Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) wrote,
Seanan McGuire

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I am not a special snowflake; I belong to a blizzard.

Authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith have written a very brave, very straightforward article about being asked to remove homosexual characters from dystopian YA. Check it out. It's a fascinating read, all the more because it's so topical.

I have never been asked to turn a gay character straight; I'm very thankful for that. I have also, as yet, not been working all that extensively in YA (although I hope that will change in the future). So who knows what's going to happen? I have faith in The Agent, however, and I truly believe that she will fight for me, and for the integrity of my work. Both my houses (both adult houses) have been fabulous about my having gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters in my books; I do not yet have any explicitly transgender characters in published work, but I have absolute faith that when those characters appear, both DAW and Orbit will treat them with the same respect that they show to all my other characters.

That being said, I'm noticing one disturbing trend in certain replies/rebuttals* to this entry. Specifically, I've seen several people saying "There are absolutely gay characters in YA. What about ________?" and naming specific examples. Tom and Carl in the Diane Duane books. The protagonists of Annie On My Mind. Pretty much anything by Francesca Lia Block. And, well...

To me, this is the same as saying "Of course there are female leads in the movies! Didn't you see Bridesmaids?" or "Of course there are female protagonists in cartoons! Don't you watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?"

Yes, those stories exist. But they exist in the context of "chick flick" (how I hate you, rhyming label), or "girl's cartoon." If you omit "chick flicks" and action movies involving Mila Jovavich or Angelina Jolie, both of whom are basically playing video game heroines most of the time, it's really hard to find a female lead. We get romances and we get to fight evil in our skivvies. We don't get to have stories that are essentially gender-neutral. If you take out the cartoons where pink is the primary color of the universe, it's really hard to find a cartoon that has gender balance, much less a female in a leadership role.

When I talk about wanting diversity in my YA, I'm not asking for more specifically "queer YA." I love it, I want to see it keep getting published, I think it's important, and I think it's not the point of this particular sword. What I want is paranormal romance where the lead is in love with the head cheerleader, not the head jock. What I want is heist books and con men where it's Mike and Dan, not Mike and Dawn. I want gay best friends and gay parents and sisters who were born brothers but got that fixed. I want books that are sold as being normal, everyday, perfectly ordinary books, that just happen to have gay people in them, not the next! Big! QUEER ADVENTUUUUUUUUURE! I have plenty of queer adventures. What I want is gay men doing laundry, lesbians chasing werewolves, and transgender superheroes fighting to save Metro City. What I want is books where the story matters more than the sexual orientation of the characters it contains.

Saying "queer YA exists" distracts from the issue at hand: there is very little in the way of YA with queer characters, as opposed to queer YA. And that's something we should be aware of, and something we should be working to fix. My sexual orientation did not somehow change the stories that I was interested in, or the adventures I was able to have as a human being. It was just one factor, amongst a whole lot of other factors. We need explicitly queer YA the way we need sports books and horse books and The Babysitter's Club and every other niche story: to tell us that this is okay, that this is an option. But characters in apocalypse YA ride horses, play sports, and babysit for children. So why can't they date whoever they want, without being changed into something they're not?

It matters.

(*I don't really understand how you can present a rebuttal to something that happened. The surrounding circumstances can be argued, but if a dog bites me, you can't present an argument for why the dog didn't bite me. I'm bleeding, I was bitten. This does not stop people from trying.)
Tags: contemplation, state of the blonde, writing

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