We often talk here about the advantages of writing outside our comfort zones. Of trying to cobble together a short story instead of non-fiction, or of trying a different genre, such as sci-fi or horror instead of Womag fiction. This should also apply to one`s reading, but until now I`ve always drifted back to the classics, humour, biography or travel, with the occasional best-seller novel thrown in, always carefully avoiding horror and vampires.
But I recently I read a book which was not only an excellent read, but also opened a can of worms in my mind. I`m referring to "Conversations with S. Teri O`Type" (available at amazon), by Writers Abroad member Christopher Allen, whose blog I Must Be Off! I often dip into for his quirky travel writing and dry humour. His book however, is about being gay and how to define "gayness".
I grew up in a time when the word "gay" meant "light-hearted, happy, cheerful" and didn`t have the connotation it has today. I`ve had some experience of working with gay colleagues and found them to be charming, creative people. But I never had an inkling of the conflicts and self-torment that these people go through. Nether of the pressures they endure trying to define their gayness, nor of the way they suffer under the clichés that society imposes on them.
Chris Allen`s book, although tackling these problems in a humorous way, had me lying awake at night pondering why we expect gay men to be "feminine", wear pink and display "camp" behaviour. It also had me cringing at the memory of some of the jokes I used to make at their expense as a teenager and I thought about how I would have reacted if my son had told me he was gay. In short, this book made me examine how I felt about a subject I had never given very much thought.
It was a journey into unknown territory and I`m glad I made it. Maybe I should give vampires a try after all.