For as long as I can remember I’ve had the urge to create.
When I was little I would draw storybooks, read them out loud, and record them so you could follow the story. It was usually a tale I made up to go with the random pictures. I don’t remember much about the stories themselves. Although, one of the ones I remembered turned into the short story called Uni (included in my collection: Legend Of North Lake & Other Short Stories)
G.I Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and Star Wars all fueled my creative brain. I spent hours by myself creating elaborate scenarios with the action figures. Looking back, they were likely just a combined rehash of whatever cartoons or movies I watched, but the fire had been lit.
In high school, I wrote and created whenever the urge hit me. Though, they were never done with consistency or purpose.
My muses were now comics: The Punisher, Cyberforce, X-Men, Wildcats, and whatever else I could get my hands on. Authors: Stephen King, Rick Hautala, R.A Salvatore, James Axler, and Clive Barker kept my imagination churning with their fantastical tales. Directors: Steven Spielberg, George Romero, and John Carpenter gave me inspiration through a visual medium. All of those things drove me to create.
For one reason or the other, my creative focus turned to music. It was a huge part of my life for years (and still is) While I wasn’t creating stories in the traditional sense, I created stories through my song lyrics. I wrote hundreds of songs over the next fifteen years in the various bands I sang in. Each told a story. Often the works of the authors and directors I admired being an inspiration.
When I semi-retired from being a regular performing musician I found myself missing the creative outlet I’d had. It started out with a simple, albeit challenging personal goal to myself. Write a book. Something I told myself I would do for years, but never got around to. Now was the time. That moment was the precipice for rekindling my love of creating fiction.
Since then I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve struggled to find my place, style, and voice. It hasn’t been easy. There have been times when I’ve wanted to give up and pack it in. There have been moments where I wondered if anyone cared about what I did? Was there any reason for me to continue or just a self-masturbatory delusion I might have something special to add to the literary world?
I’ve asked myself those questions a lot lately.
From a creative standpoint, the last year has been especially tough. I’ve had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Why do I write?” The only answer I could come up with. I need to. No matter what format it has taken on over the years, I’ve always needed to. Even when it’s challenging and I feel like I’m making no progress, or getting to where I want. The desire to create is still there. It’s a part of who I am.
I am many things. I am a male. I am a teacher. I am a friend. I am a partner. I am a son and a brother. I wear each of these statements as a building block of who I am as a person. I am a writer. I am white. I am single. I am a professor. The list goes on. Each, a loosely constructed definition that create my identity. But as an author, only one terrified me to admit publicly. It took years overcome my fears and say it in a space where peers and fans alike would take note. My name is Jeremy Flagg, and I am gay.
I have been out since I was fifteen. For twenty-one years I have known myself to be unlike the majority of people. I have found myself isolated, ostracized, dehumanized, mocked, and even ridiculed by this twist of fate. While I am no stranger to being bullied, I have never lost sight of who I am, and in the face of adversity, that knowledge has served as a pillar of strength. Yet, as an author, I found myself firmly placed in a proverbial close of my own making. Fearful of what fans might say, or how it might affect my bottom-line, I kept tight-lipped. In Nighthawks, my first superhero novel, what I hope to be a long running series, I dance about the topic, leaving the protagonist ambiguous while I tested the waters. When Night Shadows, book two in the series was released, there was no more speculating. My characters stopped hiding.
I stopped hiding. My name is Jeremy Flagg, and I am gay.
I have never written a book without a gay lead. Whether it be the zombie apocalypse, dystopian superheroes, or a vengeful sword wielding woman, each of my leads is a homosexual. If each character is a reflection of our psyche, I bestowed this burden/gift upon my protagonists even if they do not realize it at the time. It has given me perspective into my own sexuality and allowed me to explore version of myself beyond my personal worldview. As these gay characters grew, so did I.
[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Be the person you needed when you were younger.” ― Ayesha Siddiqi[/perfectpullquote]
Siddiqi wrote, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” I found myself needing to write the characters I needed as a young closeted male in the boonies of Maine. The first time I stumbled across a gay character in Lynn Flewelling’s, “Luck in the Shadows,” I found a piece of myself. Following in Flewelling’s footprints, I am writing about people who are trying to challenge fate, change the world, save the day, and find happiness, all the while being gay. I write the characters so that gay youth can see a reflection of themselves in the world. With many of my early role models being fictitious characters, more of them needed to be something other than default straight.
My readers knew before they “knew.” They saw parts of me being scattered across the page. When I came out to them, they were less than shocked. I marveled at their acceptance and in my fan group, it has been a talking point that has let me bond with people I might not otherwise have talked to. It wasn’t the career ending statement I feared. And because of their response, I have been more comfortable to explore sexuality in my books. My first sex scene is between two men and my beta reader is a (presumably) straight male. The reaction remained positive and focused on my character relationships and the expression of those relationships. I found myself surprised that in our negative media environment a reader can accept a scenario that doesn’t directly reflect themselves.
It is without a doubt we as a community learned to hide in plain sight, sheltering from horrible possibilities. However, I think it is time we exit our closets and become visible role models. We shouldn’t have to compartmentalize, shy away, or even lie about who we are. Sitting at a convention table in Bangor Maine, two young men and their child approached my table. While talking to them, it dawned on me the men were a couple. I felt no need to announce our shared sexuality, instead, they purchased a book and I knew, they’d see some piece of themselves in my characters. Or perhaps they bought it for their child and he’d see a semblance of his fathers on the page. Either way, I found myself proud to have represented an underserved population.
When were young we scoured for role models to whom we could admire. We searched for it in the media we consumed. For me, comic books, cartoons and most of all, fantasy novels were my bastion of safety. The characters I identified with were few and far between. Now, this moment, this project, this story, it is time we stand up and be the people we needed when were younger. Somewhere there is a young person, tucked away in an environment forcing them to be something they are not. They are searching for somebody to relate with. Once upon a time, we came out for ourselves. Now, we need to come out for others.
My name is Jeremy Flagg, and I am gay.