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Dec 15

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Too Lesbian.

“It’s too lesbian.”

Is that a loaded phase, or what?

I mean, we’ve all heard about loaded baked potatoes. And new cars that are loaded with options. Guns are loaded, too. And if memory serves, my dear, departed father was frequently loaded—especially on Christmas Eve, when the threat of so much “family” intimacy was more than he could bear without blowing a few circuits. At the time, I judged him for his weakness and perceived lack of self control. Now I think I understand his motivations a bit better.

HD sticker copyYou don’t have to be a published author to appreciate the angst that goes hand-in-hand with the joy of putting out a new book. Think about anything you’ve ever poured your heart (and most of your sleep) into creating. Then remember what it was like to finally put it out on public display for the world to embrace, ignore, celebrate, scrutinize, reject, or revile. It’s like closing your eyes and pressing the enter key when you’ve finally finished writing those first few perfect words of love—or those last few flawed words that mark the end of love.

It’s a risk. But you do it anyway. You have to.

And, hey? Dealing with the fallout is why we have Al Anon…. It’s a good reminder when your life becomes unmanageable and you need to be reminded that the dance works better when you don’t try to lead.

In my very short career, I’ve written and published six books. That’s the good news and the bad news. Six books in two and a half years is really pretty crazy. I mean…how do you do that and have any quality of life?

Well. As the sage KG MacGregor once explained to me, you work hard, try to write books that hit the mark, and do your best to marry well.

Check. Bought the t-shirt on that last one.

But the negative feedback? That one’s a toughie. We all get criticism. It’s always hard to hear, and it’s always painful, no matter how much we try to insulate ourselves by wearing our titanium-lined big girl panties. But I remember when a great friend of mine said, “McMan, you gotta pay attention to the message behind the words. There will always be important things for you to learn, even if you disagree and don’t want to hear them.”

But nobody really tells you how to handle it when your severest critic is your own mother. Especially when her reaction to something you’ve worked so hard to create is a curt, “It’s too lesbian.”

It is?

And what, exactly, does “too lesbian” really mean? You know me. I think in metaphors. I listen for the things behind the sounds. And, sometimes (most of the time?), a cigar really does masquerade as a substitute for something more…sinister. So when my mom tells me how much she dislikes my newest book, Hoosier Daddy, because it’s “too lesbian,” I have to wonder what we’re really talking about.

If I strain really hard and try to remember the math I took pass/fail in college, I might be able to break it down as follows.

If  X = “too lesbian” and Y = “Ann McMan” — then X = Y.

So we can extrapolate that if Hoosier Daddy is too lesbian, then Ann McMan is too lesbian, too.

Well. I have always liked comfortable shoes and Julie Andrews movies….

But at the same time, I have to confess that at the ripe old age of fifty-eight, there was something especially painful in the way this particular criticism was levied. Is it fair to marginalize a book because it’s poorly written, trite, lacking in depth or redeeming content, or vapid and puerile? Of course. Is it reasonable to offer a wholesale repudiation of a prose work that took eight months to craft because its content is too lesbian? I don’t really think so.

It’s worth noting that no one ever (as far as I know) rejected works like Gone With the WindDoctor Zhivago, or LIttle Women because they were “too heterosexual.” Not that I’m comparing myself to Margaret Mitchell, Boris Pasternak, or Louisa May Alcott—although there are rumors that Louisa may have played for our team. And for the sake of argument, I’ll add that my mother’s bookshelves contain not only these classic works of literature—but all three volumes in the Fifty Shades series, penned by that rabid heterosexual, E.L. James.

It’s true that my best literary efforts continue to pale in comparison….300x300

So here are the sad realities I have as take-aways from my latest literary foray. Ann McMan is a lesbian. She is an author. She writes books. She writes books about lesbian characters who live, love, and struggle to relate to a world that still, after all—after everything—continues to categorize, classify, and identify them as not quite normal. As not quite right. As not quite ready for prime time.

Or, to boil it all down to its simplest form: funny, romantic books about lesbians are icky.

Do I sound angry? I’m not as angry as I am hurt. And disappointed.

News flash from Flawed Me to Liberal, Open-Minded, Left-Leaning, Straight-Democrat-Ticket-Voting, Heteroxesual Moms Everywhere: I’m not Eudora Welty. There was only one Eudora Welty, and she’d be the first person to tell you that her mother didn’t really like her stories very much, either. I think Flannery O’Connor would say the same thing—and she had all that twisted Catholic angst to contend with, too. And peacocks. Lots of them. In fact, O’Connor once placidly quipped that lesbian sex was no worse than any other kind of sin.

