LGBTQ History Lesson

I gave myself one, a few weeks ago ūüôā

I stumbled across a¬†post about Bayard Rustin¬†and it shocked me. First, I had never heard of this person. Apparently, he was a major player in the civil rights movement, but I certainly never¬†learned his name in school. Which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me. We only ever hear a handful of names, briefly focusing on only the most dramatic stories of what in reality was a long and multi-faceted movement.

652px-bayardrustinaug1963-libraryofcongress_cropSo, I spent an afternoon reading, doing research on Bayard Rustin. I learned he was openly gay (in the 1950’s!!), a pacifist, and a lifelong advocate for worker’s rights. The level of bravery and strength of spirit his accomplishments represent is amazing. It deserves remembrance.

I read a lot of negative material about Mr. Rustin, as well. His sexuality was a major point of contention in the civil rights movement. Black pastors and church leaders did not want to support him, and many feared he weakened the movement. His pacifism was another sticking point. Leaders like Malcom X insisted violence was a tool that should not be ignored, and thought Rustin was a fool for his nonviolent methods. Rustin was romantically linked to white men, which led to even more backlash.

Now, looking back on history, I think his contributions are clear. Though some¬†might not agree with his non-violent methods, many more applaud him for just that. His work for and with labor unions is certainly notable, as is his LGBT activism. But to me, what was most impressive was the fact he dedicated his life to activism on behalf of all people, knowing he faced opposition from so many sides. To fight alongside people who you know don’t fully support you requires an inner strength I cannot imagine.

At the Women’s march this past weekend, I know many women did something similar. Trans women marched alongside cis women who wore shirts and signs equating vaginas with womanhood. Black women walked beside white women whose feminism often excludes or simply ignores POC. I think they probably did it for the same reason Rustin did: the cause was bigger than their individual needs at the time.

I am grateful for what I’ve learned about Bayard Rustin. I’m going to use it as a starting point to learn more about LGBT history!¬†Hoping to post one each month here.

How about you? Do you know of¬†any “forgotten heroes” of LGBT history? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Update on where to buy my books

Most people in the Romance community at this point have heard the sad news that All Romance E-books, a distributor of Romance and erotica, is closing. I have deactivated my books there, as they are not paying authors anymore. ūüė¶

It got me thinking about what to do… Should I go back to being Amazon exclusive? It seems like KU is killing the competition, and maybe there is more money to be made by re-entering that program. But then, so many readers do not want to shop at Amazon, or can’t (for multiple reasons) so being tied down to just one vendor is maybe not the smartest.

For now, I’ve decided to stay “wide.” What that means is my books will continue to be available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, and Scribd.

Also, I have started a PayHip page for digital downloads of my books. Find it here: https://payhip.com/ameliabishop (I am working on a PayHip page for AC Bishop, too.)

A while back I had created a square store for selling signed paperbacks. So if that is something you are interested in, you can find those here. (US shipping only)

Is there a place you like to buy (or sell) your Romance fiction? I’d love to¬†know!

#IDAHOT

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, & Biphobia: A worldwide celebration of gender and sexual diversities¬†(Also known as “IHAHOT”)¬†Thank you for visiting my blog on this day! ūüôā This post is a contribution to the Hop For Visibility, Awareness, & Equality. Visit the hop’s main page and read the many great posts! Learn more about IDAHOT here.

UmbrellaNo Year

This year’s IDAHOT theme is “Mental Health and Well-Being.” Many studies have found a correlation between social stigma (or discrimination) and mental health problems. It seems like we’d hardly need a study to tell us that, though. If you feel your community is against you, it’s going to have an impact on your emotional well-being and self-image eventually. And if you live in a society where you are bombarded with the message that you are abnormal/wrong/other, you are likely to internalize that as well.

One of the reasons I enjoy writing what I do is I get to glorify and celebrate a more ideal¬†reality: where families don’t kick their kids out for being gay, where LGBT people find love and acceptance, where there’s always¬†a happy-ever-after. I know that not everyone lives in that kind of world, though. Although we have come a long way, there is still a lot of hate.

One thing this recent election and the hub-bub about the “bathroom bills” has done is revealed just how commonplace hate is. No matter who wins this election, the damage has been done. Hate speech is not only acceptable now, it’s televised. Racists and bigots have been validated and now feel free to speak their secret hate, to wear it on their sleeves, to even be proud of it.

When I drive around my town and I see the Trump signs in neighbors’ yards, the “make America great again” bumper stickers, I feel sick, and more than a little scared. I am a cis woman, married to a cis man. How must those signs feel to a trans person? Or a person in a same-gender marriage? How does that impact their mental health and well-being?

