@ScottWesterfeld: "I feel foolish for getting only one side of the story. But I'll make up for it by uncritically accepting the other side!" -the Internets
Here's the thing: I think, for the purposes of this discussion, it would be best to take the word "homophobia" off the table. Not because that is or is not what's happening, or that it isn't a valid concern--I'm saying, set aside that question for a separate discussion, because it's the exact point where communication here is breaking down. Most people in this discussion don't want to be homophobic, wouldn't consider themselves or their friends or their colleagues to be, and immediately shut down once the word comes up. "That's not true. That's not what I am. So this is not a problem I have. I'm not censoring anyone, so censorship is not a problem." A number of the author complaints posted above actually support this interpretation--the issue isn't about industry feelings towards gay people; it's about their feelings towards marketing books about gay people. I know that sounds like a fine distinction, but in order to get anything productive done, we're going to have to use a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer for the moment.
I think that there are really two different issues going on here. Publishing probably really is one of the least homophobic industries, in terms of who works in it and how they feel about people in real life. No one wants to be called "homophobic," particularly people who are, in their personal dealings, anything but. That word comes out and people shut down, stop listening, stop believing. There is a difference between "I am gay," "my friends are gay," "my relatives are gay," "I would never do or say anything homophobic," and "I don't think this really good book will sell if the characters are queer." The latter is a far more subtle, widespread, insidious problem. As Marie Brennan puts it, "You don't have to hate gay people to contribute to the ways in which they get silenced. It can happen even if you like them, because that's how institutionalized prejudice works."
--and what so many of these subsequent posts, even the ones that disagree, have touched on: publishers need to put out books about all kinds of people, and readers need to let publishers know that they will buy them. And they need to not let fear stop them, because YA saves, and kids need these books.
@robin_talley: The BEST thing you can do, if you're upset by #yesGayYA, is buy queer YA books. http://www.leewind.org.
That's all this was ever supposed to be about, I think.
"The authors are out for publicity.
The authors themselves refer to the affair as 'a publicity blitz.'"
There’s a tendency to believe that books with minorities belong in a special section. They aren’t ‘regular’ books, because the characters aren’t ‘normal.’ Which is not such a great thing, when you’re a young person looking for people who look like you. Some folks really love issue books, and I have a soft sport in my heart for them myself, but I also love it when minority characters are allowed to just be and it’s a natural part of the story, rather than the focal point. The reality is that we don’t go around being walking issues; we have lives, we do things, our minority identities are part of us but they aren’t the focal point, and with YA in particular I think it’s critical to make sure that representation includes not just a centring of issues, but also a showing of us in our natural habitat, so to speak.
Even though the two main characters had no gender, I couldn’t help but assign them one anyway. Throughout the book I kept looking for clues to see if Brezenoff gave anything away (“She must be a girl because boys don’t drink Vodka and Cranberry, do they?” “OK, he must be a boy because they wouldn’t assume a girl set fire to the warehouse, would they?”) But in doing that I realised I was just highlighting my own ridiculous and unfounded preconceptions about gender. (I have a male friend who could drink me under the table with fruit-based drinks… but I guess that wouldn’t take much for I am an absolute lightweight). Why can’t a boy drink vodka and cranberry? Why can’t a girl set fire to a warehouse? Absolutely no reason. After about three chapters I gave up because I realised I didn’t want to know what gender they were. It didn’t matter in the slightest. Gender identities are drummed into us from birth but this book effectively shows us they are futile and restricting. Love is love… it doesn’t need a definition or a label.
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