June is Gay Pride Month
June is Gay Pride month, and YA literature is one of the best places to turn for celebrating with a book. Of course LGBTQ characters appear across the spectrum of literature (including comics and other mediums), but there is something about the YA presentation of coming into your sexuality that is compelling. And there is amble reason for YA authors to tackle issues of sexuality in their books: just take a look at the statistics.
- 36.5 % of LGBT youth grades 9–12 have attempted suicide. 1
- 33.2% of transgender youth have attempted suicide. 2
- 84% of LGBT students report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation. 3
- 82.9% of LGBT students report that faculty or staff never intervened or intervened only some of the time when present and homophobic remarks were made. 4
- 64.3% of LGBT students report feeling unsafe at their school because of their sexual orientation. 5
- LGBQ teenagers are more likely to experience, witness, and/or perpetrate violence than their straight peers. 6
- Between 20–40% of homeless youth in the US identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. 26% of LGBT youth who come out to their parents are told to leave home. Many also report experiencing abuse both from family members and in shelters. 7
Of course these statistics only represent the bad, which of course there is certainly plenty of, when it comes to being a LGBTQ teenager. Books such as Boy Meets Boy by David Leviathan and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Leviathan strive to find the good in being a LGBTQ teen. But overall it’s hard to find a balance. Do you write the dark, edgy story that speak of suicide, abuse, and abandonment? Or do you write the happy utopia where everything is okay and everyone is accepting?
It’d be nice to say that now our president has publicly come out in support of gay marriage that it will all be cake and brownies from now on. But as great as President Obama’s support is, his opinion doesn’t change the opinions of everyone in our country. Our president’s words can’t stop the harassment and abuse and rejection that happens every day.
So is it more important to show teens the reality of what could happen to them if they come out of the closet? Or to show them the happy utopia where things can go right and love is waiting for you? I certainly don’t have the answer, and I don’t think the YA authors writing about LGBTQ teens right now have those answers either. YA literature has always been a place for teens to come and explore the chaos of their lives in the safety of a book. It seems the only real consensus is that we need to keep writing about this, keep finding new stories, new characters, new hope.
If you’re interested in exploring what’s been written about LGBTQ issues in YA literature, Alex Sanchez has a great list of “Great Books for Gay Teens” on his website.
1 Robin, L., Brener, N.D., Donahue, S.F., Hack, T., Hale, K., Goodenow, C. (2002).
2 Clements-Nolle K., Marx R., Katz M. (2006). Attempted suicide among transgender persons: The influence of gender-based discrimination and victimization. Journal of Homosexuality, 51(3): 53-69.
3 GLSEN. (2003)
6 Russell S.T., Franz B.T., Driscoll A.K. Same-sex romantic attraction and experiences of violence in adolescence. Adolscent Journal of Public Health. 2001 Jun. 91(6):903-6.
7 Ray, N. (2006). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth: An epidemic of homelessness. New York: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless.
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- thedoctorinabluebox said: So how about some of the ‘best’ books regarding lgtb in ya lit?
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