The LGBT Month hosted by Cayce @ Fighting Dreamer and Laura @ Laura Plus Books is a great opportunity for us to spotlight our favourite books in the genre, but also to discuss everything LGBT+ related. I decided to be highly original (LOL) and share my own thoughts about what the genre needs...or would better do without. Basically, what I would like to see more (+) or less (-). Please keep in mind that I'm addressing YA books here. So, here we go...
Gay or lesbian characters with friends of the same sex.
Most people assume (or want to) that everyone who's not "straight" is defined by her/his sexuality. That their lives revolve around sex. That they can't look at a person of the same gender as theirs without becoming horny or something. Duh, get a grip, folks. Just like not every man and woman are necessarily attracted by each other and willing to, err, take the plunge, the same goes for gay or lesbian individuals when they meet someone of the same sex. Gay and lesbians can have male or female friends, respectively. Books need to focus on this aspect more. [Though it's customary to pair gays with female friends. This is a stereotype, but only up to a point, I have to admit. Been there myself]. The new book by Jeri Smith-Ready, This Side of Salvation, takes a step in this direction - the (male) main character has a gay best friend. Hooray for JSR! (I haven't read the book yet, but I'm sure she dealt with such topic the best way).
GLBT+ characters in a steady relationship.
Most books in the genre are coming-of-age or coming-out stories, where the main character becomes aware of her/his sexuality, or falls in love for the first time. Which is perfectly fine of course. But I wish there were more books where the gay, lesbian etc. character already has a partner, and they've been together for a while. It would debunk another myth - LGBT+ characters' promiscuity. Again, folks, get a grip...
GLBT+ characters defined by their own sexuality.
See "Gay or lesbian characters with friends of the same sex". Again, we need more stories where sexuality - of any kind - is dealt with like any other defining feature...like being fond of rock music, able to paint, interested in history, you name it. While it's right - and often necessary - to make a stand for alternate sexuality, I do believe we should be shown the other face of the issue...normality. The no-big-deal side.
Inaccurate depictions of bi/trans/queer/etc. characters (?).
Writing a gay or lesbian character without actually being in their shoes is probably easier than portraiting one of the other shades in the LGBT+ universe. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong...but I often happen to read reviews that complain about the unreality of some characters/situations, and they're almost never aimed at gay or lesbian ones. So I guess most of the others are not only rarely drawn from direct experience, but also - maybe - more difficult to deal with, because of their complexity. Or maybe, they're more difficult to write about with a teen audience in mind? Whatever the reason, according to the reception they get, stories about bi/trans/queer+ characters often ring less true to readers. While I commend the effort of each and every writer who decides to tackle the LGBT+ topics, I wish they were more in touch with the actual issues, and less with their own version of them.
(Please note...this wasn't meant to be offensive or judgmental in any way. It's just that I've repeatedly tried to approach LGBT+ books with different nuances than the usual gay or lesbian ones, but I've always found a few reviewers that weren't able to buy them for some reasons - random example here - so I'm wary of reading them).
I'm very interested in your opinion here - especially about this last point. And should any author join the conversation...it would be awesome :).