When I was compiling my top five for this month I noticed that those of the books on my list weren’t actually written by LGBTQI+ authors. This is especially strange to me as barely any of my texts set on my gender and sexuality module at university were either. This got me thinking, although I enjoyed the novels I listed, how accurate are they in depicting LGBTQI+ characters? Yes some on that list are fantasy but the point still stands.
Before we dive into this, I just want to shout out Charlotte over at Sapphistication who was a wonderful help checking this over and added brilliant insight! I’m so grateful for you taking the time to help me with this!
As someone who will not experience the same societal hardships of this community, I think it’s important to listen to the stories of those who do experience this. By reading these stories, those outside this community are able to see firsthand the difficulties that are faced both on an individual level (eg. someone struggling to figure their identity out) and on a wider scale (eg. how they are restricted in society). Not only does reading these accounts allow you to understand issues that you have not had to consider before (unless you’re part of another group or community that is ostracised due to your identity) but, in doing so this also highlights what your own privilege has been able to shield you from. Additionally, if all queer narratives are from non-queer people, the view we have of these issues is incorrect and the more this is the case the more that becomes entrenched in our views as a society.
However, it’s important to remember that it’s not all about the negatives. Reading LGBTQI+ own voices really cement the fact that these characters (well, this community as a whole) still have the same lives and loves that we have seen depicted for centuries in heterosexual fiction (and, of course, in the word as a whole). This community isn’t just a community but individuals who deserve to be recognised as such. Not one person has the exact same experiences in life as someone else, and the same is true for the LGBTQI+ community and their identities. Similarly, this is also really important for those struggling to figure out their identity and even for the people who have. By seeing LGBTQI+ characters in the same roles that have always been taken by straight characters, not only is this reassuring that happy endings are genuinely still possible for them, despite what has been depicted in the past, and it is also empowering. Whilst some people do, in fact, sit and consider the meaning of life and identity in a brooding fashion, it doesn’t happen all the time or for very long. So why should so much of LGBTQI+ literature be depicted as such? Instead of only focusing on the trauma of discovering your identity, it’s important that readers see a celebration of it too, which is much more genuine and authentic from an own voices novel.
Whilst these points are extremely valid and important, they don’t quite cover another major important aspect of reading these novels. The more LGBTQI+ novels we read by LGBTQI+ authors, this sends a message to the publishing industry that we want more of these stories in the future. Yes, the publishing industry has come a long way since I first started blogging in 2010 but it does still have a way to go when it comes to ‘own voices’ novels. Therefore not only is it important to read these novels to support the authors, and reassure them that their stories are needed, but it will encourage others to write and share their own experiences (whether it be in a Young Adult novel or Fantasy etc). The more these novels are published the more balanced the currently oversaturated industry will become, which will not only make the ‘veterans’ of the LGBTQI+ community proud but, it will also shape younger readers into more aware and compassionate people. Something that many people, unfortunately, don’t learn early enough.
It’s impossible to detail all the ways the LGBTQI+ novels are important, especially for someone outside this community. However, there is one last important point I’d like to make: to all my LGBTQI+ followers, please remember that you’re not alone; that you’re loved and that you are enough.