Recently a conservative “watchdog” took it upon herself to harass a 15 year old trans girl at my local high school, all in the name of “protecting” children. It was horrifying, but the end result was…kind of okay. The local newspaper ran a story about the issue, calling out the self-appointed watchdog on her bullying. Hundreds of people spoke up on behalf of the trans teen and a petition¬†quickly formed to have the page removed. The local paper gave the teen her own article, to state her side of things. In it she spoke about all the support she’s received and said she feels safe at school, and always has.

Seems a happy ending. But I can’t stop thinking about it. Those names spewing hate on that Facebook page? Those are parents in my community. People whose kids will be going to school with my kids. People who might themselves be interacting with my kids, and the other children I know and love. The school in question? That’s the high school my kids will attend in only a few years. So while the end result was positive, and the principal, superintendent, mayor, and many, many residents all spoke up for tolerance and love, the whole incident was still unsettling.¬†Mostly, it hurt to see familiar names, local people, speaking such hate.

I’m wondering how I deal with the aftermath of it all. How do I interact with these people, now that I know their bigoted views? How do I forget the ugly¬†comments I saw? Should I even try to forgive and forget, or should I keep my kids away from these people? Or do I wait until I personally hear them say something, or until they do something to me or mine that warrants a reaction? I¬†suppose in that case the question of whether or not we can coexist would be answered, because¬†I’d speak up and there would likely be an argument, and we’d probably not interact ever again.

What about the LGBT kids in my community? How will this impact them? Will they believe their neighbors think they are gross or dangerous? Will they be afraid to come out? And what about the bigoted kids? Will they think it is okay to be assholes, now? That their hate is justified?

I used to think that changes were happening¬†so fast! I was proud of my generation (gen X!!), and the open-mindedness I thought we possessed.¬†I believed we were so much “better” than our parents, and I thought every generation would become less bigoted, less racist. Now, twenty years later, I know better. Changes are happening, and yes every generation grows more accepting… but it is a much, much slower process than I’d ever imagined. I think social media has helped, and so has television, by bringing things into the public spotlight, offering many different viewpoints, showing people how diverse humanity really is. But it’s still a slow change.

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As I write this the US Justice Department has just filed suit against North Carolina for their “bathroom bill,” the Obama administration has spoken out, and it seems this particular fight for trans rights will end on a positive note. Of course this makes me happy, though I don’t imagine the war is won by any means. I know there will be backlash, and I know the damage simmering hate can do when it goes unchecked and unnoticed. But for now, these issues that made me so uncomfortable about my kids’ future high school community seem to be resolved.

In some ways, this bathroom bill stuff is a good sign. It’s an acknowledgement of the existence of transgender people. It’s getting people talking, too, and showing support. It’s making people think about their prejudices. Change isn’t usually easy or painless: most positive change has been bought with blood, sweat, and tears.¬†I¬†think we all need to be as brave as possible, to speak up whenever we can against hate, and to keep an open mind.

I believe¬†LGBT romantic fiction helps create positive change, too. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans¬†Romances help to “normalize” LGBT people, by offering¬†a glimpse into how beautiful and loving an LGBT relationship can be to those who might not have any personal experience or real-life interaction with LGBT people. And for those who might be struggling, feeling alone or marginalized, representation that is positive, joyful, deep, and respectful is super important. I’d like to think the books in my genre have helped people with their mental health and well-being, if only in small ways.

You know what else is great for your mental health and well-being? Going to the beach. Seriously, studies have been done and I’m not going to argue with them! The beach is good for you. As an incentive for you to go to the beach (or the lake or the pool or just lay out a towel in the sun, play “ocean sounds” on your iPod, and pretend.¬†I’m not judging) I will ship one lucky commenter (chosen at random) a sweet hand-made beach bag and two Amelia Bishop paperbacks to read on the beach! Continental US only, please, I’m poor. Winner will be drawn on May 25. Here are some pictures:

Yes, I made it, and yes, it’s HUGE. It holds a family’s worth of towels, or everything a solo-beach goer might need for a day in the sun. (Really. I tested it, as evidenced in the pics!) And all the sand will sift right out. I washed it and dried it in the sunshine, so it’s ready to go!

