The “I’m Not Gay” Homosexual

Jamie Fessenden:

Worth a read. I went through something similar as a teenager. I knew I was attracted to men, but the idea that I might be “gay” was simply impossible. My church taught me that good people couldn’t be gay, and I believed it. Therefore, I must just be “confused” or maybe my faith was being tested.  I didn’t discuss this with anyone in my church, of course – I wasn’t insane. I simply prayed a lot.

Originally posted on Michael Rupured:

“I’m not gay” homosexuals turn up in my stories from time to time. Readers — especially women (do straight men read my books?) — question how he can be in denial about being gay when he’s having sex with men. Openly gay men know exactly who I’m talking about because these guys hit on us all the time.

The “I’m not gay” homosexual doesn’t deny enjoying sex with men. Misperceptions about “the gay lifestyle” and what it means to be gay blind him to the truth. That he might be gay is just too horrifying to even consider. What would his family say?

Growing up, that I might be gay never occurred to me. Don’t laugh, it’s true. Everyone else knew, but I had no idea.

Why not?

That I’m sometimes a little slow on the uptake is well established and no doubt played a role. But I blame society. Before…

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“Murder on the Mountain” is available for pre-order!

Murder on the Mountain400x600Coming August 22nd!

When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.

Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night, along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking into the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon, he is learning things that could very well solve the case—or get him killed.

This is my first “traditional” murder mystery.  Murderous Requiem had murders in it, but they didn’t occur at the beginning, and the main characters weren’t directly trying to solve the crime—they had other things on their minds.  But Murder on the Mountain is a “who-dunnit,” in which a body is discovered and the suspects are all gathered in a hotel for a week while Kyle and Jesse try to solve the mystery.

It was a very challenging story to write, and I spent forever going over the nit-picky details in the novel.  It was a lot of fun, though, and I hope people love it, because I have a burning desire to set Kyle and Jesse off on a new case soon!

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The Equal Rights Blog Hop: Coming Out in the 80s

Coming Out in Small Town New England in the 80s

equal_rights_blog_hop_button-400x398

Welcome to the Equal Rights Blog Hop! Each year, members of the the GLBTQ community and their supporters gather to celebrate the battle for equal rights. This year, thirty different authors have joined in the hop, and there are prizes galore! Be sure to check out the entire prize list at Queertown Abbey and see how you can enter to win the rafflecopter–as well as the Master List of Participating Authors.

I came out in 1983 in Keene, NH, a town with a population of about 23,000.  This was not a great time to be gay in America.  Homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness (until it was reclassified in an addendum to the DSM-III in 1987), and just one year after I came out, a young, openly gay man named Charlie Howard drowned, after being beaten and thrown off a bridge in Bangor, Maine—the town I was born in.

The world was not yet ready for us—for me.

I was actually lucky.  Though I’d spent some time in fundamentalist churches and, not to put too fine a point on it, been seriously screwed up by their loathing of homosexuals, my parents were not mean people.  In 1983, I was living with my mother—a psychologist—and she handled the revelation that her oldest son was gay pretty well.  My problems were self-loathing, taught to me by the church and society, and sheer loneliness.

Apparently, my self-loathing didn’t go very deep, because I was able to get over that within a few years of meeting other gay men and starting to date.  Thank God.  But that first obstacle—meeting other gay men—was a challenge.  Keep in mind, they didn’t want to be found.  Not by anyone who wasn’t gay.  And that made it hard for those who were gay to find them too.

It took me about a year to go from coming out to finally meeting another gay man.  Any gay man.

A friend of mine had heard that one of the local supermarket papers had personals for gays as well as straight people, so I picked up a copy.  There were a few GWM (Gay White Male) Seeking… hookups, mostly.  I found most of them kind of creepy.  But there was one from a man just a few years older than myself, and he appeared to be looking for someone to hang out with—not necessarily sex.  So I agonized over my response and finally sent a letter that just copied his ad, replacing his age with mine.

