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LGBTQ representation in YA lit.

I've been thinking a lot lately about LGBTQ representation in YA lit. And not just LGBTQ, but all of the various initials arranged in ways that I can't remember - QUILTBAG and LGBTQIA and all combinations of sorts.

YA literature is fairly good at representing LGBTQ in YA lit. Goodreads has several different lists of YA books that have LGBTQ characters as main or side characters: LGBTQ YA (Young Adult) Literature, YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi Novels wit Major LGBTQ Characters, Booklist for Trans Youth, Historical Children's and YA with LGBTQ Characters, Lesbian Historical YA, Trans* Young Adult Books.

Despite these lists, there are heavy overlaps in each, and the most popular YA books often don't make the list. And that's not to include the narrowness of what's represented in YA lit.

The most popular and well-known of the two initials, L and G - are the most often represented. (And yes, hang in there; I am going to break down all the different sexualities that we have initials for, and then rant angrily about how even then it doesn't fit everybody.) Lesbians and gays are the most popular representative sexual identities outside of straight, cisgendered people.

Straight and cisgendered means that they are attracted to the opposite sex while simultaneously identifying with the gender they assigned at birth. Lesbian references a woman being attracted to a woman. Gay references a man being attracted to a man, but could also be used to refer to homosexuals as a whole.

Bisexuals (the B) are not as well represented as I'd like them to be. Bisexual refers to people who are attracted to two genders (not necessarily man and woman, but woman and tran*woman, etc). Like in real life, they tend to be washed away in fiction to be replaced with those who are clearly gay or clearly straight.

Transgender (the T) refers to those who are not cisgender. They identify with a gender other than those assigned to them at birth.

Then there's the initials and sexualities that usually don't appear in literature at all - Q, which can stand for queer (meaning you don't identify as straight or any other sexual orientation) or questioning. I myself identify as demisexual, which means I'm not sexually attracted to somebody until I'm in love with them. There's asexual, which means that a person is not sexually attracted to anybody, or interested in sex at all.

And there's plenty of other sexualities - intersex, polysexual, pansexual - and that's not including that sexuality is flexible and can change as time goes on.

Nevermind people who are demisexual and bi-romantic (those who can fall in love with more than one gender), etc., etc.

While a good chunk of my friends identify as heterosexual, I'd say about 30% of them identify as something else - gay or lesbian or bisexual or demisexual or asexual. It's very normal in my life to talk to people who don't fit 'the norm.'

Yet so much of YA is about 'the norm' - almost all romances are heterosexual; most characters are heterosexual; and if they're gay, it's either their defining trait or completely swept under the rug once it's mentioned.

"If we can’t write diversity into sci-fi, then what’s the point? You don’t create new worlds to give them all the same limits of the old ones."

The quote from Jane Espenson is one that I like to apply to YA lit. We have a vary wide variety of genres and stories in YA lit, and YA is also one of the most open fields in terms of representing various sexualities.

But, for some reason, they're not as widely represented as they could be. And when they are, they're often killed off.

Being treated like possessions in our common history is true for women; it’s true for people of color, and it’s true for LGBTQ people. Our society can’t bury us under the achievements of straight white men, though, because we are too much a part of history. We need to include ourselves in mainstream fiction and in speculative fiction, because we have always been here, all of us, all of us holding different, important roles. Don’t let them ignore us anymore.

That's Tamora Pierce on how history isn't straight white men, and how literature shouldn't be straight white men either.

And there's Sarah Diemer on relatability in terms of LGBTQ literature:

I’ve had people tell me that they don’t feel that they could read a book with a lesbian main character because they don’t believe that they could relate to it. The difference between you walking out of a book store, frustrated at not being able to find a story that you could relate to, and straight people telling me they’re not certain if they could relate to a lesbian main character, however, are two vastly different things. It’s a straight world—almost every story in existence is straight, every myth and fairy tale we’ve been told, growing up, is straight, every movie, every commercial we see (or that gets any play or notoriety) is straight. When people tell me, “I don’t think I could relate” for ONE book, they’re not understanding the fact that we have to not relate ALL the time if we want to read anything. Obviously, there are wonderful straight stories that we both love, but we don’t have the luxury of being able to say “meh, it’s straight, don’t think I can relate to it!

And there are plenty of quotes on LGBTQ representation in YA literature on the LGBTQ tag on our Fuck Yeah! Young Adult Lit Tumblr.

There's not really a point to this post other than to point out the variety of sexualities - not just those in the LBGTQ initialisms - and to say that I'd like there to be more. That it is possible.

And that I really, really like diversity in YA lit.

What do you think of LGBTQ representation in YA lit? What are some of your favorite LBGTQ characters?

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LGBTQ representation in YA lit. + thoughts on