Bless me, book people, for I have sinned–I have continued to read online reviews of BMUC. Dangerous idea. My justification is the controversial content of this book: I want to know what people are saying. But knowing is a double-edged sword.
Case in point: this week I saw a review where the reader mentioned s/he didn’t like reading books where there was a lot of violence. The reader said violence is sickening to him/her, and not something s/he wants to be a part of. Totally fair and understandable, and I don’t disagree. S/he then wonders whether there might be “gratuitous hate crimes” in BMUC.
I am taken aback at the idea of a gratuitous hate crime, because hate crimes are so very, very serious. I am taken aback at the idea that I’d glorify violence in the service of a story. Actually, “taken aback” is a polite way to put it. I’m pretty shocked. I have strong feelings (too long to discuss here) about gratuitous violence and our culture.
At the same time, it’s good to sit back and consider why there’s violence in BMUC–did I use as a means to an end? I’ve come up with two answers to that question.
Side note: the violence was the hardest stuff to write, of course. I cringed and cried my way through those scenes right along with the characters. I am way more attached to Gabe than I want to be, and I take what happens to him very personally, even though I’m the one who shapes the story. It’s a really weird double reality.
Anyway. Back to the answers. Did I write gratuitous violence to lure people in?
1) No. Hate crimes are included in BMUC because hate crimes are always possible for those who don’t conform to our ideas of gender. If you want a recent example in my/Gabe’s state, just ask CeCe McDonald . It’s within the realm of everyday reality for Gabe to be threatened and hurt in the ways he is in the book. Absolutely within the realm.
2) Kind of. But NOT for the reasons the reviewer thinks. Including violence in BMUC was a way to include people like John and Paige in Gabe’s life, people who care for him no matter what, people who are there to pick him up after the bad shit happens. The violence was a means to an end in order to say “hey, not everybody is an asshole. There are good, loving people out there.” I have met trans youth who don’t necessarily believe good, loving people exist anymore. Paige and John might give a trans reader hope that an ally will stick up for them, too.
I wish the reviewer had given her/his name on the blog where the review is posted, or on their FB page–I’d really like to engage the person in a discussion about the idea of gratuitous hate crimes. Writing the phrase makes me cringe, and it makes me a little pissed that the person can’t see beyond that interpretation of the book. But I’ve neutralized my righteous indignation with an exercise of the good ol’ critical thinking skills. I hate that. : ( Critical thinking destroys a snit more quickly than anything else.
Should the words “gratuitous” and “hate crime” ever go together? I fear they do, more often than I want them to. I could probably watch an episode of Law and Order to prove my point: TV likes sensational victims like Gabe. And it says a ton about us, as twenty-first century humans, that the person would even wonder about my use of violence as a writing tool. In this culture, it’s a good question for him/her to ask.