obviously, this is a problem.
I don’t think it’s any mystery why authors choose pen names. First of all, it’s totally a marketing tool. Throughout history, authors–especially women authors–have needed to misrepresent their gender in order for their work to be published or taken seriously.
In this day and age, that is still unfortunately true. And in all honesty male/male romance DOES have a problem where the readers and movers and shakers within the genre tend to elevate male authors above female authors. They get signed more readily. Their books get priority for editing and marketing. They get moved to market quicker and are a priority for reviewing or purchase by readers for no other reason than it’s a male name on the cover. That’s an issue we really need to deal with.
But these incidences are something else entirely.
This isn’t a woman representing herself as a white cis-het male just to get a foot in the door with publishers. In that case, the woman is part of an oppressed group just trying to get the same opportunities that come automatically and without scrutiny to a privileged group.
That isn’t the same thing at all.
If this were a white author presenting themselves as being black, we would clearly see why this is a problem. The issue here is the appropriation of an oppressed/minority identity by a member of a privileged majority in order for that privileged person to profit off the representation of an inauthentic identity.
These authors aren’t just using a male name. They are actually creating a gay male persona and using it for the purpose of essentially catfishing the entire genre.
Doing it just for the money is bad enough. But in the process, that privileged person also makes people in the oppressed group think they’ve found one of their own, someone they can relate to because that person is like them. And then it turns out to be a lie.
If you don’t understand why that’s an issue, refresh your memory about the Rachel Dolezal.
It not only hurts the people who have been deceived, it also damages efforts on the part of that oppressed group to be taken seriously.
A pen name? Pfft, that’s nothing. That’s business as usual. In a world where people as insignificant as local tv news anchors and newspaper reporters and even fucking baristas can get stalkers who think they have some claim on that person because they have a public presence, putting some distance between one’s public persona and one’s private self seems to be not only a notion worthy of consideration, but the only possible sane choice.
Especially when one writes in a genre that is dedicated to exploring the relationships and promoting/normalizing the acceptance of a subset of the population whose very existence happens to make another subset of the population ACTUALLY MURDEROUSLY ANGRY.
So yeah, I use a pen name and I am pretty certain exactly 0% of the people who follow me as an author are surprised by that fact.
However–I have never misrepresented WHO I AM AS A PERSON. Nor will I ever do so. I have never made up a fictional backstory for myself. I have never created a fictional reality to sell to my followers. I have never solicited donations for various causes under that assumed identity.
I am the gender I say I am. I am the age I say I am. I am the birthsign I say I am.
I, for the most part, have the same personality you see in my online and convention presence. I say “for the most part” because of course I do try to publicly present myself in the best light; I can be far more of an asshole in reality. (And considering how much of an asshole I can be online already, that’s saying something.)
I can promise my readers I will never lead them to believe the books or the blog posts they enjoy or connect with on a personal level, and the things I share or publish that make them feel they aren’t alone in the world for one reason or another, come from someone other than who I truly am.
I can promise the people I meet and befriend along this zany journey through this genre that they will never someday stumble upon the realization that I’m not the person they thought they had become close to.
I can also promise that if I ever say that the proceeds of sales from my catalog of titles will go to a certain charity or cause, it will go there. If I ever solicit donations for a charity or cause, they will go where they were meant to go.
If I ever solicit donations to meet personal needs–well, I’m reasonably certain I’ll never solicit donations that will go to me personally. Except, perhaps–and by “perhaps” I mean I can’t envision ever actually doing it but never say never–if I need some funding to produce and self-publish a title that I can’t contract with a press. (*side-eyes Swatted*)
In other words, with me, what you see is what you get.
Except my real name. Most of you don’t get that. Whatevs.