I grew up, by virtue of gay friends and family members, bonded to the gay community. I was often the only straight girl in the room.
Emphasis on straight girl.
Now that I’m writing YA, I still feel like I have that taped to my chest like a name tag. I’m not generally forthcoming about my personal life in this respect—for complicated reasons, I would no longer call myself, in any situation, the only straight girl in the room—but I am very clearly not a gay male, and many of my books, particularly by 2012 love story GONE, GONE, GONE, have major gay male characters.
Writing it was completely comfortable, and GONE, GONE, GONE remains one of my favorite things I’ve written. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that what I was doing was wrong. And not in the way you might think.
Because the truth is…I love writing gay characters. And is some of that because I feel much more comfortable writing guys, and this eliminates the need to write a female love interest? Absolutely. Is part of it because I strongly believe that there need to be more gay main characters, not only in YA, but in contemporary fiction as a whole? Of course. Is it because I believe that we need books about gay characters that aren’t coming out stories? Yes. Yes yes and yes.
Is it because I think it’s something I know better than the other amazing YA writers tackling books about gay main characters?
No. How could I? We have amazing gay men writing amazing gay male books. And I write lesbians, too. It’s only very recently that I’ve realized what a zillion people have already figured out; there’s a ridiculous dearth of lesbians in YA. But there are also a zillion women who know more than I do. Who have experienced more than I have.
Who have more of a right to tell those stories.
The feeling that what I’m doing is wrong is a feeling of guilt. That I’m part of the problem. Not the larger, religious right, discriminatory problem, but that same niggling feeling I get when I watch Queer as Folk. I fucking love Queer as Folk. But do I really want to be the girl who squeals over gay guys? Isn’t there something so very straight girl in the room about that?
There’s this feeling I can’t entirely shake, and it’s that I’m encroaching on someone else’s territory.
But the funny thing about books is that it’s pretty impossible to have too many. My stories don’t preclude anyone else’s. We are very far away from having any sort of problem with “too many gay characters” in YA.
So I’m probably delusional.
And I’m probably not stepping on toes.
And as a self-identified queer girl, I should probably shut up and kiss whomever I want and write make out scenes for my boys, because these are my characters and these are the love stories I have to tell.
And I will. But I still wish I could really get rid of the guilt.