Bookish, Discussions

Love is Louder: Queer Romance In YA

While I had planned this post for Pride Month, I thought to myself, well hey, I’ve already done a post on my favourite LGBTQ+ books, do I really need to do another one? And besides, Pride Month is already over, won’t it be a little late?

The answers are yes, and then no.

I don’t know why I thought to myself that posts concerning the LGBTQ+ community could only be designated to one particular month. I don’t know why, as a member of said community, I thought that was right, especially when I consistently read and even write LGBTQ+ stories. It’s a part of my everyday life, it isn’t a one month a year thing.

As a person who does enjoy a bit of romance, I’m often disappointed by it. Romance is one of the biggest (and broadest) genres in fiction. It has it’s own section in bookstores, it’s own events, conventions, and even sub-genres. But what the majority seem to all have is a heterosexual couple. The boy and the girl. The bad boy and the innocent girl. The snarky girl and the nerdy boy. The loving couple. The abusive couple. The chaotic couple. The ‘no strings attached’ couple. The ‘written in the stars’ couple.

Heterosexual couples are everywhere.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s silly that I have to say that so as not to offend anyone. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s got to the point now, in 2016, that I’m starting to find it a bit silly that so many romance authors still don’t put any queer romance into their stories.

There are many other reasons as to why authors don’t include queer romance in their stories, whether it just be matter of opinion, religion, beliefs, and while homophobia is not an opinion, I’m not going to force authors to write queer romance in their books. But when I see authors come out in support of LGBTQ+ rights on social media and in interviews and talks, yet still have no queer romances, or even queer characters in their stories. I’m left a bit confused and slightly concerned.

Particularly in YA, I find it very important to include queer romance because not only does it normalize non-straight relationships, but it also introduces different sexualities and identities to teens and young adults. You wouldn’t believe how old I was until I figured out that no, bisexuality doesn’t mean wanting to date a boy and a girl at the same time, and that transgender doesn’t mean drag queen. Ignorance and un-education spreads like chicken pox in school and friendship groups, and YA books are already beginning to pave the way into opening up diverse new plots, characters and issues for young people to enjoy and to understand.

For me, now, writing a story that doesn’t include a queer romance or character has become incredibly difficult. For National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year, I put this to the test. I set out to create a fairly cliche heterosexual romance about travelling to Paris and falling in love. When it comes to NaNoWriMo, you just write and edit later. I never went back over what I wrote, and when it got to the end of November, I began to read the whole 50,000 words.

Without realising, I had included a lesbian couple prominent to the story, and made my straight, male love interest have an interest in boys, along with a gay male bartender he has a little crush on.

Well, I tried.

I am often disappointed when a YA story doesn’t have a queer romance, or just that every single damn character is straight as an arrow. There is no inclination that queer people even exist in this universe, and not only is it really unrepresentative of the world, it’s kind of downright rude. While it may not be the case, it seems the author went out of their way to actively not include LGBTQ+ characters into their story.

I don’t want to shame authors who’ve released fantastic novels but haven’t included a queer romance or queer characters. It doesn’t mean they’re bad writers. It doesn’t mean they’re bad stories. A lot of the books I adore do not in fact include either. But it does pose the question, why not? Why aren’t they included?

When I started writing and beginning to include LGBTQ+ romance and characters into my stories, I found myself getting annoyed at the amount of ideas I was coming up with that did include them. It didn’t take long for me to punch that thought in the face. You don’t do it with straight romance, you don’t stick in a few straight characters in a story and say “Well, I’ve filled my quota. I’ve made it diverse enough.”, so why would you do it with queer romance/characters?

As a writer or as a published author or as a reader of LGBTQ+ stories. When asked “Why do you always read/write them?” The only answer I can think of which does it enough justice is, “Why not?”

And now onto the good stuff; the recommendations! In a blog post I uploaded a few weeks ago, here are some of my favourite LGBTQ+ books, as well as some books that include queer romance/characters:

Any more recommendations are welcome!

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  1. Jessica

    July 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Really loved this post! I’ve personally struggled with the “quota” thing too, not just in regards to LGBT+ characters but generally being diverse. Sometimes I sit and look at my novel plans and go “is this too much??” but NO. It’s NOT. Queer people exist, disabled people exist, non-white people exist, and there isn’t an upper limit on how diverse a specific cast of characters can be. Anyway, yes, good good discussion post. All white, all straight books kinda really annoy me a lot too, even though some of my favourite books are straight as hell. Ughh. Things can only get better, I already love how big the leap has been between now and when I first started reading YA!

    1. hollie (hollieblog)

      July 5, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      Yes to all of this!

      I am definitely one of those people who reads a book and really notices that their are no LGBT people! Like, I understand that many authors don’t consider it and their story can still be amazing, but I do sometimes think if there’s another reason as to why they haven’t.

  2. A Stranger's Guide to Novels

    July 6, 2016 at 6:38 am

    LOVED THIS POST! Everything you said was so on point! LGBTQ+ characters need to start becoming the norm now and there is really no excuse anymore.

  3. Jess I.

    July 22, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Ooh, you should read You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan! I wrote a review on it a while back and it is one of my favorite books of 2016. Gay is basically the new straight in that one! That’s so interesting (and good!) that you feel a need, even subconsciously, to include a queer couple. I love books that include queer characters, but it’s a normal quality. For example, in Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee, the MC’s best friend’s parents are lesbian and it was honestly no big deal. It had no significance to the plot and it was not tortured or used to send a message or anything poetic. I really appreciated it :).

    Jess @ POB!

    1. hollie (hollieblog)

      July 24, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Yes! It’s on my TBR! I’ll give your review a read too but I’ve definitely heard good things about it!

  4. Ravenclaw Book Club

    July 25, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    I agree 100%. I’m always really confused when, for example, a TV show doesn’t have a single LGBT character. Like give me my people please. 😂
    Also love The Song of Achilles! 😊 And there are so many books in your post that I want to read!

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