Standing On My Soapbox: Gay Characters

Well, I finally gave my discussion posts a name, since they’re turning less into discussions and more into rants. Standing On My Soapbox seemed to be an accurate term for the stance I take every Thursday. I’ll get a graphic for it soon enough, once I get picmonkey working on my new computer (a MacBook!!!), but for now we’ll be bland.

Anyway. This weeks SOMS is *drumroll please* gay characters in books. It seems to be the hot topic for me this week, from my Liebster award rant to my grumbling in my Top Ten Tuesday post, I figure I should probably dedicate an entire post to the subject so I can get it out of my system and stop bringing it up over and over again.

Now obviously this is a huge problem in today’s society and is hotly debated everywhere, so I’ll try to be as sensitive as I can. I really do apologize if I offend anyone, and if you disagree with my statements, kindly explain why in the comments below.

Let me try to sum up my main points right now, and then break them down in the further paragraphs.

  1. If you make it a problem, it will be a problem. Don’t make it a problem, and it won’t be a problem! Simple as that.
  2. Don’t let a character be defined by their sexuality. If they’re gay, so be it, but that isn’t the only label they ascribe to.
  3. Don’t resort to stereotypes of the gay community. Not everyone is Neil Patrick Harrison. Not every gay man loves to shop and wear ascots. Not every lesbian dresses like a man and has no interest in feminine clothing or makeup. Just stop the stereotypes in general, to be honest – straight or gay.

Wow, what a difficult concept, right?? Not.

#1. Don’t make it a problem, and it won’t be a problem. This right here is my main point. Ever watched Teen Wolf? You should, if your answer is no. Don’t be put off by the cheesy title. Back to my point. Teen Wolf has a character named Tyler, and he is unashamedly gay. And guess what? No one makes a big deal about it. None of the characters are flipping out = I don’t get caught up in their emotions and get riled up with the “how dare they include a gay character on a tv show??” issue. No one is wigging out? Okay, I’m not wigging out. Tyler’s boyfriend breaks up with him – Stiles and Scott take him to a gay bar to get over it. It’s just what they do. 

The same thing happens with Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who. In fact, Ten’s final gift to Jack is setting him up with Alonso (correct me if I’m wrong, Whovians). Jack will get it on with whoever accepts him – male or female, human or alien. That’s just who he is, and no one questions it. No one makes a big deal about it, and it’s just one other facet of Jack, just like me having blue eyes is just a simple fact to accept.

See what I’m getting at here? If it isn’t treated as a problem, then the chances of me thinking it’s a problem automatically shrink down to .1%

#2. Don’t let a character be defined by their sexuality. Just as I don’t identify myself by being straight, why should the opposite be true? There is so much more to a person than their orientation. Plus, with how many different kinds of orientation (pan, bi, trans, gay, lesbian, etc) exist, do we really want to take the time to label every single minuscule difference? I’m romantically attracted to guys, but does the fact that I can look at a chick and say “Damn she’s hot” change the fact that ultimately I’d like a husband? Ah, no. It just means that I can appreciate the magnificent example of humanity that’s standing in front of me. If we were to analyze every different person I found to be attractive, we’d be lost forever trying to label my sexuality. Sometimes, it’s best just to leave it alone.

I ranted a bit there – sorry. Back to my point. If the first thing you do is say, “This is [insert character name], and he’s gay,” I’ll be put off immediately. Why lead with the gay? Why not lead with, “Hey, this is [character name], and he’s my best friend, confidant, and the most loyal and trustworthy person I’ve ever met.” Now, which introduction would you prefer? That’s what I thought.

#3. Don’t resort to stereotypes. This should just be a blanket statement for any character in the history of forever. Example: I am a straight woman. Does that mean I remain in the kitchen, stay at home and care for my kids (if I had any yet), and be the perfect housewife? Hell no! Just because I follow the traditional marriage route does not mean that I stick to the stone ages. Sure, I want my husband to provide for me, but if you think I’m going to be sitting on my butt all day, you’re sorely mistaken.