Fortunately, Michael thought it was cute.  He called and we arranged to meet in a public place.  Again, I was lucky.  Michael didn’t turn out to be my One True Soulmate, but he did turn out to be a caring, attractive man who made me feel good about myself and, as someone who worked in public radio news, he opened my eyes to the world around me.  And yes, he also became my first lover. For the record, he didn’t seduce me—I pretty much threw myself at him.

It was also through Michael that I finally found the Gay community in Keene.  It turned out they moved every month from one house to another, the next month’s location published in a newsletter distributed only to members, and then marked by purple balloons attached to the house’s mailbox when the time came.

At this time, there wasn’t much of an “LGBT” community.  Gay men did not hang out with lesbians, and the two groups frequently badmouthed each other.  Bisexuals and transgendered people were, I’m sad to say, treated with mockery.  Michael wasn’t like that. He and I rented rooms from a lesbian couple and he had friends who were bisexual, so I learned not to absorb the cliquish attitudes I encountered in the men’s group.  But we certainly weren’t any more welcome at the lesbian group than our landlady and her partner were welcome at the men’s group.

I recall being baffled, at the time.  I couldn’t understand why we didn’t all ban together and recognize we had a common cause.  I can’t tell you how much better things got for all of us in the 90s, when this began to happen.

To enter the grand prize drawing at Queer Town Abbey, please answer this question — WHAT TOWN DID I LIVE IN WHEN I CAME OUT?

Then, go to this link–

http://queertownabbey.com/the-equal-rights-blog-hop-july-4th-through-11th/

What you do next, will be explained there!

 

 

 

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My take on women writing MM Romance

SterekThe argument has surfaced again and again over the four years since I first published in this genre:  Are women really capable of writing MM Romance?  After all, it’s about men.  Shouldn’t men write it?

My answer to those questions is a bit complex, so bear with me.

First, a little history.  This is based upon my personal experience, supplemented by some cursory research, so don’t take anything I say as absolute fact.  I would love to see someone do a really thorough history of the genre someday.

I don’t know how old modern “gay literature” is.  I do know E.M. Forster wrote Maurice in 1913 (though it wasn’t published until after his death in 1971).  Blair Niles published a novel in 1931 called Strange Brother, which tells of the friendship between a heterosexual woman and a gay man.   Authors such as Christopher Isherwood and Langston Hughes were also writing in the 1930s, but I don’t think much of it was overtly homosexual.  Gordon Merrick wrote a gay novel in 1947 called The Strumpet Wind. In the 1950s, the gay pulps made a tentative appearance, sometimes as reprints of older novels such as Strange Brother, and by the 1960s, some of pulps had become sexually explicit.  Victor J. Banis was one of the pioneers in this genre with his The Man from C.A.M.P. series, beginning in 1966.

There are too many authors to list in this brief overview, but I’ll add a few more groundbreaking novels here.  In 1970, Gordon Merrick’s The Lord Won’t Mind hit the New York Times Bestsellers List for sixteen weeks.  Then in 1974, Patricia Nell Warren hit the NYT Bestsellers List with The Front Runner, which became an enormous mainstream hit.  In 1980, Vincent Virga wrote the first gay gothic romance, appropriately titled Gaywyck.

Now, most of the authors writing gay novels were gay men, but you’ll note that the author of The Front Runner was a woman.  Another female author, Marion Zimmer Bradley, published one of my favorite gay novels—The Catch Trap—in 1979.  She later wrote other novels with gay characters, as did Patricia Nell Warren.  (Yes, I’m aware of the controversy surrounding Marion Zimmer Bradley, and I’m not saying I approve of everything she’s done.  However, it’s still a great novel.)

