So today a co-worker pointed me to an article on The Atlantic called “A New Way for Gay Characters in Y.A.”. I was sad to see it was another article that seems inclusive on the surface as it talks about defining LGBT teens as being more than their sexual orientation. But a deeper look at the nature of this piece revealed some troubling flaws.
Of the 29 YA books mentioned in this article, the break down is :
17 feature gay males
6 feature lesbians
4 I was unable to determine (not released yet, reviews didn’t say, I am unfamiliar)
2 feature transgender people
0 feature bisexuals (technically Geography Club has Min, a bisexual secondary character, but let’s be frank - the book is entirely focused on Russell’s gayness)
Gay men in YA might be bored with coming out stories and ready to move on to the next big thing, but what about the rest of the LB&T? If publishers are not, as David Levithan claims, “scared [of books featuring LGBT characters]” then why is it so hard to find the LB&Ts? How is more of the same lack of these characters a “New Way”?
And of particular concern for this blog, what about the ZERO titles mentioned in this story with bisexual protagonists or themes? Doesn’t it seem a bit premature to call for the end of the coming out story when teen bisexuals have next to no visibility in YA lit? Especially when one considers that bisexuals outnumber gay and lesbian people combined?
Don’t even get me started on the overall whiteness of this list too. Even among YA books featuring gay men, it is rare to find a protagonist who isn’t white. The truth is we may be swimming in white gay men, but I have yet to find a single book featuring a bisexual transgendered person of color. Those teens deserve to see their coming out stories in YA lit too, not to have the particular issues faced by their identities brushed aside because we’ve supposedly been there.
Also - and this is pointed right at the editors at The Atlantic - LGBT is not a synonym for gay. You may be arguing that gay characters are everywhere, but lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters still take detective work to find, even in your own article. Had this article been about gay YA books and only gay YA books, then I think it would have been a solid piece. Throwing the token acronym LGBT without recognizing that three of the four letters are under-represented (if represented at all) is just shoddy journalism.
Had to bold those points, because YES. That is how most things that claim to be “LGBT” usually break down (except usually there are even fewer trans books/people mentioned). Almost entirely gay, with a few token lesbians thrown in, and maybe one or two bisexual or trans mentions. It’s okay to just say you’re talking about gay male issues, just don’t claim to be representing people you’re not.
this is especially striking given the gender disproportion in YA more broadly. YA is definitely majority female-protagonist, so why is LGBTQ YA so predominantly male-protagonist? I don’t have an answer, it just struck me. anyway…
Wow, male privilege is a thing even in gay rights.
This is a really important discussion, everyone. We need to talk more about this.
I’m curious also about the two transgender stories, and do any of them feature genderqueer or agender people? These people exist too, and have a definite lack of stories & representation in media.
I’m sorry, what was that about biphobia and bisexual erasure not existing again?
OK, I’m going to be honest here: if you’re afraid at all about their reaction if you come out to them, don’t tell them.
Sometimes staying in the closet is the least painful option. Is listening to ignorant shit hard? Fuck yes. Is it better than being worried for your physical and mental wellbeing? Fuck yes.
Now, I don’t know your parents or your situation with them. If you think there’s a chance to convince them to be more tolerant, then my suggestion would be to quietly redirect and change the subject.
“Oh, those gays are all child molesters!”
“Eh, being gay doesn’t actually have anything to do with child molestation, Dad. They’ve done studies. Anyway, about this other thing…”
“Ugh, those bisexuals are all whores!”
“Well, not all straight people like all other people of the opposite gender. Maybe that’s the same with bi people. Anyhoo…”
But I would recommend against this unless you’re sure it’s safe. Otherwise, don’t do it.
It’s not because these communities created bi oppression.
It’s not because these communities are the only ones perpetuating this oppression.
It’s not because these communities have more power with regard to eliminating this oppression than straight folks.
It’s because access to queer communities is important for queer people.
An excellent point.
I (and I’m sure many others) feel very excluded from the communities that we have every right to be a part of. We want “safe spaces” and communities and get told we’re not “real” enough to be a part of these things.
Also, I feel like we tend to hold gay people to a higher standard than straight people. We expect straight people to be insensitive, misinformed, and prejudiced because many of them don’t know any better.
Gay people do know better though (or at least they should). They know how bad it feels to be exluded, judged, and treated unequally based on their sexual orientation. So when they do those things to us in the full knowledge of how nasty and hurtful it is, I think we tend to take it a lot more personally than when a straight person does it.
It’s almost like you’d expect people whose entire rhetoric is focused around not mistreating people based on sexual orientation to, you know, not mistreat people based on their sexual orientation.
my favorite part of being bi/pan/whatever is worrying about if i’m really queer enough for the queer movement
Yup. “Am I still queer though I’ve only ever dated dudes and the dude I’m dating is basically endgame so I’ll never date a lady in my life?”
And then said dude points out that he was straight before he dated me, so dating experience =/= orientation, therefore we’re queer by ID so we’re queer enough for queer folk.
Unless they’re monosexist queer folk, but they can go suck it, so.