Effeminate Gay Men in M/M Romances

So the thing that was brewing in my brain has settled down and made sense enough that I can share it now. In prepping it, though, I asked for the help of some of my author friends and, therefore, the post is going up over on Chicks & Dicks. Well, and they kinda like me and have promised to look out for me over there :)

Incidentally, the site’s name plays with the words I’m taking issue with in my post. The playing I’m fine with, but the term “chicks with dicks” is where I get really upset and I’m not letting it go this time. Click on over to read my post, This Really Needs to Stop by Thorny Sterling.

Now below is a list of books that I believe feature effeminate gay men with respect and in ways I can relate to. Yes, it’s my personal opinion and yours may differ, but I like these books and I like these characters. I can also identify with them, and just the fact someone wrote about guys like me makes me very happy.

As You Are by Ethan Day Edward Unconditionally by Lynn Lorenz Gambling on Maybe by Fae Sutherland Just for You by Jet Mykles
One True Thing by Piper Vaughn & MJ O'Shea Sno Ho by Ethan Day Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton

There’s a list on Goodreads called Best Gay “Flamboyant” Characters with 78 books listed. Some I agree with and others not so much. (I’ve also realized I’m behind on updating my “read” list…) But I’m glad it’s there at all.

Do you have any additional books that you think qualify as a good representation of effeminate gay men in m/m romances? I’d love to know what those books are and why you think they’re good characters.

61 thoughts on “Effeminate Gay Men in M/M Romances

  1. I love, love, loved every one of those books. I don’t see a problem with being who you and who you want to be. It’s all about what makes you feel good about yourself. Inside and out. I’m proud of you for standing up for your beliefs and for others. Thumbs up, Sunshine.

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  2. Oh, Cole from Strawberries for Dessert is one of my all time favorite characters. He is unapologetically who he is, no matter what. I think he’s so strong and that makes him undeniably beautiful.

    I’ve never understood the term “chicks with dicks.” I don’t get it or why it’s used. Why does that guy have to be anything other than who he is? There’s plenty of women out there who are completely butch, but I’ve never heard the term “dude with a vagina”. It’s just people, or characters, being who they are. We need a hell of a lot less labels. Why do they have to be labeled as anything other than human?

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  3. T, 5 of your 7 bks listed are some of my all time favs!

    I hate the term chicks with dicks. It’s offensive and bullshit. If they have a dick they are not chicks. Some individuals obviously need to go back and take an anatomy course or two.

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  4. Mmm. Edward is my fave. I reread it fairly often.

    I loved Drawn Together by ZAM. The Carpenter and the Fairy by Cassandra Gold is one of my fave Halloween stories. It’s just so fun and seeing a big strong construction worker thrown off by someone who is completely opposite to him is fun. I’ve read a lot of those on that list, but as I said on the other site, those type of characters work for me and I’m drawn to them. I think in part it’s as you said, they are completely comfortable with who they are, even if people around them aren’t. They don’t try to fake their way through by pretending to be more “straight” or “normal”. They are who they are and that kind of confidence, even in the face of possible rejection or worse, is very attractive. I think because it’s very brave, and many of us wish we were more authentic and less worried about what others think of us or what we think our roles are supposed to be.

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    • Thanks for the rec’s, Tam! I would definitely like to see less worry about what others think, but wow, is that hard to do. It’s a constant work-in-progress.

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  5. Yeah, there are a few books on that list that I don’t think have ‘flamboyant’ men. Perhaps not a beary-alpha type, but still not flamboyant either. I’ve read half of the ones you show above and really love those, so I’ll probably pick up the others at some point. Cole from Strawberries is one of my favorite characters of all time. He’s so awesome. =)

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    • I think there’s some misunderstanding between flamboyant and effeminate, and maybe even some issue with twink-ish behavior too. Or is it just me who separates them all? I see flamboyant as over-the-top, which even straight rock stars can be. Effeminate can go with flamboyant, like in drag queens, but doesn’t have to be combined — I consider myself effeminate but I’m not usually flamboyant, like the difference between leopard print and khaki. And I’m slowly realizing there are two opinions on twinks: young, cute and desirable vs. young, stupid and disposable. Twinks can be flamboyant and/or effeminate too. Of course, it’s possible I’m just totally over-thinking it all ;)

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      • I am so glad I came back to this post today to see if you had added anything, Thorny. Your two opinions on twinks had me laughing out loud before I had my coffee. Not sure you are over-thinking it so much as it is just well-thought out! :) Thanks, as always.

