Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the identity of the author and what they’ve written–and indeed if they are qualified to write them. What’s this all about I hear you say? Let me explain.
There was an incident a week or so ago where the community took exception to an author and their work. As it goes, this author pitched during DvPit (a pitching game for underrepresented groups to try and get agents/publishers for publication) because they wrote a story of a native Hawaiian girl who becomes a hula dancer/fire knife thrower.
The thing with this, and here’s the crux of it, the story about the Hawaiian girl was pitched as an own voices story. In other words, the author stated they were native Hawaiian and used an event for underrepresented groups to get their story out there. This turned out not to be true. The author was a white woman who later claimed they only ‘lived’ in Hawaii. Not only that, this white author appropriated the Hawaiian culture incorrectly. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, the author lied about who they were to get their story out, riding on the back of an indigenous culture to do so.
This then led to other authors ‘coming out’ to the community to justify what they’ve written. Becky Albertalli was one example (author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, adapted to the movie Love, Simon). In a heartfelt blog she outed herself to let others know she was ‘qualified’ to write LGBTQ+ stories.
To me, stealing another culture’s identity and using it as your own is wrong. Wrong on so many levels. But an author’s sexuality is their own and NEVER needs to be justified. Becky’s outing in such a manner should never have happened. We need to focus on the real issues. And white people stealing from other cultures for their own financial gain is the issue here (and I’m accusing the agent/publisher here too).
In my case, I’m not out and I never will be because of my job and my own safety. Does that mean I can’t write LGBTQ+ stories? Of course it doesn’t. My own personal journey and sexuality is no one else’s concern but my own and those I love. So, as I reinvent myself, my personal life will always remain personal. If anyone has an issue with that, then that’s their issue not mine. I will write the stories that speak to me. Always. I am a writer. A cis white guy who doesn’t steal other people’s culture to try and get a publishing deal.