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Pride Reads - name fav YA LGBTQ > 5 - Does a queer sexual orientation book need to include romance?

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message 1: by Kaje (last edited Jun 03, 2018 02:57PM) (new)

Kaje Harper | 16812 comments Does a queer sexual orientation book need to include romance? Do we have to see a character in a relationship to affirm their sexual orientation? Is just stating an identity enough in some other kind of plot or do they at least need internal dialog related to attraction happening throughout the book, to feel authentic/sufficient in rep?


message 2: by Tyler (new)

Tyler J Gray (wickedjr89) Personally I feel just stating it is enough. Us queer people don't need a romance to be queer or to be valid. I mean I enjoy romance but it isn't a requirement for me.


message 3: by Iamshadow (new)

Iamshadow | 334 comments Also, if we're talking teenage years, how many of us had crushes on celebrities, unavailable people, or more than one person at once, that never led and were never going to lead to an actual romance? It's part of figuring out who you are and who you like. I think you could have a story about that, a story about feeling out your preferences.


message 4: by Rez (new)

Rez Delnava (rez_delnava) It depends on what sub-genre we're dealing with. YA-contemporary it would almost be required (unless the MC is aro/ace, or other very specific circumstances) because I know of very few teens who haven't had a crush. Other genres (sci-fi/action/fantasy/etc.) I could easily see those going without a romantic subplot, but I think would be hard to emotionally resonate those characters as queer without some allusion to romance.


message 5: by Iamshadow (new)

Iamshadow | 334 comments Rez wrote: "...I think would be hard to emotionally resonate those characters as queer without some allusion to romance."

There are thousands of books with straight people that aren't about romance, but we know their orientation. Why should it be required to prove queerness with romance?

Also, it's kind of reductionist to assume that YA 'needs' a romance because teenagers have crushes. I read a LOT of YA, and you get lots of great books in YA that aren't about falling in love. They're about school, about having special powers, about meeting aliens/cryptids, about family or family breakdown, about finding your way to another land, about meeting a ghost, about bullying or sexual abuse, about sleuthing, about friendship. About figuring yourself out.

For a while, it seemed there wasn't a film or book that had a gay character that didn't address HIV/AIDS, like they were inextricable, and that to talk about one you had to talk about the other. Now, there's an idea that we have to meet Relationship GoalsTM. They're like straight relationship goals, but in a gay hat. And yeah, for a lot of people, they want to fall in love, to find someone, to have sex. But other people want different things, or just plain don't want or aren't ready yet for romance, and there is an unlimited wealth of stories out there that can be told without romance but with queer characters. Why restrict ourselves?


message 6: by Kaje (new)

Kaje Harper | 16812 comments At the same time, we talk about queer-baiting if a book or film just says "Jack was gay" but never ever shows Jack having sexual or romantic thoughts about another man, or doing anything with another man. So the extent to which we accept a simple label as being enough to designate a queer character is not cut and dried.


message 7: by Skye (new)

Skye | 14 comments Great question. For my 2 cents -- can't we have both? I love a good story where the queer character has a relationship or at least gets some flirting, but where the main plot isn't about romance.


message 8: by Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~ (last edited Jun 07, 2018 08:49PM) (new)

Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~ (linda2485) | 340 comments Kaje wrote: "At the same time, we talk about queer-baiting if a book or film just says "Jack was gay" but never ever shows Jack having sexual or romantic thoughts about another man, or doing anything with anoth..."

That’s not queer-baiting though. Queer-baiting is implying that Jack might be gay via subtext, and maybe even giving him a male best friend who he could possibly be more than just friends with, but never actually taking that step to confirm he's gay, much less let him and his friend be in a romantic relationship with each other. They can have long, meaningful stares, but only if there are girls around for them to ogle and confirm their straightness. It’s teasing the possibility of gay/queer rep while also allowing for plausible deniability to not upset the mainstream audience.

But if they say "Jack is gay" then he's gay whether he's ever in a relationship or not, and it’s not queer-baiting.

