He's Reading WHAT?! The In's and Out's of a Guy Who Reads Romances

I’m a guy. I read romance novels. Oh, and I’m gay. So I have an issue with getting romantic. When you can’t just go out, get a boyfriend or girlfriend, and have a life, you want to be able to imagine it. Being a guy that reads romance is hard. Because “boys just don’t read romance.”

I see romantic prejudice every day. Whenever I buy a book, the first response I usually get from one or both of my parents is that it’s girly. And that’s when it’s a young adult book. I can’t even imagine the reaction to buying a romance novel. Oh, wait, I can. The last time my mom caught me with one she freaked out, checked EVERYWHERE for any more I was hiding, and made me promise I would never again bring a romance novel to school. I was being asked to hide myself. Living day in and day out protecting what I have every right to read is tiresome. I’m tired of feeling shame for reading and loving romance in all of its genres. I’m a guy, sure, but that doesn’t mean anything. Guys, gay and straight, get into relationships and fall in love, so why the hell aren’t we allowed to read about it?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because the world is afraid. The world is afraid to admit that a guy can be romantic and nurturing and sensitive. Do you know what I have to do to read romance novels? I have to get up in either the dead of night, or wait until my parents are away, just to make some swaps for a Nora Roberts or Diana Palmer. I shouldn’t have to, considering girls my age read these books, too. I should be able to walk down the street carrying whatever kind of book that I want to read.

LGBT romances are worse. Some gay teens can just walk to the bookstore and buy an Alex Sanchez or David Levithan work –Others like me have to go to our local library or order it from another library, and smuggle it home at the bottom of our backpacks just so we don’t have to worry about people asking questions. Because they do.

I know I’m gay and I should be proud of it, but in my life there is neither the right place nor the right time to come clean with it, and until then, what I read is going to be even more of an issue than ever. Going to the library is like entering a warzone as an enemy spy. Many experiences have taught me that someone is going to see the cover. How do I explain checking out a Regency romance or a Christopher Rice? As much as I love my library and my librarian for giving me the opportunity to check out these books in any way I can, it’s just not enough. I still have parents to deal with, school friends to watch, and a life to live. But do I want to be called a girl? No. Do I want to be outed by a simple book cover? No. But I shouldn’t have to worry about that.

And that’s the bottom line.

Gay or straight, a guy should be allowed to read whatever the hell he wants .

Reading romance has helped me in more ways than you can ever imagine. It gives me confidence and hope, that one day I WILL find that special guy who is amazing and wonderful. And I deserve that. Even if I am a guy. Even if I am gay. I deserve it.

  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS
Read Comments

70 comments:

janettrumble said...

Wow! Beautiful post, John. I can't wait to share this!

information sorceress said...

John, you blow me away. I hope the day comes soon that you can come out to the world, but until then, just keep reading and if anyone gives you a hard time just say -Hey - at least I'm reading. What are YOU reading? Just know that most librarians (me included) have your back.

information sorceress said...

John, you blow me away. I hope the day comes soon that you can come out to the world, but until then, just keep reading and if anyone gives you a hard time just say -Hey - at least I'm reading. What are YOU reading? Just know that most librarians (me included) have your back.

Cara Wallace said...

"Even if"? You deserve it as much as any other person on this planet. Period.

Alice said...

There's always some kind of prejudice in the world, and I just don't get it. You, nor anyone else, should be discriminated against for reading romance novels!! Yeesh. It's just ridiculous, and I'm completely on your side. Most def.

Leontine said...

Love transcends gender IMO, whether you're gay, straight or bi. Even if it is hard at times keep believing in yourself, have faith, courage and never give up on love! Thank you for sharing you heartfelt post...

EC Sheedy said...

You've got it right, John. Everyone else has it wrong. Great post. (I could feel your frustration.)

meopta said...

When I was in school in the 80's there was a boy who borrowed our romances and kept them hidden from his parents at school.

As much as we complain about book shaming boys have always had it worse. But there are many men who read romance today, and living with your parents is only a small part of your larger life.

