top of page

Why I Decided on the Pen Name of "B.G. Thomas"

Updated: Jan 8


Good Morning My Confidants!

 

It’s a brand new year! And “the times, they are a-changin’.” Sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad.

 

For instance, when I read one the sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey, there was a scene where Heywood Floyd visits two of his closest friends, George and Jerry, a married gay couple, and I was amazed. I had never really considered that would ever happen, at least in my lifetime.


Two men...married? I gasped! I was titillated and thrilled to tears. Of course, research shows me (I am not going to buy a PDF of the second book and scan for them) that they don’t appear until the third book, which takes place in the year 2061. In other words, there was no way I would be alive in 2061, and therefor "never in my lifetime." The idea of two men marrying was pure science fiction.


Or so I thought! Here I am married to a man—certainly one of the good things that has happened—and we are now hoping that we can marry our third while we are still alive (I know I am keeping hope alive).

 

On the bad side, there are people trying to take our marriage away from us. And if a certain orange man doesn’t go to prison, or at least lose this year’s election, it could happen. A woman’s right to control her own body has been taken away. Terrible things happen to trans people. “Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans," according to a new report by The Sentencing Project.” *

 

But that isn’t what I am here to talk about today. I want to say why I had my first story published under the name B.G. Thomas instead of Ben Thomas.

 

In a weird flip-flop situation, in 2010 when that story, Soul of the Mummy, was published, MM romances were almost exclusively the domain of women. Women readers and women writers. In fact, I was told many times, including by the woman who helped get me published (!), that MM was “written by women for women.” I had to search through many, many author names to find any male writers.


And it wasn’t that I don’t think that women can write gay characters! It isn’t that old thing. I just wanted to read gay romance told from a gay male writer’s perspective. To see if it felt a little bit more how I felt when it comes to love between men. To see if it was different. To see if I could write it too.

 

(by the way, yes the stories written by gay men were often, but not always, quite different)


I further found out that many women (not all!), in many ways, almost considered it appropriation that male writers wanted in! That some women were angry about it! I guess it applied a lot more to the “slash” era, where female writers would take a couple from media, say Starsky and Hutch, or Kirk and Spock, and write fan fiction where they were lovers instead of just friends.

 

I don’t want to say anything to offend, but I remember being really worried there would be no way I could get published, or if I did, no one would read my books. Because I wasn't a woman. That women would be mad.

 

So.... I did something that women have had to do for centuries. I wrote under my initials instead of my “real” name.... BG Thomas instead of Benjamin Grant Thomas (which is a very writer’s name, don’t you think??). I got a taste of what women had to go through. It was scary and a little sad and disturbing.

 

Now, I never once pretended to be a woman. It was all laid right out there in my bio if anyone cared to look—and I know some people did because I actually did see warnings out there that "BG Thomas is a man, be careful!"


Again, please note that I have nothing against female writers of gay fiction. I am not one of those nutballs claiming—ironically—that women are appropriating gay men’s fiction. The first MM book I read was Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan—and boy, could she * write gay male characters! I’ve told her and J.P. Barnaby, author of another of the first MM books I ever read—Enlighted—that I was convinced they had been gay men in a previous life. They clearly saw that gay men as they were. We are different than women. And we are far more like straight men than most people knew at the time.

 

(I remember once being out with a bunch of straight guys, we were all in our early twenties, and they were all proving their manhood by pointing out the “chicks” they would most want to “bang” and what they would do with them once they got them in bed, and going on and on about their “titties,” and I finally had enough of it and started pointing at the “dudes” and telling them what I would do with them if I got them in bed and went on and on about their “baskets.” They got a little bit uncomfortable at first and then one had this huge “Ah-hah” moment, and said something to the effect of, “Well, damn, Thomas! I just realized something. You are a guy. (emphasis on "guy" and not "are"!) You are talking about dudes the same way we’re talking about chicks!” He confessed that he had basically thought that I was a woman with a penis!)

