Farewell to GRL 2011 by Blake Deveraux

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I put out a call a few days ago asking readers to write about their GayRomLit 2011 experience – its successes, and how it impacted them. A few hours later Treva Harte of Loose Id emailed me about a post by Blake Deveraux on his blog. When I read his essay I was so moved and touched I immediately contacted Blake and asked for permission to reprint it here. This permission he willingly granted right away and if you haven’t seen Blake’s essay you’re in for a treat.

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As I sit here contemplating life, family, happiness, or the fairly frequent lack thereof, and the exquisite, sheer joy of those moments when all things are ‘right’, I find myself overcome with emotion.

I recently attended a writers/readers retreat in New Orleans, La : GayRomLit. To say I enjoyed it would be a profound understatement. As the inaugural event it was amazingly well planned, and a moment in time that will not soon be forgotten by its attendees.


 
One of the things that was most refreshing was the total acceptance of and by those lucky enough to be there. As someone who rarely “blends in,” for me it was a surreal experience that I have never before known. In my “normal” life, I try very hard to avoid putting myself in dangerous situations, or to find myself the target of the fear that so often surrounds the lack of acceptance of sexuality that locals do not understand or approve of. I realized though, several years ago that wearing “normal” clothes and sedate hair styles didn’t avoid the disgusted stares or the accusing comments. So in the midst of the bible belt I decided that although I do not make my sexuality or its manifestations a matter for public debate locally, I wear what I feel comfortable in within reason, and allow my hair to reflect the man within. Acknowledging this, I choose however to keep these issues private and deal with the repercussions of that decision to myself. The main reason for this relates to my aging parents and in an effort to save my daughter the barrage of prying questions that would ensue.

Before I completely bore you to tears, gentle reader, I will move on. I did want to shed a little light, for those who aren’t familiar with my life and my story, on why this retreat was such a welcome yet painful experience.

During the retreat I spoke to hundreds of people, literally, during the many events. The one resounding theme was the wonderful feeling of freedom we all felt. As can be attested by the folks who met me in New Orleans, I let the real Blake shine through. My clothes, outrageous, my style at it’s wildest, and my conversation, unedited and unvarnished. In essence, I exhaled, maybe for the first time probably ever. To find myself surrounded by those who not only accepted me regardless of my appearance, but did so, uninterested in whom I might find appealing, with whom I shared my bed, or with whom I might choose to share my life, left me overwhelmed by sheer joy, and an indescribable dread.

 
To those who have never felt what it is to be hated for nothing more than how you look, or the belief you might feel attraction to someone other than what is accepted, it is a pain that threads itself through the fabric of the facade of our lives. That pain allows us to endure the paradox of what is versus what, in a fair and unbiased world should be. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t pleasant, and more often than not, distances us from those who love us most. The reality though is, it is familiar, you can rely on it. When you find yourself feeling vulnerable, needing validation, the pain keeps your heart and your sanity safe.

Even amongst the GBLT community the venom is often as deadly, sometimes more. Gay men tend to shred others who don’t fit into the safety of their expectations. Youth, fitness, beauty, and oddly enough conformity are gods often worshiped, rarely forsaken. Aging gay men, those who don’t maintain six percent bodyfat, or who look or act too “straight” are castigated as either unworthy of their attention or those guilty of the latter are treated with disdain or more often as turncoats to the cause.

 
Finding myself in a group of people who valued me either because of or in spite of my appearance or perceived proclivities wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but the lack of judgment and volumes of love shown to both myself and the others attending was not only unexpected but overwhelming. The men who attended ranged from the obvious gay men to clearly heterosexual husbands of readers or authors. It was the het community that most impressed me during the conference. I am accustomed to keeping the customary ‘distance’ when approaching other men. I found it most intriguing that several husbands asked to have their picture made with me or hugged me during the convention’s “goodbye brunch.”

Amongst the gay men and women attending, I was treated with love and respect, there were no catty comments, no snarky stares from those who either might be more youthful, more handsome, or in the case of the authors, more talented than I. It seemed for that one shining moment, we were all on equal footing.

I doubt, of course, that every participant was filled with love and good will during that five day event. If there were those there who made those types of comments or were using the experience as a reason to marginalize others, I certainly didn’t encounter them.

The reason for my angst, the fuel for my sorrow stems not from those who might cause me pain. The real reason for it revolves around the glaring disparity between the world that could be, as eclipsed by the world that is.

I suppose for those who attended , we simply are left hoping that someday the rest of the world catches up with “our” community. When I say that, I don’t mean the gay community, or the het community. I mean the community of people who love and accept each other based on who we are, not who we love or how we look. Those people are gay, straight, bi, white, black, Asian… the list goes on. In short the world is short on truly good people. It was perhaps one of the defining moments of my life to realize that those people DO exist, and not in small numbers. GRL 2011 may be over, but its impact on its participants, and the ripples from those people will be felt for years to come.

Although I type this through tears, knowing that truly good, kind and non-bigoted people are the minority, I am thankful to God that I managed to encounter so many of them in one short period of time. And regardless of the fact that it was an isolated skip in time, and those of us who are waiting anxiously for next year, GRL gave me something that I truly had begun to believe I’d lost, hope for the future.

 

Blake Deveraux

Blake’s Contact Information

Website: http://blakedeveraux.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/blakedeveraux?sk=wall
email: blake.deveraux@yahoo.com

21 thoughts on “Farewell to GRL 2011 by Blake Deveraux

  1. jeff erno

    Wow, what an amazing and touching essay. I too felt that same sense of welcoming acceptance while attending the retreat. Although I’d feared disappointment and rejection, I left with the knowledge that I’d just encountered one of the most profound experiences of my life. It was not only wonderful to be recognized and acknowledged by fellow authors and readers, but I felt as if I were a part of something phenomenal. MM fiction now seems more to me than just a genre… it feels more like a community.