When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality in the early eighties, I devoured every gay novel I could find—not that I could find many.  Most of what I discovered was in the bargain bins of the local used book store.  Those books were mostly dreary depictions of gay men living lonely lives, having sex with strangers, and resolving to die alone.  Often they died prematurely of AIDS or violence.  As much as I love The Front Runner, which depicts a wonderful, loving relationship between two men, the ending is horrific.  These books depicted a bleak future for a teenage boy just coming out of the closet.  It got to the point where I flipped to the end chapter of every book I picked up to make sure the main character and his love interest were both still alive before I purchased it.

Fortunately, there were exceptions.  Gordon Merrick novels ended happily, though they were so obsessed with physical beauty and enormous cocks I couldn’t really apply them to my life.  I did stumble across a novel called Tory’s by William Snyder which ended happily, though again the main character was rather vapid and obsessed with physical appearance.  There was one wonderful YA novel by B.A. Ecker called Independence Day which had a positive impact on me.  It depicted a boy my age who was in love with his best friend.  The ending saddened me, because they didn’t end up running off into the sunset together, but the fact that his friend embraces him when he comes out was a big deal.  I have no idea whether B.A. Ecker was male or female, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Ecker was female.  I’ve already mentioned The Catch Trap, which was wonderfully romantic and ended happily.

And it was written by a woman.

At this time, I had no doubt that I preferred female authors.  It seemed to me that the male authors of gay novels were either depressed or obsessed with penis size.  I wanted romance.  And for that, I turned to women.  (Later, I would discover Mercedes Lackey’s Last Herald Mage trilogy, which couldn’t be said to be happy, really, but was definitely romantic.)

Then in college, I discovered an entirely new (to me) source of gay stories—slashfic.

I’m sure most people already know the term, but basically it’s fiction written by fans of a particular TV, movie, or book series who pair up their favorite characters for sexual escapades.  The name “slashfic” derives from the slash put between the characters when people talk about the stories, such as “Kirk/Spock.”  (There can, of course, be multiple characters—it doesn’t just have to be two.)

I never wrote fanfic or slashfic myself, but I saw it online.  At the time, the World Wide Web didn’t exist.  My college wasn’t even on the Internet until near the end of my time there—we were on something called BITNET.  (Which is a fascinating subject, but not relevant to this discussion.)  All of the stories I read were distributed on a text-based service called LISTSERV.

While I didn’t write slashfic, I did write original stories on a vampire fan list and I was on a Star Trek fan list, among others.  The authors who posted their works of fiction—whether based in the universe of Star Trek, or Anne Rice, or entirely of their own creation—were largely amateurs.  I don’t mean that in a negative sense.  Some of them were very good.  (Lois McMaster Bujold, one of my favorite fantasy/science fiction authors, began by writing Star Trek fanfic.)  But most were unpublished at that time, like myself.

And another observation:  most of these writers were female.  Yes, I’ve seen rants about how this is a stereotype and completely untrue, but I’ve found at least one study in 2010 that seems to have some good data.  It could all be bogus, of course, but if it’s correct, we’re looking at about 78% of fanfic writers being female.  And if we’re talking about the sub-category of slashfic, which often (though not always) involves two male characters getting it on, it seems reasonable to assume a largely female authorship.  Gay men no doubt write some, but I think the percentage is low.

What does this have to do with MM Romance?

Not to put too fine a point on it, MM Romance—in my opinion—does not owe its origin to mainstream gay fiction.  It comes from slashfic.  I’m not saying it’s the same thing as slashfic.  Certainly not.  It’s evolved away from its origins.  MM Romance is original fiction and much of it is well-written and professional.  But it descended from slashfic, and the gender demographics haven’t changed a lot.  The majority of writers are still female, and the majority of readers are female.

Mainstream gay fiction is still out there.  It’s actually expanded a bit to include lesbian and transgender fiction.  But I confess, I still find much of it dreary.  I picked up a book not long ago that was was full of critical accolades in the first pages.  I read the first chapter, grew suspicious, and flipped to the end.  Yes, the love interest was dead, the victim of a gay-bashing.  Of course.

