Dear Guy Who Is Mad Because I Wrote A Gay Character In A Book

What the fuckity-snacks is wrong with you, dude?

Sorry, let me back up.

Earlier today I got a bit of hate mail — though I guess hate mail is strong, as the writer of said email was not like, threatening to murder me with a brick or anything — from what appears to be a male, adult reader of my young adult series. In particular, he read the third book in the series, which came out last week: The Harvest.

I won’t reprint the email here, but he said, and I quote, “I didn’t like that you had a main gay character reviling [sic] in a homosexual sexual relationship.” (Reveling, I guess he means?) He feels I “corrupted” the book with the presence of “gay male relationships.” He then added that he feels I was jumping on some kind of “bandwagon,” which I assume (he did not clarify) means that I was doing this to fill some kind of diversity bingo card. Finally, he concluded that it “didn’t matter” or “effect [sic] the story” that the character was gay so why include it at all?

Here is my response that I won’t actually bother sending to him, but maybe he’ll read it here:

Dear Pouty McGee:

Thank you for reading my book. That’s nice of you.

I’m sorry* the book features gay characters who love each other and engage in sex. I suppose the more pleasing alternative to you would be for the characters to suffer in loveless abandonment and quietly pray to themselves while looking directly at heterosexual pornography, but that feels fucking goofy to me, so I didn’t write it that way.

I’d much rather write characters who are nuanced and complicated and who also are free to partake in the human spectrum of love and sex and sexuality (and their opposing sides which is betrayal and breakups and the loneliness that results).

I did not do this to jump on some kind of gay male bandwagon, though I would assume that a gay male bandwagon would be a lot of fun. I love both bands and wagons very much.

That said, while I do not subscribe to the notion of diversity bingo or writing books simply to fill some kind of imaginary social justice quota, I do like to think that it’s important to write books that feature people who aren’t me because I really, really hope that my readership is not just a room full of beardo white dudes with grumpy sourpuss faces staring at each other. Diversity matters to my readership, and I don’t mean that in a salacious “equates-to-sales” way, but rather in a, “equates-to-acknowledging-the-vast-complexity-of-the-humans-who-exist-around-us” kinda way. I also think it’s vital to read books that aren’t by people like me so that my own perspective is opened up. You should try that. Maybe you thought because I looked like you in some way we shared a certain bigoted point-of-view, like how sometimes white guys go up to other white guys and then say racist or misogynist stuff thinking that our whitemaleness is enough of a self-selected symbol, like it’s basically an invisible Swastika or Confederate Flag imperceptibly branded across our foreheads to indicate a shared social shittiness.

I did not write the character into the story because he affects the story, but at the same time, he does reflect it — the Heartland begins as a world where teenagers are forced to marry each other, and that means very explicitly that the Empyrean government enforces heterosexual couplings and nothing else. Which is a pretty horrible place to be as a person who isn’t heterosexual like, say, how America was just a few short months and years ago. Also, is gayness supposed to be a “plot point” if the character features? Is that essential? Why does that not apply to straight people? Why weren’t you mad that the character’s straightness didn’t matter and affect the story? And how exactly is that supposed to happen? The bad guys build a machine meant to run on one kind of sexual orientation or another? “BRING ME MORE GAYNESS THE MACHINE MUST FEED.”

I think your complaints are weird. What the hell, man. What the hell. Maybe you’re a parent, and that’s what this is? Certainly a lot of the complaints I receive from the readers of my YA work are from adults who have teenagers. These parents tend to be mad because I acknowledge that teenagers sometimes (gasp, I know) have sex and do drugs and say naughty words. One reviewer once said that teenagers, carte blanche, don’t say bad words. Like it’s never happened in the history of teenagerdom. But ignorance of teen habits is how you get abstinence training which is how you get pregnant teenagers and bad MTV reality shows about those pregnant teenagers. Teaching abstinence is like telling people not to ever get in a car (ever!) instead of teaching them where the fucking seatbelts are. Either way, your kids will not be harmed by fictional exposure to gayness, or gay sex, or bad words, or sex in general, or drugs, or any of that. I got bad news, Jack — your kids go to school and live in the world and that means they’re in the middle of it. That’s just how it is. Better to lend narrative context instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.

Your teenagers are probably socially way ahead of you, by the way.

