There was an interesting and disturbing article going around Twitter the other day. An agent had apparently offered an author representation, but only if she cut a point-of-view character…who happened to be gay. As the author put it, this boy’s romantic subplot didn’t go beyond kissing (just like the straight characters), so it wasn’t a matter of going to far with sex in YA. And let’s be honest, anymore, you can go pretty far with that.
The only answer that makes sense is anti-gay bias. And that’s just wrong. (Please see the note at the bottom of the post as more information came to light after I’d already had this live.)
“But (I can hear people saying this), some parents don’t want their impressionable teens exposed to homosexuality in the books they read.”
2? So what? I may not want my kids exposed to…evil fairies. It’s my job as the parent then to steer them away from books about evil fairies.
3? Those same precious children are going to have to deal with homosexuality some day (unlike evil fairies…at least as far as I know). Now, I suppose if they don’t grow up learning that homosexuals are people too, then their parents’ hate can be passed down to another generation. That means they’ll never accept homosexuals, but since gay people are real, odds are, those kids will have to work with/talk to/associate with them.
But yeah, if those parents want to instill hate, they can still see point 2. Because when you look at point 3, unlike the evil fairies gay kids exist. Straight, bi and transgender kids exist. White kids, black kids, Asian kids, Latin kids, skinny kids, fat kids, boys, girls, hermaphrodites… they all exist. And that means they all have a right to see themselves in fiction, as good guys, as bad guys, and anything in between.
Every YA series I’ve started has had at least one gay character in it. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t “plan” it that way. Maybe it’s because I have gay friends who are awesome people and I wanted that level of awesome in my stories. Or maybe it’s just because that’s who the characters are. When Dani (in my temporarily shelved Divine Soldiers series) first showed up in my head, I didn’t know she was a lesbian, I just knew there was something different about her. But the first time she and Avery met, I saw it–and not because she was into Avery (she wasn’t).
You see, my characters are like real people to me. Some of them (usually my leads) come to me fully formed as if I lived inside their heads and we were one and the same–I just get them on that level. Others are friends who I know a lot, but not everything, about and I have to wait for them to reveal more. Others are like strangers, and at best I get surface details from them until they show their true colors.
Which means, sometimes I don’t even know a character’s sexuality until a couple books in. Then I look back and realize it was there all along, I just hadn’t “seen” that part of the character. Just like a teenage girl might not know that the cute guy sitting next to her in math class has a crush on the same football player she does. It happens that way because it’s real.
All kids matter, and all deserve a place to shine.
***Note: More information on the dispute that started all of this has come to light today. I didn’t feel it was right to let the post stand with out including it. ***
I’m not removing this post because the things I said still needed to be said. HOWEVER, further information about the article that started the discussion has come out and I don’t want to pretend I didn’t read it.
And it’s pretty enlightening.
There’s a saying about there being three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. Let’s hope the truth end up that all this attention means more diversity in fiction, especially for young adults.