 

So, when it comes to this whole "can women write gay characters," well for goodness’ sake, if we can only write what we are, how could I—for instance—have any female characters, or characters of color, or disabled characters, or older characters?


That is the job of a writer. To write more than what we know for sure. We use out imaginations. And men have written about women and women have written about men for centuries.


Not quite so far back as that, but when I was in junior high school and we were assigned the book The Outsiders to read, I asked the teacher if S.E. Hinton was a man or a woman. She laughed at me right in front of the other students. Then they all laughed. There is no way, she told me, that a woman could know young men well enough to write such convincing characters as Darrel, Sodapop and Ponyboy.

 

Well, I was humiliated. Then the queen in me (there, even back then) got pissed. So, I had my mother take me to the public library—something that very teacher was always frustrated that we wouldn’t do—and the librarian helped me in my research—a lot more difficult before the internet, but she knew the answer before hand—and we found an interview with Susan Eloise Hinton. The librarian gleefully made a photocopy for me, and I took it to school the next day. The teacher was shocked. I think I embarrassed her. But to give her credit, she apologized to me in front of everyone, read the interview to the class, and then commended me for taking initiative. “If only more of you would do this!”

 

I did quickly discover one of the things about women and MM romance.


The gay men they often liked (note I keep saying words like "often?") in their fiction were very idealized fairy tale versions of gay men, rather than most of the gay men I had ever know in real life. But as my friend Angelia Sparrow pointed out, “All romance idealizes the characters. They never fart, leave wet spots, or have morning breath. So yes, we idealize men in the romances we write and read [about].”

 

There were all also kinds of things that women didn’t like, wouldn’t tolerate, in their romances—things that many (not all!) gay men do in real life. 


For instance, the second the two characters meet (even in an enemies-to-lovers story), they can have eyes only for each other. None of that thing that many of us gay men do, like point out the hotties to each other while we’re out and about. Certainly, no taking a guy home with us, whether for a three-way, or one telling the other, “Go ahead, he’s not my type. But tell me all about it later. Try and get a dick pic!” In fact, there are shocking things the many of my female readers consider cheating that threw me for a total loop.


For instance, in one of my books, the couple breaks up (come on, it's boy meets boy—boy loses boy) because one of them had been very promiscuous his whole adult life, and he freaks out when he realizes he is doing the whole “love thing.” He runs away, and hits the road, where he hooks up for what he thought would be some hot public restroom sex.


To his surprise, he doesn’t enjoy it at all. This encounter makes him realize that he’s not into nameless sex anymore, now that he’s had “the real thing.” He goes back and asks for forgiveness (boy gets boy back) and they live happily ever after.

 

However, there were reviewers panning me and saying that they would never read anything else by B.G. Thomas again!  I was stunned and deeply hurt. However, the reviews by gay men were through the roof. They loved that book. It might just about be my favorite of my books!

 

Another reason, I admit, that I went with the pseudonym was that, at the time, possible employers were now searching out information on the internet about potential employees, and did I want them to see that I wrote gay fiction? I mean, a year or so later, one of my best friends—a gay man—introduced me to a group of his friends as one of the best porn writers he’d ever read! I didn't write porn! I wrote romance! I was crushed and embarrassed, and asked him later why he had done so. “Have you even read any of my books? I’ve given them all to you free. How could you possibly introduce me as a porn writer?”

 

Today I so wish that I hadn’t gone with a “pen name”—especially considering how many people call me “BJ” Thomas instead of “BG” Thomas. They will actually introduce me right on stage by the wrong name!

 

By the way, my publishers had no problem with the fact that I was male and they were happy to publish my stories under whatever name I wanted to publish under. But I was afraid. 


Things have changed since then, however. There are now far more male writers of MM than there ever was before, and there are far more gay male readers of MM romance, and there are far more women who really want to read a gay male author's take on MM romance than ever before.


Of course there is also that aforementioned group of angry gay men saying that women have no place writing gay fiction, that they are eroticizing us, fetishizing us, appropriating our culture (It is to laugh! LOL!), and telling all gay men that we needed to band together and boycott women authors and demand that publishers stop publishing their books.

