Saturday, September 19, 2015

Little Miss Crabby Pants Walks The Line

Oh Romancelandia, you make it so hard to like you sometimes.  And yet here I am, once again, stepping into the fray of the latest outrage du jour.  Will Little Miss Crabby Pants never learn? 

Apparently not.

Yesterday the bomb was dropped that Josh Lanyon is a chick.  For those of you who don't read m/m (male/male - as in, no vaginas to be found in the romance) - Josh Lanyon is a fairly prolific author who specializes in mysteries (as far as I can tell).  Over the years I've seen positive reviews and apparently there has been speculation (for many years now...) on whether or not Josh is male or female, gay or straight, whatever.  Speculation I totally missed because I'm not widely read in LGBT romance (I have nothing against it, have actually read some of it, but Little Miss Crabby Pants is not "widely read" ergo, she's no expert).

Some folks are not happy about this, for a variety of reasons.  The revelation in general.  How the revelation was made.  The use of a pen name to appropriate an identity or experiences you haven't actually lived.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Little Miss Crabby Pants cannot comment very intelligently on any of this since 1) she's never read Lanyon and 2) hasn't exactly been hanging around the Internet with bated breath reading everything Lanyon has ever said or written regarding her identity.  I don't have first hand knowledge of the history.  So I'm not about to say that people who are upset shouldn't be upset because hell if I know everything that has been said over the years on the subject up to this point.  So this latest kerfuffle was orbiting around the periphery for me and frankly I was staying out of it because honestly?  I don't care.

And then, it happened.

I made the mistake of going on Twitter. 


For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you'll probably notice that my participation on the forum is pretty hit or miss.  I pop in for a little bit.  I pop out.  I go days without participating.  I lurk a lot.  Frankly I engage when I have time, and time is a precious commodity in short supply these days.  But hey, I had time so popped into Twitter which from here on out I'm just going to call The Outrage Machine.

Look, I get it.  Lanyon has managed to piss some folks off.  And honestly?  I'm fine with that.  Like I said, I don't have a pony in this race, plus I don't know the back history.  So if you're pissed, hey - more power to you.  I'm not going to tell you you're wrong.

What I am going to tell you however is to look in the mirror.  So much of the commentary I'm reading on this drama comes down to Little Miss Crabby Pants' favorite topic of the moment: Disclosure.

The irony is so rich here that I'm practically choking on it. 

Someone pass me more wine.

What exactly is Little Miss Crabby Pants implying?  The simple fact that if you're going to talk the talk you sure as shit better be walking the walk.  And certain corners of The Outrage Machine?  Yeah, go to the back of the line and sit the F down.  Or better yet, look in the mirror and start taking stock of your own baggage before wading into the fray.  Was Lanyon in the right or in the wrong?  In this instance it doesn't rightly matter much.  If your own house isn't in order, I'm not sure you're the best voice to be weighing in on the subject.

Little Miss Crabby Pants will end this missive with a tweet that speaks so much truth about the current state of Romancelandia that I'm thinking of cross-stitching it on a sampler.  An observation she wishes she had made, and I thank Kat so much for succinctly capturing my annoyance in less than 140 characters.


azteclady said...

As you know, I'm not on twitter, though I lurk there. Some of the most breathtakingly hypocritical tweets are by well-known romance bloggers, who were willingly complicit in a long-standing deception by one of their own co-bloggers.

Indeed, it's all fine and dandy, and ethical, and oh, how dare you criticize my honest, upstanding friend (so and so)--but lets pillory, feather, tarr, and run out of town in a rail this other person who I've never liked.

Jill said...

Honestly, I just assume most M/M romance is written by women, regardless of the name. And maybe that's not fair or sexist of me. Afterall, Leigh Greenwood and Jennifer Wilde are/were men. But thank you for reminding me to stay off twitter. 😉

Lori said...

Oh, for Pete's sake. I've recently been on a hiatus from most internet comments, including places whose comment sections I've enjoyed in the past, and this kind of thing is a good example of why I've been doing that. Zero self awareness + no filter + keyboard = bad things.

This particular kerfuffle at least has a bit of upside for me in that it reinforces some decisions I made in the past.

I stopped reading m/m because the fact that it's ostensibly about gay men, but is written almost exclusively by and for straight women started to feel a little icky to me. I don't judge other people for liking it, but it doesn't work for me so I decided to stop wasting valuable reading time getting sucked in by good reviews.

Also, I now feel comfortable setting aside whatever small concern I may have had that I was a little too hard on some people about that other kerfulffle. "It's OK when my friend does it, but bad when you do it" is not an acceptable rule. Acting as if it is makes you an asshole.

The huge downside to thins is that I hate it when Romancelandia lives down to the ugly stereotypes outsiders have of it. Feeling better about a couple of decisions doesn't make up for that. People seriously need to get a grip.

