Today I’m stepping out of my comfort zone a bit to take part in a blog series hosted by Kristine Asselin called “Where Are the Gay Parents in Children’s Literature?” I first learned of this series last year when we both commented on author Scott Tracey’s vlog on LGBT lit for WriteOnCon.com.
Around that same time, there was a kerfuffle in Publishers Weekly about two authors who claimed agents conditionally offered them representation if they would “straighten” a gay character or remove him altogether. The #YesGayYA hashtag was born out of it.
I rejoiced and took note of the agents and editors who “came out” in support of gay characters–not just gay teens, but YA stories with gay parents, as well.
Normally, the kerfuffle wouldn’t have gotten more than a passing, “Huh. That’s interesting,” from me, but call it serendipity or coincidence, but I was in the middle of writing a YA story in which the main character’s mom had recently come out.
In his vlog, Tracey noted that there are two main themes in gay YA: The coming out story and the adversity story. Both, he said, were getting a little tired. What was missing were stories that just had gay characters. Period. Not necessarily coming out to anyone, not overcoming tragic obstacles. Just being. Having an adventure. Falling in love. Getting their heart broken. Dealing with annoying parents. You know, just being teens.
“Great,” I thought. Even though I wasn’t writing to a trend, I’d seemed to have filled a void by having a character deal with the aftermath of her mom coming out in a conservative area of the country. It’s only a subplot, but a portrayal of how that might affect a teen girl.
Fast forward a year and the story’s written, revised, edited and being queried. And wouldn’t you know, every time I hit the “send” button, I cringe.
I cringe because I hope I’ve done the characters justice. I cringe because I tried not to write a stereotype; because the story isn’t politically correct–it’s realistic. I cringe because I mention up-front in the query letter that there’s a small thread of LGBT, and there’s no way for me to know if that dangling “no response” or “this isn’t for me” is because of that thread.
After all the fanfare of #YesGayYA, I can only hope it isn’t.