Originally posted at Making Stuff Up For A Living. Thanks to Saundra for allowing us to repost!
By: Saundra Mitchell
When sister Deb Jessica Verday told us that her editor for WICKED PRETTY THINGS insisted that the G-rated, one-kiss gay romance in her story had to become a het romance to be published, I was appalled, but not surprised.
I came out in 1989, and as a YA author, I try not to spend a lot of time pointing out how much older I am than my audience. But even though 1989 seems recent to me, it’s more than two decades ago. The world has changed considerably since then.
In the 80s, we were still looking for acknowledgement. It was a big deal just to get the world to acknowledge our existence, to even admit we were real. That denial is what allowed the AIDS crisis to explode the way it did- Reagan turned a blind eye to it, because it was an invisible and outcast people who mainly suffered from it.
There’s a reason our early protest chant was “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” It was still a shock to the mainstream that we existed at all. Then on top of it, they had to wrap their heads around it.
So even though coming out in my house was easy, being out was manifestly different in 1989 than it is now. I didn’t have an expectation then that being queer should be acceptable to the world at large. I got used to negotiating first kisses so they happened in private places, instead of enjoying them as they bloomed spontaneously.
As a writer, I understood that my short fiction had to be straight to be published, unless I asked permission. Unless an editor was looking to give a dispensation and get brownie points for being daring.
Twenty two years is a long time. I’m an old dog, and it never occurred to me to stopasking if I could submit queer fiction. Even though I was nominated for a Pushcart for a genderqueer story, even though times have changed- I was still asking. Until Jessica Verday, who’s straight, and has nothing particular to gain by writing a romantic gay faerie tale, just did it.
And was rebuffed for it. And fought back in public.
As I had two stories coming out in Constable & Robinson and Running Kids Press anthologies this year, I wrote to the editors at both houses expressing my support for Jessica.In that letter, I said, “In this day and age, Jessica Verday shouldn’t have to ask permission to write a YA story that features LGBT characters.”
It didn’t occur to me- because sometimes I’m slow that way- that in this day and age,neither should I.
I’ve withdrawn my short story “Tromsø by Polar Night” from Trisha Telep’s THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE- but I’m very proud to say that my story for C&R/RPK’s TRUTH & DARE is still on.
That editor, Liz Miles, not only encouraged me to write in an experimental form, her call of entry specifically asked for stories with LGBT content. And I’m so grateful for allies like Jessica Verday. She had nothing to gain and a lot to lose in this, but she did it anyway because it was right.
Thanks for teaching this old dog a new trick, Jessica.