That’s something, at least. And, as all of us who are card-carrying members of the Sapphic Sisterhood have learned the hard way, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”

I wonder if O’Connor would’ve liked Hoosier Daddy?

About the author

Ann McMan

Permanent link to this article: http://annmcman.com/too-lesbian/

40 comments

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  1. Lee Lynch

    Yeah. I totally get it. I’m too lesbian too. And proud of it. Your poor mom, when she gets to heaven’s door and realizes how unloving a view that was, and how brave of you to even have shared your work, and is no longer sure the door will open for her… if only we all had the wisdom to simply love.

  2. Charon

    Nope, I’m going with baby bear lesbian – just right. I recently got a straight female friend hooked on your work by gifting her Jericho, and I love all your stuff (including Hoosier Daddy) and I’m a straight guy… The bench of really good lesbian romance authors is sadly thin, so I appreciate your work.

    Also, I may have to finally start using Twitter just so I can know when you update this blog. Sigh. Unless you make a public figure facebook page so I can follow you there?

    1. Ann McMan

      Hello, there, Charon. I hope that when my time comes, you’ll kindly consent to let me ride along with you.
      I am honored that you, a card-carrying straight man, like my books. That tells me that I’ve done something right, and I’m very happy about that. Thanks so much for the props. And I do have a Facebook page, but it’s not a public figure page. Kindly send me a friend request, and we’ll be off and running. The rest, as they say, shall be history.

  3. Elizabeth Davis

    I don’t think thatin today’s age one should be told that a book iisn’t good enough because of the sexual orientationof it’s characters. I am straight-ish lol I love people for people and I have had lesbian relationships that I valued just the same. I just so happened to meet and marry a man, but I respect the content for what it is, I only need to care about the characters. I don’t care what race, sexial orientation, or handicap they may have, just make me love them. Do straight peole ever stop to think that their heterosexual displays of PDA may make certain religious groups or homosexuals uneasy? But yet those people rarely say anything. It all just baffles me. Great blog though, keep up the good work.

    1. Ann McMan

      Thank you, Elizabeth. I promise to do my best to keep telling my (our?) stories!

  4. Ingrid

    Great post!

    My mom was always asking me why I don’t write things “everyone can read.” I kept telling her my stories are not written in hieroglyphics, but I’m pretty sure by “everyone” she meant “straight people.” She hasn’t said anything like that in a while, though. Now she just wants to know when the next one is coming out.

    Speaking of which, six books in two and a half years?! Stop that! YOU ARE MAKING US ALL LOOK BAD. ;)

    Just kidding. Don’t stop.

    That sounded dirty.

    This comment got away from me…

    1. Ann McMan

      Yes…. My mom wants me to be Eudora Welty. And have longer hair. I’ve never really been able to connect the two attributes. Thanks so much for commenting. And by the way—when IS the next book coming out? I know that “everyone” will want to read it….

  5. Renate

    Hi Ann,
    Having read all your books, laughing and enjoying them tremendously…I cannot even fathom your moms reaction..didn’t she read your other books? Does she not realize how much your books are appreciated ALL OVER THE WORLD ? I know you are read in Spain…Germany…Canada…and I have yet to meet anybody whose day your books didn’t brighten and put a smile or grin on their face!
    Thank you for your books…and hopefully many more!!
    Renate

    1. Ann McMan

      Thanks so much, Renate. I appreciate this encouragement more than you realize. I guess the good news is that I still have many more stories to tell—and laughter is the best medicine!

  6. BeniGee

    Hi Ann

    Thanks for sharing your angst with us. I’m afraid the expression ‘You can please all of the people some of the time, you can please some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time’ comes into mind and Mothers come very much into that latter category, especially if you are a lesbian! I’m not a writer so I haven’t got the problem of my mother criticising my work, but my clothes, the length of my hair, the way I stand, my friends… you name it she can find fault with it. All I can say when it comes to the major things in life she has been there for me. So I do sympathise, I really do…, BTW your books rock!!

    1. Ann McMan

      Thanks, Beni! You’re a pal.