Comment below (your thoughts about IDAHOT¬†or¬†this post) for your chance to win ūüôā

Visit the other hop participants, too:¬†B. A. Brock¬†¬†Jamie Fessenden¬†¬†Rory Ni Coileain¬†Erica Pike¬†¬†Andrew Jericho¬†¬†Tempeste O’Riley¬†¬†The Macaronis¬†¬†Elin Gregory¬†¬†Alexa MIlne¬†Nic Starr¬†¬†Evelise Archer¬†¬†Sue Brown¬†¬†Elizabeth Varlet¬†Raven J. Spencer¬†Sharing Links and Wisdom¬†¬†Lisa Horan¬†¬†Archer Kay Leah¬†¬†Alexis Duran¬†¬†Jules Dixon¬†¬†R.M. Olivia¬†¬†Heloise West¬†¬†Angel Martinez¬†¬†Moonbeams over Atlanta – Eloreen Moon¬†¬†Helena Stone¬†¬†AM Leibowitz¬†¬†L.D. Blakeley¬†¬†Lila Leigh Hunter¬†¬†Sharon Bidwell¬†¬†Nicole Dennis¬†¬†Lexi Ander¬†¬†Barbara G.Tarn¬†¬†Kaje Harper¬†¬†JMS Books LLC¬† ¬†JM Snyder¬†¬†Dean Pace-Frech¬†¬†Kimber Vale¬†¬†Jacintha Topaz¬†¬†Prism Book Alliance¬ģ¬†¬†Eva Lefoy¬† ¬†Lou Sylvre¬†¬†Anne Barwell¬†¬†Viki Lyn¬†¬†Sean Michael¬†¬†Remmy Duchene¬†¬†Sharita Lira writing as BLMorticia¬†¬†Barbara Winkes¬†¬†Bronwyn Heeley¬†¬†L. J. LaBarthe¬†¬†VJ Summers¬†¬†Nikka Michaels¬†¬†Caraway Carter¬†¬†L M Somerton¬†¬†Taylor Law¬†¬†Anastasia Vitsky¬†¬†Draven St. James¬†¬†A.V. Sanders¬†¬†Lynley Wayne¬†¬†DP Denman¬†¬†M.A. Church¬†¬†Andrew J. Peters¬†¬†Dianne Hartsock¬†¬†M. LeAnne Phoenix¬†¬†Cherie Noel¬†Chris McHart

Rainbow Book Fair

I did it! I had a great time, too ūüôāIMG_4875

Behind me you can see the tables full of vintage gay porn, which I had to resist buying ūüôā The man selling that stuff was really sweet and I loved looking through it all.¬†I sold some books. Not a ton, but a decent amount, especially considering this was not a romance event. I got to¬†talk with a lot of interesting people and that made the day pretty great. I wish I had walked around more! I only made one circle of the room and I said hello to a few people I knew from facebook, but I didn’t chat as much as I’d have liked.

I managed to keep my feelings of maybe not belonging there in check. I did get several passers-by who commented their surprise that there were “so many women who write gay stories!” but when I talked with them they seemed more amazed than upset, and a few even bought my books so that was cool.

I saw this guy wearing a super fun t-shirt, and doing something with his phone. This is the shirt:¬†frontand what he was doing with his phone was live-casting from the fair for a group called PrideCasters. I spoke with him a few minutes and he explained what “periscope” is (It’s a video app.¬†I had no idea lol) and he told me all about pridecasters. You can follow them on twitter @pridecasters and see what they do. He was trying to get people to join as casters, it seems a relatively new channel. I love the idea and I hope they are very successful. You can see my video here (I’m on with my awesome table-mate Renee at around 3 minutes in) and it also gives a great taste of what the fair was like.

After¬†the fair¬†I went to dinner with some very nice authors, and had a fun evening¬†talking with them. Socializing was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.¬†I will likely be going to the fair again next year! It was a great time and had a wonderful, positive vibe. Everyone seemed happy to be there ‚̧ and I am glad I was there, too.

 

More Than Love

My m/m contemporary More Than Love is live!

I hope people like this story. It’s not very action packed or dramatic: it’s a quiet story of love. I know that is not as popular as other styles, but I hope maybe some people will enjoy it anyway.trustme_cover_v3

The two main characters are Dan and Ian. Dan is the point-of-view character the whole time, he’s a cop in his late 30’s who is longing for a relationship. Ian is a guy he dated in college and never forgot, and this is the story of their second chance at love.

If you are looking for a gentle love story with a happy ending, give it a try!

Thanks ‚̧

World Poetry Day

Today is world poetry day! I’m not a poet, or really a big poetry fan. I like it well enough, I just don’t feel at all qualified to talk about it in any meaningful way.

There is a poem that has stuck in my head for years. I read it once, way before I had kids, and I never forgot it. I looked it up today (it took no time at all thanks to google. what a time to be alive! lol) so I thought it would be a good one to share.

Today it is snowing (first day of spring! ha!) and my little boy is outside. I’ve been spending entirely too much time on the computer lately, so I’m going out to play. Happy poetry day everyone!

