Claiming Queerness

I struggle with labels. I struggle big time with our very human need to categorize everything and stuff every little object/action/perception into these neat little boxes that tell others what we are.

Perhaps it is the fact that I am very claustrophobic that I don’t like to be put into a little box. I feel like I can’t breath and that it limits me from achieving everything I want to.

I am a changing person. I am not the same person today that I was ten years ago. And I wasn’t the same person ten years ago that I was ten years before that. I demand the right to constantly reinvent myself or at least to grow and become what I want to be.

Lately, the definition of what queer means in our current society has been resonating with me more and more.

I have always thought of myself as bisexual, because I have definitely been attracted to women at times in my life. I have even had some same-sex experiences which I always dismissed as just a part of growing up. Because I have always had physical relationships with men and none with adult women, I didn’t think I had a legitimate right to call myself bisexual, especially since I am now in a traditional monogamous marriage with a man.

I also happen to believe in the Kinsey idea of sexuality being on a spectrum for everyone. I truly believe that no one is exclusively straight or gay, even as we like to define ourselves as one or the other. But I would never take away anyone’s right to define themselves the way they want to.

Recently I read that bisexuality is the attraction to both men and women. According to that definition I am bisexual. But, I am also attracted to some trans individuals and also to very androgynous people whose gender is extremely fluid. So, does that mean I’m pansexual? This is where I start to get lost in the land of definitions and little boxes.

Most of the time, I honestly don’t feel the need to define myself. I am happy being who I am, a cis-female who writes from a gay male persona and lives a lifestyle that could outwardly be defined as straight/conservative. I’m in a traditional, monogamous marriage to a straight cis-male. I like to hang out with gay men because it’s nice to be friends with guys who don’t hit on me and do value me for who I am.

But the fact that I’m living a very traditional life and identifying most of the time as straight makes me feel like a fake. Since heterosexuality is the assumed default, it is easy to hide behind that label. But I am really not straight. I’m definitely bisexual and probably pansexual. But applying these specific labels to myself doesn’t seem quite right either.

I am very attracted to men and women who defy gender norms. Perhaps this is because I have always done so myself. Then again I am in a happy monogamous marriage so is calling myself queer kind of a moot point? I don’t think so. How I define myself based on my attractions and sexual feelings doesn’t compromise my committed relationship because I have no intent on acting on any of them while my marriage continues. And I hope my marriage will continue for a very long time.

Recently I’m finding that the word queer that many of my friends use to define themselves is one that perhaps makes sense for me. Because one of those friends is gay and one is bisexual, but both identify as queer.

More and more I am finding my default identity as a straight woman to be less and less satisfactory. I feel that, using that label for myself excludes me from a community that I truly do identify with. As a woman writing from a gay male perspective in all of her published books and someone who struggled with gender identity/conformity all of her life and who does feel sexual attraction to people other than cis-males, I feel that I do have a right and maybe even a responsibility, to publicly identify as queer.

Queer used to mean peculiar, and not-of-the-norm. This is still the definition of the word in the Oxford dictionary. Being called queer was an insult and an indication that one had been excluded from common society. Some people will never be comfortable with the word queer because of its derogatory past usage.

However, this is the new meaning according to the Oxford English Dictionary: Denoting or relating to a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond to established ideas of sexuality and gender, especially heterosexual norms.

It has now been reclaimed to mean, as I understand it, non-conforming to the expected languages and definitions of gender and sexuality.

I love the fact that queer is such a broad yet meaningful term and seems to encompass people who don’t buy into the notion of exclusive labels for every deviation from the norm or the expectation. Yet, one can be queer and also identify as gay or bisexual or pansexual or asexual or anything else. You can apply as many labels as you like to yourself and still identify as queer.

But I’m not going to label my gender or sexuality any more than calling myself queer. If I have to choose one label, then queer makes a lot more sense to me than straight.

Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skies

 

Thomas Synnamon’s Leather and Lace

Several years ago I stumbled upon the photography of Mr. Thomas Synnamon. I say stumbled upon but really it was an honest head-over-heels flip out when I saw this initial image from his Leather and Lace 2011 calendar:

6a00d83451cc7469e2013489a7fa3b970c-800wi

Now, I happen to have a thing for androgyny. I also have a thing for men’s forearms. And another thing for men’s asses. Not to mention for leather, gloves and garter belts (The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a formative film for me).

I believe I nearly had a spontaneous orgasm when I saw the above shot. Then I had to find out who the photographer was. Which led me to discover that there was an entire calendar of these sorts of images.

6a00d83451cc7469e20147e04ba06f970b-800wi

Now a muscled hunky young guy in leather is one thing, but a muscled hunky young guy in leather with a tiny bit of white lace peeking out? That is a whole other ball game, my friend. That plays with my fluid idea of gender in a very, very fun way.

6a00d83451cc7469e2013489a7fa07970c-800wi

I searched up these images again because I am currently writing a gender bending scene in The Loft – Book Three, where James and Tate dress Sebastian in lacy lingerie. I needed inspiration and I remembered where I could get it.

6a00d83451cc7469e2013489a7f6ef970c-800wi

I don’t think the calendar is still around, but luckily I was able to find the post at BeautifulMag featuring this outstanding work of Synnamon’s. I had a look at his website which has some stunning photos of mostly naked men, but he seems, sadly, to be focusing on conventional gender representation now. Which I suppose is where the money is so I don’t blame him at all.

6a00d83451cc7469e2013489a7ef2e970c-800wi

But I find his work here to be personally so downright perfect, it’s as if he consulted me before each shoot to find out exactly what I’d want each model to wear. I would have enjoyed dressing these guys up in all the girly lace that looks anything but girly on them.

6a00d83451cc7469e20147e04ba63a970b-800wi

The only thing this photo shoot didn’t address was my boot fetish, but I can easily imagine all these models wearing docs or dirty work boots so it’s a win all around.

6a00d83451cc7469e2013489a7ee17970c-800wi

Now if I could only get Michael Stokes onside to create something like this in his studio…

6a00d83451cc7469e2013489a7f112970c-800wi

6a00d83451cc7469e20147e04ba73e970b-500wi

You can visit Thomas Synnamon’s website here.

The Alternative

fullsizeoutput_c8
The Cheshire Cat says…

There’s a brand new adult store in town and it’s in my neighbourhood!

The Alternative Adult Store, at 2407 Kaladar Avenue, is a fantastic space with a variety of stimulating items on display.

Of course my favourite spot was an Alice in Wonderland themed back room full of BDSM delights like cock cages and anal hooks, steel collars and studded corsets.

fullsizeoutput_d9
anal hooks

Not to mention floggers and crops. I loved the quote on the wall and the oversize upturned chess pieces on the ceiling. What a creative and beautiful spot to explore one’s fetishes!

Floggers and crops and paddles, oh my!

fullsizeoutput_da
floggers

My husband and I were there for the grand opening on May 6th and were delighted to run into Ottawa’s famous Zelda Marshall and to meet Cynthia Brown, the owner of The Alternative. A major motivation for Ms. Brown in setting up the store is to bring in a wide variety of items that you might not find in other stores, like consignment wear and some more exotic fetish items.

fullsizeoutput_c9
paddles

We even found some Doctor Who leggings that we bought for our twelve year-old!

Cynthia already has a good selection of plus size lingerie and hopes to bring in more.

There are also some very cheeky greeting cards and a selection of personal lubricants.

fullsizeoutput_dc
greeting card

Lots of toys for ladies and men.

20170506_163619_resized
eggs and vibrators
fullsizeoutput_c7
male chastity devices (cock cages)

And a wonderful selection of stainless steel accessories:

fullsizeoutput_d3
steel collar and cuffs, dildos

There was even some pretty extreme bondage furniture on display:

20170506_164842_resized
cage with stocks

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long enough for the more exciting aspects of the Grand Opening, like performances by Zelda Marshall and a little burlesque show. We missed the cake too!