  7. Marie Castle

    Ann,

    I haven’t read Hoosier Daddy yet, but it’s on my list. I have read your other books and know it will be as great. I’m from Mississippi and have really connected with your Tennessee characters. And I certainly connected with your blog. Your mother rejected your book (an in essence you), but my mother didn’t even acknowledge mine today or my excitement that it was out. Ignoring someone is another form of rejection, and boy does it sting. My family has taken the stance for years that if they ignore my lesbianism that it will go away. We recently had a “sit down” regarding this over the Thanksgiving holiday where I reminded them my being gay wasn’t a choice and it–I–wasn’t going away. Sometimes I think that’s all you can do. Be present. Be vocal. Stay strong. And keep writing on. Because even if you don’t reach your mother, you reach someone…like me who needed to hear your words and those of the others encouraging you today.

    Thank you,

    Marie

    1. Ann McMan

      Marie, thank you so much! I deeply appreciate your words. I so glad we’re all here to help and inspire each other!

  8. Kas

    You and your books rock. Thanks for writing stories that I enjoy.

    1. Ann McMan

      Thanks for reading them!

  9. Linda Pendleton

    Ann, as a writer, I understand your feelings of disappointment and rejection by someone who you love and want support from. Your comments about your mother reminded me of my mother and her reaction a couple of times to my books. I am heterosexual. In one of my nonfiction books, dealing with grief my Mom said she liked my book but wished I had not talked about masturbation. And in a novel or two of mine, she did not like my use of the four letter word in dialogue. My comments to her was “all of that is reality, Mama.” The conclusion I came to, was that it was embarrassing for her only because she was afraid of what others might think of her daughter–and she might have to defend me over controversial subjects. She was not one to argue or debate. My mother died in June of 2012, at nearly 94 years of age. In her later years, she became liberal, was an Obama supporter, loved Bill Clinton, and was for women’s rights, and gay rights, including gay marriage. Who knows, maybe a bit of my liberal attitudes and beliefs rubbed off on her. :-)

    I have talked to other writers about family support and it is often not there in ways the writers would hope. So keep writing, Ann, and tell your stories in any way you want, and don’t allow anyone to influence that. Not everyone will like what we write, but there comes a time when we don’t really care, because we love what we do, and there will be others that will, too.

    This is the second interesting blog post of the day regarding acceptance. My good friend, Ricky started his new blog today, http://pwrblnc.blogspot.com/2013/12/just-old-gay-man.html You may find it of interest. He says: “A diary, of sorts, of a 62 year old gay male who is looking at the world through the layers of his own experiences and history.” He’s off with a fascinating start with it.

    1. Ann McMan

      Thank you, Linda. Maybe we should all come out with editions that have perforated pages, so readers can rip out the sections they find too difficult to navigate! It’s an idea. I appreciate the sentiments you shared. And I will go and read your friends blog, too. Thanks so much for sharing and for the encouragement. We’ll all get there if we keep together.

  10. B L Miller

    It takes a great deal to make me cry, Ann, but you just did it. While most of my family dismisses my writing and indeed have never even cracked the cover on one of my books, my mother most certainly did. She read them and she was proud of me. I know because she told me so. She always wanted a copy as soon as it was released and even sent copies to one of her cousins to show off her “author daughter.” Just writing this comment is making me tear up again. I knew I was blessed to have her support but to see your piece and be reminded that not all mothers are like that reminds me of just how lucky I truly was.

    Funny, romantic books about lesbians are not icky. They are just that, funny and romantic. Keep writing, Ann. You are a most excellent author with a wicked sense of humor that we really need in this far too serious world.

    1. Ann McMan

      Awwww, shucks. Thanks, BL. It means the world to me that you stopped by. I promise to keep hammering out funny, romantic books about lesbians!

  11. Jane M

    My first, and I admit very selfish thought, was “Wow even someone I admire has a mother like mine!!!” It was selfish but it was from a position of recognition on how much power mothers can have over us if we let them. This innate ‘skill’ they seem to have of being totally dismissive of their daughters, who they are and what they have achieved in life through just a couple of words. Sometimes it is accompanied by a slight sneer as if there is a bad smell in the room and you walk away feeling 2 inches high. Things have changed now, oh the comments etc still exist but I am no longer two inches high. I am standing to my full height and it is my mother who is diminished. Why, what changed? Well I started looking at my life and you know what, I love my life. I love my wife, I love our home, I love our friends and so on. I have all of this and my mother doesn’t and nothing she can say or do can take this away from me. Yes it could hurt like hell but at the end of the day it is her problem that she feels the way she does it is not my problem and I am not going to take ownership of it. I can’t change her narrow minded ways so I don’t even catch a hold of it enough to let it go.
    Now I don’t know much about your life but I think to be able to write the wonderful books that you do, to share your amazing sense of humour AND to be married to Salem West you must be doing something right!! So keep on being you and please, please keep writing your books just as you are because they bring a lot of joy and laughter into my and my wife’s life.

