LGBTQ characters are far from common, although thankfully they seem to be growing in visibility, although I feel (and this may not be true), that there is a bias towards gay boys, rather than gay girls. In YA, at least, I see many more gay boy characters than I do gay girl characters. Off the top of my head, I can think of several YA books with gay boy characters who are significant to their respective books, but I am having a little more trouble with books with gay girls.
I say significant to their books, not characters who exist as a walk-on to fulfill some sort of diversity quotient. Argh, tokenism.
Why is that? Is it because gay men are more visible in media overall? I can think of several queer male personalities on mainstream television, but queer women seem to be less prominent. On the gay male side, we have the men of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Miss Jay and Mr. Jay on America’s Next Top Model, and then fictional characters like Kurt from Glee or Ricky from My So-Called Life (if you want to go old school). There are many out gay actors, like George Takei and Neil Patrick Harris. On the queer female side, we have Ellen and Lady Gaga. (Although one could argue Lady Gaga counts for like…eight different people. ♥ you, Mama Monster!)
In fiction, you of course have the bestselling WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan, as well as Alec and Magnus in Cassandra Clare’s THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS (another bestseller). HERO by Perry Moore has a gay protagonist. Holly Black’s bestselling MODERN TALES OF FAERIE has a significant gay character. As of right now, I can only think of Malinda Lo’s ASH and HUNTRESS as YA books with queer girls being not only significant, but the main characters of their narratives. Male/male erotica is very popular in the romance world and often gets coverage on sites like Dear Author, and while female/female romances are featured too, their numbers are far fewer.
The old adage in publishing is that you market fiction to women, as women buy more. And if you believe that women want to read about themselves*, then by that theory, shouldn’t queer women be more popular than queer men?
*which I don’t, or at least, I don’t believe they only want to read about themselves
But it doesn’t seem to be the case, and I wonder why that is. Is it because the majority of female buyers are straight and they would prefer to read about “hot males” than hot females? (That might explain the prevalence of male/male erotica in the romance world.) I have noticed a tendency for female reviewers of YA novels to focus on how much they loved the male characters, how they had crushes on them, etc. and to not mention their feelings about the female characters, positive or negative. Is it because the female character is viewed as a vehicle to “be with” the male character (so to speak)? Is it because male characters (in YA in particular) have a tendency to be attractive (whatever that means) and therefore it’s okay to crush on them, even if they’re gay? What is it, exactly?
I don’t pretend to know the answers to any of these questions, or even assert that these questions are valid. I just want to know what other people think.
I have selfish reasons for wanting more queer girls in YA, mostly because I’m queer myself*. And as happy as I am to read about more LGBTQ characters in fiction, it’s harder to sell me on stories with only gay boys because I don’t see a space for person like me in the narrative, or rather, I don’t see a space for the teenage girl I once was. I want to read a story about a girl who has a really intense friendship with another girl, the nature of which hovers between platonic and romantic. (Something like Sils and Berie’s relationship in Lorrie Moore’s WHO WILL RUN THE FROG HOSPITAL?) I want to read a story in which the first, tentative step over the line from platonic to romantic is breathless and exhilarating, and between two girls. (Also, HUNTRESS? Guhhhhhhhhhhh.) I also want to read a story in which the relationship ends happily, or at least not in the death of one. (Spare me the dead queer lover trope, please.)
Surely I can’t be the only one out there looking for a story like this to read? Surely?
*Before you go out and ask me about Bear, just because I love him and am in a committed relationship with him doesn’t mean my sexuality suddenly becomes defined by my current relationship. Just because I am in a relationship with a male and I am female doesn’t mean I am straight. I am bisexual. He knows that. He also knows this doesn’t mean I am always looking for “another option”, or my sexuality is to be used for his titillation. I love my Teddy Bear with all my bisexual heart. All of it.