Be yourself, whoever that is!

Renae Jones said...

Just saying, that sucks, you rock, and this is going to pass. Well, people will still be stupid about what you read, and who you are, but it seems the longer you are in this world, the more you realize "wow, the world's full of it," and the freer you are to be yourself.

I know this isn't adding much to discussion, but sometimes it's good to hear a "been there, you're not alone".

Gwen Hayes said...

I'm just super proud to know you. I'm sorry you feel you need to hide your interests from the world. If it makes you feel better, I am a nearing middle-aged woman who doesn't always feel comfortable carrying around some romance books based on the cover.

Long live the ebook is what I say.

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Great post! I'm a straight girl, and I STILL feel uncomfortable carting around some books. I won't lie and say I definitely wouldn't stare a bit strangely at a guy carrying around Nora Roberts, but though I haven't read her books myself, I've heard they're good and who am I to judge? Books don't define who a person is and if the people you're around can't see that, then maybe they're not meant to be around you -- or at least that's how I look at it. My friends better stick by me when they see me reading some weird books. Stay strong! :)

Kirthi said...

I think it's sweet if I guy reads romance. I'm so proud of you for speaking out!
"Gay or straight, a guy should be allowed to read whatever the hell he wants"
I so agree with that, way to be!

Anastasia Hopcus said...

I'm appalled that people would have that kind of reaction to anyone reading anything. My family has always been happy for me to read anything and everything---no judgments. I wish we could all have that kind of understanding. I'm so glad you're still reading what you want to read. It's your right!

Anonymous said...

You need to find Suzanne K Brockman's novels. They are found in romance in most books stores, but don't look like traditional "romances." Her protaganists are Navy Seals, FBI, security types and one of them is gay.

Kerry said...

John, you are an amazing young man (and I'm immediately subscribing to your blog).

I wish you every good thing in this word, including the opportunity to read whatever you want, wherever and whenever you want.

Anonymous said...

John,
I applaud you for saying what many of us think--"What does it matter what I look like or what I'm reading?" I am a straight female, who has her nails done every-other-week, and I get those looks when I'm toting around a book on home repair or tileing. People find it strange that I know my way around tools--we are who we are, outside and inside--UNIQUE.

I hope that you find the right time to share that you are gay with those around you and find great guys to date (soon)! Keep reading books you enjoy! Keep being yourself!

(Have you thought about book covers? Or are those totally out now and I'm showing my age?)

Beth

DJ's Life in Fiction said...

This is a beautiful post and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope things get easier for you soon!

The Golden Eagle said...

That was a great post.

*sigh* Why does there always have to be some kind of discrimination in this world?

Joy said...

John-
I love your post! Hang in there and know that we librarians will always have your back. Read what you like and make no apologies. Love yourself and allow yourself to be loved. The self-love is critical to your happiness.

Rowena said...

Awww, I love romance novels too. It sucks that you can't read what you want, when you want to read it. I can't imagine living like that so my heart goes out to you and if you ever want any romance novels sent your way, just let me know. I have so many it's not even funny.

(((((Hugs)))))

Lisa_Gibson said...

I think you rock John! I also think the you should be able to read whatever you want. Absolutely! The e-readers would come in handy for being able to have books that no one would know what you're reading. Devious. ;)

The Book Owl said...

This is the first time I've stopped by your blog, but I'll be coming back. You're perfectly right - we should be able to read anything without judgement. We support you.

Nancy said...

Book recommendation: SWORDSPOINT by Ellen Kushner. I love it. Let me know what you think!

-Nancy Werlin

Christina T said...

Great post! People should be able to read what they want without fear or shame. I'm glad you enjoy romance. There is nothing like a good love story!

Thanks for sharing the link on YALSA-bk. I am a new follower of your blog. I look forward to reading your reviews and posts.

Brent and Emily, The Naughty Book Kitties said...

Love you, John! Expect that ravishing here soon.

Beth Gallaway said...

You should never apologize for your reading habits :) all reading is good good reading!

