Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Lee Wind and the Great Debate

Hop on over to Hunger Mountain, kiddies, and watch our own Lee Wind weigh in on "GLBTQ Teen Coming Out Stories: Move Beyond Them, or Keep ‘Em Coming?"

For me, I love GLBTQ books that show kids who are homosexual and that's their life. The coming out to the major players in their life is accomplished, and now they're dealing with other Life Stuff, just like any other kid. They're a gay kid or a lesbian, but they're not The Gay Kid or The Lesbian, like that's the sum total of their existence. For gay or lesbian kids reading about themselves, it's good to know that they are not their sexuality. For straight friends and family, that's also good to know that their friend/brother/sister is still their friend/brother/sister even with this new aspect of their identity.

On the other hand, as Lee says, a lot of places and people aren't so accepting as we would like, and for a lot of kids, understanding their sexuality and coming out are a major source of angst and even fear. They need books that show these experiences honestly, with all the bumps and bruises but the reassurance that's it's better to be yourself than to live a lie.

So . . . what do you think? Do we still need coming out novels on our shelves or should we focus on books with kids who happen to be gay?


Jenny said...

I think it's important to have both, but at this point in my life, I'm more likely to read books about people who happen to be gay. Just because I've read so many coming-out stories.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Hi, thanks for the shout-out. I really struggled with the article at first, because I couldn't come down on just one side of it... hence my taking both sides! Glad for the conversation to continue...

Lisa Jenn said...

I think the answer is we need both, too. It's naive to think we are "post-coming-out-story." Coming out is still something that every queer person faces, again and again in their lives, and every person's experience is unique. The canon needs to grow to represent more cultures: ethnic, religious, geographic, etc. It can be difficult to come out in *any* subculture (after all, America still treats queer people as second-class citizens), and it can still be dangerous to come out in many.

We also need coming out stories set in the present, especially since (as in every area of publishing) LGBTQ novels tend to go out of print after just a few years. Annie on My Mind is a wonderful coming out story that deservedly remains in print, but it's 30 years old! In the history of gay rights in our country, that's practically ancient!

It seems to me that when people denigrate coming out stories they are viewing them as one-dimensional, as if coming out is the only issue these characters face. I don't think that's what we're seeing published, though. We're seeing complex characters coming of age and wrangling with issues of identity and sexuality in their particular circumstances -- and, hello, books about straight teens coping with those same issues are a dime a dozen. Coming out shouldn't be the only issue queer characters should face, but it shouldn't be a non-issue, either.