Rafe, Ben, and Labels

I get questions. Sometimes they appear on Goodreads, where I am definitely NOT supposed to go, and I try not to go there almost ever, as it almost always hurts my feelings when I go there.

But I get a notification via email and I do try to answer those questions when I have the time.

Here’s one that I thought was a smart and important questions about OPENLY STRAIGHT and HONESTLY BEN. My answer follows.

Hello Bill, I have just finished ‘Honestly Ben’ and there is something that I cannot figure out. In this sequel to ‘Openly Straight’, why was Rafe insisting that much on having Ben assigned a gay (or bi, for that matter) label, although in the first book, it was quite his pride to try living without a label of any sort ? Thanks in advance for your reply ! -Andy (who is looking forward to reading your next book … )

Hi Andy, good question! My take on this is that it’s a flaw on Rafe’s part. Yes, it’s totally ironic that Rafe felt a great deal of agency in his own battle to life without a label, yet he quickly foists many labels upon Ben, and feels totally i the right to do so. For me as an author, there are lots of places where that inconsistency exists in my life, where I feel self-righteous about something I’m dealing with, but can without thinking be careless about something similar a friend is going through, just because what they are going through doesn’t match my experience.

Does that make sense?


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3 Responses to Rafe, Ben, and Labels

  1. Hey, Bill!

    I love your books. They helped me a lot in the process of coming out, even being a 24 years guy. I lived in a very catholic family and for me, Ben is a great friend that I keep contact every time I read Honestly Ben. The things that happened to him are tough, and so the things that happened to me. Rafe and Ben made me realize a lot about myself, and I do love your books so much.

    Well, every time I read about labels I enter in this confuse mess inside my head. Being gay and reading a lot about it demands that I think about visibility in the LGBT community, and I know that this is important. I try to makes myself important as a gay guy in society.

    But I do understand that people are afraid of labels and is part of us as society to respect people. We already suffer from being different than the straight normativity. I think everyone have a moment and a history of life and a part of society that occupies to deal with. We can’t judge people by what they tell the world they are or not. Of course, visibility is important and make the world aware of who we are is important, but we can’t be against ourselves. If a member of the LGBT community don’t feel comfortable with the label of whatever he is yet, let it be, right? At the same time, visibility is important. That’s the point where my head becomes a mess. Hahaha

    Well, that’s it. Love your books! Love your texts. ❤

  2. Duncan Henley-Washford says:

    Rafe generally is a bit of a lovable mess in this way! He does have a strong point however. Idealism aside about labels, in order to define Ben as someone he knows he has to find the convenient vocabulary to describe him. Gay-for-Rafe would never truly be practical and it showcases the idea of labels being, not a box you’re placed in, but a convenient simile or comparison of what you are. Even if Ben is 99% straight, rounding down to 50% makes it convenient for others to understand him. It’s a practical adjective to compare himself to, for the sake of those not close to him. Sexuality in society is so interesting ahhh!!!!

  3. Hi, I come here almost a year later to thank you for writing these magnificent books. I picked this one post in particular to comment on because August 29th is my birthday and the reader’s question was one I had myself. I won’t lie to you, I felt frustrated reading the first book, but I realized later it was only because I’m similar to Rafe in a lot of ways. And I was glad to see the issues I had were pointed out by Ben in the sequel and I’m so in love with his mind. I’d love to see a third book continuing from Ben’s POV because I have to know, will he get his scholarship? Or will they move to Boulder and deal with public school together? There’s so many questions! Also, please get a movie or TV show deal for this already. Much appreciated.

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