One would think that with the dominance of Yaoi and Slash fics on Fanfiction.net, publishers would realize that there is a rather sizable teen audience for gay and gender nonconforming literature. But if Justine Larbalestiers plight has taught us nothing else, it’s that publishing housing are morons.
Personally, I get a little annoyed at the omnipresence of romance in most YA anyway. I and many other teen and preteen people managed to get through our middle and high school years without a significant other and without mooning over some unattainable, emo inducing person. And we had a grand ole time without them. It’s a little annoying for us weirdos sometimes that finding a YA book with awesome characters and a rocking plot is nigh on impossible without the addition of lurv. Yes romance is lovely and we all want to find someone to snog with, blah, blah, blah. Can I get a heroine who doesn’t have to take time off from saving the world or being otherwise awesome to worry about some guy who may or may not have another purpose in the book other than just being the heroine’s love interest? I mean, if I want to read about cuddling and snogging and tru wub that never dies, most book stores put Romance right across the aisle from YA. But, while I continue my search, most likely in vain, can I at least get some more realistic romance?
I must confess, reading about Corny and Louis in Ironside gave me the warm fuzzies. And finding out about Felicity and Pippa in The Sweet Far Thing, I felt very much the same as Gemma; surprised but not very. The first Maureen Johnson book I read was The Bermudez Triangle, which … I didn’t love quite so much. Allow me to explain why. Writing coming of age books about sexual identity is a great thing and will be helpful and encouraging to a lot of readers. However, Ironside and The Sweet Far Thing had characters who already knew they weren’t heterosexual and had come to terms with it and were living, not as social pariahs or outcasts, but just as people. Of course this is debatable with regards to Felicity, but I think you’re getting my point. In short, what I loved about corny and Louis in Ironside, and what I’d love to see more of it YA lit is that their sexuality isn’t really treated as anything huge. It was just a part of who they were as people and they had found companionship with each other.
Having a sexual identity other than hetero is not some willy nilly choice that people can get over with some therapy and Jesus. It’s not a whim and it’s not a disease. And to anyone who argues that it is, here are some handy facts for you. During the months when a fetus is developing its’ sexual organs, the part of the brain responsible for gender and gender behavior can and frequently does develop in the opposite direction from the genitalia. Added to that, homosexual behavior occurs in nature all the time. Over 300 vertebrate species engage in homosexual activities! So God DID make people gay and he loves us all regardless so STFU and RTFM Noob.
What I and a lot of other people want out of literature, regardless of genre or demographic, is for sexuality to not be ogled at or treated as bizarre or discriminated against, but for people of any sexual identity and orientation to feel that their love is represented as a natural and beautiful thing, just like heterosexual relationships. There is nothing dirty, wrong, pornographic, demonic, ugly, or sinful about homosexuals, transgenders, intersexes, and their romantic relationships. It’s just love and I for one would like to see more of it portrayed as such in books. These people live and love beside and deserve to be treated the same in the media as well.
To help promote more gender and sexual equality in literature, go here and join the Gay Literary Task Force.