The Gay Agenda is co-published by InDepthNH.org and Manchester Ink link
By Sam Whitaker, The Gay Agenda
Previously, when I wrote about television shows and video games that feature queer characters, I neglected to get around to another particularly important form of media.
In the pages of books many youths may find a character to identify with or cheer for in their adventures. Just as in television or video games, we may see feats of heroism or sagas that follow the lives of various characters. Queer youth these days have more and more novels to look to wherein they may find characters that reflect their own experiences.
Sadly, it was not always this way. There was a severe lack of queer characters for a long time, and when they were portrayed they were very likely to have died by the end of the story.
Unfortunately, queer literature is often challenged. Parents or other people will often seek to have these books banned so that their content can’t be reached by the very youths who would most benefit from having access to them. School libraries are often at the mercy of appeasing these people, and this is a tragedy of sorts.
If at home a child cannot buy or get their hands on a book they want to read, school libraries often end up being the only place they might find they can read it. However, if schools are forced to ban those books they may never get that chance. School libraries are places to learn, and learning isn’t always just science, math, or history. It can be learning about oneself.
Adolescent literature is a genre that I find interesting. Indeed, one day I hope to write a novel or two in that genre. There are so many important ages in the development of identity, but I think a particularly vulnerable time is that of adolescence. If I could create a story that helps people like me find solace in their identity, then I would be quite happy.
This is honestly one of the most important reasons people desire to create or view media that features queer characters. Unconsciously, we consume a large amount of media, in television commercials or billboards, video games or movies. Books are no different. Showing more queer characters will demonstrate that queer people are as equal as anyone else. Additionally, with more stories we can break down harmful stereotypes about queer folk that were set by older texts or other media. With more content, we diversify the messages and portrayals, and through the mere act of representation we can create a positive change.
An interesting exercise to observe the harmful stereotypes and clichés that queer folk experience is to head to TVTropes.com and look at their articles about queer characters. See firsthand how there are well-established tropes about queer people. With more books, and yes video games and television shows, we can counteract years of negative tropes. Books I’d recommend (adolescent novels) include: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. More Than This, by Patrick Ness. I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson.
Sam Whitaker is a senior at Keene State College. Sam is double majoring in English Writing and Literature, with Medieval Studies as a minor. He works as a Resident Assistant and is the president of KSC Pride, an LGBTQ+ student organization on campus. When he isn’t writing, Sam’s probably playing a video game or catching up on some sleep.