Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Privilege of Owning Yourself…

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

 Note: The decision I've written about in the following post was my own personal conclusion to a battle of issues that I've dealt with in regards to my writing journey. Such decisions cannot not made lightly, by any of us,  because we all have such different lives and circumstances. Unfortunately, many writers have many more obstacles to overcome than I do, and simply cannot make the same decision I have.

Yeah, yeah. You already know. I’ve babbled enough about it. My first novel is scheduled to be released in March, 2011.
During the beginning stages of my novel—its conception through the actual writing process—I kept the story’s truth pretty much closeted except to very close friends and relatives. The secret? The book is a love story between two men.

So? What’s the big deal?

To most, it would be no big deal at all. But to a woman raised within miles of the long-time headquarters of Southeast Texas’ ‘White Sheet Bigot Brigade’, it seemed a big deal; in fact, it seemed a VERY huge deal. I cannot honestly say if my hesitation to be forthright about my story was generated by this long-standing community fear or just my own angst about what people—any people—would think.

I WILL quickly assure you that my parents raised me with blinders where prejudice was concerned. By blinders, I mean that even in this tension-filled community, my mother and father only taught their children one vision for color, race, sexuality: HUMAN. That was all. For that, I will always be grateful to my parents.

Even so, I still had concerns about writing this story. The work place and others in the writing community who might not approve. I’m ashamed to say I decided to keep the nature of my story ‘under my hat’. After all, I had a pen name. Just my little secret.

So why are you writing a story about gay men in the fist place? The answer to that? I don’t know. It just happened. I’d been writing a hetero romance which had a sub-plot involving two gay men. For some reason, the homosexuals in the story endeared themselves to me, and the more I wrote them, the more they seemed to control the story. Something about their love—both physical and emotional—was so pure to me, so beautiful, so logical, so compelling—I decided to expand them into different characters. Before I knew it, I’d written other stories with such relationships, all dear to me.

Okay, so why ‘come out’ about it now? No, it’s not a gay rights championing thing. Or is it? I’m not really sure.

I know many gay men. Many are close friends. They're not 'gay' friends. Just friends. No labels.

During this year, though, events in my life have brought some of these men into the forefront, made me see them. Really see them. And cherish them.

My friend Patric is a writer. He is my mentor. My hard-nosed maestro who stands behind me as I write, looking over my shoulder and tapping his baton, urging me to write my best. Patric has endured a critical illness for the whole time I’ve known him. Yet, in spite of his pain, his fatigue, this beautiful man has been a Rock of Gibraltar for me during my son-in-law’s illness and for my writing. Patric called to congratulate me the night I announced that I’d finished my first book, and we cheered together. My first book will be dedicated to him. I love this man. Patric is gay.

Then there’s Rick, who was a close friend to my son-in-laws’ late mother. Rick has looked after my son-in-law, and has been an Angel—halo, wings, the works—during my son-in-laws’ illness. Rick has cooked for my kids, come to clean their house, taken my son-in-law for chemo and radiation treatments, watched the dogs while the kids were going back and forth to the hospital. Rick bought my kids a beautiful, giant aluminum Christmas tree, complete with decorations, because my son-in-law remembered his late mother’s aluminum tree as a child. That's Rick. I love him, too. Rick is also gay.

So do you see why it is completely impossible—utterly out of the question—for me to consider hiding the fact that my story is about gay lovers? Can you see why I SHOULD be ashamed to have ever been afraid of community opinion?

If I’m ashamed of my story and its content, then I am ashamed of these beautiful men who I call friends. There was absolutely no choice for me but to ‘come out’ of my own self-imposed closet. And to seal the door permanently closed.

‘Coming out of the closet’ for me meant I was honest with everyone who knew I was writing a book about its genre. My office now knows and have been supportive. All my family knows. I told my oldest and dearest writing mentor, Dominic, a beautiful Italian man (who is the whole reason I fell for all things Italian and Mafia). Maybe some disapprove, but won’t voice it to my face, but I doubt it. Either way, they know.