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      • Twink to me has always been a body type, like bear, and has nothing to do with desirability or mental fortitude. And twinks can definitely be flamboyant and/or effeminate too. And I agree that flamboyant and effeminate can be different.

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  6. Does reading gay romance or literature in general equal supporting the gay community and lifestyle? I don’t think so but I’m sure many people do. Those may be as well the people who complain about “chicks with dicks” in m/m literature. Supporting the gay community means for me supporting family members, friends and total strangers who are gay in their lifestyle. Necessary equipment: tolerance. The term “chicks with dicks” is offensive and degrading and the ones who use it can’t claim to support homosexual lifestyle.

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  7. Great post! I also agree very much with Kris. Why do you have be anyone but who you are? Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. As for the book list…I love all the books you have picked and I think another great one is KA Mitchell’s Bad Boyfriend. Eli is such a great character and the book is one of my favorites!

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  8. I think I know the post that you’re talking about. Many commenters disagreed with the poster as I did. How much of this is a stereotype and a subject some people don’t get? How many times on hearing someone is gay, has some idiot asked, “I wonder if he’s the boy or the girl?” I loved most of the books you listed and thanks for the tip on the others. I enjoyed Fire Balls by Tara Lain. I read Heidi Cullinan’s Nowhere Ranch & Dance With Me back to back & you could find 2 more different books. NR was as raw & gritty as DWM was beautiful (as to melt). The dancer Mikhail in Amy Lane’s Promise Rock series was the guts & heart & soul of that series for me. Jazz’s post My Gender Fluid Husband made appreciate these guys even more with a new & fresh look.

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  9. Love Cole from “Strawberries for Dessert.”

    How do you feel about Sammy from “on Fire”? I love him–twinky and somewhat effeminate but strong of heart and mind! He is one of my fave characters.

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    • Bubz, I see effeminate and flamboyant as different because you don’t have to be effeminate to be flamboyant. (Straight guys can be flamboyant.) So I see Sammy from ON FIRE — which is a very stimulating story ;) — as somewhat flamboyant but not effeminate. Then, in the sequel 7 years later, he’s less flamboyant but still not effeminate.

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  10. I also find the term “chicks with dicks” offensive. One of my beta readers used the term to describe one of my characters (in PMIY, not SITMS) and said a man would never act like that. As a writer, it’s hard to hear that and not question myself, because I am a woman writing a man. Did I get it wrong? I interpret the phrase “chicks with dicks” to mean characters who are sensitive, emotional, and/or talk openly about their feelings. Because that’s what I was being criticized for. But those men exist! And they are just as worthy of being heroes as any alpha male character.

    I adore my femme boys! Edward Unconditionally is one of my faves! Have you read The Carpenter and the Fairy by Cassandra Gold? I love that one, too. It’s a short story in which the alpha gay guy overcomes his own stereotypes in order to follow his heart and pursue his undeniable attraction to the “fairy”. I also recommend the “Max & Skyler” series by Acer Adamson and Corruption by Jack Greene. Those books are all on my “Effeminate Lead” shelf on Goodreads.

    I also have a “Flamboyant Lead” shelf with some great reads (including many of the ones you’ve listed above) and some others, like Fire Balls by Tara Lain. You must read Fire Balls! Rodney is one of my all-time favorite characters!!

    And then I have a “Gender Bender” shelf, which mostly contains books about cross-dressers or transgender characters. Of course there is some overlap here. These topics are are not mutually exclusive, but it felt wrong to lump them all into one. Of course, this is all rather subjective.

