Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Don't want my queer characters? I don't want you!

Over at Publisher's Weekly, Rose Fox has lent the soapbox to two YA authors who were "offered representation… on the condition that we make a gay character straight, or cut him out altogether."

Our novel, Stranger, has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki’s romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing.

An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

I think just about every queer author has been through this. I imagine people of colour go through it, too. We all choose whether or not to walk away. I dealt with this in 1994 [edit: my mistake; this was actually 1993]--instantly, satisfyingly (though it was a jaw-dropping shock). Here's my story, recorded last summer at the Lambda Literary Foundation's Emerging Voices retreat, where I was leading the fiction workshop. You'll have to turn the sound up.