“Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Mary Lambert)
This song. This video.
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.
If I had given myself some air between The Name of the Star and The Diviners, I might have enjoyed the ride a little bit more. While I appreciated the near-magical realism of the book (several of the characters have hidden powers, but are “normal” for all other intents and purposes), the flapper colloquialisms felt forced (or, rather, over-translated) and the plot was long-winded for the first in a series.
However, The Diviners explores some really fantastic threads about race and sexuality and the temperature of the 1920s in the US in a really subtle and nuanced way. So I’m willing to wade through the excess of words ending in “-sky” and the five hundred synonyms for “alcohol” and the drawn-out plot lines in order to get to those stories.
Gender studies classes, independent research, and incredibly smart friends aren’t going to teach you everything about the transgender community. And neither will this book. But it sure as hell is a start.
Cooper explores every insecurity, every hope, every joy about his FTM identity. He is uncensored in the way he explores how his parents might perceive him, his stories about his wife and step children are beautiful, and his examination of the LGBT community’s need to be more vocal about trans issues is so subtle you don’t even realize you’re being taught. Cooper is brave, yes, but more than that he is unfiltered, honest, and eloquent. And no matter how many times he questions the issue, he is a “real” man.
Put it at the top of your reading list, folks. We can all afford to listen.
It took me a long time to get into this novel. I brought it home back in the summer but quickly returned it because it was hefty and cumbersome and Jesus Christ it was about baseball. I gave it another chance at the beginning of the year, this time actually opening the cover and comforting myself with the reality that at the very least this time around I wouldn’t sweat carrying it. It was touch and go for a while there: the author insisted on using the term “freshperson” in an attempt at politically correctly identification of first year university students, but one of the professors had a Moby Dick tattoo. There was an awful lot of baseball talk, but one of first year athletes was gay. And out. I continued reading, but I was also reading other things.
But let me tell you: that last third of the book was riveting. As the cliche goes, I couldn’t put it down. I was actually late to a date with my boyfriend because I was reading this book on the train, got so involved with the world of these characters, missed my Metro stop, and had to turn around. When I explained the situation, his first question was, “So what was the book?”
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
—Barack Obama (Inauguration 2013)
Last night’s episode of The New Normal was rated “mature,” for a thirty second scene featuring two drag queens. What year is this?
About a month ago, I saw David Levithan speak at the National Book Festival. Armed with my copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, I listened to Levithan speak about writing, gender, and growing up queer — topics that weren’t even whispered in the suburbia where I grew up but were being amplified on The Mall to hundreds of gay and allied teens (and some, like myself, who discovered Levithan as they were writing their way through graduate school).
Every Day has officially beaten out every other in the canon as the most beautiful and complex of the Levithan novels. The protagonist of this piece is without gender — a type I have never seen in literature. Every day this person wakes up in a different body. And every day this person is in love with the same girl. This is the kind of writing that puts a spark in skeptics; the kind of prose that makes even cold hearts (guilty) warm up to the word “unconditional.”
I’m putting this in the same category as The Buddha in the Attic: If you only read ten books this year, this should be one of them.