You might be interested in the Romance Writers of America organization - they did a poster campaign a few years ago portraying all types of people reading romance. http://www.rwanational.org/

Madigan McGillicuddy said...

As a librarian, John, I'd be happy to check out any book to you that you'd wish. That's what freedom to read is all about!

What an incredible post! Brought tears to my eyes.

Angela Morrison said...

Hey John, Did you know that pre-TWILIGHT there was a lot of prejudice against even publishing romances in the YA world? I was the ONLY person writing a romance when I was doing my MFA.( When I went back as a graduate assistant, they were all writing romances. And a lot of those books are on the shelves now.) After I graduated in 2004, Razorbill read TAKEN BY STORM and rejected it because it "was too much of a romance." All the staff that worked there then got the AX. I signed a two-book deal with their new editorial staff in 2008--post TWILIGHT when the publishing world woke up to the huge need for quality romantic fiction for teens. Moral of the story--hang in there, okay? It hurt to get sneered out for writing love stories. I'm sorry you get sneered out for reading them.

Once I sold TAKEN BY STORM, when I tried to make a stand for cover designs that would not make my books embarrassing for guys to carry around and resisted editorial decisions that cut 99% of the scuba scenes that I thought would appeal to guys, I was told guys aren't an appreciable part of their market. Well, you aren't the only guy I've heard from who loved STORM. And I signed tons of copies of SING ME TO SLEEP for guys--despite the pink highlights. Hang in there, buddy. You're not alone.

janni said...

Absolutely, and well said.

My husband actually reads more romance than I do (and understands the genre better), and wore out his mother's Jane Austen paperbacks as a child.

Whenever I hear that guys don't or shouldn't read romance, I'm just sort of baffled. That all readers aren't alike is as true for guys as girls.

And this whole business of being afraid of boys being around anything girl-focused (along with all the parents who ask me, at signings, "Is your book for boys?" as if all boys were alike) can go away any time now, as far as I'm concerned!

kristen tracy said...

Hi, John. Thanks for sending me the link to this. Do you ever read poetry? Mark Doty has written some great poems about love, both finding it and losing it. If you ever want book recommendations let me know.

Patti said...

Hey John,

I loved your post. But what I loved the most is the way you're standing up for something you believe in. Just hang in there, be yourself and never stop fighting for your happily ever after! Cause you do deserve one!!

iokijo said...

Wonderful post.. I truely hope you get the freedom you should have very soon..
If your parents have no problems w/ your reading sci-fi/fantasy check out Mercedes Lackey esp. her Valdemar series.. not traditional romance but the whole series has multiple love stories in it. Anne McCaffrey is another one. Those at least you won't have to deal with parents over.. As for explaining the romances to other than parents.. tell them your reading them for the sex scenes.. it will shut them up. Worked for my brother. Hang in there.

Mark R. Probst said...

Hi John,
Cheyenne Publishing salutes you! I heard about your blog from one of our YA/Romance authors. Someday you won't have to hide who you are and what you like to read, but in the meantime take comfort in knowing a lot of people on the 'net are pulling for you!

wendy delsol said...

John, I think you're incredibly brave. I remember (and see in my own teenage sons) the pressure to conform. Bravo for being true to yourself and finding support and an outlet in the blogging community. Adolescense is such a vulnerable time. We know too well the dangerous coping mechanisms kids (and adults)adopt--drugs, alcohol, cutting, etc. Instead, you've developed a book habit. So sane, so healthy, so intelligen. So--well done, John!

CKHB said...

OF COURSE you deserve that. I think you're a rock star.

Fawn Neun said...

I'm a straight, grown woman and I'm embarrassed to be caught with a romance novel. Or to tell anyone that I write romantic fiction.

Even straight people are teased for liking 'girly' stuff. Even when they're actually girls. That's why eReaders sell so well. (And you can get Kindle for free on your iPhone or Blackberry if you have one.)

I bet you're going to get a ton of free romance books. :)

Good for you for speaking out.

maine character said...

Well said, and I wish I had books to send you. Actually I can recommend a couple, if you like fantasy with authentic gay characters. Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald-Mage trilogy, and Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series (just the first three).

