I see plenty of LGBTQ books (especially in YA) being published these days, and this is a fantastic step for representation. These sorts of books are essential for young LGBTQ readers to know that they are valid and are not alone in having their experiences. They're also important as they help non-LGBTQ readers to understand the issues our community faces. It's all well and good to have these sorts of books becoming more mainstream.
Most of these books fit into a specific LGBTQ genre. Which is fine in itself, I certainly won't complain about there being a whole category of books dedicated to non-cis and -straight characters.
The problem is that these characters are being confined to this one genre. We need to see more LGBTQ characters in our beloved genre fiction, characters whose orientations are not part of their character development or the plot, they just happen to be LGBTQ because they can. We need to see these characters because our LGBTQ identities are not all that we are - we can exist without being riddled with angst because we don't conform to a hetero- and cisnormative ideal. We can be LGBTQ and still get on with our lives without it being a big deal. We can be LGBTQ and face huge problems that have nothing to do with our orientations.
There need to be more LGBTQ characters in genre fiction to make sure we get the representation we deserve, and to make sure our community (especially the young ones) doesn't get classified as angst-ridden, hormone-raging adolescents. Genre fiction deals with bigger, wider issues, like historical and fictional societies, war and politics and morally grey decisions. It's easy for LGBTQ characters to be featured, heavily or not, in these books without any stretch of the imagination (there have always been LGBTQ people and there always will be, so there's no need for "Is it historically accurate for this Medieval character to be gay?" These characters won't always use these labels for themselves, especially if they live in the past, before these words came into use, but labels for their orientation is a subject for another post). It's easy, so they should be included in these books. They need to be included in these books.
I'd like to point you in the direction of the Bi the Way trope (FYI, TV Tropes is an amazing website for a) learning about millions of tropes you didn't know existed, and b) filling in a few hours). In this trope, the character just happens to be bi because they can be, not because it makes them more interesting or allows for more angst. If you go to the page, you can see examples of the trope's use in literature, film, TV, and other media. This trope proves that it is indeed possible for a character in genre fiction to be LGBTQ without their orientation being its own plotline.
Give me bi men in space. Give me aromantic lesbians in Ancient Greece. Give me transwomen on fantastical quests. There are so many stories to be written, and so many identities to represent, so just make it happen: put more LGBTQ characters into genre fiction. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Just give my community the representation we deserve.
- While writing this post I was thinking about genre fiction books, but the same applies for TV and movies.
- My definition of LGBTQ includes heterosexual aromantics and heteroromantic asexuals. I won't take part in any discourse surrounding this.
- I just decided now that this will be the first in a series of posts about LGBTQ representation in fiction. Can't wait? Neither can I!