This is Not Okay

I’m a little late on this, but you’re probably aware of several recent bullying-related tragedies. (Link courtesy of this excellent post by Garland Grey on Tiger Beatdown.) LGBTQ teens have terrifyingly high suicide rates compared to teens who don’t identify as LGBTQ, and I think it’s fair to say that bullying is a serious factor.

This is beyond sad, and it is completely unacceptable. Ye gods, is being a teenager not hard enough? To be not only bullied by peers, but to see the nonreaction – even implicit acceptance or worse – of teachers and other adults, is a terrifying thing. If an adult in a position of responsibility is aware of abuse and does not take action to stop it, s/he is condoning that abuse. Kids and teens can see that. And what does that say? It says, “The bullies are right. There’s something wrong with you, and you deserve this. You’ve brought it on yourself.”

This is patently untrue. It is a vicious, ignorant, prejudiced attack. Children and teenagers are just discovering who they are, and LGBTQ teens are being told that who they are is bad and wrong, deserving of harassment and (in the eyes of some) of eternal condemnation. This is an attitude that is causing teens to kill themselves.

I don’t feel like getting too deeply into my feelings about homophobia, largely because they are CAPS-LOCK VIOLENT. Suffice it to say that:

  1. All research indicates that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice. So does all common sense. Why would anyone choose an orientation that, in today’s society, can get you harassed, sometimes to the point of murder – and that, statistically speaking, lowers your pool of possible orientation-compatible mates? Also, I’ve yet to meet a straight person who can tell me when s/he “chose” to be straight. But even given all that . . .
  2. Even if it was a choice, there’s nothing wrong with being LGBTQ. Maybe it’s my having been raised atheist, but I really don’t get people’s issue here. Why in the world would wanting to date/kiss/marry/sleep with someone of the opposite sex be “better” or “worse” than wanting to date/kiss/marry/sleep with someone of the same sex? And why does it bother people when someone doesn’t dress or act the way lots of men or women do? Does that HURT anyone? (Incidentally, I feel the same way about the idea that gay couples adopting kids could cause the kids to be gay: This is nonsense, and even if it weren’t, SO WHAT?) And besides all that . . . *drum roll* . . .
  3. Except for the person in question and anyone considering dating that person, all of this is none of anyone’s damn business.

SO! Why I am posting this on a writing blog? Well, partly just because I feel strongly about the issue, but partly because I know that reading can be instrumental in raising awareness and tolerance and in making people feel less alone. So, in addition to mentioning two projects intended to help LGBTQ teens – The It Gets Better Project and The We Got Your Back Project, I thought I’d make a Really Long List of YA GLBTQ books, courtesy of the Young Adult Library Services Association. Far from complete, but it’s something.

After the Death of Anna Gonzales by Terri Fields
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
Ash by Malinda Lo
Beautiful by Amy Reed
The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon
Deliver Us from Evie by M.E. Kerr
Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole
Drowning of Stephan Jones by Bette Greene
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Freak Show by James St. James
Gay America: Struggle for Equality by Linas Alsenas
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
Gravity by Leanne Lieberman
Grl2grl : short fictions by Julie Anne Peters
Happy Endings are All Alike by Sandra Scoppettone
Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger
Hear Us Out! lesbian and gay stories of struggle, progress and hope, 1950 to the present by Nancy Garden
Hero by Perry Moore
Inferno by Robin Stevenson
Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner
Luna by Julie Anne Peters
M+O 4EVR by Tonya Cherie Hegamin
Misfits by James Howe
My Father’s Scar by Michael Cart
Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz
Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger
Rage: A Love Story by Julie Anne Peters
Rhythm and Blues by Jill Murray
Sprout by Dale Peck
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
Tale of Two Summers by Brian Sloan
Trans Liberation and Transgender Warriors by Les Feinberg
Transparent: Love, Family, and Living The T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam
Trying Hard to Hear You by Sandra Scoppettone
Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Will’s Choice: a Suicidal Teen, a Desperate Mother, and a Chronicle of Recovery by Gail Griffith

Hopefully this isn’t too long and non-descriptive to be useful. I know that at least some of these are what I feel to be the shining high point of the genre: books that center on LGBTQ characters, but aren’t about being queer. After all, I would imagine most queer people’s lives aren’t about being queer. My life isn’t about being straight. If an LGBTQ person’s life has a huge focus on being LGBTQ, my guess is that it’s because people push that person into that box. Besides that, queer people – like anyone else – have differing tastes in reading. Some, I’m sure, do want to read books about coming out and dealing with prejudice. Others want to read about solving mysteries, falling in love, or saving the world. Nor should anyone be limited to just one kind of book.

That is basically my hope, book-wise, for all kinds of people: to be able to find themselves, in characters like and unlike them in various ways, in good examples of whatever kind of literature they want to read. I wish this for people of all genders, orientations, ancestry, physical ability, everything. May this kind of work flourish, and may it help people live their lives and support others in living theirs.

One thought on “This is Not Okay

  • Teachers who condone bullying to “remain neutral” should be ashamed of themselves. Bullying is always wrong! If a student was doing something that I didn’t approve of (wearing a Confederate flag/being a polite but outspoken right wing religious nut/reading trashy teen vampire novels) and he or she was being bullied for it, I would *still* tell off the bullies. Harrassment is not an appropriate way of expressing disagreement.

    Of course, kids would never know that based on the example adults set in the media and their daily lives….

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