I say that even though I totally understand why people are angry about Lanyon. The vast majority of the subgenre is written by women and that reality is reflected in the unwritten conventions of pen names. The fact that "Josh Lanyon" violated those conventions by using an unambiguously male name makes the whole thing feel like lying instead of simply using a pen name. IMO her comments make it feel more like appropriation, not less. Yes, I knew long ago that "Josh Lanyon" was female. No, the fact that the secret was poorly kept doesn't change the underlying issue. And No, it isn't about her right to privacy. Trying to hide behind that is a jerk move. If privacy was the only issue she could have chosen a pen name that was within the genre conventions, J.A. Laynon or something.

lynneconnolly said...

So it's confession time, huh? I write books about people who get turned on by things or situations - corsets, high heels, doing it in the dark, getting tied up, doing it in public.
None of which I, personally, actually enjoy. Especially the high heels one. Ouch.
I've written menages. Don't like them, either. But I enjoy writing about them.

Wendy said...

The issue apparently comes in with things Lanyon has said (or not said) in the past re: identity. I'm a latecomer to the m/m world, and even then I've got like one tiny pinky toe dipped in those waters. So this Lanyon "thing," which apparently dates back a ways (2008-ish?) is something to didn't register on my radar back then and barely does now. Some folks find her statements troubling and the appropriation of a marginalized group icky. Which hey, I figure is their right. Like I said, I'm so far outside of this latest kerfuffle that I'm not about to tell anybody they shouldn't be ticked off about it.

BUT! Romancelandia is really starting to tick me off. We're just all supposed to have short memories and sweep things under the rug and move on. On one hand, yes. You can't live your life in a outrage vacuum. It's exhausting. But there's also this mind set that if you keep bringing things up you're beating a dead horse. Which, hello - I probably am. And I'm not even sure what I expect honestly. Maybe for a change of pace for someone, anyone to say, "Hey, you know what? I was wrong." Let's try that one on for size - see how it fits.

lynneconnolly said...

Acton, Currer and Ellis Bell did it, too. Shame on them! So did Andre Norton.

azteclady said...

Seriously, Ms Connolly, not the same at all. Appropriation of a marginalized group's identity (a la Rachel Dolezal) is nowhere near the same thing as using a male pseudonym while being female.

Andre Norton, Ellis Peters, etc: pseudonyms.

Claiming--or strongly insinuating--to be a gay man writing m/m stories, and being careful to look casually down on the many other women writing the genre, is another thing entirely.

Oh and just in case I myself haven't beaten the dead horse enough: pretending to be an aspiring author with zero knowledge of publishing and lying to people in close friendships for over two years, and not coming out with the truth until forced by legal proceedings, is also appropriating the identity of a (within the context of, say, closed author groups) relatively disadvantaged group, and garnering the sympathy and help of the other members through lies.

The last two people I reference lied, by action and by omission, and neither of them has the balls to come out and apologize for willfully deceiving people for years.

Indeed, the people defending the third case are taking a position of superiority over the person in the second case.

Because apparently, as Kat said, it's all fine and dandy when the people lying are their friends.

A writer, I should certainly hope, should know better than a reader with no university degree under her belt, the difference between these two, in meaning and impact.

Wendy, feel free to delete this if you consider it inappropriate.

Lori said...

Women using male pseudonyms in circumstances where they would have been unable to get published under their real name or not taken seriously if it was known that they were female =/= using a pseudonym to create the impression that one is a gay man in a genre where LGBTQ writers are still struggling to get published and have their work acknowledged. In much the same way, it's obviously completely fine for an author to write about sexual practices that s/he doesn't personally enjoy. It's not OK for Ms Vanilla to write BDSM stories under the pseudonym Mistress X.

And it's never OK to excuse your friend's lies while jumping on someone else for lying. Everyone who defended the last liar ought to have known enough to keep quiet about this one. They don't have to support her, but they have no right to publicly condemn her. They fact that some of them didn't is a sad commentary on their level of self awareness. The fact that people who bring that up are accused of beating a dead horse is a sad commentary on the social norms of Romancelandia. This queen bees and wannabes BS is getting really, really old.

lynneconnolly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lynneconnolly said...

Ah! Light is dawning, it's more complicated than I thought. Okay, I'm definitely with you on the last paragraph, Lori. It's tangled webs and all that, is it?

StlScrib said...

Wait, what? This is the first I have heard of this bombshell. I have read a lot of Josh Lanyon books specifically because I felt more comfortable reading M/M books that were written from a man's perspective and therefore somewhat more genuine (as genuine as anything can be in romanceland). I am speechless. And angry. I need to go and think about this a bit more before I say anything else.

Unknown said...

Thank you for reading Twitter so I don't have to.