But we did get to meet the pretty pony making cotton candy:

fullsizeoutput_ca
the author with a pretty pony

A nice touch is the little lounging area where people can wait while their partners try on clothes etc. I don’t think I’ve seen this in other adult stores, although it’s fairly standard in lingerie shops.

We spoke to Ms. Brown at length about her inspiration for the store and I broached the subject of possibly holding a book launch there when The Loft – Book Two releases this summer. I can’t honestly think of a more appropriate or accommodating venue.

You can visit and Like The Alternative Facebook Page here.

I’m so excited to have this store open here in South Ottawa. Most of the time a trip to a decent adult store would involve a trip downtown. Now we have one in our backyard.

fullsizeoutput_db

Welcome to the neighbourhood!

New Layout

I’ve seen some really stunning author websites recently so I decided mine needed a bit of an overhaul. The previous layout was very cluttered with a ton of menu items. I found another free WordPress theme that looked much cleaner and changed my menu to a more streamlined format.

Had my cute IT guy working on it all day:

Young man with a laptop, laying on a bed

Please check it out! I have free erotica to read plus extra write-ups on leather pup role play and affiliate website recommendations.

Never a dull moment here.

Why Gay Erotica?

tumblr_onfzswVH4a1trzt5zo1_500

The one question I’m asked over and over again is “How did you get into writing gay erotic romance?”

I always try to think of a short answer, because most of the time the questioner doesn’t have an hour for me to explain.

So, I thought I’d do it in a blog post. Because it has really been a lifelong process for me and the answer is rather more complex than people might suppose.

As a kid I remember being a little gender dysmorphic. When I developed breasts and went through puberty I had a bittersweet feeling about leaving my androgynous childhood behind. My mom had let me run around with no shirt on up until the age of seven or eight, much to my older sister’s embarrassment, just like my brothers. And I really hated that I couldn’t do that anymore. I don’t remember actually wanting to be a boy because I did like the idea that one day I would be able to give birth to a child and be a mom. But that day seemed very far away and all I could understand at the time was pain, inconvenience and discomfort. My brothers seemed to have it much easier. My older sister had never liked me, so I didn’t feel like she was a role model, but my older brother was definitely a role model for me. I remember feeling so very cool and hip when I wore a pair of his hand-me-down flared jeans (it was the seventies after all). I never was into dresses since my mom would make me wear nylons and a slip (ick) which were, you guessed it, pretty uncomfortable.

As I grew up I became more comfortable with my femaleness although I was never a paeon to femininity. I never felt like I had to conform to some strict gender norm. I was just me. When I got my hair cut really short and spiky in grade ten, like Corey Hart, it was a revelation. I looked amazing and felt wonderful. I felt like I finally stood out in a crowd and people complemented me on my looks all the time. I dressed in what was probably seen as a pretty masculine way back then, but I was just being me. I wore high top basketball sneakers, black t-shirts, my Dad’s old wedding jacket (which made a pretty cool blazer) and a brown fedora. My idols were Indiana Jones, Corey Hart, and Han Solo. I wanted to be like them and also be romantic with them. I really didn’t overthink this at the time – it was just the way I was.

At about the same time I started writing very explicit descriptions of my sexual fantasies. These usually involved Han Solo or Indiana Jones and a pretty badass woman of some sort. There was bondage. There was sexual teasing. There was consummation. I knew alot about sex and I thought alot about sex, even though I was too scared to actually try to have sex with anybody real. I’d never had a boyfriend because the boys I felt attracted to didn’t seem to feel the same about me. And I was painfully shy and terrified about the risks associated with physical intimacy. So writing was the way I dealt with my raging hormones and burgeoning sexuality.

I would show these stories to my close friends and the response was always very positive. They thought the stories were incredibly hot and well written. So I would write more. Although I was proud of my stories and read them over and over again, there was a deep sense of shame associated with this activity. Yes, I was writing and writing well, but I shouldn’t be writing these kinds of stories.