Take Dean and Cas on SPN versus Carter on Spin City for instance. One has been queer-baiting us for nine seasons and counting. The other never did.


message 9: by Iamshadow (new)

Iamshadow | 334 comments Linda ~ chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny ~ wrote: "
But if they say "Jack is gay" then he's gay whether he's ever in a relationship or not, and it’s not queer-baiting. "


First episode of White Collar, the character Diana is clearly stated as gay, when Neal tries to flirt with her and Peter pretty much says, "You're wasting your time there and this is why." And yeah, she gets a girlfriend later and such, but it's one of the best unequivocal statements of orientation I've seen. There is occasional story stuff to do with her dating, but mainly, her story is about being a great FBI agent, and later, when single, she has a baby with an anonymous sperm donor because she wants to be a parent. She is out, she's respected, and her sexuality is never treated as a joke. The only question Neal has is, "I thought you guys were don't ask don't tell?" and Peter replies, "That's the military. We're the FBI. We don't ask, we don't care."


message 10: by Rez (new)

Rez Delnava (rez_delnava) I will admit that was pretty reductionist of me to imply contemporary YA needs romance.

But I'm standing by my statement about emotional resonance for sexual identity needing romantic allusions (if not plot). If an editor could strike through one or two passages that defined a character as queer, and leave my feelings for the character unchanged and not have the plot effected… it just comes off as a cheap attempt at being PC or inclusive, leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I know someone is going to bring my comments about Tanner in Autoboyography up (bi/pan people often having to tell, not show and all that), the difference is that Tanner gets angry and defensive about it. And I know I'm walking a fine line of reasoning here, but I consume books exploring all my feelings with the characters, cutting Tanner's bisexuality and few allusions to his romances would change how I feel about the character (emotional resonance).


message 11: by Iamshadow (new)

Iamshadow | 334 comments Rez wrote: "I will admit that was pretty reductionist of me to imply contemporary YA needs romance.

But I'm standing by my statement about emotional resonance for sexual identity needing romantic allusions (..."


It's a personal taste thing, I think. I freely admit I'm on the ace spectrum, still had crushes from at least the age of ten onwards (on both boys and girls), and wouldn't have minded a partner sooner than I got one. But my path was heavily dictated by gendered expectations, child sexual abuse and religion. I think that if I'd had a less confused path to sexual and romantic awakening, I might have done things differently and felt less pressure to conform. And as for books, well, I have to admit I was never a romance kind of person. I read more of it now than I used to, but I'd still prefer a six hundred page fantasy novel to anything with a heavy romance plot. I'm interested in character development and story, and you can have those in spades without romance involved. I get excited when a queer character is on the page, but I don't need them to be romantically involved for the representation to work for me. It's enough if the queerness is stated, and that they're not a one-dimensional accessory to a straight person that (probably) winds up dead. I do get very tired of that.


message 12: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany No. Insisting romance is necessary for such books is excluding aromantic people, and if we'll allow aromantic characters to not have a romance, it's not fair to insist everyone else must.
That's philosophically speaking. In practice, I would prefer a book in which the protagonist is not aromantic and in which sexual orientation is very important (as was implied) to have a romance. Show don't tell, you know. But it's not necessary.


message 13: by Kaje (new)

Kaje Harper | 16812 comments Tiffany wrote: "No. Insisting romance is necessary for such books is excluding aromantic people, and if we'll allow aromantic characters to not have a romance, it's not fair to insist everyone else must.
That's ph..."


That's an excellent point.


message 14: by Meghan (last edited Jul 17, 2020 11:05AM) (new)

 Meghan (mm_reads) | 76 comments It seems like like we get affection, friendship, and lust tangled up as romance. It would have been nice to see a greater range and combination of those available before later adolescence. It's better now than in the 80s. And I had the benefit of semi-hippy parents in 70s.

"Free to be you and me"
:D


message 15: by Meghan (last edited Jul 17, 2020 11:09AM) (new)

 Meghan (mm_reads) | 76 comments Actually, I wish there had a been a large body of YA books that focused more on the variety of different friendships. There's TOO much romance interwoven in YA writing regardless of orientation, like 85% (that's not scientific).


message 16: by Mere (last edited Jul 14, 2021 04:01PM) (new)

Mere Rain | 65 comments Iamshadow wrote: "There are thousands of books with straight people that aren't about romance, but we know their orientation. Why should it be required to prove queerness with romance?