    1. Ann McMan

      Oh, Jane…thanks for reminding me of all the things that really matter!
      P.S. You made Salem’s day!

  12. Andi Marquette

    “Too lesbian.” Well, this world is “too straight.”

    I had a conversation with a straight-identified self-proclaimed liberal woman a while back. She wanted to know what defines someone as lesbian, because to her, it’s just the fact that a woman has sexual relationships with another woman, so there’s not much to being a lesbian. So I said to her that the only thing that defines someone as heterosexual is the fact that the person has sexual relationships with someone of the opposite sex, so clearly, there’s not much to being heterosexual, either. I told her if she was going to reduce my life to just the people to whom my sexual attractions are directed, then there was no reason I couldn’t reduce hers to those, either, and discount all the other things that make her who she is. I told her that reducing lesbians (and bisexual- and gay-identified sexual orientations) to nothing more than an act of sex is part of the institutionalized homophobia in which we all currently live, that it’s straight privilege that denies the very humanity of those of us who are not straight. And saying something like that also implies that those of us who aren’t straight can simply “change,” as if straight is the “norm” that everyone has to aspire to, and that we can “pretend” to be straight in the world so that we don’t appear to be “too lesbian.”

    “Too lesbian” is the world’s way of marginalizing difference. And, if you think about it, it’s also sexist because it further marginalizes women and the many ways in which they live, work, and love.

    Anyway, blah blah blah. The point is, yeah, it sucks when someone attempts to dismiss your soul. And I don’t think there’s any one of us who currently writes LGBTQ characters and identifies as LGBTQ who hasn’t felt that pain, which ranges from deeply wounding to stinging. And even though it is more about the other person and his or her ignorance or fear, it does still hurt, when it’s voiced. But Lynn’s right. It’s THEIR stuff, and it’s part of the larger systems of oppression in which we operate. That’s why when stuff like that gets voiced to me, I take a deep breath and engage in dialogue. I may not be able to change the other person’s mind at that moment, but maybe I plant some seeds for later cultivation.

    And you–you keep ROCKING ON, woman. Keep writing, keep living your truth and dammit, keep writing “too lesbian.” :)

    1. Ann McMan

      You’re the best, Andi. Thank you for all the good you do for our community. You’ve inspired me. Maybe I’ll write a series called “Fifty Shades of Too Lesbian.” We could serialize it…each write a story. Frankly, I think we’ve already got a great start right here in these amazing, thought-provoking comments. TOTS, Andi!

  13. Anita

    I have read and enjoyed your books and as far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as too lesbian. But then, I will admit to being biased. I was quite moved by what you wrote. I have experienced similar to what you describe with my family (I am not a writer, but over other things) and it took me a long time to see it for what it was. From what I can see there are two types of homophobia, those who do not want gay people to exist and those who do not want gay people to be seen. Unfortunately, I have found, a lot of people who profess to have no problem with homosexuality, nonetheless fall into the second category. It’s very hurtful when you finally stop making excuses and realise that members of your family fall into the second category. What do you do? Call it? Let it pass? I haven’t found a workable answer yet.

    1. Ann McMan

      Hi Anita. Thanks for taking the time to read and make such thoughtful comments. I heard the comedian Kate Clinton once joke about the “stealth lesbians” — low flying…undetected by radar. I think there’ something to that. As long as we don’t kick up a ruckus, we’re easy to ignore. It’s when we break out of those patterns that the trouble starts. Frankly, I think we should all band together and make as much trouble as possible. I know I’m giving it my best shot…

  14. Laura

    I think O’Connor would have loved Hoosier Daddy! It is unfortunate your Mother is missing out on your talent. I for one am grateful for your too “lesbian” books, they are wonderfully crafted and always a pleasure to read. Hoosier Daddy was brilliant from start to finish, congratulations to both you and Salem.

