According to a 2011 UCLA study, about 11% of Americans admit to having experienced same-sex attraction. Malinda Lo did some research, and after looking at the statistics, I was shocked to find that only “94 YA books published in 2013 include LGBT main characters or are about LGBT issues.” Since approximately 5,000 YA titles were published in 2013, that means approximately 1 in 50 books contained an LGBT main character or involved LGBT issues.
That’s not even close to representation.
Some people like to argue that publishing LGBT YA isn’t lucrative because cishet readers don’t want to read about queer people. What those people don’t understand is that queer people consume all kinds of media that contains only straight people in it – just as much as cishet people consume it. In my experience, my cishet friends read just as much as my queer friends do – and my cishet friends read queer lit! If LGBT people are expected to consume straight media without complaint, then why shouldn’t straight people be expected to consume queer media?
When interviewing tumblr users about their views on why lesbian fiction is important, Harmony Ink Press’s KT Grant noted that it’s not just important because lesbians exist, but also because “it’s hope for the future and inspiring confidence and teaching teenagers about the world and slowly but surely bringing about change.” Queer media isn’t just important for queer people; it’s important for everyone.
So what can you do about it? Well, you can start off by buying and reading some more queer books. YALSA has a fantastic guide on getting started with all kinds of different genres.
Whatever books you read, review them, share them, get other people to notice. Give your favorite YA book to a friend and make them read it. Make them pass on the message.
For publishers, demand matters. Money matters. So the best way to get the Big Six publishers to start carrying more LGBT YA books is to buy LGBT YA books.
The disparity between the number of queer people and the number of books that contain them is reprehensible. We are living in the twenty-first century, and yet we still do not have proper representation of the queer community.
It’s time to change that.