I don’t need that crap.

I want romance.  And for that, I turn to MM Romance, which has always been a genre dominated by women.  Always.  There has never been a time when the majority of writers in this genre were gay men.  So the question of whether women should be writing MM Romance is utterly absurd.

The real question is, can men write it?

Gay men, in fact, often find it frustrating to write in this genre.  They sometimes pour their hearts into a manuscript, writing about gay characters dealing with the difficulties gay men face every day, only to have it rejected by publishers of MM Romance because there isn’t enough romance in it.  Or (somewhat ironically) female readers will rate a story badly because there isn’t enough sex in it, which can make us feel as if we’re prostituting ourselves.  And while there are a few gay men on the top of the charts, there are far more women up there.  (I’m talking about the authors who sell thousands of copies with nearly every release.)

The fact of the matter is, MM Romance may be about gay men, but it isn’t really ours.  The genre is full of tropes that often baffle and frustrate us—all couples must be monogamous, despite a very large percentage of gay couples having open relationships; the only real sex is penetrative anal sex, despite the fact that many gay men don’t like it—and many gay men have difficulty writing them.  Not only that, but many gay men have difficulty reading them. Hence the reason this argument of women writing MM Romance keeps surfacing.

(Also, I am not trying to imply that all gay men agree about… well, anything.  Whenever I talk about how tired I am of seeing anal sex written about as if it’s the ultimate expression of love for gay men, I get some men praising me and some men snarling at me for tromping all over something they happen to love.)

But grousing about the problems in the genre overlooks one other key fact:  without it, most of the gay authors currently publishing in MM Romance would not be published, or at least they would have to resort to self-publishing.  This isn’t to say MM Romance authors, whether men or women, aren’t up to snuff when compared to mainstream authors.  I think many of us are.  But the gateways to mainstream publishing are jealously guarded.  An author nearly always requires an agent to get into a mainstream publishing house, and agents themselves take on only a small percentage of the authors who submit to them.

MM Romance publishers have provided another avenue for gay male authors—a lot of gay male authors.  It’s been a boon to us. Like any market, it has restrictions as to what sells and what doesn’t sell, and it does little good to complain about that.  We have to adapt to what sells if we want our stories to sell.  That’s just marketing common sense.  And at least some male authors have been successful at it.  We do, after all, like romance too.

Ultimately, if there are things gay authors don’t like about the MM Romance genre, we’re in a good position to affect some change within it.  Not by ranting, necessarily.  (Yes, I’m guilty of ranting—frequently.)  But by depicting ourselves honestly in good stories.  If our stories are good, they’ll have an influence.  Also by talking about ourselves honestly with other authors in the genre.  Female authors aren’t the enemy.  They want their stories to be authentic.  The best do their research and hang out with gay men so they can accurately represent us.  But of course, “gay men” isn’t really a unified group of people—and the information we impart about our lives is often contradictory.  And they’re bound by the market too.  They want to sell their books.  So change comes slowly.

Overall, when I talk of “changing” the MM Romance genre, I’m not talking about a genre in need of a complete overhaul.  This genre has been good for the LGBTQ community.  It’s expanded our acceptance with both readers and publishers, and it’s influenced the way a lot of people vote on gay rights issues.  I have no doubt that it’s expanded the acceptance of same-sex marriage in this country and others.

So I like the MM Romance genre.  I’ve found a home there and made a lot of friends there.  Any good author will have an influence upon his or her genre, even if small, so of course I hope to do so someday.  But if I do, it will be through the quality of my work—not through any misguided attempts to drive women out of the genre and claim it as my own.

 

 

 

 

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Book spotlight: “A Heart for Robbie” by J.P. Barnaby

 Author J.P. Barnaby has come out with a new novel that may just break my heart.

A Heart for Robbie

Waiting for someone else’s child to die so yours can live is the worst kind of Hell.

