by Francesca Lia Block
I’m often asked about my LGBTQ characters but it’s kind of like asking me about women and men, or teenagers and adults, in my books. They just happen to be who they are and they’re usually based on people I know and love. I don’t think about it consciously, though I do want to include a diverse array of characters and I believe it’s important to have more books about all under-represented people, including the LGBTQ community.
I guess I’m naive, or sheltered in my Los Angeles liberal world, but it always shocks me when controversy arises over my gay characters. For example, in 2009 when Baby Be Bop, a little coming out, coming-of-age fairy tale, fell under attack in West Bend, Wisconsin. A group of protestors wanted to stage a public burning. The librarians came to the book’s defense. Librarians rock.
When I wrote Love in the Time of Global Warming I wasn’t planning to make all four main characters LGBTQ but they just came out that way (no pun intended). One young reader said it bothered her that all four characters were LGBTQ. She said she thought at least one or two could have been straight. I’d imagine this is how LGBTQ kids feel like when they read books with all straight characters, over and over again.
Luckily my editor was supportive of the exclusively LGBTQ main characters in Love in the Time of Global Warming but other editors have been less so. One of them wanted me to remove a gay subplot. I fought to keep it, not only as a way to represent the gay community, but also as a necessary plot device to deepen the message of the book which was about the need for tolerance.
Recently, Michelle Tea asked me to tour with Sister Spit. I wasn’t able to get away for that long but I did appear with them at the Hammer Museum. As I read my poetry alongside Virgie Tovar, Nikki Darling, Myriam Gurba, Zackary Drucker, Mica Sigourney, Kate Schatz and Thomas Page McBee, I felt more at home in this warm, brilliant, sexy LGBTQ/feminist/outsider/artist community than anywhere.
I will keep writing LGBTQ characters as long as I love the LGBTQ people in my life. Which means: forever.