manifesta: (Rory/Logan Snuggle)
manifesta ([personal profile] manifesta) wrote2010-06-18 01:19 pm

LGBTQ stereotypes & YA fiction

Working steadily on part 2 of the romance series, but it's slow-going. There are a lot of empowering and disempowering characteristics in romance, and for every topic I elaborate on, there are even more details within that topic that I feel like I need to talk about, and on it goes. I might have a beta reader look over it; if anyone's interested, especially if you have some familiarity with LGBTQ characters and/or kink/BDSM in fiction, do let me know! (Short summary: there seems to be more LGBTQ characters and kink in erotica than there is in romance, and I think that says alotalotalot about how we perceive non-hetero/vanilla/etc. sexualities, as well as the current state of the industry, but I'm not as familiar with erotica and I'm trying to avoid making assumptions. Any thoughts would be appreciated.)

Malinda Lo (author of Ash) wrote a 5-part series of blog posts on avoiding LGBTQ stereotypes when writing YA fiction.
"In YA fiction today I often encounter secondary characters who are LGBTQ. This is a great development; it means that LGBTQ people are increasingly part of the story. Nina LaCour’s hold still has a particularly awesome secondary queer character in it.

"However, I also find the most stereotyping in secondary characters. I think this is because a secondary character, whether he’s a supporting character or simply a walk-on one, has less space on the page than a main character." #

From the comments:
"Too often we still see the coming out story ignore that most teens today not only have greater familiarity with queer people and issues, and have seen those issues debated in real life and on TV, in the news, etc., but many have already met someone they at least perceive to be queer and have greater access to support and queer culture. And so when someone comes out in their world, or they themselves acknowledge they might be/are queer, it is from a different place and context then it was even ten years ago, and certainly than it was fifteen or more years ago. And the coming out stories written about them need to take these changed realities into account." #


(Anonymous) 2010-06-18 10:10 pm (UTC)(link)
"there seems to be more LGBTQ characters and kink in erotica than there is in romance"

I don't read erotica so I can't offer any opinion on the differences between erotica and romance in these areas, but there are plenty of lesbian characters in lesbian romances, and plenty of gay characters in what are often termed "m/m" romances.

I have the impression that over the past few years there has been an increase in positive depictions of gay and lesbian secondary characters in romances featuring heterosexual protagonists, although there still aren't that many of them. I blogged about it a while ago: . Characters who identify as B, T, or Q rather than L or G are probably even rarer.

As for kink, I have the impression that it's more likely to be found in erotic romances than in other subgenres of romance.

(Anonymous) 2010-06-19 09:12 pm (UTC)(link)
"most romances shelved in the romance section are almost exclusively heterosexual, vanilla, etc. whereas "non-traditional romances" are shelved as erotica--or, as you say, in another category altogether, such as LGBTQ or African American"

There's definitely BDSM in some erotic romances, and erotic romance is a sub-genre of romance, and distinct from "erotica." Sylvia Day, one of the founders of Passionate Ink, the erotic romance chapter of the RWA, has described the differences between erotic romance and erotica here (

"I, too, think that kink/fetish is more likely to be found in erotica and its derivatives than anywhere. Which seems logical, but I think it also perpetuates the idea that people with kinks can't have relationships or lives that don't revolve around said kink."

Some romances don't actually have any sex scenes, so in that case perhaps one just doesn't know what kind(s) of sex the protagonists prefer? I suppose it would depend on the extent to which it affected their behaviour in the scenes portrayed outside the bedroom.

lea_hazel: Pride flag (Politics: GLBTQ)

[personal profile] lea_hazel 2010-06-19 06:54 am (UTC)(link)
The second point is good and important, and it galls me. Almost none of the queer characters I see in basically-straight fiction have any queer friends, they are always surrounded by straight people. Friendship and community are some of the most important aspects of my queer identity and my life, and I'm saddened that most queer characters never get to experience that sense of community.

Mostly I see readers ragging on works (especially fanfic) where there are too many gay characters, "why is everyone gay" etc. but in my experience, people self-select queer friends long before coming out. Having three of four close friends (for example) all come out at different stages strikes me as being quite natural and making perfect sense.

I hardly read any romance or erotica (or anything in between) but even I can tell that people view queerness as being innately kinky. Especially bisexuality, but there you have it. I imagine if there are any trans* characters they would be mostly in the erotica shelves as well, under all sorts of names that I'm not comfortable repeating.