Assumption and prejudice – from beta readers

Reading (© Jenny Rollo)

Reading (© Jenny Rollo)

Consider this.

My book, Afflicted came out in September. It is an HEA M/M novel that deals with a blind man and male prostitute who was thrown from the house as a young boy because he was gay. When I passed it on to my beta readers they loved the story, its eroticism, and its passion, but some of the comments I got back dismayed me:

Gay kid thrown from the house and becomes a hustler is a bit passe. 

500,000 homeless gay kids on the street right now, more than a few of them selling their bodies for $10 for a warm bed (for one night) and the concept is passe? Is this where we have come to? That we can scream about a chicken sandwich but step over a 15 yr old kid whose parents didn’t think him worthy of being called human? What does that say about how homophobia has really affected us when we can, as a community, accept homeless kids as normal or passe? Even in a fictional story the idea insults my heart.

I did’t think he’d be intelligent. (Speaking of the (previously homeless) male prostitute character, Dillon.)

Because homeless kids are stupid, ignorant, dirty, useless, slackers? Don’t think so. In fact, I know better. Here.

I was surprised he was so good looking. (Speaking of Hunter, the blind man.)

This comment did not surprise me at all. While researching for Afflicted I went through hundreds of websites, videos, and photos and nearly every one showed disparaging concepts about blind people, except for those that were posted by blind people, or those by organizations aiding the blind. I also found no other books about gay blind people. None. It seems that blind LGBTQ are just another subset of our rainbow that we have stepped over or avoided.

I don’t want to seem like I’m bashing my beta readers here, because I’m not. When I got their comments back I immediately challenged their assumptions and (gladly) they recognized the prejudgements they had while they were reading. One even said it opened his eyes and made him changed the way he looked at homeless people, and blind LGBT.

That, is always a good thing. Reading should always challenge us. This is why I disdain ‘comfort zone readers;’ if you’re always reading within your comfort zone, you are never growing as a person or as a reader.