Is it just that you think two dudes making out is gross and weird? Because that’s gross and weird if you think that. Don’t be gross and weird. Be awesome and cool instead.

Oh, and as a sidenote, you’re on the third book of a series and this character isn’t new, so…? The whole gay thing has kinda been in there since the first book. (Not to mention: the book is filled with violence and yet, none of that seemed to bother you at all. Ah, Puritanical handwaving. Violence is cool. Love is bad. Good times.) How’d you get here? There were signs. Big gay signs. That had to be a willful choice on your part, or you don’t know how to count. If it’s the former, then I ask again: what the hell? If it’s the latter, I remind you: it’s 1 then 2 then 3, not 3 then 2 then 1. I’ll let my four year old teach you about counting and I think I’ll also let him tell you about loving consensual relationships between adults of any stripe because he literally has no idea that any of this is wrong and in fact I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even notice at all.

Anyway, thanks for reading! Here is a picture of a cuddly pug** to help soothe you.

*not sorry

**not a photo of a cuddly pug

222 comments

  • Wow. But it is okay for thirty seven million people to cheat an their spouses or significant others.

    Because the GAYS!

    Someone needs to pull their head out of the sand.

      • True. They are probably doing it now. But it boggles my mind that people rant and rave that same sex marriage is going to ruin traditional marriage.

        No, pretty much that husband and wife are quite capable of screwing up their own marriage and ruin that man/woman union without same sex marriages and sexings ruining it for them.

  • Well, sir, may I just say that I am offended. Here i am with a nigh endless reading list and now you’ve given me even more books I’d like to read. The gall of some people.

  • I remember when I was a wee little child and being terrified of being babysat at someone’s house, because I didn’t know them. it was the home of a friend of my parents, but I’d never been there before. My mother said, “It’s okay, it’ll be fun. There will be other little boys there your age.”

    The place was foreign and strange to me. I was uncomfortable at first. Still, these friends of my parents had two little boys of their own. They almost immediately wanted to show me their toys, I told them about my toys at home and much running and shouting and game-playing ensued. I had a whale of a time. And when my mom arrived to take me back home, I threw a medium tantrum in protest of the idea.

    I can only imagine how horrible and frightening that evening in a stranger’s home would have been without like-minded comrades to shoulder those hours with me. And I’m confident that everyone within the quadrant of modern life that includes reading Chuck’s books has had experiences similar in concept.

    So what of the young gay adult who sees no honest examples of “real” gay people in movies, television, books, music, advertisements, etc. How isolated and friendless, chanceless and guideless does that young person feel when simply being alive and awake at the same time in this world.

    Featuring a gay character in any entertainment medium is not a bandwagon move by default. Instead, I see it as, at the very least, showing a scared and isolated person our toys and letting him/her share our world. It’s about being inclusive. Remember Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer? Remember?

  • never heard of you (sorry…?) until this was posted on facebook, but I’ll be reading your stuff shortly in honor of this letter. And later I’ll pass it on to my kid(s).

  • Did he read the whole series? Because I’ve only read the first one and picked up on it. Also, if I’m gonna read about a homosexual relationship, I would want to be done by Chuck Wendig. Just sayin’.

  • The ONLY reason I am not running to the bookstore right now to pick up these books and read them (1 and then 2 and then 3, right? Math is hard.) is because I am moving next week and I have to pack up my house.

    But post moving day? Me and the bookstore have a date with some Wendig YA.

    That is to say, great response, Chuck. I hope Pouty’s kids are reading the series behind his back and have a world of supportive, un-asshat friends and family outside of him. Or that he opens his eyes as well as his mind/heart.

    P.S. Cutest picture of pugs I’ve seen today.

  • I’m so going to read these books now, if for no other reason than to spite people like this. Yes, I’m petty.

  • I hate it when people think they can tell authors what to write. it’s our stories, let us write them, mmkay? This is why I even got mad when companies started taking down anything with the Conferdate flag, including games. It’s history! I get taking the flag down on government buildings. How far will this go? I will have stories with the South during the Civil War, I am not taking anything out for anyone. Either love me or hate me. Stick around or move on. Don’t tell me what I can write. It will only encourage me further. And I already have friends who rarely agree with who tell me to write what I want to write, because they value that freedom.

