Gay romance fiction

Gay for You or Out for You?

a discussion of one of the most popular tropes in gay romance

by Wave with an extended answer by Damon Suede (originally posted at Jessewave 22 July 2011) 

"No one deserves to be punished for loving with an open heart." (Hot Head - D. Suede)

Gay For You in M/M romances (which is the only place where you’ll ever find this trope) refers to when a straight man falls in love with a gay man, has sex with him and they live happily ever after. I’m sure this does not happen in RL but that never stopped our authors from writing literally hundreds of these stories which readers snap up as soon as they hit the publishers’ shelves. What is it about GFY that female readers can’t resist? Many of you have said that you’re not into reality you just want the fantasy, but shouldn’t the fantasy have some basis in something that makes sense, or is that too much of an oxymoron? :D

A few years ago my blogger friend and fellow Canadian MaryM used to rave about GFY as she devoured every book with this trope – she just couldn’t get enough. Now she can indulge her fantasy to her heart’s content because there are tons more GFY books published, but I think today she’s more involved in slash i.e. Kirk/Spock.  Ingrid and Tam are two readers who are like many of you, they just love GFY, so let’s examine why so many female M/M readers and writers love this trope.

Is GFY the forbidden fruit which makes gay romance even hotter to female readers than if it were just two gay men? Is it because it’s the ultimate fantasy of female M/M readers to hook up gay men with their straight counterparts? Is it the idea that anyone can be turned? (No, I’m not talking about vampires :)). Author Marie Sexton has a different idea about the whole GFY phenomenon which she discussed on this site a few months ago.  She called it Out For You. Her idea was that the MCs in GFY romances were always gay, not straight, and when they fell in love with another man they came out of the closet. Whatever the explanation, GFY has taken hold of the imagination of straight women who read M/M romances.

My first GFY romance years ago was The Assignment by Evangeline Anderson recommended by the abovementioned MaryM, then I read the Heaven Sent series by the queen of GFY, Jet Mykles, and The One That Got Away by Madeleine Urban and Rhianne Aile, a free read every week on Rhianne’s blog. Later I read Caught Running by Urban and Abigail Roux and I was dragged, kicking and screaming, until I read Cut and Run, by Urban and Roux (it was 350 damn pages for chrissakes and I hate l-o-n-g books) :) which naturally led me to Faith and Fidelity by Tere Michaels. After that  it was all over for me, but I have an explanation it’s all about the writing! When I examined the GFY books I loved I realized the reason was that I loved the authors and the writing not the trope. In fact I read just about everything by these authors as long as it’s M/M. That’s my explanation anyway, because I know logically that GFY does not make a damn bit of sense and it’s ridiculous.

Jet Mykles did a post not so long ago about GFY and she doesn’t see any change in the direction of her writing because as she says –

“It’s too much fun. It’s also a built in conflict. Besides, I love that shock that a guy feels when he has to admit that he’s hot for another guy. There’s something too terribly sexy about it.”

Jet made an interesting point that in all but one of her stories the straight protagonist was the receiver not the pitcher, which would be ass backward. :) It seems to me that it would make more sense if the straight partner were the top, but what do I know? Who said that this was logical? lol.

What do gay men think about all this?

I asked Damon Suede an M/M author and guest reviewer on this site what he thought about Gay For You. Here’s his take:

I don’t believe in “Gay for You” actually, either as a trope or a designator; the popularity of the term within the genre always makes me laugh because only someone who had never come out or seriously questioned their sexuality could think that same-sex desire works like a rigid boolean switch. We know that’s bullshit.

I tend to think of it as “Out for You” as Marie Sexton calls it. The thing is, “Out for You” is how most gay men figure themselves out sexually, at whatever age they come to terms with their sexuality. They meet someone who arouses feelings that make them question their self-image.

Desire exists along a very complicated four dimensional spectrum. What we want over the course of our lives changes radically, and that’s only one set of desires!

Gay For You is an outdated label we give stories when men who are “straight” fall for one special guy….who “makes” him “gay”. As if this character would have been happily straight for the rest of his days EXCEPT for this accidental meeting that realigns his existence and his heart.

There’s another term for that in the gay community: it’s called COMING OUT.

When a man realizes that he has romantic and erotic feelings about another man and acknowledges those feelings as part of his identity, he COMES OUT of the closet. He isn’t Gay-For-Anyone-But-Himself! He is Out-For-You (as Marie Sexton puts it so beautifully). I’m not talking about extreme circumstances like prison romance or military canoodling… but for the record that is the way 80-90% of GLBT people discover their sexuality. Duh! Actually that’s how ALL people explore sexuality in their adolescence: they meet someone that makes them feel differently than they have before.

Of course this means the term “Gay For You” HAD to have been coined by someone who had never faced that kind of radical realignment of their assumptions about gender and identity. Gay For You is a relic of another time in M/M and I’m praying to all the gods that it finally falls out of favor. I’m trying to not even USE it anymore because of the lie at its heart as a designator.

Only a person who has never questioned their erotic preconceptions could point at that situation and call it “Gay-For-You” because (again) to do so implies that sexuality is something you put on like a hat, and can take off just as easily. Or worse, love is something that you can only find with one person, no matter how evil, abusive, or disinterested. And as the genre has grown, it has lingered like an idiotic mole that we don’t address because it’s too entrenched or benign.

For that matter, this is why it is now considered unacceptable to use the phrase Sexual Preference  as opposed to Sexual Orientation when discussing GLBT issues. “Preference” implies that Gayness is a choice made of a menu of possibilities. Or that straight people simply obeyed society’s wishes and “picked” correctly. Again, not how sex works for anyone of any gender.

If anyone doesn’t think “Gay-For-You” is a stupid, vicious term, imagine if I started asking heteros who married their first love if their spouse had made them straight… or worse, consider rapists who argue that victims seduce them. Love and sex involve mutual participation.

So I don’t hate what is popularly referred to as Gay For You in books, I hate that it is CALLED Gay For You because the term is literally moronic and misguided. It’s something coined in ignorance that persists out of familiarity

On the other hand I love a beautifully written coming out story in which a man who had assumed things about himself makes life-changing discoveries that transform his future. What’s more romantic than that? :D


So readers/authors, what do you think? Is “Gay for You” outdated and should the term be changed to “Out for You”? Or would that make the fantasy too much like real life? :)A professional development article for writers by M/M author Damon Suede