Sometimes I feel like a fraud.

When I started to write my first book, I did not have a problem writing a female character as my main character. A am 51 and a male. My main character, Zenith, is early 20’s and a female. I have an aggressive, A-type personality, and so does she. I thought that people would identify with a strong, aggressive woman who has an A-type personality.

I have listened to some feedback from friends and female family members that told me she was too aggressive and too assertive. I marched ahead and wrote the book with Zenith as is. I gave her a girlfriend, her best friend, Nami, and away I went on writing. 100,000 + words later, I loved my book, the characters and how Zenith turned out as a ‘hero archetype’, and how her and Nami’s relationship blossomed throughout the book.  

The second book, 130,000 + words later, is not finished, but I always have this nagging feeling that I’m not doing this book justice because I have not lived as 1) a woman, and 2) as a lesbian. I feel like a fraud. I feel I am not doing her, her sexuality, and her choices their due respect because I have never experienced the hate, the backlash, or the vile comments directed toward the LGBTQ community.  

I do stand with the LBGTQ community, but I am not gay, not bi, I am a straight white male. I was raised with the understanding that ‘something is wrong with them gays.’ I was raised that ‘queers and dikes’ are not normal, they are some sort of aberration, and there is something wrong with them. I have never thought about the LGBTQ community until I started to go to college and work in the restaurant industry.

I would hear comments about African- Americans, and Mexican Americans, but shrugged them off because I played football with people of every race, and color and I can assume every religion. My ex-stepfather is Mexican American, My grandmother was born in Mexico, and I was raised by going to family gatherings with most of my family being Mexican or Central American. I had lots of friends that were African American from playing sports my whole life. I never understood racism, and I still don’t. But sexism and not wanting to be seen as gay, hell, that was an everyday thing, up until I started college and started to go to school and work with gays and lesbians.

I was in class my freshmen year when this guy sits down next to me, and we say hi. It’s 1989, and I thought nothing of it. Over the semester, we talk, studied together, and just hang out. I’m playing football, working out, and working a part-time job, I’m just doing what I do. Then one day, he tells me that he is attractive to me. Full stop! Everything I had ever said about gays, every preconceived notion that I ever had about gay men, every bad stereotype that I have ever had told me that this guy was ‘just a dude’ and no way could he be gay.

He did not look gay. He did not take with a lisp. He did not act ‘girly’. He did not give off those ‘gay vibes.’ He was just another god damn dude that I liked hanging around.

I did not take this well. The first reaction that was taught to me by society, my alpha male friends, and even by the male figures in my life, was to lash out and beat up my friend. I cannot say that I took the high road, that I bucked societal norms and teaching, I cannot say I did the honorable thing, I ran away. I was a coward, a fake, and a bullshit artist. Prior to this, we had talked about the LGBTQ community, the social pressures that came along with being part of that community, and how society looked at gay men and women much differently than straight men and women. Gays and lesbians were demonized and ostracized by ‘normal’ people.

I was at a Junior College at the time, and after that second semester, I never spoke to him again. Why, because I’m a fucking coward and a fraud. He called me a few times during that 2nd year. I was legitimately busy. Between football, working out, studying, and a small part-time job, I was busy. Of course, I was doing the same routine during my first year of college, but I had time to hang out with him, even when I had a girlfriend on top of all that.

I left California to play football at Arizona State. ASU is in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, and the whole Valley of the Sun has around 7 million people. I played my two years and found a job at a restaurant. I had not graduated, but I was a few semesters from finishing, and I had two guys that I played football with managing the place. On Thursdays, most of the customers that came in were gay or lesbian. The bar that I worked at did not have an official gay/lesbian night, but Thursdays were it, official or not.

I was introduced to these monsters, these vile creatures every Thursday night. After a few weeks of manning the door as a bouncer, I noticed something that changed everything. These people that I was told would ‘change me’, would ‘make me gay’, were good, nice people who just wanted a place to go and have a beer and relax. This was my ‘holy shit’ moment. I started to loosen up and talk to the customers. Some men asked if I was gay, I told them no, and we continued to talk about sports, politics, and history. (My degree is in history.)

I cannot say that I am a crusader for LGBTQ rights or anything after that. I cannot that I experienced the hate that is aimed at them from the religious right and conservatives. We did have a few religious people come into the bar and start shit. We, the bouncers, took care of them quickly. I am kind of disappointed that none of the religious folks took a swing at me, it would have been fun. I look at the world today, and the state of politics in the United States and see that we have not moved forward but moved backward with LGBTQ rights.

The reason why I feel like a fraud is because I try and place myself in the position of this wonderful woman that I write to, Zenith, and try to understand what she is going through. My biggest fear is that I am doing an injustice to her, and the LGBTQ community by writing a character that is a female and a lesbian. This thought is always in my mind. This thought keeps me up at night.

I love all the characters in my book. Zenith and Nami have a special place in my heart because they were the first two characters that I created and fell in love with. I just don’t want to cheapen their love by being who I am, a white, straight, 51-year-old male. All I can do is write the best book I can and love and support the LGBTQ community.

Thank you for reading this. Support LGBTQ rights and trans kids who are fighting a greater battle than I can imagine for acceptance and love. Love only heals the heart where hate destroys it.

Thank you all, Happy writing.

J.W. Berwyn

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