Hey, Pubs! is a new post series that I’m hoping will call attention to flawed practices in the book publishing industry.
Ever notice a trend in the queer books publishers are putting out there? Like, maybe, that they literally only put out stories about gay or trans kids. Where are my genderqueer kids? Bi? Pan? Ace? Why aren’t kids seeing themself yet in these books?
First off, this post is in no way supposed to bash gay or trans people or say that they don’t deserve the rep. They do. This post is only supposed to point out how publishers seem to ignore the other 98% of the queer community.
Let me start this post with a question: do you know any YA books with a pansexual MC? I don’t, and the only book that I do know has a pansexual MC (in text) is The Melody of You and Me, which is a new adult romance. In my 5+ years of reading, the only books I know that has a pansexual MC is in a New Adult romance that was published in 2016. It’s also self-published, and barely anyone knows about it.
Big name publishers seemed to have gotten the message that many readers are looking for diversity in their novels, but when it comes to queer characters, publishers only seem to recognize three letters of our community: Gay, lesbian, and trans. Often, the sexual orientations aren’t even mentioned in text, leaving you to wonder if it is bisexual or pan representation, rather than gay. Publishers even more often tend to avoid publishing the genderqueer or non-binary stories, which is frankly offensive to someone who is constantly searching for more and better rep.
I could give you a list of books with gay or trans characters, but when it comes to books with pansexual or demisexual or other sexualities or genders, the list would only be a few stories (not books) long. Or, even, none at all. For my specific gender ID, I have no books that would represent me. I have authors I know of that ID similarily to me, but that isn’t the same thing. For some reason, big name publishers don’t see diversity within the LGBTQIA+ community as a priority. They see the fact that they’re trying as “good enough”. And, the few that are published are glorified beyond belief, with little to no concern about the quality of the rep. The Art of Being Normal is a popular book because of it’s trans rep . . . but it also perpetuates common trans stereotypes, like being “trapped in the wrong body” which not everyone has, and having the trans character being sexually assaulted. A trans book written by a cis author, which uses so many stereotypes, is celebrated for it’s diversity and acceptance . . . but doesn’t even correctly or appropriately represent trans people. And, as so many people point out, are authors who don’t understand the nuances of the rep really qualified to write about it? Just like I wouldn’t write a book about engineering without understanding engineering first, why are authors writing books about sexualities they don’t understand completely. I’m not saying you’re “not allowed to write [topic]”, which a lot of people accuse others of, but what I am saying is that you shouldn’t be writing a book about something you don’t understand.
Publishers, somehow, don’t realize this. Even if they have an imprint that publishes non-fiction, they don’t realize that you need to understand something to write accurately about it. And worst, is people get all butt-hurt over not being able to write about something–despite them not even knowing what they’re complaining about.
Now, I do have to admit, publishers are getting better. I’m seeing more and more books with bisexual protagonists. Maybe not all of them have the explicit wording, but it’s stated in page that they “interested in both guys and girls” or “goes both ways” or something like that. But, the ways publishers are defining it excludes a large portion of bisexual people, as well as non-binary people. That doesn’t go to say that the book or author is enbymisic, but it does still show a close-mindedness of the publishing industry.
There’s ALSO the people who say we should be satisfied with the rep we get. I should be satisfied with the few mainstream books with non-binary characters, even if it doesn’t say they’re non-binary, even if they screw up pronouns, or explanations, or definitions. But why should I be satisfied with something that isn’t even correct? Why should I be satisfied with rep that technically doesn’t even pertain to me? I’m not genderfluid! Why should I be happy with genderfluid rep! Yes, I’m glad to have gotten it, but it’s not rep that relates to me personally.
Publishers need to learn that there are more letters than LGT to the LGBTQIA+ community. Publishers need to learn that some rep is not the best rep. Publishers need to learn that showing the world’s diversity is a step towards acceptance from a wider variety of people. (Hopefully.)