Okay but please can we stop praising books with queer characters where the plot doesn’t center around the character’s sexuality? Can we stop saying finally it’s about time and I loved how it wasn’t like A Thing and we need more like this.
Because like yes, it is frustrating when a character is defined solely by their sexuality. But the so-called “great representation” of a character not making a “big deal” about or even acknowledging their queerness hurts like hell. This is a real actual experience that I have and it is so important to see it in books. I’ve gotten so much more out of books where it does center around the character’s sexuality/gender identity— without them, I don’t think I would’ve figured out my identity until 30.
And seriously, this kind of shit leads to Dumbledore being named as the #1 queer character in YA. Because “No, he never officially comes out in the course of the series, but there are hints to the wizard’s sexuality. Not making Dumbledore’s sexual orientation define his character was an interesting and important choice for Rowling to make.” [emphasis mine]
And Petra from Beauty Queens’ being praised as a great trans character because she’s “not even revealed as a trans woman until later in the book.”
This tells us that if we make “A Thing” out of our identity (aka talking about it at all) we’re going to be defined by it, and are therefore uninteresting to cishets. That, if Petra had been out from the beginning, she wouldn’t’ve been interesting enough to keep the attention of a cishet so they had to be tricked into reading and caring about a trans character.
And yes, books where the plot does not revolve around a character’s angst over their identity are very important, because it reminds us there is more out there, that it will get better. But don’t you dare come at me with this “there need to be more queer characters who, like, don’t make a big deal out of their identity.” Because, my well-intentioned cishet friends, that is actually not good representation. There’s a difference between a character being casually queer and you wanting people to experience the same things as you have in life so you don’t have to be uncomfortable with what your privilege allows you.
Queer characters are for us. And as Sarah Stumpf of bisexual-books says, “If straight people get anything out it, then that is a neat perk.”
Stop silencing our voices. Stop praising something as representation that is actually shit. Just stop. And if you’re really interested in books that got it right, in what good queer representation looks like? Check out the aforementioned bisexual-books, fuckyeahlesbianliterature & thegayya. Check out readvitality! We’ve been in this fight a lot longer than you have, and although you still don’t seem to hear us, we are screaming.
So sit down, stfu, listen, and stop saying these things.