Also, when things get tough, try to focus on what you already have - knowledge of who and how you are, the strength to accept and be that with grace, and the entire web to connect to and reach people like yourself. When I was your age, I thought I was pretty fucked up, but years later I found out I was just normal. And you're not just normal, you're cool.

Adele said...

Hey there, John, what an elegant and thoughtful post. It will be something that your future self will also be very proud and affirmed by, that at so young an age, you were able to express your hopes and dreams and frustrations with such clarity and grace.

You can already see by the multitude of comments here, that you have touched a lot of hearts--mine included. I have no doubt that, in whatever formats you might choose, yours is a brave new voice.

--AG

Anonymous said...

Success is the sweetest revenge. Maybe, one day, you can turn all this life experience into a best-selling memoir. You obviously have a way with words.

Angie Frazier said...

Poignantly said, John. Thank you so much for sending me the link to your post. You've given a voice to a topic that needs more discussion and more exposure. What is life without romance? Everyone wants it, longs for it, both men and women. And yet you're right, there is a stigma with the romance genre that causes many people--including me--to shy away from saying that yes, they LOVE reading about love. I want that to end, too. Thank you so much for your post!

Marissa Doyle said...

It hurt to read this--your pain was so there. In the end, however, you will win. Time is on your side. Keep reading, and keep believing in love.

Katiebabs/ KB said...

I find it sad when people say they don't read or don't have time to pick up a book. And yet there they are watching shows like Jersey Shore for hours.

Good for you John! Keep doing what you love and don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Renee Sweet said...

John,
I hate that you have to endure this bullshit. Hang in there -- once you're able to obtain a little more independence, there are places in the world who will love you for who you are and where you can read any damn thing you want to. In the meantime, though... an e-reader is your friend! Your parents and other people will have no idea what you're reading b/c there's no cover to "give you away" (hate that I even have to type that...). If you can't afford one, you let us know and fundraising will commence, my friend.

A reading boy said...

Get a Kindle, it's how I read all kinds of things without worrying how people will judge. I just keep some "classics" like "The King in Yellow" and Sherlock Holmes on mine in case anyone asks what I'm reading.

BookChic said...

I totally used to do the smuggle in backpack thing, or sometimes in the middle of several other books to disguise it. I did that the summer before I went to college when I started reading gay novels so that my parents wouldn't see them. Not sure how romance would fly, but they seemed to be fine with any YA book I read. Except for the gay books, lol.

Aside from that, I also get you completely with the romance making you hopeful, no matter what the sexual orientation. Seeing a romance bloom between two characters gives myself hope that I can find the right guy as well in time.

Anyway, loved your post and will be subscribing to your blog.

Keith Popely said...

Teenage boys have been forced to hide what they're reading since reading was invented. In my case, I hid comic books inside biology or math textbooks. So here's what you should do: go get a "John Carter of Mars" novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, tear off the cover and glue it to whatever you're reading. Whenever anyone asks you about the book, say, "It kicks ass!" Trust me, it'll work. From one secret reader to another.

Anonymous said...

Right on!

Sandy James said...

John-
I admire your courage, your conviction, and your desire to be what you want to be, regardless of stereotypes. Bravo.
I'm a high school teacher, and I watch kids just like you struggle with being who they truly are. I hope they choose to follow your example.

catie james said...

I hate living in a world that insists on pigeon holding people into such narrow categories and am outraged when people of any age must hide who they are in order to survive. You kick ass for refusing to abandon your true self John. This is a fantastic post & space you've created here.

Cruella Collett said...

Don't let anybody tell you what to read, or who to love! If it is Nora Roberts that makes you feel good, then Nora Roberts is what you should read. Hang in there :)

Phillipa said...

lovely post, John. Read what you damn well please and best wishes to you

Ishta Mercurio said...

Beautiful post; my heart goes out to you. Keep believing, and I hope that you will find a time and a place in which you can be yourself openly and without fear of prejudice.

Maya said...