Also, it's kind of reductionist to assume that YA 'needs' a romance because teenagers have crushes. I read a LOT of YA, and you get lots of great books in YA that aren't about falling in love."


I'm 100% with Iamshadow on this one. Queer characters should be as legitimate without romance or sex as straight characters are. Single queer people are equally queer. No one, queer or straight, needs romance or a relationship to validate their identity. And people (fictional OR real) who are virgins or aren't in a relationship are not missing some vital part of being a complete, happy person, unless that's something they want for themselves.
[I have a whole rant about how toxic I think the pressure to be in a relationship is, but this probably isn't the place for it.]

I liked how in The Bone Key: The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth there are a dozen stories taking place over years, and the MC being gay is only mentioned like twice, when it is relevant.

I think we also need more queer characters who have a spouse or ex in the background, where the romance or sex is not the focus but the relationship exists. You know, like how all of us have many straight acquaintances who are not hot or flirty and are married to people they mention only once in a while. ;)


message 17: by Ay (new)

Ay  (amazonaute) | 19 comments The short answer is “no”. It’s helpful though if the reality of the queer MC is a reasonable reflection of queer reality. I mean, if you have an MC who is 14, what is the general deal around 14 year olds and sexuality/romance?

I’m couching it in those terms because I am asexual. When I was in my teens I would have loved to have books with teenage protagonists who were like me - where sex was the thing “you were meant to be interested in” and I had crushes, but had no (and still don’t) have sexual urges and needs myself.


message 18: by Sally ✨ (new)

Sally ✨ (tratiezone) | 7 comments No, and I am enjoying quite some Brazilian books that follows this idea: just queer people doing normal things, magical things, saving the world or whatever


message 19: by Kaje (new)

Kaje Harper | 16812 comments Sally ✨ wrote: "No, and I am enjoying quite some Brazilian books that follows this idea: just queer people doing normal things, magical things, saving the world or whatever"

We need more YA like that IMO.


message 20: by Sally ✨ (new)

Sally ✨ (tratiezone) | 7 comments well, we have the Nevernight trilogy, The Starless Sea, Ace of Spades, K. Ancrum books. I think they have romance, but it's not a big thing, since I can barely remember


message 21: by Mere (new)

Mere Rain | 65 comments Ay wrote: "The short answer is “no”. It’s helpful though if the reality of the queer MC is a reasonable reflection of queer reality. I mean, if you have an MC who is 14, what is the general deal around 14 year olds and sexuality/romance?

I’m couching it in those terms because I am asexual. When I was in my teens I would have loved to have books with teenage protagonists who were like me..."


Have you read Nicole Kornher-Stace? Her protags seem to be mostly ace, or at least focused on helping their friends or fighting evil or whatever to the exclusion of thinking about romance.


message 22: by Jacob (new)

Jacob Sutherland Not really. Depends. I typically prefer Gay books to be romantic because it heats things up for me but that's just me. Most men I know are bi sexual and when reading a story with queer content they prefer it to have romantic themes I know


message 23: by Meghan (last edited Nov 25, 2022 12:09PM) (new)

 Meghan (mm_reads) | 76 comments I read mainly read gay scif-fi/fantasy, adult and YA, but I also like found-family stories with queer MCs a lot. One of the reasons I truly enjoy YA stories is because they are usually more story-driven rather than romance. Honestly, adult "romance" becomes tedious after a while.

As an aside on romance vs story, I recently re-read Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight and it has WAY more romance in it than I remember as a kid. That was kind of lame, lol. I think I liked it at the time because it was harder to find female action MCs.


message 24: by Brooklyn (new)

Brooklyn Graham | 59 comments I find there is a preponderance of romance built into any book that deals with a characters that are LGBTQi. As a lesbian author of romance, I am guilty as charged, lol. There are some out there though. Sarah Waters has a few books that are far from being considered romances that have gay characters in them. Another is Cari Hunter, although there is some smatterings of a relationship in them they are far from romances, and are mostly crime/thriller. I'm certain there are many more.
Brooklyn


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