I wrote a non-erotic one-act play in grade ten that I submitted to the NAC’s Young Scriptwriters Competition, and it won an Honourable Mention. My English teacher, who had encouraged me to enter the contest, was thrilled, as were my parents and siblings. But all I could see was that I hadn’t placed first, second or third, and the honourable mention seemed more like an insult than anything else.

But I kept writing. I wrote another regular short story called Blue Skies in grade eleven that got a top mark and much praise from a different English teacher, and I believe she had me read it to the class. It was about two young guys, one of whom is being physically abused by his father, the other who is his best friend and tries to save him. It was written in the style of S.E. Hinton whose books I was reading at the time. Looking at it now, I see that, just like Hinton’s stories, there was a homo-erotic undertone to the relationship.

I remember watching movies where there might be a brief scene involving gay men, and being entranced by it when everyone else made a disapproving comment or a noise of disgust. I remember thinking “What do they see that is wrong with this?”

In university I switched the focus of my BA from English Literature to Psychology. I wrote an essay on Male Homosexual Identity for one class and on the concept of Androgyny for another. Both received excellent marks. I continued to write secret erotic stories for my own enjoyment on the side – all featuring straight characters with BDSM elements. I’ve always been fascinated by power dynamics in sexuality.

I loved my class on Human Sexuality and received excellent marks. I should have become a sexuality educator.

A few years after getting my BA I applied to and was accepted in a Scriptwriting Certificate Program at Algonquin College. There I met a great group of fellow writers with whom I’ve stayed in contact over the years, and a man who introduced me to the complexities of physical pleasure and sexual obsession, but, alas, not love. I’d already lost my virginity by that point, to a very nice but dull man in my early twenties. But this “relationship” at college was an awakening of sorts and for that I am very thankful. This man had few hangups and was willing to try anything. He was good at sex and had much more experience than I did. And he also had quite an open attitude to same-sex relations although he hadn’t tried it himself, yet. I thought it quite refreshing that it was something he would absolutely consider one day.

As part of the Scriptwriting program, we were tasked to come up with an idea for a feature film script and pitch it to the teacher in front of the class. I came up with a movie about a happily-partnered gay couple who move into an isolated house in Chelsea Quebec. The younger partner meets a compelling man named Valentine who lives nearby with whom he develops a friendship that threatens to become something more. It soon becomes apparent that Valentine is a threatening character and the film develops into a thriller of sorts. It was titled Critical Persuasions, and my idea was one of five chosen to be pitched to an executive at the CBC during a class trip to Toronto. Although not designed to be sexually explicit, the scenes that I did end up writing were very erotically charged.

I finished the script but it never measured up to what I hoped it would be.  I wrote another full-length movie script later on, with elements of Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, called The Adventures of Pandora Galacia. The main character was a female version of Han Solo, and she had a gay sidekick who competed with her for all the hot men they encountered in their space travels. Although I’m very proud of that script and especially the story concept and characters, I realized that I didn’t come easily or naturally to the very structured requirements of that type of writing.

Cue romance and love in real time. I got engaged, then married, then had my first child, all in the space of a few years. Writing was put on the back burner for a rather long time. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2009, when my second child was 18 months old, that I felt the urge to possibly start writing again. In fact, it was during the lengthy recovery from a significant MS relapse that I discovered that reading free fan-fiction was a great way to relax and destress. We were broke, since my husband was the only income-earner and we now had two kids, so paying for books was out of the question.

There was a category of fan-fiction labelled “slash” which I avoided because I though that meant it was blood and guts horror writing, in which I had absolutely no interest. When I found out it was actually gay erotica, well, the rest is history. I gobbled it up with a great deal of pleasure, amazed that I wasn’t the only woman in the world who enjoyed the idea of two men being physically intimate and falling in love.

It was a revelation, and I remember thinking that someone should tap into this market.

mlrpress-sm

When I was researching publishers for a het erotic short story I’d written, essentially to prove to my husband and his friend that I could write great sex, I came upon the website for MLR Press, a publisher of exclusively MM romance. They were very clear about the kinds of stories their readers wanted, and I knew I could write one. So I did.

