LGBTQ Characters in MG & YA Fiction
HANDOUT (note: I will look for this later and include it if I can find it)
Modern movement towards the LGBTQ civil rights movement began only about 50 years ago. In the late 1960’s same sex relationships were criminalized. Was illegal to serve food/alcohol to same sex couples so there were very few places to gather, the only exception was the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, owned by a mobster called Fat Tony who monthly bribed the police to look the other way… but was still raided. June 28, 1969, when the police raided, the people fought back, riots broke out for days in a row. Referred to ‘the shot that was heard around the world’ and brought a fragmented movement together. New groups formed and petitioned for change. Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day, 1970, considered the very first gay pride parade.
Youth has often driven the change, especially today.
People don’t hate what’s familiar, so today 80% know someone who is queer.
Assumptions that someone is hetero make LGBT kids feel invisible.
History/progression and examples of LGBT YA Novels:
First books tended to focus on gay, white (male) characters, and this is still pretty prominent.
Books: Adaption, None of the Above, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Symptoms of being Human - are a few that are starting to fill the gap.
Diversity AND Intersectionality: Aristotle & Dante, When the Moon was Ours, Not Otherwise Specified, If you Could be Mine - books with diversity beyond just ONE form of marginalization.
LGBTQ for Middle Grade: Better Nate than Ever, George, Lily & Dunkin, LumberJanes, Totally Jo, Days that end in Y. Definitely more resistance to getting LGBTQ into the Middle Grade fiction, really none that’s sci-fi, fantasy. Writing for MG kids, books should reflect the diversity of their world, even if they are ‘stealth’ characters -> friends of the MC, parents, friends parents, etc
Beyond Contemporary Realism, so not just ‘issue’ books and these are staring to leak into other genres, but certainly should have more: Far from You, Lies we Tell Ourselves, We Are the Ants, Other Bound, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.
Whose Story is it Anyway? #OwnVoices, where the writer is a member of whatever diverse/marginalized group: More Happy Than Not, If I Was Your Girl, Lizard Radio, Tell me Again How a Crush Should Feel.
Writing LGBTQ Characters:
Consider why you are choosing to write this story and character
Consider whether you are the right person to tell this story
Write complex characters - gender, sexuality are only one aspect of a person
Make sure that what you know about the LGBTQ community is current and relevant to LGBTQ youth
Be aware of the issues and challenges facing LGBTQ youth today
- search Nerd Con 2016 ‘How to write a straight person’ panel for a satirical look at the questions writers tend to ask when writing a queer character.
Read a lot of current LGBTQ YA novels and read critiques BY young LGBTQ people (Tumblr, The Gay YA, Twitter, etc)
Do your research, carefully
Be aware of stereotypes and common problematic portrayals
Get beta readers who share character’s sexual/gender orientation, especially if you’re writing outside your own experience.
Be prepared to deal with criticism if writing about under-represented groups because there’s the burden of the single narrative (if there is only ONE book about a lesbian character, there’s only ONE narrative). The more books out there, the more narratives, so we can tell everyone’s story, not just one story.