    As a Christian I say, write your stories the way you freaking want to write them! I am writing a story with a transsexual protagonist. It starts off with her naked. Not in a sick way, just in a way that shows her personal mind set. She lives in a world where it is easier to be gay than a tranny. At least in her neck of the woods. She is almost killed by a bigot when she is saved by a Christian man who has a secret lust for tanssexuals. And the story continues with the two actually falling in love with each other.

    Christians will hate me for this story, although the ending will leave it at a point you can take the story any way you like.

    These characters told me to write this story. Readers can like it or leave it. I won’t hide the fact that my main character is a transsexual.Oh, yeah, there will be physical intimacy in the story.

    Stupid mistake telling a writer what they can write.

    • a) please don’t call people trannies and b) it sounds like you’re fetishizing trans people? correct me if i’ve misread, but yeah. please don’t fetishize them.

      • Yeah, you completely read me wrong, but I forgive you (which seriously made me go, whutttt? And besides, transsexuals are already a fetish, not my doing, just the way it is, just like there are all kinds of fetishes and preferences, however, this isn’t about a fetish, I am not writing 50 Shades from a different view). And I will use whatever language is necessary in my stories, thank you. I write about all kinds of characters, and most of them are not politically correct, if they are, fortune wouldn’t favor them as I have serious issues with the PC crowd.

        Also, like any writer worth their salt, I have done some research and read various posts by transsexuals, and yes many of them use the term trannies or tranny. It depends on the person, like with all things. Just like not all Native Americans like to be called that name, some are okay with American Indian, others want to be called by their tribal nation. Again, different people take different issue with names and words.

        But anyways, as I stated above, I take issue with people who tell me what to write. i think I made that point clear, eh?

        • I never said you were writing 50SOG? and yeah, i’m aware that you can write whatever you want however you want. but is your argument for fetishizing an entire group of people really that they’re already being fetishized so it’s okay? i’m not talking about your opinion, just interested in how you’re going to portray that in the book. how does she feel about being the object of a fetish? a genuine question, not a challenge, as you might have thought earlier. but thank god i’ve already gotten your forgiveness then, yeah?

  • I must apologize that although I have known of your existence via the writing interwebs, I had not yet read any of your novels, but congratulations, you just sold some copies as I’m about to remedy that oversight. Thanks to the magic of said interwebs, I will not have to climb aboard my Big Gay BandWagon and drive it to the book store. Of note, when the Gay BandWagons get together for a parade it is fabulous, because us gays throw the best parades. BTW, from the parades you might observe that beardo white dudes can be gay too.

    Now if I could just find a cuddly pug to share your books with…

    Thanks for the being awesome!

  • … and this post made me run to the first book in the series to download it.
    So far, I had been reading (inhaling, more like) your blogposts and not yet your fiction.

  • Mr. Wendig, what an awesoem response to that Moe-Ron! Very well said! Pouty McGee needs to put on his big boy tighty-whities and get over the fact that there are other peeps in this world besides straight white males… like cute cuddly pugs! I sooo wish I had seen this before I had left to visit my mom in Florida, cuz it always includes a trip to the bookstore & I sooo would have bought your books! Now I’ll have to look for them online, but it won’t be the same as I won’t be able to proudly plunk them & my money on the counter & watch the cashier ring them up. *sighs*

  • Chuck,

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve received a bit of heat from some testers who don’t mind that my main character is bisexual; however, they hate the fact that he has been in a very abusive relationship with a gay man. “You can’t do that!” they say, horrified. “It’s fine that they f*cked, but they have to be happy in their relationship! You can’t have his boyfriend beat him, that’s like saying all gay people are cruel and abusive!”

    I simply smiled and pointed out that there are a million novels that depict domestic violence in straight couples. Equality means equality, man.

  • Coming back to this post to say – holy shit, yes. Thank you so much.
    I’m smack in the middle of Blightborn and it’s really, really good.
    Also, I’m attempting to write a character who is so unlike me that if I ran into him in real life I’d probably back up and run into him again, but it’s definitely stretching my brain to try and get inside his head. Does Pouty McGee think every writer just writes themselves all the time? How does that even work…

  • Is it bad that I hate homosexual pairings in books and serials because I simply can’t relate to them? *Shrugs* Oh well, this is why I’ll probably never write a story with gay or lesbian couples. Bisexual characters?? Hmmm…That I might consider.

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