 

These crazies even spread horrible lies that all women writers are doing is writing pedophilia! I had a huge discussion with one young man, trying—gently at first, but it got heated—that he didn’t have a flippin' clue what he was talking about. Then he turned against me! He somehow thought that I didn’t know anything about Stonewall (he actually tried to explain it to me!) and what gay men have gone through over the ages. Even though I had told him my age several times. He wasn’t listening to me at all and had his own warped agenda. This guy was young enough to be my grandson, and he was trying to tell me how to be a gay man, and he told me all about some famous gay activist that he was friends with, one who blessed his message, and a man I had never heard about. But, who knows if this was even true? Or that he had given this "famous" activist the real information?

 

Since then, Amazon has dropped this man’s novel, which was also apparently mostly written by AI.

 

Okay! Once more I went way further than I intended, and I wonder how many of you made it this far. But this little essay turned out to be a lot more than a simple explanation, and had tons more to go with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if an editor had read this, that they would have suggested that I get rid of a few of the tangents. But nope! This is my blog. I am writing for me instead of for sales. So, while my novels might have characters that are a bit more idealized than I might prefer, right here in my blog I am going to speak my mind. Afterall, there might only be few of you reading anyway. So why not?

 

And that’s okay.

 

Who knows where this blog will go and what its future will be?

 

I mean, look at what happened to Julie Powell!

 

Until next time,

Namasté,

BG “Gentle Ben” Thomas

Jan 3, 2021, Entry #003 

 

PS: Spread the word to those you think might be interested in my words. Who knows who could find my writings with your help? It might be someone who really needs to hear what I have to say.


 

* Black Americans are incarcerated at nearly five times the rate of Whites, new report on state prisons finds: https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/13/politics/black-latinx-incarcerated-more/index.html


** Please note that I don't know at this time the preferred pronouns of either Heidi Cullinan or J.P. Barnaby, and by using "her," it was not intended to offend or make any kind of public statement on their behalf. I would be happy to edit this post to comply with their wishes.


 

64 views10 comments

Recent Posts

See All

10 Comments


As a writer of gay MM romance, I've certainly been told I have no place doing so. Of course, I have no problem educating those who are ignorant enough to say that to me. I loved this blog. You put thing so well and even captured my thoughts of women in the industry. I support anyone who writes LGBTQ+ stories that uplift LGBTQ+ people. Even if they are showing those characters being ugly and mean. As long as they capture their true humanity and don't perpetuate stereotypes. Thanks BG. I'm really, REALLY enjoying this blog.

Like

Ah, the Slashfic era. I indulged. Heavily. That was back on LiveJournal, and I recall at some point a friend mentioning this Ben guy, and that maybe I should get to know him and see if he'd be willing to read my stuff to see if I was 'girling the guys up' too much. And THAT is how I made a lifelong friend! <3

Like


I am a historian, having taught history at a university for decades. I never had any problems with identity culture when I wrote about the colonial era. but when I wrote about modern-day ethnic cultures, I was told I did not understand because I was not of that culture. Really? I am not from the colonial era, either. To me, it does not matter if a writer is part of the culture they are writing about as long as they present it accurately, and in the case of novels, in an interesting manner. You do both. 😀

Like
Replying to

I write books set in 1895... clearly I'm not THAT old! But I love that era, and feel comfy playing in it. My readers seem to like it too.

Like

Thanks for yet another great and thoughtful post.


For the bit about 'pen names' I started out writing as M. Barnette for a similar reason. To keep it ambiguous. I regretted it within weeks of my first straight romance coming out. Live and learn, right?


I know you did your best with that guy Ben. Sadly, according to some authors who are still keeping an eye on him, he has continued his ranting.


For the record, I've faced some really nasty stuff, not only in the m/m community, but in the straight romance community. An agent flat out told me during a live chat that guys can't write romance. Then I pointed out that some of the biggest names in…


Like
Replying to

Wow....

Like
bottom of page