Those of you who have read my novel, know that there are a couple of gay characters. Even though Semester Aboard is YA, there are a few of you out there who know I’ve written much steamier m/m stuff (some of you even know where to find it). Most of that was put out in m/m forums and communities where everyone reading it was there because they love some good boys getting together. So, when it came time to publish Semester Aboard people started asking me, “Are you going to put warnings that there are gay characters?”
That got me thinking about warnings and disclaimers. I’ll be honest here, if we’re talking about an erotic novel, I think there should be warnings. Now, that isn’t to cater to the homophobic crowd, not at all. Most people, I would imagine, read erotica for a bit of pleasure. People have their kinks and their squicks. I, personally, don’t read f/f erotica. If I were to pick up a book for erotic reading that was nothing but f/f, I honestly would put it back down. Homophobic? How’s this, I don’t read F/m either. *Note the F there is capitalized and the m is not. Also, not my thing. So, in terms of erotica, I’d like warnings relating to what’s going on.
But, warnings for a YA novel? Hell no. I see zero reason to put WARNING: GAY BOYS on my book. I’ve never seen a book that says WARNING: BLACK PEOPLE or WARNING: BUDDHIST PEOPLE or WARNING: PEOPLE EATING PEANUTS. The only people who would avoid my book because of that warning are people I wouldn’t want reading it anyway. So, needless to say, I left the warning off. I’ve been braced to get some ignorant people reviewing it, but so far (*crosses fingers*) I have yet to hear from any.
However, something interesting happened. A blogger reviewed my book, gave it a good rating, yadda yadda. A couple of weeks later I saw a post on her blog discussing a similar topic: should reviews of books with gay characters warn readers? In her (very evasive) answer, she mentioned that she had recently reviewed a book with homosexual characters and decided not to warn readers in her review. Her reason, and I quote, was “the author did not glorify or promote the homosexual lifestyle”. I really wasn’t sure how to react to that.
My initial reaction was to be pissed off, because that reeks of homophobia. But after I calmed down, I actually took it as a compliment. For one thing: she’s right. I didn’t glorify a gay relationship. Here’s why – there’s nothing to glorify. It’s a relationship. It’s just as good and bad and wonderful and heartwarming and heartbreaking as a straight relationship. I have no reason to lift a gay relationship above any other, because it’s just two people in love, regardless of gender.
As for “promoting” it: I feel that simply by having a gay relationship in my novel I’m making the statement that I’m not against it. I can’t imagine a homophobic person doing that. But, again, I didn’t “promote” it because I wrote it exactly the way I would any other relationship. It’s like that meme I’ve seen floating around:
The other reason I took that comment as a compliment, was that she gave me a good review. This blogger clearly wasn’t a major supporter of gay rights, but the fact that she read my book, liked it, and even positively reviewed it, even though there were gay characters, gives me a little hope for the world. I’d like to think that I got into her head a little bit. And maybe somewhere down the road, she’ll have a chance to do something homophobic and maybe she’ll think of my book. And maybe she’ll do the right thing instead.
It gave me this not-so-silly little fantasy that someday someone else will pick up my novel. Maybe they’ll be a little homophobic too. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be interested enough in the plot to read it despite the gay characters. And maybe when they’re done, they’ll feel a little different about things.
Before I get down off of my soapbox. I wanted to say that I’ve also gotten a lot of people saying they love the way that I wrote my boys’ relationship. The love the fact that I didn’t make a big deal of them being gay, they just are. And I’m really happy about that, because that was exactly what I was going for.
And now, I’ll leave you with a picture I stumbled across and tweaked a bit. Thanks for listening.
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