Celebrated Young Adult author Julian Holmes pits the heroic characters in his Black Heart series against all different kinds of monsters. But when a critical heart defect threatens his son’s life, he finds he has no champion. No amount of books, classes, or practice can prepare Julian for the fight to save his beautiful son’s life.

Suddenly there are hospitals, transplant lists, and the nightmare of insurance red tape to navigate. In the midst of his trouble, Julian meets Simon Phelps, the insurance coordinator for Robbie’s case. Simon lives so deep in the closet he might never find his way out, but he dreams of exactly what Julian has. Then one night, drunken need and desperation brings them together, and a new fight begins.

 

About the Author:

J.P. Barnaby, an award-winning romance novelist, is the author of over a dozen books with three-dimensional, dynamic characters—survivors shrouded in a cloak of realism. As a bisexual woman, JP is a proud member of the LGBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing romance, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.

Website: http://www.JPBarnaby.com
Blog: http://www.jpbarnaby.com/#blog
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/JPBarnaby
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JPBarnaby

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Guest Blog: Jana Denardo talking about steampunk

IfTwoOfThemAreDeadFSI enjoy steampunk for its creativity. I love all the clothes, backstories, and especially the music – Abney Park anyone? Steam-Powered Giraffe? – so I’ve wanted to write a steampunk story for a long time. I didn’t know where to go with it initially. I didn’t want to do the war story or airship pirates. Sure, those are great fun, but they are almost expected of the genre. I wanted to do something a little different.

The steampunk is the backdrop for the story more than the driving force. It is, at its heart a mystery with a fantastical setting. Getting the steampunk to even out with the mystery was a balancing act. I didn’t want to give the detective too much technology that wouldn’t have been around at the time. I wasn’t out to write CSI: 1890 (besides The Artful Detective already does a fine job of that). Nicolai Tesla’s and Abraham’s little toy at the end was really about the only weapon that wasn’t period. And how could I pass up the chance for Abraham to know Tesla? Tesla is one of my heroes.

While I don’t want to spoil the fun weapons at the end of the novella, I can talk about Victor being an airman before he went into the police force. So there are airships, and Abraham makes engines for them, which is part of his wealth. He’s also busy making his own personal small airships for fun. Steam-driven automobiles are slightly more prevalent and advanced than they would have been at the time mostly, because as a wealthy inventor would have one, and the police department has a couple and it made it easier to move Victor around where I needed him to go.

I wish I had more time to play with Abraham’s inventions, especially Cerberus, the mechanical dog he created for his son. There were more domestic scenes I would have liked to write but I didn’t want to take away from the tension of the mystery. Cerberus is the invention I liked the best, (one of my first readers likes the mechanical butler best), and I hope you will, too.

Thanks to Jamie for having me over!

IfTwoOfThemAreDeadFSExcerpt – If Two of Them Are Dead

I’m Detective Victor Van Voorhis. I need to speak to the master of the house.”

He’s expecting you. You can give your coat to Justin.” She waved her hand to indicate what looked like a tree stand with hands. She pressed the brass dogwood flower-shaped button in its center and the thing rumbled.

It wheezed and hissed little puffs of steam, and the arms extended as the contraption lurched forward on its wheeled base, startling Victor. He studied the machine, having never seen anything like it. He wondered how the mechanical butler worked, but it didn’t seem to work without someone there to turn it on. Was it more than a mechanized coat rack? Victor would have to ask.

Do you like Justin?”

The male voice dragged Victor’s attention away. A tall, almost overly thin man stood in an interior doorway that led deeper into the home. He was surprisingly clean-shaven, though his walnut hair was mussed. Grief pinched his otherwise fine features.

You named a machine?”

The man offered a wan smile. “It’s a quirk of mine, one of many. I name all my inventions. I’m Abraham Westbrook.”