  2. Helena

    A jewel-post :smile:
    Thank you for sharing this touching insigth. May acceptance become true for all :cool:

  3. Sirius

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. Makes me want to try harder to come next year.

  4. Dianne T.

    Thank you Blake for putting your very profound thoughts and feelings in writing – lots to contemplate there.
    (And thanks to Wave for posting this) :hug:

  5. Laura

    My heart aches for those who live with the hate or negativity that not being perceived as ‘normal’ brings. Why people find it necessary to hurt or belittle others baffles me. :???:

    I’m glad that GRL was such a positive experience for you and that you found a group of such accepting souls. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  6. Blake Deveraux

    Thank all of you for the kind words. It was honestly a quickly done rambling of my inner thoughts on my time at GRL. It is now and has been my sincerest hope though that my books, my career as a writer and my example might have some part in helping reduce the hatred, and heighten understanding that the folks in th GBLT community aren’t any different than they are. We are simply your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers. It would be truly enlightening for most of the “outside” world to know how many gay men, and lesbian women they REALLY know. So many people are forced into ‘boxes’ by prejudice they never get to really know some pretty terrific people. Again thanks all for the kind words.

    Kisses from the south

    Blake

  7. Blake Deveraux

    OH, and Guys, I love keeping in contact with people who support both the community, and more specifically m/m books. So email me, f/b friend me or stop by my website, I have an amazing video documentary posted on the “myths” behind the “sin” of homosexuality. It has some pretty compelling facts from some VERY surprising sources.

  8. D.J. Manly

    Thanks Blake for your post. I’m sorry I missed it. I would have loved to have been there, and met you. Maybe next time. It’s not easy at this time in the world, all we can do is hope it gets better. We can look at what it must have been fifty or a hundred years ago. At times it’s like we’re back there and nothing has changed at all. At least somewhere out there, there is a safe place where one can be themselves, with friends, with people who love you.
    And maybe one day in a world without distorted lenses. I’m still waiting too.

    Glad you had those moments.

    xx
    D.J. Manly

  9. Blake Deveraux

    THank you, DJ
    And I would SO loved to have met you too! I hope next year in NM you can attend, it’s a wonderful event, and has been so helpful in many ways that I can’t express. Keep strong, Keep writing, and keep us little guys in your heart!!

    Kisses,

    Blake

  10. minne edwards

    can I just say there are many good people but unfortunately the less than good are much noiser! I wish you well and I hope you find that you are accepted more within your community than perphaps is visible. I live in London and my neighbours, my work mates, the people around me are a huge mix of sexuality,creed, etc…. and there is an acceptance – Live well and be happy.

  11. A.B. Gayle

    Thanks for that insight, Blake. It gave me a totally different view of the retreat. The world has changed a lot in my lifetime, hopefully events like this will spur on more changes, so it will “get better”.

  12. Blake Deveraux

    That’s what we hope! It’s folks like you all that DO give me hope for the future. Keep up the fight! At the end of the day it’s not about “gay acceptance” it’s about acceptance period. Why it matters who you are attracted to or what color you are or how you look is so wrong… at some point hopefully the world will figure that out.

  13. Kaje Harper

    So pleased to hear the community managed for one weekend to be the accepting world we’re all working towards. Sorry I missed it but so glad it was there for you. We all need moments of hope.

  14. jeayci

    I’m a day late (and probably more than a dollar short) but wanted to share :my2cents: and say what a beautiful post. It made me teary. The retreat sounds like an incredible experience, and I’m sorry I missed it.

    And I agree with Minne, I’m not convinced the good people are as much a minority as it appears, but the obnoxious are so loud, so overwhelming, and historically so powerful. But the tide is turning.

    Harvey Milk was right, the more who come out, the more “normal” it becomes for everyone. Just the other day one of my facebook friends said she didn’t understand the point of posting all the pro-gay rights messages, because she figures all her friends must be (and if not, unfriend her) and what’s the point of preaching to the choir? That sparked a discussion, in which someone said she used to be very vocally homophobic…until her best friend came out.

    Kaje, your mention of the need for hope reminds me of LGBTQ GMH, a tumblr page that shares stories of hope.

  15. sfrizell

    The weekend got away from me and am just now catching up! A very thought provoking blog. As a straight, white, woman, I have no first-hand experience of the ignorance, spiteful hate, and intolerance you have to put up with…..and I’m sorry that you’ve had to.

    I just visited your site and listened to some of the rants you posted from the so-called pastor in Tempe, AZ. He’s a nut and what is so frightening are those who agree and quietly financially support him.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of the “Rev.” Fred Phelps from Kansas (the *very* heart of the Midwest!). His “congregation”, i.e. extended family members, are able to travel all over the U.S. to protest soldiers funerals, graduation ceremonies where one of the honored students is gay, etc. etc.

    It’s scary that they all receive so enough funds to be able to continue to spew their hate and agenda.

    I am headed to Atlanta Wed. so will keep an eye out for you! :smile: Take Care!

    1. blake

      Oh, God, don’t get me started on Fred Phelps. The really sad part of the matter where he’s concerned is that most of his “protests” are directed at service men/women who’ve been killed in action. Mind you, in spite of the fact that ninety nine percent of those men/women AREN’T gay, he announces to the universe the reason they died was because God hates fags… Okay, how ignorant can you get? Some ignorance is so profound it leaves you speechless..

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