Gay Teens in YA Science Fiction and Fantasy
EW timeline of gay teen characters, I’m struck by one thing. Willow and Tara (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are the only gay young adults on a speculative fiction show. There aren’t that many gay adult characters on science fiction or fantasy TV shows either. Captain Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones on Torchwood. Sam Adama on Caprica. Camille Ray on Stargate Universe. A handful. The Star Trek universe was seemingly inhabited solely by straight people, a fact that Brannon Braga, the producer of many of the Star Trek franchises, recently admitted that he regretted.
This all got me thinking about gay teens in young adult (or middle grade) science fiction and fantasy. Gay and lesbian kids do seem to be represented in contemporary YA fiction (at least to some extent). For example, one of the Will Graysons in WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON is gay. The book was nominated for a Stonewall Award, which the American Library Association gives to young adult books of merit to GLBT teens.
Why does this matter? We, as writers, have the opportunity to build futures and/or societies in which gay teens (really all teens of any background) are represented—and not just as “issues” (that is, unless that issue is central to your book) but as integral parts of the world. That does at least two things.
First, it builds tolerance. GLAAD president, Jarrett Barrios, put it well. He told EW, “This increasing number of storylines makes it impossible to assume there are no gay people around you. It makes it uncool to be a bully.”
Second, it builds hope. During a round table discussion about Battlestar Galactica, Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama) related a story about the importance of representing Latinos on the show. A friend called him about a year after the show hit the air. Her 12-year-old nephew was so excited about the show. The kid told her, “We’re in the future. We’re in the future.” (You can see that video here.)
Imagine NOT be able to see yourself (or someone like you) in the future. We have the power to change that.
Can you guys think of any other YA/MG titles with gay characters in recent years? I'm hoping I've just missed quite a few.
(btw, when I use "gay" above I'm including lesbians. Most of the time.)
The League of Extraordinary Writers is a group of debut YA authors who write science fiction and dystopian works. The ten of us have works that run the gamut of near-future mind control to far-future space travel, but they do have one thing in common: a future where the Earth we know now is twisted, gone.