Guest blog by Matthew J. Metzger, author of Enough
I’d like to get serious for a minute, if I may. (I know – Matthew? Getting serious? Pft.) But just for a minute. Please? Cool.
My name is Matthew J. Metzger. I am twenty-four years old and an author – six times over now – of LGBT fiction, both adult and young adult. I am also queer, both in terms of sexuality and gender identity. I make bananas look straight.
I realised I was queer around the age of thirteen. It has taken me eleven years to come to terms with the fact. Truth be told, I’m still not 100% there yet, so it may be that with time that number becomes twelve, then thirteen…
But right now, eleven years.
Count ’em. Eleven. That’s 46% of my lifespan. And for the other 44%, I wasn’t aware I was queer at all.
Writing LGBT fiction, you get asked a lot why you write what you do. It’s niche, it’s not very mainstream, and it has a stigma and a reputation as being, basically, housewives writing about guys getting it on. Now the adult fiction, I write that because it’s fun or I get cool ideas that don’t work for kids. My adult bestseller, Enough, simply would not have worked as a teen novel. It was a smash hit within two weeks and recently went to print – but it was, at the very core, an adult novel.
Am I pleased it was a hit? Of course. Am I thrilled it’s out in paperback? Absolutely. Is it my favourite book?
I write adult LGBT fiction as a fun extension of my real reason – and that is young adult LGBT fiction. I write young adult fiction because it is young adults who most need these stories to be written.
I struggled for eleven years to come to terms with who I was. I picked up and dropped almost all the labels in the great alphabet soup that is sexuality and gender identity. I initially thought I was gay, and I didn’t have a problem with that. Then I started to realise that didn’t fit, so maybe I was bisexual. Again, that was…okay. Only bisexual didn’t work either. Then the panic started to set in. I didn’t fit. And if I didn’t fit, then there was something wrong with me. Why didn’t I work like other people? What had broken?
I fought depression, and lost several times. I still bear physical scars from it, and a mental tendency to pinwheel from feeling amazing to feeling awful within a 12 hour period of time. I am comfortable in my own skin, but not my own mind, and even when friends in the know question me about my experiences as a queer person, I can and do get very upset and defensive very quickly. And then I spiral, because I feel bad about lashing out.
It’s not fun. And I was struggling with this predominantly on my own.
I was twenty-one years old before I worked out what I am. And I was twenty-three before I even came close to being okay with it. I’m now twenty-four. In truth, I’m not totally there yet. I don’t get depressed about it anymore, and I am growing more comfortable using the term genderqueer – but I am still nearly entirely closeted about my sexuality, and – soul-baring truth here – scared about what it means for me in the long term.
I’m the kid who needed stories. I needed stories about people like me. I needed someone, anyone, to tell me they knew what I was dealing with, that it was okay to be scared, and that it wasn’t going to be forever.
But I wasn’t the kid they talk about. LGBT media is all about kids in religious homes, kids in the Deep South, kids in poor areas. And sure, those kids need help too. But those kids weren’t me. I didn’t feel like those campaigns were talking to me. I wasn’t religious, and we ignored the religious side of my family anyway. Nobody had ever told me being queer was wrong – if anything, I distinctly remember someone calling my friend a lesbian at thirteen, and I had no idea what it meant. (I was an oblivious kid, okay?) I grew up in a middle-class, middle-England, generally nice suburbia. I didn’t have the faintest idea until my early teens that homosexuality was a thing, never mind homophobia. I wasn’t the kid in the media.
But I still needed someone to tell me it was okay to be me.
So on one level, I write LGBT fiction for me. For the kid I was. And for the kids that are still out there, growing up scared, growing up queer. The kids who think they’re busted, the kids who think they will never be happy, the kids who think that if they could just work like everybody else then they’d be okay, and the kids who thinks if they try hard enough, they can make it work. The kids for whom it’s not as easy – and yes, I said easy – as being straight or being gay. The kids who are something else entirely.
A while ago, I received a letter from a teenage reader. You can read it here. She was recently discovering her bisexuality, and finding a refuge and a comfort in LGBT YA. One of my books reached out and talked to her. And in a single letter, that reader made every moment of work in this industry worth it. I talked to one, single kid who needed to hear it – and that made everything worthwhile.
That’s why I write LGBT fiction.
About Matthew J. Metzger
Matthew is the front for a British author working and living in Bristol in the United Kingdom. Matthew writes both adult and young adult LGBT fiction, with the odd idea straying into sci-fi territory that never seems to go anywhere. Matthew’s writing deals with intense, often painful issues affecting people across the entire sexual and gender spectrum, and he aims to do with respect, grit and a touch of dark humour. His first adult novel, Enough, was an instant bestseller and is now available in paperback. Matthew is open to some low-level stalking once in a while, and can be stalked on Twitter, Facebook, and at his website.
Jesse can do the math: Ezra’s perfect, he isn’t, and this relationship is doomed. Until the accident forces Jesse to recalculate.
Jesse has never had a real boyfriend before. He’s a firefighter, and that’s all that anyone’s seen before—a quick and thrilling screw, and a story for the future. So when he lands Ezra Pryce, the most beautiful man in the whole of Brighton, Jesse can’t quite understand why Ezra is still here eight months down the line.