If it helps, even as a straight girl I was too embarrassed to bring romance novels with sexy covers to school. I mostly read them with my bedroom door locked, since I didn't think my conservative, immigrant parents would approve either.

You shouldn't have to hide your tastes, but if do you want to read peacefully you might consider asking for a Kindle for your birthday!

Dee said...

This sucks. I don't have words to express how much this bugs me; who you are - and what you read - is a-okay.

Your story also inspires me, because the way you use romance is exactly what I dream of as an (aspiring) author. I remember the times when escaping into a romance novel really has been critical - broken heart, given up on love, bad day, etc - and hope I can give that to someone else. Especially someone like you.

Thank you so much for writing this post. I think it, and you, are awesome.

Jodie said...

John I suggest getting book jackets to hide the covers of the books you're reading. These are about the most 'grr def not a romance in here' that I could find but maybe you'll have better luck if you look around:

http://www.etsy.com/listing/24580694/radio-waves-book-jacket

http://www.etsy.com/listing/43888452/book-jacket-set-bcj-artist-edition-three?ref=sr_gallery_16&ga_search_query=book+jackets&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=1&order=&includes[]=tags&includes[]=title

http://www.etsy.com/listing/41814075/timeless-treasures-fabric-trade-size?ref=sr_gallery_8&ga_search_query=paperback+book+covers&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_page=8&order=&includes[]=tags&includes[]=title

That doesn't help you to get book in the first place though right so if you can't get them easily over the net add me to the pile of people with books to send you. I just finished 'False Colors' which is an excellent gay romance set aboard ship (but it does have an embarrassing romance cover, I was clutching it to my knees to avoid people seeing it).

Good luck with being a guy who reads romances. The kind of guy you describe ('romantic and nurturing and sensitive') is the kind of guy we all want more of in romance novels and in life. Keep going and eventually the world will catch up we hope.

writerjenn said...

I wrote a book whose cover shows the male main character kissing a girl. At one bookstore signing, a young man hovered near my table until nobody else was there. "I like YA, and your book looks like something I want to read." I asked what he liked to read, and he said, among a couple of other things, "Romance."

Every time people say guys don't read, and they don't read books with romantic elements, I think of that young man.

I really detest the way readers are stereotyped and pressured and pigeonholed. All we have to do is look at literature and song lyrics to see that men have been writing love songs and love poems and love stories for centuries!

Charlie said...

John, what a great post! I'm a teen guy and I happen to love books. I completely agree, we should be able to read whatever we want regardless of our gender, sexual orientation, cultural background, etc. Teachers and other adults often complain that boys don't show enough interest in books and reading, but when we do it's the wrong kind! Reading a book with a female main character is "girly" or "gay", but when a girl reads a book about a guy it's perfectly okay, no one raises an eyebrow. Next time your parents start fussing, ask them if they'd prefer to find dirty magazines or cigarettes under your mattress. I dance and people can be very prejudiced, but it's what I love to do, it makes me happy. I know it can be very difficult at times, but keep being you and keep reading :)

fairyhedgehog said...

It's awful that you're facing all this pressure to conform.

Do you know Tanya Huff's Blood Price books? She has a (male) character who's a romance writer. Oh, and he's a vampire, but one of the characters is less worried by that than by him writing romance. (She's very gay friendly - but you may know her books already.)

Laura Summers said...

Wow John, what an amazing post! Like a lot of the comments here, I will now be subscribing to your blog.

As a straight woman even I struggle sometimes and get embarrassed being caught reading some romance novels & I totally love the genre. So I can only imagine what it must be like for you.

My advice, as and when you can afford it is to get an ereader, seriously no one has any ides what you're reading then it's great :-)

Don't let it get you down, carry on reading the books you love.

Silver @ The Raving Readers said...

Hi John, I came over from Dear Author and you've written a wonderful post. You opened my eyes to what the world of reading is like for you and I do believe you have the right to read whatever you want. Perhaps someday, when the world is more open, there would be no more prejudices regarding a person's reading habits. My brother read his first and only romance during his teenage years too and for me, it was great to have someone to discuss the book (he comes from a different perspective than my girlfriends). He read Jude Devereaux's Knight in Shining Armor, if you want to know.

erick70115 said...

