Yes i said the g word. This is not a political post or a post about gay marriage so settle. What this is about is my YA book. I write YA under a different name so i wont be giving you all too much info that will cross my personas over.
So, what am i taking about. Well i gave my YA to several author friends to read and edit etc for me. They all came back and asked if i was aware that it had strong gay subtext? The first time someone asked this i wasn’t aware, after that i knew and was interested to see if they would pick up on it. Lets set the scene. The book is about two female teenagers who are soulmates but as they are both female this manifests as a really close friendship. They arent gay. But they do hug, and say that they love each other. Gay? I was happy for this to be subtext when i became awaire that thats how it came across. Why not? Half of my friends are gay and i figured they would have been gay teenagers whether they were ‘out’ or not. Wouldn’t they want to read a book about something other than a male female relationship? And if you didn’t want to read it that way, then it never went into if they were lovers or not, they might in other books in the series but i haven’t planned those or even thought about where it might go. Frankly i wanted it to be a book about pure friendship, when you love someone so completely that it doesn’t matter who they are. My readers told me that although they liked it they were worried it wouldn’t be mainstream and publishers would hesitate to contract it because it might not sell as well as if she had an actual boyfriend. There are males in the story who they are friends with and they have crushes on them but they don’t actually date them in the book.
So, Did i change it to be mainstream?
Sort of. I didn’t take out any of the subtext because i was happy for people to feel comfortable seeing them as in love and making that what they wanted it to mean. What i did do was take one of the male leads and give him more of a main role. He is the devil on her shoulder kind of thing. He likes her and she thinks he is hot but it doesn’t go beyond flirting. Again you get the impression that if circumstances were different, or the book longer, that they might get together but i was sick of teenage books where its just about dating. I wanted my characters to have complex stories that didn’t revolve around sex.
Thinking about it i cant think of a single YA i have read that does have openly gay characters…can you? Sure JK said that Dumbledore was gay but that was never written in the stories. there is a heap of gay erotic literature. But where is the mainstream stuff? TV shows do it all the time, Glee, Torchwood did it well, with Capitan Jack gay on the side but didn’t make it a core plot point because really it wasn’t important to the story who he slept with. He had relationships the same as any other character. He had a great line once when Gwen was making out with an alien who was female.
“I thought she was straight” Owen commented watching them
“Oh, you people and your quaint categories,” Captain Jack shot back laughing.
He has a point right? And frankly no one did subtext better than Xena and Gabrielle.
So what do you think? Is there a place in YA for gay teenagers? Would it sell if you knew they were gay?