I wrote my first ebook, Exposure, for MLR Press, even though their website said they weren’t accepting manuscripts at that time. They suggested that, if you thought you could write the kinds of stories they wanted and believed your writing was good enough, you send a two-page excerpt for them to have a look at. It felt like a long shot, but I was encouraged by the fact that I’d written erotic stories for years at a young age. I knew I could do it and do it well. And I knew I had the interest and ability to write a great piece of gay erotic romance.

453x680Exposure

I had a panic attack the day after I sent the email and attachment to MLR Press – a remnant of the old feelings of shame and guilt from my childhood. I’d just sent a very explicit excerpt out into cyberspace to a publisher that looked good on the internet but about which I really knew nothing. What the hell was I thinking? I comforted myself with the thought that it wasn’t going to get a response anyway, so I might as well not worry about it. I put it from my mind.

Two weeks later, after a great dinner party with friends, I checked my email only to see a response from Kris Jacen at MLR Press. I still remember the wording of the email. It went something like this:

Thank you for your excerpt. After looking it over, it does seem to be something that our readers would enjoy. We request that you send a copy of the completed manuscript to this address.

I barely had time to go over the manuscript, which I’d just finished, for spelling and grammar before sending it in. It sat in their submissions department for a couple of months and then I received an acceptance email with an attached contract.

I was suddenly an author. An author of gay erotic romance, but an author nonetheless, and so very proud of this accomplishment.

TheCrush_432

After almost ten years of not writing at all, I suddenly had multiple stories to tell. And since I now gave myself permission to write the graphic sex scenes I’d always enjoyed reading, there was no stopping me. There was also an element of giving the public a positive depiction of gay sexuality and gay love, something which I felt very strongly about from a young age.

It’s been a challenging and fascinating ride. With three published novels and three novellas behind me, plus two free short stories of which I’m very proud, I’ve evolved in terms of my writing style and subject matter. While I began with some lighter kink in the two early novellas, my James Lucas Trilogy delved much more deeply into the world of bondage and submission, much to my enjoyment and that of my readers as well. As a way of researching these books, I became involved in Ottawa’s gay kink community, meeting a host of fascinating people and engaging in deep discussions about the psychology of BDSM and learning what practitioners get out of it. If my current day-job didn’t always involve Sunday shifts, I’d still be attending the monthly MLO brunches.

15590793_105573319940248_2830466633069565865_o

I’ve noticed too, that I’ve been able to fully embrace my femininity over the past six years, in ways that I was never able to do before. It’s almost as if, now that I have an outlet for the masculine part of me – I’m able to write from the viewpoint of a young gay man – I feel safe exploring my feminine side. I’ve never felt more like a woman than I do after writing gay erotica for six years.

Who would have thought?

 

CanQueer/Velvet Studio Interview!

Inside-ScoopOn-Erotic-Writing-1

On Saturday I was invited to sit down with Luke Smith, Sebastien Plante and Mike Tattersall to discuss the ins and outs (pun intended) of being a woman who writes gay erotica. The resulting discussion proved fascinating and allowed me to expand on what inspired me to branch out into this scintillating arena:

CanQueer Episode 12 – Women Writing Gay Erotica

In the same episode, Ottawa romance author Opal Carew also speaks to Luke about writing graphic erotic ménage.

I am always interested in sitting around a table discussing my writing with gay men, especially when it involves wine and kitty cats. Thanks for hosting us all around your dining room table, Luke! I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny March afternoon.

Book Launch – A Numinous Light!

There will be a book launch for my latest novel, A Numinous Light (Book III in the James Lucas Trilogy), on Sunday, May 3rd, 11:00am, at The Royal Oak at Kent and Slater in Ottawa. Mr. Leather Ottawa 2015, Keven Allen, was nice enough to let me have it as part of the monthly Leather Brunch.

NuminousLight_432

Please join me for brunch and purchase a signed copy of my latest book for $20!  I hope to speak briefly about my writing journey and what brought me into the world of kinky gay BDSM in the first place.

~ Liz