I hope that you always show the courage to follow your bliss....

http://www.jcf.org/new/index.php?categoryid=31

Anonymous said...

If it's any comfort, people like you are the ones who cause change. Stand tall and maybe things will be better by the time my 8 year old is wanting to read romances. ;-) -- willaful

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

YES you do deserve it! So now I see why you couldn't enter the romance contests on my blog :( I'm glad to see that you have soooo many supportive comments on this awesome post from other bloggers too.

Lynne Green said...

You deserve so much more than just being able to pick up a book you like and not feel threatened.

Cherie Denis said...

I know it's a struggle every day to be who you are - especially when your family doesn't understand.
My uncle (was married twice) loved romance novels and read them until he got dementia in his 80's. I thought it was great that he enjoyed a good love story.
Real life is tough, we all (man,boy,girl,woman) deserve the right to read what we want and if you want to read romance go for it.
I'd be happy to mail you books every once in awhile and even have a zip up cloth book cover that looks like a bible cover :-)
I'm 66 and write erotica - you should hear the comments I get.
Email me at cheriedenis@gmail.com if you want to be put on my mailing list for books.
As the song says "Hold your head high"
Cherie Denis

Gabriele said...

I'm pretty much in a situation like yours...
I live in Italy and, when I want to read something my parents or someone else *would not approve*, I have to choose a book in different language so that they won't be able to recognize it for what it is, as they only speak Italian.
and it is sad, I don't want to hide myself and I would really prefer to be out and proud and to be able to read whatever I want.
But I can't, my situation isn't the best, sometimes everything is easy, some other times I have to struggle. I acknowledge it could be worse, but I am confident it will only get better (it is getting better, actually).
And what you say in your blog post is true, books can help us in many ways, in our darker moments but ever when everything is fine.

on the bright side, at least my English is improving. :D

orannia said...

I know I'm a stranger and what I say doesn't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but...thank you for being open and honest and the struggle you face. I wish you could read what you wanted and not have to hide it...not have to hide you. No one should have to hide part of who they are. Because after a while it becomes second nature, and then it's so hard to find yourself again.

Here's wishing you all the best.

Ky said...

Your blog was linked from another blog I read and I have to say that I'm very glad I followed it. This is an amazing post and I really appreciate your honesty. I have a few gay friends who feel the same way. Their parents don't know and would freak if they did or in some cases their parents have kicked them out. I'm straight, so I can't even begin to understand what it would be like to have such pressure looming over my head. You're absolutely right. People are afraid and they have no right to be. I wish you the best of luck!

Lauren said...

I found my way here from Steph Su Reads, and having read that post I just wanted to say hi and that the day you're waiting for will come.

Tony said...

Hmmm....... Seem like u happy, I know that most shy guy have heart feelin........ N I'm one of them by the way I'm a guy... All the the dot are "sigh" I have been gay for 5 years .... U might know this. Ok all I want is for u to hear my story n give me ur opinion. Well I'm not even sure I'm gay or not!! What is the real ID for the word "gay"? .... Srry kinda outta subject.....okay I fallin love w/ 2 guy(straight) one, who always smile but we never talk..I can't take take his smile, I just can't .........2nd he's kind n attractive.... There, I describe them... Now im gonna tell u what has effectzzzz on me.... Their smile. Kindness, spark eyezz, attractivenesszzz KILL me.. N it also made me keep on thinking about them (cry)..sometime I wish I never met them so I can the way I am n stay more focus on my goal for the future plus they already have agirlsfriend... N I know they only like me as frenz... Idk everythin seem so confused PLEASE (w/ a cap P).u got2 help..... My pnt is 2 stay outof them so I can focus on my goal... Reply bck tonycha87@gmail.com please must reply @ email. More story... Ask! I love ur opion on ur website ! Mean alot to me so please reply no matter what.... I BEG u....!! Cry