I'm also reminded of the Lied about Sex / Lied about War bumper stickers - not to make light of the Iraq War or compare either Clinton's or Bush's lies to romancelandia shenanigans, but it does seem like double standards are everywhere.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

All I can say is wow. Even from the small taste of it here. Unless the author was claiming to be writing nonfiction ... otherwise it is make believe under a pseudonym. There are way bigger crimes, truly.

And I have to add that it isn't just Romancelandia. The entire world find things to be outraged about DAILY. It's what we do now.

And I am so sick of it.

Hot Sauce Reviews said...

I don't know Josh Lanyon but I have always suspected - from reading her stuff - that she is female. The "voice" in the narrative is, to me, very female, distinct from a male voice. But back in those days, Josh Lanyon actively denied being female. In fact, when Ann Somerville had a serious grudge on Josh and kept insisting that Josh is a woman, Josh led a group to go at Ann on the basis that Josh was really a man and Ann was just a meanie. I haven't kept pace of events since then, but if Josh kept doing that over the last few years, I could imagine the knives that came out when she revealed that she was a woman. (Surprising. She could at least claim to be a trans person or something, like another MM author out there when people discovered that she was a woman!)

The online community is steeped in hypocrisy. That's why I bailed out on it a long time ago. If me or my friends do it, it's not just okay - IT IS AWESOME AND WE ARE ON THE SIDE OF GOOD. But if you do it? Bring on the Outrage Brigade, darling, some wigs are gonna get snatched. So tedious and boring, especially when one realizes that the ringleaders are using the pitchforked sheep to further their own interests in book deals, speaker events, et cetera.

lynneconnolly said...

I suspect that's why I didn't hear this one, either. I bailed out, too. Disengaged. It's a worthless time-suck.

Dr J said...

Signed up for Twitter a few years ago and to date have never used it. Too invasive to my way of thinking. I barely tolerate Facebook half the time. Pseudonyms are an old thing, and I, too, believe that all the hoo-hoo is really about being surprised and having our carefully crafted opinions upended. I think it was tacky of her to deny her gender when challenged originally -- what does it matter. Lots of women write MM stuff. And they are straight to boot, but that doesn't detract from the fact that they are kick-ass writers and tell very good stories. I have only read a few Lanyon tales but liked them all. Just can't get too worked up about all the sound and fury in this. I do appreciate the opportunity to express an opinion and as always, Wendy does us all a good turn by "putting it out there."

Wendy said...

Disengaged is a perfect word in this instance. I had briefly heard about the original kerfuffle that Mrs. Giggles mentions, but at that time I was like "OK, whatever - moving on. Not my circus, not my monkeys." So my back history was a little fuzzy when this latest "to-do" surfaced. I'm also thinking I now want a T-shirt emblazoned with "IT IS AWESOME AND WE ARE ON THE SIDE OF GOOD." Just because.

Every time I find that Twitter annoys me, it ends up reining me back in some how. It's really good for taping into a "hive mind" when my memory fails me on books, authors, tropes, themes etc. And the longer I read romance, the fuzzier my memory seems to get. My recall for books, authors, specific plots ain't what she used to be.

willaful said...

Well spoken, Aztec Lady.

I think I'm particularly pissed about this one because I got took, AGAIN. Lanyon successfully convinced me that she was a gay male -- and I believe the evidence shows that it was very deliberate. She created an identity and used it to establish a position of authority, and in doing so undermined her own supposed point. (That gender shouldn't matter.) And she finally revealed this fact in a very offensive way, that basically mocked both gay men and the people she'd successfully deceived. All of that is far different from a writer merely using a male sounding pseudonym or a transman author being careful around his identity.

I am fed to the teeth with lies and masquerades. They are fun to read about in romance. They are sickening in people you've learned to trust.

And I agree that people's hypocrisy is showing and it's aggravating as hell.

azteclady said...

When I reviewed Lanyon's Snowball in Hell, because I was unsure about the author's gender, I carefully avoided using either 'he' or 'her.' It bothered me, a lot, to doubt an author who had--despite what she's saying now--vigorously indicated being a gay male.

It bothers me a lot more to find those doubts to be justified.

Anonymous said...

When I first saw this, I wasn't so much angry as disquieted. I read and enjoy a lot of m/m fiction by people who present themselves as women, and I also really like a lot of Josh Lanyon's work. If I had known all along Josh was a woman, I don't think it would have altered my enjoyment of her work. But being fooled is not a pleasant sensation. Then I read a bit of what she wrote on her blog, and I went to DearAuthor and read those 2008 threads all the way through, and it seems to me Josh has misrepresented what went down on those threads, which does make me angry. So anyway, my two cents.

Wendy said...

I remember back in the good old days I would occasionally meet people in Real Life, or we'd exchange e-mails and they'd ask me, "So are you really a librarian?" Which, at the time - I found kind of funny. I mean, of course I'm really a librarian! Why would I say I'm a librarian when I'm not?

Oh, those were the days. Sigh.