When I started reading MM romance, one of the most popular tropes was called Gay for You, abbreviated as GFY. It featured one or more characters who had always thought they were straight but ended up falling for a man (or more than one, in poly MM romances). They weren’t attracted to other men and had never even considered it, but they hopelessly fell for this one guy.
In other words: they were basically straight and only gay for him.
Then pushback came against using this term, labeling it impossible. After all, if you’re a man and you fall for another man, you’re not straight. You’re probably bisexual (or pansexual, depending on which term you prefer). So to call a character straight but gay for that one guy was a misrepresentation. That’s when the term bisexual awakening took over.
I get it. At first glance, Gay for You does seem like a problematic term. I would agree that if you’re in love with someone of your own gender, you’re not straight. That doesn’t mean we get to immediately slap a label on, though.
But the bigger argument was that gay for you doesn’t exist in real life. People aren’t gay for just one guy. They’re either straight or bi/pan. Are they, though?
Let’s start with the first issue. Labeling someone else is always tricky. Within the queer community, we hold the value that we need to let people pick their own labels, ones that they are comfortable with and identify with. Funny as it may sound, to me that includes characters. Of course as the author, I create the characters and theoretically, I’m in control of them. The reality is that like real life people, characters can misbehave and insist on doing things their way.
That includes deluding themselves about not being attracted to men.
That includes labeling themselves as straight, even when they already experience attraction to another guy.
That includes attitudes that may come across as homophobic, like insisting making out with another guy is not gay but just biology.
And that includes the labels they use for themselves, both before and after they’re in love with another man.
Because that’s what happens in real life as well. Some people need time before they can fully embrace themselves as bi or pan. Others will never become comfortable with either term and refuse any label at all. They consider themselves in love and that’s enough of a label. It’s messy and it doesn’t fit a nice pattern, but it is real life.
In real life, labels aren’t always as clear. They’re not binary (either straight or bi/pan) and they change and evolve over time. So why can’t they in MM romances?
I understand the reason for the pushback. The underlying suggestion is that if a character insist on being Gay for You is that they’re uncomfortable calling themselves bi or pan and prefer to think of themselves as straight. That reeks of homophobia (or technically, biphobia) and that is uncomfortable. Like I said, I understand that, but shouldn’t we feel equally uncomfortable slapping a forced label on characters?
The second issue is just as interesting. It is possible for people to not be attracted to their own gender with one exception. I’ve seen it in real life. The problem is that it’s not that common, and so using it as frequently as MM romance authors did in their books is a bit of a misrepresentation.
Then again, we also have a statistically impossible amount of completely gay families/siblings/friends/coworkers/small towns, etc. And our characters have to share a bed way more often than happens in real life. Or get stranded in a snow storm. Or fall for their best friend’s brother/father/ex. You get what I mean.
In the end, I agree with using the term bisexual awakening over Gay for You. I do understand the reasons behind the pushback, mostly because statistically, the number of men who would truly consider themselves gay for you is very low, and using it as a trope name that often would suggest otherwise. Plus, I am uncomfortable with the underlying internalized homo/biphobia, so I do prefer to allow characters to label themselves as bi/pan. Until one day, there might be one that insists otherwise…
In the mood for some bisexual awakening? I have several to choose from:
• Awakening the Sheriff – small-town sheriff unexpectedly falls for the new English teacher in town. Mature men, single dads, small town romance, and all the feels in this second book in the Forestville Silver Foxes series.
• Coming Out on Top – local recluse takes in a young man stranded in a snow storm and ends up falling hard for him. With mild D/s play with an older sub, an age gap, hurt/comfort, and the happiest of endings, this is a great standalone romance.
• Friends – an FBI agent discovers he’s not straight when his friendship with a Secret Service agent develops into much more. This is the second book in a continuing romantic suspense series, so make sure to read book 1 first!
• No Surrender – Burke insists he’s straight and that he’s a Dom, but after meeting (and clashing) with Wander, he finds out he might be wrong on both accounts. Super emotional, angsty romantic suspense with D/s themes.