    1. Ann McMan

      Thanks, Laura! I hope O’Connor would’ve gotten a chuckle out of our book! I think we could’ve sealed the deal if we’d had a bigger section about the House of Praise…maybe tossed in a few prosthetic limbs here and there? But I appreciate your kind words so much! Thank you for reading and for taking the time to post words of encouragement here. It means the world to both of us.

  15. R Gunn and M Gosney

    Your books are full of wonderfully funny insightful characters who articulate the struggles and triumphs everyone lives. I think your Mom should read HOOSIER DADDY again.

    1. Ann McMan

      Great idea! Maybe I should do an audio book and read it to her???

      :-)

  16. Andrea

    hey, i like the mathematics, helped to get to the point quick.
    dunno your mother, but know mine … not sure if its a lack of capability for empathy .. sometimes i think i am an alien, and i don’t even believe in aliens.
    only can say, all books from you i read so far, re-reads, just loved them. keep writing, if it fits in your schedule. and i need to hurry with hoosier daddy, that i can jump in to this discussion .. have a nice day/evening.
    a.b.

    1. Ann McMan

      Awww…thanks, Andrea! I hope you enjoy it!

  17. StephniLee

    Criticism is difficult. It does ring a bit close for many folks, regardless of their technicolor dream coats, Mrs.
    At 50 years, I have finally come to understand a wee bit that my mother still sees me as hers alone and that she is trying desperately still to align my shenanigans with “she,who was created in my own image” Thus, we have conversations on the merits of wearing”just a little makeup” or relaxing my natural African inherited tight curls and growing this out to a longer, read feminine, length. I would imagine that works of art for the artist are akin to mothers and their children. I may certainly agree that my oldest son is a Happy meal shy of a french fry but I take certain offense if others point it out. He is a direct reflection of me, my efforts and my expectations for said Mcfryless. I would imagine your loved one’s critique is not so much a reflection of you and your efforts but of her own.
    Salem has addressed this in her own blog. She reads a bunch of books, not always expecting Hemingway or Keats, but honors the author and the effort by going at it. She attempts to be soft in the landing when a title really needs to be addressed and we are likely not to hear of those, I am certain. Good woman, that. Anyway, I think my meandering thoughts mean to tell you that criticism, like a Golden Corral buffet, are meant to taken in slow stride and small plates. Accept the tasty, add gravy to the possibles and ignore anything that seems like calamari after 4 hours in a steam table. Thank you for your titles and Happy Holidays. Cordially, SL

    1. Ann McMan

      Oh, my…would you sue me if I stole your Golden Corral metaphor??? I’m not even kidding…. The only other thing I’ve ever heard compared to a salad bar is the Catholic church. Lots of similarities when you stop and think about it. Great words, StephniLee. Thank you so much!

      1. StephniLee

        haha, Ann, you may take my words as you may. Too my knowledge, there has never been a ™ to a Stephni-ism, :) XO

  18. Lynn Ames

    Ann,

    What a well-written, intelligent, heart-felt piece. I feel your pain from here. And I’ve lived it with family members as well. My sister, the rabid, supposedly accepting left-leaning liberal who so disapproves of my writing lesbian fiction that she hides my books in cupboards rather than let anyone see them and refuses to tell people what I do for a living comes to mind.

    Here’s what I know, dear, sweet, fabulous author friend: Your mother’s opinion has absolutely NOTHING, nada, zip, to do with you, your writing, your too-lesbian self, or anything else except for HER. What people think of us (or our work), even those whose opinions and favor we desire with all our hearts, is none of our business. It is simply ours to be and do the very best we can–to be our best authentic selves. And you are truly a gem on all counts, as an author, a person, a mensch, a friend, and a lesbian. You rock!

    1. Ann McMan

      You called me a mensch. I have nothing else to aspire to…. Really. Thanks yet again for your constancy, wisdom, and rock solid friendship! It appears I have chosen the right constellation of stars to follow. Your words ring true. Again.

  19. Bev

    You and your books are amazing, wonderful and just right.

    1. Ann McMan

      Thanks, short stack. Let’s go get pancakes and tell sad stories of great men….

  20. Barrett

    A well written piece with thoughts more prevalent than we’d like to acknowledge. I’m afraid we’ve all experienced a degree of similar angst, pain, and humiliation from people we believed and trusted. It’s cruel and unnecessary.
    As a friend, and one of the thousands of “strangers in the dark” who love your work–please believe in us. And you.

    C. Barista

    1. Ann McMan

      Nurse? You’re always on hand to deliver just the right prescription. :-)

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