To Victor’s surprise, this wealthy man stuck out his hand to shake. Victor felt nicks and calluses he hadn’t expected to find on a rich man’s hands. “I’m Detective Victor Van Voorhis. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Abraham nodded. “Thank you. Her children are upstairs with mine and their nannies. They weren’t here when it happened. Will you need to speak to them? They’re naturally very upset.”

Later,” Victor said, handing his coat to Justin, who rolled away back to its corner. “Just briefly about the morning, before they left. You can be present, of course. However, I have questions for you, sir, about your sister-in-law. I understand your brother is in the city. Were you and your wife at home this morning and afternoon?” Victor had no real idea how the rich spent their days. Why wasn’t this man at work? Did he even work?

I was here in my workshop.” Abraham gestured toward a hallway. “My wife passed over five years ago.”

I’m sorry.” The generic words of sympathy tumbled out of him. Victor was used to saying them several times a day when working a case.

It’s fine, Detective. Come with me. We can talk in my library. It will be more comfortable.”

Of course.”

Victor followed him through a living room roughly the size of Victor’s house, then down a hall with carpeting that ate all the sounds of their passage and felt like walking on a cloud. The scent of old books, slightly musty and even dustier, hit Victor’s nose as they entered the library. A large marble fireplace dominated one wall, with comfortable-looking chairs and a table with a whiskey decanter and glasses set out in front of it. Rows of books lined every other surface, along with more knickknacks and other memorabilia than Victor could easily take in.

Buy Link:  http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4990

Author’s Bio:   Jana Denardo’s career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and gives college students nightmares. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet.

Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.

Social Media Links:

http://jana-denardo.livejournal.com/

http://twitter.com/#/JanaDenardo

https://www.facebook.com/jana.denardo

 

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Undefining Gay Men: an addendum to yesterday’s post

Gay GuysWhat I posted yesterday about tops and bottoms in MM Romance certainly sparked a lot of discussion—most of it good.  But there also seemed to be a lot of confusion about what my actual point was.  One friend got very angry at me for attempting to define his sexuality.

I wasn’t attempting to define anyone’s sexuality.  I don’t care what you do in bed.  If you like anal sex, go for it.  If you like to be on the bottom or the top, that’s your business.  (Although I still maintain that those labels are, at the very least, falling out of fashion.)

What I am trying to do is to stop people from defining gay men in relation to anal sex.

Being gay is not about anal sex.

Seriously.

I can’t really even blame this attitude on our society, because it’s thousands of years old.  Bizarre connections have been made throughout documented history between men loving men and anal sex.  People are perpetually surprised when they discover that a gay man they’ve met doesn’t like anal sex.  As if such a thing is biologically impossible.

It’s as if all gay men have brands on our foreheads saying LOVES ANAL.

“Hi, have you met my friend Paul?  He loves anal.”

“Oh!  Good to meet you, Anal-Loving Paul!”

“Likewise!  This is my anal-loving husband, Steve.”

“Will I be seeing the two of you at Anal Pride next week?”

I have witnessed one of our state legislators give a lengthy speech about the evils of same-sex marriage, during which she described how filthy anal sex was in graphic, tedious detail.  It is nearly impossible to bring up gay rights without someone mentioning how disgusted they are by two men having anal sex.

We need to stop this automatic connection of gay men to anal sex.  I don’t care if someone likes anal sex.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with anal sex.  But being gay is not about anal sex.  I’m gay because I’m sexually and emotionally attracted to men.  It has nothing to do with what I like to do in bed, apart from the general fact that it’s probably going to be with another man.  And referring to ourselves as “tops” or “bottoms” reduces us to roles in anal sex.  Even calling ourselves “versatile” still defines us in relation to anal sex.

I’m not some radical who objects to any and all labels.  I have no problem with the label “gay.”  I’m gay and happy to be so.  But that label doesn’t mean a thing about specific sexual practices.  It says something about attraction and love.  I have no problem with people looking at me and thinking about men loving men.

But I have no interest in people looking at me and thinking about anal sex.

That’s just… no.

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