Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy National Coming Out Day!

In the wake of some recent tragedies, maybe it seems weird that I'm posting about having the courage to come out. Especially because, as a straight woman, I've never had to deal with the pressure that GLBTQ youth must feel when it comes to this topic. But you know what I can say? I applaud each and every person who has come out. And I want to provide as much support as one little blogger can to anyone who is thinking about coming out today. It's a big deal. I know that.

So in honor of this awesome initiative, I thought I'd tell you about some of my favorite gay characters in fiction.

Of course there's Tiny Cooper from WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by John Green and David Levithan. Tiny is unabashedly himself. I've read a few things lately about how a lot of gay characters in coming-of-age stories don't seem to think about anything but think about being gay and how rough it is to be gay and how being gay affects their lives. What I love about Tiny is that being gay is just a part of who he is, and he's such a huge character who lives his life up to eleven. I think we can all take a page from Tiny's book, even if we're not up to writing and producing musicals about ourselves.

I also adore Ash from Malinda Lo's ASH, and part of that of course is her strength and courage as the Cinderella character in Malinda's retelling of the classic fairytale. But part of why she's one of my favorite gay characters is the fact that in Malinda Lo's universe, being gay isn't weird or different or alternative. It just is. So when Ash falls for The Huntress, yeah, we know she's gay. She knows she's in love with a woman, and not a man, which perhaps isn't the most common love in her world, but it isn't all scandalous and frowned upon. I'm totally looking forward to reading the sequel to ASH, HUNTRESS, which comes out next spring.

This may seem odd, but April Lurie's murder victim, Will, speaks volumes despite his being dead for most of April's book THE LESS-DEAD. Will is part of a string of hate-crimes, which protagonist Noah decides he must solve. Noah feels somewhat responsible for Will's death, since he freaked out when Will came out to him, and they never got to reconcile. Noah's dad is the evangelical radio personality "The Bible Answer Guy," and Noah is convinced that the killer is one of his dad's regular listeners. Will was a street kid, someone Noah meets by accident but befriends out of genuine love for the guy. And I think that this is an important representation of how non-protagonist characters don't have to be 2-D -- something that plagues secondary gay characters in a lot of fiction. If April Lurie can make Will speak so loudly without even being alive during most of the book, we all can give our gay characters their own voices. (PS, Truth: April is one of my favorite people writing YA. Hi April, you rock!)

So these characters -- and stories -- pretty much run the gamut. Which is sort of like how people are, right? So maybe if you're seeking some inspiration to come out today, pick up one of these books -- or one of the many books out there featuring fab queer characters (some great resources are Pinkbooks and The Rainbow Project) -- and remember, there are people out there who support you and are ready to hear what you have to say!


Pam Harris said...

I'm so glad that you wrote about this. GLBT issues are a passion of mine as a school counselor, and I'm constantly looking for books to recommend. Great post!

E. Kristin Anderson said...

Pam, good to hear! I'm a major advocate, too. I'm not sure what spurred me, but I know as young as eight I thought it was weird that anyone would discriminate against another person because of something that they clearly had no choice about. Plus, I idolized Boy George and anytime anyone said crap about him, I was up in arms. I think it's important to have advocates in all fields, especially those who are in contact with youth regularly. Keep fighting the good fight!

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