I got into reading straight romances when I was in my mid-teens. Mom had them around the house. I read lots of category romances, and quite a number of those big historical romance novels. I came out as bi at nineteen. I still think this is very late, but I was oblivious about myself. I added GLBT non-fiction to my reading.
After I'd graduated from college, and wasn't getting to Giovanni's Room relatively regularly, I looked on the shelves of suburban big chain bookstores for GLBT books. There wasn't much. I started getting into reading various types of fiction, including a couple of books of Simon Sheppard's stories. In the acknowledgments for one of his books, he says, "I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who's ever had sex with me. Some might call it sodomy; I call it research."
Somehow I heard of the Scott & Scott Romentics books, which have gay heroes and Harlequin-like plots. It sounded like the perfect blend of some of the things I was reading, and I did in fact enjoy them. Then I started getting "If you liked this, you might like that" recommendations from Amazon, and got into m/m romances without realizing they'd been published as e-books first. I'd read Hearts from the Ashes and Without Reservations in print and then learned that With Caution was available as an e-book. Cheating Chance was another one of the earliest e-books I read as an e-book.
I discovered Lisabea's hilarious ManLove Monday reviews, and Val Kovalin's Obsidian Bookshelf reviews somewhere along the line.
Years after I first discovered e-books, someone -- Kris? Lisabea? No, I think I told them about it -- brought my attention to a clip from the German soap opera Alles was zaehlt. It was from episode 751 and was one of Deniz and Roman's shower scenes, perhaps the most infamous one. I started regularly watching clips of Alles was zaehlt. Kris recommended Verbotene Liebe, and Christian and Olli's romance.
There was a fan gathering in New York City called Gays of Our Lives, and Lisabea and I went. I had caught up on most of the Christian and Olli scenes in Verbotene Liebe by that point, two years of clips in roughly two months. So I met Dennis and Igor, and Jo and Thore. (March 27, 29 and 30, 2010 entries. I was totally fangirling in my writing. I was very shy in person.)
One of the days of the event was at the Stonewall Inn, which I had been wanting to get to for at least fifteen years. I don't believe it's the original. I think it's a rebuilt version, but even the rebuilt version has been around for some years. You can still appreciate the history.
I had come to AfterElton for articles about the soap operas, and started regularly reading Anthony Langford's column, which was also called Gays of Our Lives at the time, and is now Langford on Soaps. Some months after the Gays of Our Lives event, I heard there were going to be cheating storylines for Roman and Deniz, and for Christian and Olli. I didn't want to watch that, so I got out of watching the shows. Also, I wasn't terrifically into the Lily storyline on Verbotene Liebe, not understanding why you'd have a child only a couple of months after you got married and not being all that into stories about children.
Meanwhile, though, a forum on AfterElton called "MM/Gay romances: who here reads them?" had caught my attention, and I had much to say. I stayed for that after I'd stopped watching the soap operas. Then I kept seeing the recaps for a show called Glee. I finally saw an episode as it aired, Original Song. It gave me expectations. Not expectations like seeing anything on American network TV like at the level I'd seen on the German soap operas, but it was definitely another romance.
I haven't been reading all that much in the way of m/m romances in the last couple of years. I think it was around the time that I broke my ankle that I lost most of my concentration for reading. I still read here and there, but not a few books a week like I did. I still had things to say on the m/m romance book forum about books I'd read when I was still reading a lot.
Often enough I'd hear about how women reading and watching m/m romances was "fetishizing" gay men. My understanding of "fetish" was very different from whatever those commenters meant, and it didn't make sense to me. It wasn't like I'd ever stopped reading straight romances, and wasn't like I had objections to books with "lady bits" in them.
A couple of times I mentioned the Black Dagger Brotherhood books on the m/m romance forum, for the sheer amount of fun and Ho Yay in them, realizing that I was going far off topic on that forum, as those were romances in which most of the heroes were straight. Butch and V were the only exceptions, but they were much more interesting in their interactions with each other than with their female mates. The male characters in that series are more interesting than some of the female protagonists, like Marissa and Cormia in particular. It's generally agreed on.
It's not new for actors playing gay couples to be asked if they're dating in real life. Apparently Jo and Thore got a lot of that. Thore was very clear about being straight, and at some point started dating an actress on the show -- Jana, I think her name is. They'd kept it quiet for a while, as far as I know, but when they'd been dating for some months, they made it public. That's my understanding of it, at least. I missed what the general reaction to it was. My reaction was being happy for them. That's my reaction to a straight actor playing gay getting a girlfriend. Note also my saying that I was really happy that Dennis was able to bring his husband Brent to the Gays of Our Lives event.
Actors playing a couple can have white-hot acting chemistry -- see Verbotene Liebe or Alles was zaehlt -- but I realize that they're actors, and that they're acting. Gay actors often don't get the credit they should for playing gay characters. Dennis didn't. Many gay men didn't like that he played an effeminate gay character, but the women loved him. It's not new. Well, it's not new to me.