The following is a dramatization of an event and should be taken lightly:
A person with genuine intentions asked once, “LGBTQ+ people what is the difference between writing straight romances and queer romances?”
The queer people in the writing room said, “[The characters] Dealing with queerphobia mostly”.
The person explained that in the world they were creating there would be no bigotry to be found.
“In that case, pretty much the same,” this queer people said and everyone went back to their homes."
However I am here because I don’t think that the difference between straight and queer romances is as simple as that.
As we kick off the month of February, I have been moving forwards into the next stages of my transition. I’m set to be starting HRT on the day that this article comes out, and am making steps towards gender-affirming surgery. It has been a five-year-long process for me to get this far, and I have started to unpack a lot of the baggage that has come along with being out as trans from a young age. Specifically in how it has skewed my idea of romantic relationships.
Spoiler for The Picture of Dorian Gray??? (But Is it really a spoiler though if it came out in 1890????)
Spoiler for season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season three of Glee.
Trigger warning: mention of suicide, homophobia, gun violence
At the age of 24, I don’t even come close to being able to literally identify with the people who’ve pioneered the LGBTQ+ rights movement. But this summer, as I was working as a nonfiction counsellor at TYWI’s summer camp, I could not stop thinking about how fast LGBTQ+ rights have changed in the last decade.
Casey McQuiston broke the literary world in 2019 with top of the charts Red, White, and Royal Blue — a novel that needs little introduction, with two Goodreads Choice Awards and a constantly-growing fandom. Following a relationship between rivals Alex, the First Son of the United States and Henry, a Prince of England, the book had witty writing, one of the best supporting casts in fiction, and (multiple!) swoon-worthy romances.
Two years later, the author is back with their sophomore novel, One Last Stop, and it lives up to Red, White, and Royal Blue in a positively startling, completely different way.
As pride month comes to a close, we thought it'd only be fitting to write a message. We'll keep it short and simple, sending all our love to our LGBTQ+ readers. Thank you for reading our posts, and even sharing your own to be featured on the blog. Thank you for the calls to better representation in stories, and for seeing other readers just like you who ask for the same thing.
We see you and we support you. Your stories matter, whether you're closeted, questioning, fully out, or somewhere in between all of those. Write that happy ending for your gay couple — write that awesome coming out arc. Because as it's been made clear from this month on the blog: we need more of those.
Pitches for articles on pride are always welcome outside of the month. It doesn't stop here. We can't wait to see what else is in store.
Thank you for reading the JUVEN blog. Happy pride month!
Representation isn’t a topic that needs introduction. If you’ve been on the internet, you’ve seen some sort of talk about representation and how powerful it is. Simply put, these affirming characters inspire us. As another Pride month comes to an end, it’s important to remember that being LGBTQ+ isn’t just a thirty-day trend. Here are a few reasons why LGBTQ+ characters in books matter, too.
CW// mentions of homophobia, self hate
Sexuality is hard and confusing. And in a society where the only mentions of gayness are whispered gossip and lunchyard jokes, it tends to get harder.
I’ve grown up with barely any idea about homosexuality, just like so many other teenagers in South Asia, the most I'd seen of it secretly watched episodes of Shadowhunters with my sister late night; malec the first gay ship I encountered.
In full honesty, I only found out more about LGBTQ+ in quarantine, through the vast hole of the internet. It was so different from what I was used to — hearing relatives make wedding plans and hearing the girls I knew gossip about boys while I blushed when my closest friend looked at me a certain way. It was a new world, with words like lesbian, bisexual, pride -- so many things I was oblivious to.
In some ways fantasy and science fiction stories allow us to delve into a world that is wholly unreal, yet we as readers can relate to the characters and their journeys. However fantastical the world, unique the systems of magic, and creative the creatures that reside within it, readers read these stories and can relate in some manner to the characters we follow. Oftentimes in speculative fiction, the excuses for a lack of diversity can be exceptionally thin or characters that are supposed to be diverse are coded confusingly or badly portrayed. When writing LBGTQ+ characters specifically, coding them correctly can allow readers to feel seen even in the most outlandish of lands.
There’s several ways to code characters, even if you do not want to include a romantic subplot in your story. Queer stories aren’t always romantic, but living in a heteronormative world, it’s important to make sure readers won’t assume a queer character to be straight.
The word sapphic, as opposed to lesbian or WLW (women loving women), is inclusive of more gender identities including non-binary people. For a great resource about the word “sapphic”, click here.
The sapphic relationships in these YA books span the scale of plot importance — not all are centered around romance — but it’s valuable to read books with casual representation of these relationships. Here are six candidates for your next great read — dive right in!
I am of the opinion that a villain is more important than a hero. That opinion is slightly void in recent YA with the rise of teenage fans falling in love with characters through different fan-created mediums (plot? What plot?), but still — a story is a problem. And very often, the problem is a villain.
The best villains create complexity for heroes — make them doubt and question and hurt. For that, the villains have to be complex themselves. But, this isn’t about complex villains. If your villain is worth their salt, they will be complex. But, diverse? Let’s talk.
With diverse characters overall, it can be so easy to spill in offensive stereotypes, and villains of any marginalized or minority or simply unknown group double that.