Not that he’s going to complain. Ezra’s sexy, sarcastic, and doesn’t treat Jesse like he’s stupid, but Jesse can do the math. Ezra is nothing short of perfection; and Jesse falls a very way short of it. Jesse isn’t going to be enough for someone like Ezra in the long run, and he is living—and loving—on borrowed time. When a disastrous weekend in Norwich introduces Jesse to the staunch disapproval of Ezra’s family and the six-pack of his ex-boyfriend in one fell swoop, Jesse’s fate is sealed. He cannot hope to live up to an ex who has every intention of getting Ezra back, and all the looks and charm to do it too. Jesse is not enough for Ezra and he’s never going to be.
Until the accident forces Jesse to re-evaluate, and shows him exactly what he looks like through Ezra’s eyes.
Jackie’s was a loud cross between a bar and a club, with a sticky dance floor populated by both straight and gay couples, and a tiny LGBTQ flag above the bar with a sign declaring it to be a “safe space.” Jesse had no idea what that meant, but he grasped that it was okay to be gay in here, and slid an arm around Ezra’s waist at the bar.
“You’re clingy,” Ezra said lightly, but tucked his head briefly against Jesse’s neck in a kind of half-hug pose. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Jesse said, and slapped Ezra’s hand down. “I’ll get this round. I want you to get tipsy, and you’ll never do that if you stick to your bloody lager.”
“Mr. Dawkins, are you trying to get me drunk?”
“Yes,” Jesse said, handing over a twenty to the bored bartender. In the pause as the guy wrestled with the till, he twisted to kiss Ezra soundly, transmitting his exact intentions with his tongue and his hand possessively low on Ezra’s hip.
“Mm,” Ezra hummed as he pulled back, and his eyes were just a little darker. “Maybe I’ll get a little bit drunk.”
“You do that,” Jesse said, and pressed the glass into his hand.
Jackie’s livened up a little as the bar slowly filled and the money kept changing hands. Jesse kept Ezra on the vodka, relishing the chance to be able to get him drunk. Ezra didn’t like to get drunk if Jesse couldn’t, and Jesse often couldn’t drink because of the risk of being called to an emergency at work, so it was nice to get to let go a little, to drink a bit more than the two-pint maximum, to feel the first fuzzy edges of poor coordination and disjointed thinking take over his brain. The music was kind of shitty – late nineties stuff he hadn’t heard in years – and the bartender was stingy with the doubles, but it was fairly cheap and it was nasty enough to work, and when that wide, beautiful smile bloomed across Ezra’s face when a tiny little lesbian and her girlfriend dragged him to dance with them, insisting they knew him as insistently as he said that they didn’t, Jesse felt happy. Despite Mrs. Pryce, despite Audrey Hepburn being a lesbian, despite the crucifix on the gatepost, he felt happy.
He drained his glass and went to the bathroom, relieving himself clumsily in a definitely nasty bathroom with the telltale streaks of sticky white powder on the counter that said that at least one part of the sex, drugs and rock and roll was going down in here on your average evening. Rinsing his hands off, he wondered if another round was called for, or another bar. Obviously they’d keep going a bit longer. He could still think, for one. And thinking was counterproductive for later, when he’d get Ezra’s long legs wrapped around his waist and try and suck all the alcohol back out through his mouth. Or his neck. Or other places.
Then he left the bathroom, and saw him.
Ezra had escaped the tiny lesbians, and was leaning very precariously against the bar, a fresh drink in hand, and smiling—beaming—at a man who was just offensively good-looking. He looked like one of those underwear models or something. Tall in a too-tight-T-shirt, with spiky dark hair in a style that could have been achieved with an electric razor but he’d probably paid fifty quid for at a salon aimed at women. A waxed chest, judging by the naked v of skin that was visible below his neck. He was flashing a chiseled, perfect, cologne-ad smile at Ezra. People could model cologne and underwear, right? Because this guy definitely did.
Jesse hesitated at the bathroom door, and felt a shaky warmth bubbling up in his stomach as the underwear model reached into his back pocket and passed Ezra a thin bit of card. His number, maybe? Why the hell was some underwear-cologne model giving Ezra his number?
Why the hell was Ezra putting it in his pocket?
Ezra turned from the bar, eyes scanning the room, and that placid, drink-smudged smile widened when he locked eyes with Jesse. He leaned back against the sticky wood, weight on his elbows, and beckoned with one long finger, and it was like an invisible rope reeling Jesse in. The underwear model glanced Jesse’s way and melted back into the crowd on the dance floor and Jesse’s anger went with him. He planted his hands on either side of Ezra’s waist, bracing himself against the bar, and crowded Ezra against it to kiss him and taste the drunken want on his tongue.
“You ran away,” Ezra accused, tugging on Jesse’s hair lightly.
“You started talking to other guys,” Jesse murmured, and yet with Ezra’s hand playing with his ear and the wide, blissfully peaceful expression he wore when he was drunk, it somehow didn’t matter.
“Only because you ran away,” Ezra teased, and bumped his nose against Jesse’s clumsily.
“Can we go?” Jesse whispered, dropping a hand to slide it around Ezra’s hip and down to the top of his leg, rubbing against the denim of his jeans lightly. “Back to the hotel? I have designs.”
“On you and the bed and being bendy.”
Ezra grinned, and downed the rest of his glass in one expert motion, his back and neck flexing like liquid in suspension. “I knew you got me drunk,” he accused, and Jesse laughed, putting a hand into Ezra’s back pocket to hook him in and guide him out. The night air was cold after the heat of the bar, and the underwear model had vanished like an ugly, sexy mirage.
“You shouldn’t talk to underwear models,” he blurted out, and Ezra laughed too loudly in the street.
“I only talk to your underwear,” he retorted, and then all the sense of it was slipping away, and Jesse simply forgot in favor of other things.
For the moment.