I know many people who will surely read this post and very well trade me down the river. I know that going in, and I'm fine with it.

During this year, too, I’ve come to know some pioneers in the gay rights battle, and have been humbled by their experiences, by their endurance. And, for that reason, I didn’t feel I deserved the right to commune with them if I couldn’t be forthright to everyone I knew about my book—if I could tell only those who it seemed SAFE to tell, but not everyone else.

I am not making light by using the term ‘coming out’ for myself. Shedding years of ignorance is much, much harder and scarier than it seems. But I’m hoping that to have shed them at all, even at this stage in my life, is better than nothing.

Last but not least, Friedrich Nietzsche, I think, sums up what is behind my blog today: The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
























































38 Comments:

Bryl R. Tyne said...

Bless you for standing up for what is 'right' and not hiding behind what is 'popular'. I can't wait to read your book!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, Bryl!
It's good to not have to worry about it anymore. I only regret that I doubted myself in the first place.

Again, thank you for visiting!

Dennis Hays said...

My comments to you on publishing trove...

But mainly, a warm hug and a high-five.

Dennis, who writes as Desmond

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

So why are you writing a story about gay men in the fist place?

Was that a typo? But it makes sense, your dukes are up and now you can't take more shit. Walk proud, life is too short to do otherwise. In a few months you will be a published writer and you can't go back. Carry yourself proud. Your scribbles now carry weight, something you didn't believe in but that day will soon be here. Count to lift off...

Christiane France said...

WTG, girl! I hid the fact I write m/m love stories for all of 5 minutes, until I remembered my mom saying, "If you hide what you're doing, then you must be doing something wrong." I had a wonderful gay male friend who passed on some years ago, but he lives on in my heart and in every book I write. Wherever you are Lee, I'm thinking about you.

Patric said...

Carol...

Unfortunately (and remember this is *my* perspective. It may or may not be shared by others) even in this generally enlightened day and age, there is ample reason to keep secrets. Self preservation is almost always at the forefront of keeping what you write "under cover."

I know any number of authors who, for the sake of family and friends, as well as themselves, choose to "write in the closet" as it were, and with ample reason. That makes them no less skilled as an author.

That said, making the choice to come out of that closet for any writer, just as it is for any gay person, is a deeply personal thing and rarely undertaken without a lot of self examination. Especially if one has been closeted for a long time.

I'm glad of the choice you made, and proud of you for it, but know that I've got your back regardless of your decision.

And from the sound of it, I'm not alone, either. :)

Well done, dear heart!

I hope you find your new circumstances as gratifying and liberating as I did when I crawled out of the closet and stood full upright in the sunshine for the very first time as a gay man. Hopefully, with that door shut firmly behind you, it will afford you the opportunity to write more, and freely, the stories of your heart.

Hugs and more!

Patric

P.S. Thank you for the comments in your blog, but really, I didn't do much except stand around with a bucket of water at my feet, grinning like a loon. :)

Muaah!

Lydia Nyx said...

I know I already spoke to you on the group, but I think this is such a wonderful post. You've inspired me to open up to the people in my own life. I hadn't even told my best friend until a couple months ago, and I was encouraged by her reacting with delight. She even likes to read my stuff out loud to me now, much to my laughing horror (it's so weird to hear your work read out loud!).

I keep thinking of the saying 'those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter.' I think when I 'come out,' if anyone in my life reacts with absolute disgust or wants to disown me, those are not people I want in my life anyway.

Jaime Samms said...

Carol;

This sounds a lot like my story, but for the actual 'coming out' part. I'm afraid I've not been as brave as you when it comes to my life off line. Most people don't know what I write and I'm probably selling them short by assuming they'd even care. Maybe not.