    I’d love to see more stories with flaming leads!! <3

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  11. Great post Thorny *hugs*….one of my very favorite characters, I think about him a lot, is Boone from Sno Ho, I want one of him in my life! :-D

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  12. Love all your choices above. I would add Tara Lain’s Fire Balls – I love Rodney in that book. Also Embrace my Reflection from T.A. Chase is very good. Maybe This Time by Shawn Lane, Prince Wore Pink Stilettos by Julie Lynn Hayes and Let Down Your Hair by L.M. Brown are good ones too. Good on you for being who you are! I’m glad you’re raising more awareness about this particularly offensive phrase. I find it offensive to both men and women and it’s time people stopped using it.

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  13. Great post on C&D Thorny and great list of books. I know your read this one, but I loved Missy Welsh’s Your Biggest FAN (which features a cross dressing hero). Second the reccs for Drawn Together. Yamane is a very effeminate character but also makes it very clear that he is all man. And definitely second the recommendations for Bad Boyfriend, Strawberries for Dessert, One Small Thing, Dance with Me, and Edward Unconditionally.

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  14. That was a wonderful post, Thorny, and needed saying. I read a lot of m/m romances and also see a lot of comments out there about ‘chicks with dicks’, and frankly, I never understood exactly who these commenters were referring to. I have never read a story where I stopped and said, ‘OMG, this guy is a chick with a dick character!’ Usually I see it talked about in reference to a guy who cries too much in a story. Unbeliebable BS.

    I have read and enjoyed all the books you selected above, and for me also, Cole from SFD is my all-time favorite.

    I hope being able to put into words has helped you feel better today. Again, an excellent post. Thank you.

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  15. ELI in Bad Boyfriend…without a doubt the best eyeliner wearing character out there. Loved him and the book.

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  16. This post was an eye opener Thorny. I never saw ‘chicks with dicks’ as offensive. I just thought it meant that the writer did a poor job of writing about MALE characters and wrote it as though the character’s identity was interchangeable with just a new name.

    I read some blogs where the people (gay men) who comment have such hatred for effeminate men. I think it’s horrible. Effeminate men are the most visible on the gay spectrum, and therefore the most in danger of attacks by bigots and haters. Yet they are who they are. I think they are incredibly brave.

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    • There’s a difference between writing a bad character who maybe acts out of character or something like that and writing a character who’s just an effeminate gay man. I’m hoping people will start to see the difference.

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  17. All of you guys are so awesome! I’m loving the support and the recommendations too. {{{group hugs}}}

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  18. Wonderful post, Sunshine! *big hugs* I look forward to the day when people can look at someone without judgment and think, what a beautiful person that is, without feeling the need to slap a label on them.

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  19. I agree with you entirely, Chicks with Dicks is a pretty bullying and hurtful term.

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  20. Another great story with a flamboyant character is the freebie Louder Than Sirens, Louder Than Bells, by KD Sarge, and also her published book Queen’s Man. Great characters! I adore Joss, who is so completely who he is, with no regard for other people’s attempts to tone him down.

    I also dislike the term CWD. I think some people who use it are trying to make a statement that even very effeminate gay men don’t act the same as women and so there should never be a character who seems to work perfectly when you change the pronoun from “him” to “her.” I think that’s a fallacy, though, and insulting to women as well as the men in question. Just as men can be anywhere on the spectrum of behaviors and personality styles, so can women. Saying there can’t be overlap, is also denying women the right to be more masculine.

    Thanks to you and Jazz and Brad and all the other guys speaking out, hopefully one day it will be just as acceptable for a guy to dress femme in public as for a woman to wear a three piece suit. When we allow people to be themselves, we open the door to their full potential. Forcing people into limited boxes to fit your own preferences is a tradition it is more than time to break. Congratulations on speaking so eloquently against it.

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    • …hopefully one day it will be just as acceptable for a guy to dress femme in public as for a woman to wear a three piece suit.

      That would be a lovely day, Kaje :)

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