Stand Against Tolerance
Tolerance this, tolerance that. As writers of gay romance, we’re supposed to be promoting tolerance.
I hate tolerance. I hate the word. I hate the concept, at least if we’re talking about sexual orientation tolerance, religious tolerance, or ethnic tolerance. I’m perfectly alright with alcohol tolerance or even pain tolerance.
Is anyone really happy—or even placated—by being told that society deigns to “tolerate” them? Would you tell your child, your best friend, or even your neighbor, “I tolerate you”? Then why do we go around talking about tolerating gay people, or transgendered people, or one another in general?
Put me down against “tolerance.” Put me down in favor of loving and celebrating other people, and maybe even myself. If you have body odor or your dog pees on the sidewalk or you play Skrillex at three A.M., I’ll tolerate it. But if you are gay, or straight, or questioning, or transgender, or cis-gender, or Christian or Muslim or Jew or atheist, I don’t want to tolerate you—I want to embrace you and hold you up as part of the joyous rainbow of human identity and experience. I want to learn how you see the world, what makes you tick, and how it would feel to spend an hour or a lifetime in your head.
I know. I’m bemoaning a first-world problem. Gay people in Jamaica or Russia or living under ISIS would love to just be tolerated and allowed to live without extreme fear of physical violence. But even if some people are so downtrodden that tolerance is enough for them, I don’t think “tolerance” should be enough for us—and I feel strongly enough about it that I find the term “gay tolerance” offensive.
Here we are reading and writing gay romance. I do think that books in our genre now truly do celebrate the gay experience, instead of merely “tolerating” it, as “gay-friendly” books might have “tolerated” it twenty or thirty years ago. I think we’ve made tons of progress as a society and as a writing community. I can’t think of any modern gay romance that truly promotes only “tolerating” gay love.
But if loving and celebrating sexualities, orientations, and identities is the substance of our books, then we should live it and label it appropriately. Let’s rename “tolerance.” Let’s call it love, celebration, rejoicing—to borrow some quasi-religious terminology. We can even call it “pride,” but not pride in the sense of “I’m proud of being gay” (I never quite understood that idea either) but in the sense of “I’m proud of you, my fellow humans, for being gay, bi, queer, straight, whatever your identity may be”—pride and celebration of the multitude of identities in our world.
Identity and self-perception are key to my books. My series College Try focuses on young men’s maturations from attitudes of shame and hesitation toward their first gay inklings, to fully embracing and celebrating their gay identities. In one of the first scenes of the first book in the series, Winter Break, nerdy Ben has a bit of a Freudian slip when he hears that his popular friend Stanley is gay, and tells him he’s sorry to hear that. He quickly corrects what he said to mean that he’s sorry that Ben must be facing a lot of trouble for being gay. The same questions come up again when Ben is happy to be Stanley’s boyfriend when no one is watching, but doesn’t feel right being seen as gay by his dorm-mates—of course a metaphor for “tolerating” homosexuality but not truly embracing it.
In Student Health, the most recent book in he College Try series, the main character, Basil, struggles with his identity as a guy who plays football but doesn’t really see himself as a “football player,” and then as a guy who has same-sex attraction but struggles to come to terms with being “gay”—until he finds that he has more with his famous NFL-playing father than he’d ever imagined. Both Basil and his father learn to celebrate their identities, rather than merely “tolerating” who they are.
My books, like the best gay romance books, are not only about love and sex, but also about self-discovery, and the embrace and celebration of newfound selves. Out in the bigger world, much bigger than gay romance, we may be facing a serious crisis of the social progress we’ve made to embrace and celebrate every person’s identity. It’s not just Trump. It’s the non-ironic Archie Bunkers of all sorts who have been emboldened to raise their heads and question how they lost their monopoly on “valid” identities. How did the gays, the lesbians, the Latinos, the immigrants, the religious minorities get so uppity, they ask? How did those groups go beyond wanting to be tolerated and calling themselves full-fledged members of society?
“Tolerance” is all that Trump and his ilk want to give, and not one bit more. Let’s stand together and say that we’re not interested in tolerating one another. We’re going to love, embrace, and celebrate one another, no matter what our sexual, gender, ethnic, religious, or political stripes. Yes, that means you have to hug your conservative Republican neighbor. And the goal here is that they might just hug you back.
College Try Collection: Books One-Four
College is where young guys can have new experiences. Each of the four books in this collection is a standalone straight-to-gay gay romance with a feel-good HEA and hot college loving.
Everybody knows Stanley’s gay, and everybody knows that Stanley is way out of Ben’s social league. That was true during classes, anyway. For winter break, Ben and Stanley have the dorm all to themselves. Ben is straight, but Stanley is everything he’s ever wanted.
On their tropical island research trip, Mook and Raffy’s room has only one bed, and their professor next door always walks around naked. Mook doesn’t mind cuddling after a long day exploring the island. It won’t be a problem. Raffy can control himself. Or not.
Back to School
Straight muscle jock David’s girlfriend broke up with him and kicked him out of their apartment. He has to move in to the very last dorm room available at Stanford — with his new roommate, Elias Chan, who at eighteen years old is already famous for founding a successful dating website. David takes pride in showing off his muscle-god body and his surfing skills to Elias, but he doesn’t tell Elias that he was just dumped, nor that he desperately wants to make himself attracted to women.
A hip injury gives Basil an excuse to stay off the football field, and also sends him into the hands of Lucien, a handsome physical therapist with amazing hands. Basil embarrasses himself with an unintended physical reaction on the therapist’s table, but the more they get to talking, the more he genuinely likes the guy.
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About the Author
Steve Milton writes gay romances with sweet love, good humor, and hot sex. His stories tend toward the sweet and sexy, with not much angst and definitely no downers. Steve crafts feel-good stories with complex characters and interesting settings. He is a South Florida native, and when he’s not writing, he likes cats, cars, music, and coffee.
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