Teenage years can be a challenging and complex time. Through adolescence, a young person’s sexuality and gender identity develops. For LGBTQIA+ teens, feelings of isolation as a result of family and societal rejection can be damaging. Queer adolescent mental health can be helped by reading stories with queer representation.
A Changing World
Recognizing a growing demand for LGBTQ stories, the publishing industry has led the charge in lifting up queer-centric young adult fiction. At the same time, LGBTQ-themed books have been banned in many states because of content depicting race and sexuality.
The Guardian reports that 80% of the literature challenged in libraries and school districts contains queer characters. Critically acclaimed and important works like Beyond Magenta never reached their intended audiences, and authors across the U.S. have seen their invitations to schools and libraries rescinded because they support the inclusion of queer characters in fiction.
More and more queer young adult stories are positive and uplifting, instead of simply recycling tragic narratives about break free from conventional society. With works like the graphic novel Heartstopper and the classic Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a shift in the portrayal of queer characters in young adult literature shows the fun and hopeful nature of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Why Is Queer Representation Needed?
While teens increasingly turn to online sources for LGBTQ community and connection, queer young adult literature provides access to the LGBTQIA+ community in a way that can open up a new world of acceptance.
In his book, Good as You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 Years of Gay Britain, author Paul Flynn admits feelings of isolation as a teen. Flynn found an entry into the LGBTQIA+ community through gay playwright Joe Orton.
Flynn explains his love of Orton's plays as a teen allowed him to befriend members of the LGBTQIA+ community and take the first steps towards embracing his sexuality. In the 1980s, the U.K. Government banned the tracking of LGBTQIA+ culture in public schools, with Flynn finding his way to embracing queer culture through Orton’s books and plays.
LGBTQIA+ Members Are Around You
A study from 2017 reported that 1.3 million teenagers identified as members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the U.S. More than 11 million adults in the U.S. identified as LGBTQIA+. To deny queer representation in our libraries and schools is to erase a vibrant part of our communities. Failing to include LGBTQIA+ characters and stories like the powerful coming-of-age novel Not Otherwise Specified does a disservice to teens who need to see their identities validated.
If you are looking for books representing queer teens like some of the ones mentioned above, check Booksio online.