I Took His Hand and Followed
Mrs. Roy L. Peifer

My dishes went unwashed today,

I didn’t make the bed,

I took his hand and followed

Where his eager footsteps led.

Oh yes, we went adventuring,

My little son and I…

Exploring all the great outdoors

Beneath the summer sky

We waded in a crystal stream,

We wandered through a wood…

My kitchen wasn’t swept today

But life was gay and good.

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade

And now my small son knows

How Mother Bunny hides her nest,

Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

We watched a robin feed her young,

We climbed a sunlit hill…

Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,

We plucked a daffodil.

That my house was neglected,

That I didn’t brush the stairs,

In twenty years, no one on earth

Will know, or even care.

But that I’ve helped my little boy

To noble manhood grow,

In twenty years, the whole wide world

May look and see and know.

Bisexual Romance!

It exists ‚̧

So here’s a story: I was scrolling facebook and I saw a post on queer sci-fi asking “what topics would you like to see discussed?” and I answered “Bisexual romance” (actually I wrote a bit more than that, basically outlining my concerns over including bisexual characters in a meaningful way, and increasing bi-representation in fiction.)

So then the other day I’m scrolling facebook again and I see that my topic idea got picked! Cool! There was a nice discussion on the queer sci-fi FB page (I thought so anyway) and I was pretty happy to see such a lot of participation on a topic that is so important to me. Nice.

Then someone made a blog post of their own about it (well maybe more than one person but only one I saw) and their post sparked some more heated discussion, and was taken down. I missed the drama of it all (thank the gods) but I would like to add a little bit. Not because I want to make drama (this won’t be dramatic don’t worry lol) but just because I think the problem is worth consideration, and is important enough that it should be talked about and not just brushed aside to keep things copacetic.

My original question was poorly worded (hey it was a facebook comment give me a break!) but my essential question was: what level of representation in a story is “enough” to label it a bisexual romance?

And the author of the drama-inducing blog post touched on this, as well. It is a real problem, and I think they actually pointed out the root of the issue:¬†When we label romance, we do so based on the genders of the main couple, not their orientations. This is a problem, obviously, and leads to massive bi-erasure. So yes there are prejudices against bisexuals, lots of harmful stereotypes, and even outright disdain for bi’s in romance and, well, everywhere. But I don’t think that is the whole problem. In Romance, we also have an issue with marketing, labeling, and even just talking about bisexuality.

One point that blogger made was bisexual romance is a label used primarily for menage. I’m sure that was a hurtful statement for many. Unfortunately, it’s true. The bisexual romance shelf on amazon is pretty much a selection of mmf menage stories. And hey, I love bisexual menage stories (I’ve written some! *shameless plug* Buy my mmf!!) but mmf is hardly the typical bisexual love story, let’s be honest.

Here’s the thing: there are LOTS of bisexual characters in m/m Romance. Lots. Want to find one? Good luck! Because there really isn’t a way to search for them.

Imagine if there was just one LGBT Romance category on Amazon. And when you brought up a search for “gay romance” you automatically got bisexual, trans, gay, and lesbian titles all mixed in with no filtering. Good? Maybe for some, not for others. Well, when you search up “bisexual romance” you get a lot of menage, maybe a few m/m stories where the author tagged it bisexual, and that’s it. All mixed in, and many of the m/m books with bisexual characters are not there at all. When you search for “gay” or “lesbian” you get lots of bisexual in there, with no way to tell which is which. Sometimes, it’s not even clear in the blurb. And readers will call bisexual characters “gay” as well. Rarely is the word “bisexual” even mentioned.

There ARE bisexual characters in m/m. I’ve written them, I’ve read them, they’re totally there I promise you. For an example, Cut and Run’s Ty and Zane are bisexual (right?) and they’re pretty popular with readers. Yet those books are not listed in “bisexual romance” on amazon. Why? Because the main pairing is two males. So it’s m/m. But…m/m does not always mean “gay.”

Yet amazon (like most vendors) does not have an m/m category. You’ve got to pick an orientation.¬†(Did you just cringe a little? Yep, me too.) Do you pick bisexual, and get your monogamous m/m thrown in with menage and thereby miss reaching the majority of your readership? Or pick gay and erase your bisexual characters? (I usually pick both, but to be honest it’s the “gay” list I’m trying to rank on, as it is the bigger market.)

Representation matters. But so does getting our books to the readers who want them. (bisexual romance authors gotta eat, too)

I’m not sure what the solution to this is. How can we spotlight our bisexual characters and still appeal to our readers? How can we change such a big thing as amazon’s categories? How can we openly recognize bisexual characters in romance?¬†I wish I had more answers. As always, I’m open to ideas ūüôā