Why denial can be bad for your (and other people’s) health
Denial can be an insidious thing. The most common thing for a guy in an m/m romance to be in denial about, of course, is his sexuality, or at least his attraction to the man who is clearly (at least to the reader) destined to be his True Love. But there are other forms of denial too, and they can be equally harmful. Society can be harsh in its expectations, particularly in terms of gender roles.
Jamie: Denial isn’t, as a rule, a good thing. Not only is it harmful to the person in denial, it can cause them to behave in ways harmful to people around them. In Pressure Head, Phil was, in his schooldays, in denial of his homosexuality, and this caused him to bully the openly gay Tom. The sad thing is that this bit of characterisation is based on real life.
I attended a talk by the charity Diversity Role Models (http://www.diversityrolemodels.org/), a charity that was set up following the suicide of a fifteen-year-old boy who was bullied because he was perceived to be gay. The charity sends speakers – “Role Models”- into UK schools to run workshops on the subject of homophobia. The Role Models speak frankly about their own lives, answer questions, promote discussion—and show the kids that LGBT people really aren’t any different from anyone else.
The man who gave the talk, now openly and proudly gay, admitted he’d been a homophobic bully in the past. Hopefully the work of the charity will help stop this vicious circle in the future. If you’d like to know more about the work of Diversity Role Models, please visit their website: http://www.diversityrolemodels.org/
Jo, your character Josh in The Hot Floor is in a different sort of denial, isn’t he? But it’s still about an aspect of his sexuality.
Jo: That’s right. Josh’s problem is that he’s absolutely paralysed by fear of his own desires and kinks. He’s out and (sort of) proud, but has suffered a real loss of confidence after his last boyfriend dumped him, saying he was “boring in bed”. Of course, we learn along with Josh that this passivity is an aspect of his denied sexual nature, but it takes a couple of very special men to help Josh realise this.
I think denial of our sexuality is an incredibly powerful area to mine for stories. I grew up in a happy clappy church and as a teenager was told all the desires I was starting to experience were wrong. Fortunately for me, I’ve always been a stubborn individual and decided to make my own mind up about what was right and wrong, sexually. The conclusion I came to (pretty quickly), is that absolutely nothing is wrong between consenting adults. What business is it of anyone else if you get off by wrapping yourself in cling film (Saran Wrap for the Americans), dressing up like a baby or furry animal, or inserting household objects into various orifices? Erm, I’d like to point out here that these aren’t my kinks, and that Jo most definitely did not tell you it was a good idea to stick household objects up your bottom. Ask anyone who works in A&E to tell you why proper dildos are a must.
But joking aside, many people are in denial of their perfectly healthy kinks, and I think that’s a real shame. Literally. Shame is the kind of emotion that eats away at you and can make you bitter.
Are you planning to write closeted characters again in the future? Tim from Hard Tail was a classic case, and I loved the way you managed to keep his journey out of the closet light-hearted, but without trivialising what he went through.
Jamie: Well, in my current WIP ( I keep teasing you with details about that, don’t I? *g*) one of my heroes, David, is not exactly closeted--he’s just not out at work. He’s a building surveyor, and the building trade is a very macho profession where a guy could be forgiven for not wanting to be loud and proud about his sexuality. And it does lead to some problems when he gets together with Jude, who’s so far out of the closet he’s not even sure what one looks like! I wanted to recognise the fact that “coming out” isn’t a one-time deal - LGBT people often come out many times in their lives, to different groups of people.
Jo: Good point. There are all sorts of levels to being closeted, and exploring the tensions involved in keeping different parts of a character’s life separate is fertile ground for fiction. In my next novel I have a character, Alasdair, who is out at work with everyone in his company, but very much closeted around clients. However, he doesn’t really see it as being closeted because he never lies about a fictional girlfriend or claims to be straight--he simply allows people to assume what they will and doesn’t bother to correct them.
Coming out is indeed a continual process, not a one-time deal, and even when it doesn’t make up the main theme of a novel, there is often a moment when a character outs himself to someone new. I always love those moments--both writing and reading them, as it shows such courage.
Jamie: Absolutely! Coming out definitely takes a lot of courage--it’s making yourself vulnerable to the person concerned. Here’s hoping society will eventually get to the point where it ceases to be an issue.
Readers: Have you been affected by denial? Or can you tell us about how finally accepting something impacted on you or someone you know? Was it a good thing?
Comment to win! Jo and Jamie are both offering a choice of a book from their backlist to one lucky commenter on this post, and all commenters will also be entered into a draw for the grand prize (details here), to be announced on 8th October.
About the books:
Some secrets are better left hidden.
When Tom, a plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, is called in to help the police locate the body of a missing woman, he unexpectedly encounters a familiar face. Phil, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case.
Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent? Meanwhile, the evidence around the woman’s murder piles up...while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.
The Hot Floor
Two plus one equals scorching hot fun.
Every time Josh overhears his sexy downstairs neighbors, Rai and Evan, having loud and obviously kinky sex, Josh is overwhelmed with lust…and a longing for a fraction of the love he’s never managed to find. On the night a naked Josh falls—quite literally—into the middle one of Rai and Evan’s marathon sex sessions, the force of their mutual attraction takes control. But just as Josh dares to hope, he senses a change. Leaving him to wonder if the winds of love are about to blow his way at last…or if history is about to repeat itself.
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com/
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com
Denial pictures courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net