My gay uncle died last year, estranged from our entire family for reasons we will probably never know, now. He cut himslef off from his only brother and his father years ago, not answering letter or phone calls or informing any of us when he got sick. It's sad my kids never knew him. Knowing my own family the way I do, I can put together an scenario wherein he thought his life would be a better, happier place without most of us in it, and that's about the saddest thing I can imagine or write.

Self preservation, as Patric says. I may not agree with them all the time about everything, but at the same time, I want to keep them a little while longer.

I'm so proud of you for your strength and your bravery. I wish I had more of those things, myslef.

C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Dennis!
I did read your comment on PT, and cheers for you and yours regarding your writing!

Thank you for visiting!

C. Zampa said...

Mick...lol...no, it was not a typo.

But you said a very sobering thing. And you're right. There is no turning back. The book is gone, out of my hands. But as sobering as it is, it's also wonderful.

Thanks, friend.

C. Zampa said...

Christiane, welcome.
And I'm glad you felt free to be honest about your decision.

The decision to tell or not to tell is the hard part. But whichever decision we make, we have to rest in it, even if we decide we CAN'T be open. And some can't.

I, like you, feel the uneasy, nagging tension gone.

Thanks for visiting!

C. Zampa said...

Oh, my Patric!

WISE, WISE, WISE words! It IS deeply personal, and not everyone CAN be open. I have friends who were 'found out' and who have suffered greatly at the hands of family and friends. So it can and often is a horrible hardship to be 'out', and as you said, takes much, much self-examination.

And so you stood there and listened. But you DID stand there. And I'm forever grateful. And will stand there when you need me.

Hugs and love.

C. Zampa said...

Lydia, hello!

I'm so happy about your experience with your friend! I had the same experience with some of my family and many friends. They're enthusastic, and I didn't expect that. But I'm so happy about it.

Other will not be. I've had to really weigh that side of it. I didn't have as much to lose as many people might---for instance, my work community is supportive. Some do not have this luxury, and can't expose themselves. I'm a fortunate one.

Thanks for stopping by!

Debbie Gould said...

What a wonderful post. You've always been true to yourself and I dont expect this will change anytime soon.
You're an awesome story-teller, so keep up the good work and don't worry about what the nay-sayers will talk about.

C. Zampa said...

Hello, dear Jaime!

Sweetie, for one thing, I am not brave, and you don't lack bravery for keeping your writing secret.

I only had less obstacles than you, making my own personal decision easier for me.

Anonymity ( I KNOW I spelled that wrong) is sometimes simply necessary, and being open about what we do is often NOT the thing to do.

I don't think there's a right or wrong path to take on such a thing. It's just too personal.

Thank you for visiting, my friend.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Debbie!
Oh, sometimes I'm TOO true to myself, as evidenced by my mouth! LOL! But so many things piled up on me with this issue, and I had to finally really weigh the situation.

Thanks, lady, for stopping by!

Cassie Exline said...

Kudos to you and big hugs. As an author, to me what you write is just another genre, but to tell real life family and friends, I applaud you.

C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Casssie!
It's sure not a luxury all authors have, being able to reveal what they write. With every person I told, it seemed to get easier.
But I do realize I was lucky, and many are not.

Thanks for visiting!

Regina Carlysle said...

Bravo, Carol! I believe it's such a RELIEF to come out of any closet. Be it writing about gay lovers or just writing erotic in general. As you know, I live in the same part of the world as you and, at first, I was scared to death that someone in my ultra religous community would discover what I wrote. Finally, I got sick of it. Sick of hiding out. Sick of my lack of courage. These days I say...I write erotic romances. Folks usually go still. Blink a couple of times but other than that, the world didn't end and nobody burned anything nasty on my lawn. And in the end, I was left feeling proud of myself.

Andy Eisenberg said...

Carol,

Congratulations on your decision to come out with the type of writing it is that you do.

Like coming out as gay or bisexual, it's a deeply personal decision and each one of us know when the time is right.

I truly hope that those who you expect to turn their backs on you surprise you and support you instead.

Andy

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Regina!
Amen to that. No matter what type of closet it is, it is a relief to come out of it, when and if the time comes. And, oh yes, erotica is the very same.

And, yes, you're right about our communities! And you're SO very right that the world DOES go on. And we're at peace, living by our own convictions.

Thanks for visiting, my friend!

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Andy! Yes, it is so deeply personal.

You could be right about being surprised by those who I think will turn their backs. That would certainly be a nice surprise if they did not. But I knew there would be the possibility that they would snub me, and felt it was a risk I had to take anyway.

Thanks so much for visiting.

Sarah Ballance said...

We've talked about this so much privately that I'll just sum it up here: I'm incredibly proud of you!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Sarah!
And ditto to you, my friend!
Hugs!

chrysalis1975 said...

Cheers love :)

I have been following your comments & blog with eagerness, and when I see a post that lays all of you bare, open, raw, and honest, I have to cease lurking and speak.

Your honesty, your courage, your vulnerability---that is where people need to focus their attention. What genre you write should not and will not matter to those who now see YOU and know that woman has been there all along---you just needed to vocally acknowledge it too. That gives you power, and HONEY, don't we need more women to realize their power as a real and breathing entity, and embrace it for all our lives?

I cannot wait to read your story, your m/m work, your creativity. If it's even a fraction of a representation of the woman that spoke on this blog today, I will be the better for reading your work, as will others.

Brava, m'dear :) Now, go forth Voyager!

Tame

Sarah Masters said...

HUG!

That is all.

:o)

C. Zampa said...

Welcome, Tame!

Oh, you know Now, Voyager! How I LOVE that film, and have always wanted to read the book, too!

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, and support. And I hope, hope, hope, the book will not disappoint.

Thanks!

C. Zampa said...

Oh, Sarah....HUGS to you to, angel lady!

((love)))

Lee Wind said...

I'm really proud of you for standing up - congratulations!

In fact, I really love this post. With your permission, I'd like to link to it on my blog - I think there's an important message in it about "owning yourself" for teens and everyone else, too!

Okay with you?

iamleewind at gmail dot com

Namaste,
Lee

http://www.leewind.org
"I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Lee. I emailed you, and of course I would not mind sharing the post for the youth. I'd be honored.

Thank you for stopping by!

Scarlett Knight said...

This post was all I needed: put me on the list of people who want to buy this book! :) You should be very proud of yourself for this. Keep up the good, honest work.

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Scarlett!
Oh, I do so hope the book does not disappoint! LOL..

Thank you for visiting!

Scarlett Knight said...

Don't worry about that, lol! It'll be good, if for any reason, because your heart was in it.

Joylene Butler said...

I look forward to the day when the norm is to just be who you are and never feel the need to justify. It's sad that even today I hear dear, close friends still make ridiculous statements like, "He's native, but he's a nice guy." Or "She's gay, but she's a real moral person."

Carol, my hat's off to you for setting an example. Kudos to your parents for raising such a stand up child.

Blessings.

C. Zampa said...

Hugs, Joylene. You're right. Hopefully there WILL be a day that won't matter anymore. As Regina said, even erotica gets the turned up noses. So much judging. And, like you say, we're just people, none of us should have labels.

Thank you for your support, for always being there.

C. Zampa said...

Scarlett, thank you for your confidence!

Jennifer Morian Frye said...

I know, to a small degree what you mean about that inside voice that worries what the people in your life will think of what you write. I have that problem. I want to write and be read, just not necessarily by anyone I know. It is probably irrational, but it is real nonetheless. I applaud you for 'going for it', and hope the book is well received and well loved. And may we all live to see a day when labels are given less power. Or not used at all.

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Jennifer, and thank you for stopping by.

We all have those inner voices about so many things in our lives, don't we? I bet most writers, no matter what they write, have to battle with somebody, somewhere, knowing what they write. And that is just normal. And, no, it's not irrational at all. You have to do what you're comfortable with.

Again, thanks so much for visiting!