So when a gay man is presented as fairy-like, obsessed with fashion, prissy, and talks with a lisp, it’s just like, “Come on, really?” Really. Just, no. No. No. No. Same with lesbians: I know for a fact that there are some very feminine women that just so happen to like other women – not all of them are butch and do all they can to look like a man.

I hope this explained my position well enough. And I also hope this explains why I stay away from the LGBT books, just because I find that they stick to these examples as their tried-and-true formula. And I feel much better now that I’ve said my peace, to be honest.

Now it’s time to sound off and stand on your own soapbox. What are your thoughts on gay characters in books, especially YA literature? Do you think I’m totally off-base and want to strangle me, or do you agree with one or all of the points I’ve made and have a jar of cookies with my name on it in your home?

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30 thoughts on “Standing On My Soapbox: Gay Characters

  1. Awesome gifs by the way 😀 Damon & Rapunzel, I agree.

    I especially agree with the ‘defined by their sexuality.’ I hate it when that happens. It almost feels like it’s supposed to be a quality and it’s not. It’s not like you can be described as “someone who is loyal, sweet and gay.” It’s a preference and I don’t like it when it’s all in my face. An example that works: Blameless by Gail Carriger. One of the MC’s is a lesbian and I thought it was incorporated in such a good way.

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

    • I’ve actually never heard of Blameless.

      And that’s exactly what I meant! No one would ever introduce me as, “Kayla – geeky, a reader and blogger, and straight,” so why do that for everyone else?

  2. I’VE CREATED A MONSTER COMMENT! MUAHAHAHAHA >:D

    1. I’ve actually read a contemporary recently where when a guy named Finny confesses to his best friend that he’s gay and she’s just all like “that’s awesome” and just went on with life. While Finny did have some stereotypical traits (and in his defense, he was adorable and fit the story well), I liked that his being gay wasn’t mentioned every single time he was introduced to a scene.

    2. YES! A person’s sexual orientation only affects who they are attracted to, not their personality. So if there is a gay character in a book, he should be treated as a person, not as a strange creature that the author can proudly show off. Distinct, unique personality traits are way more interesting than “LOOK LOOK! THIS CHARACTER IS GAY!”

    3. Yup. You hit the nail on the head with that one.

    I’ve read quite a few LGBT books and quite a few of them are very good and have characters that are in no way stereotypical. Also, if you just want to dip your feet in the water, I could recommend you some books that have good LGBT characters but are not in the LGBT genre 🙂

    • See – exactly what I’m looking for! “Oh, that’s cool.” *move on my merry way*

      And I’m always open to reading a book that’ll change my perception of a genre/trope! Throw ’em at me 😉

      • *rubs hands together* Here’s a few:

        Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan– It is revealed that one of the side characters is homosexual. It isn’t revealed until the end, though, so there is plenty of time to get to know that character.

        Coda by Emma Trevayne– The main character, Anthem, is bisexual, but that trait never defines him as a character. Best part? Anthem reaches all the requirements you listed above 🙂 The story’s pretty amazing too (a dystopia with music playing an integral part of the book).

        Anything by Kelley York– Her contemporaries have great stories and her characters are great too. I would recommend you pick up Hushed first– it’s pretty dark and packs quite an emotional punch.

  3. First of all, if you’re worried that you might bore us all with your rants, don’t be! This blog is yours and yours alone, so you can do whatever you want and don’t need to care about us. 😉 And anyway, I love all rants, because everyone needs to rant at some point or another, right? And I feel people emphasize their points more when they rant, so that’s all the better.

    Now that that’s out of the way… A thousand times yes to this post! I have to admit that I haven’t read many books with gay characters in them, so I don’t feel about this as strongly as you do, but I like to think that I’ve read enough to be able to form an opinion. #3 ticks me off the most, though, because I’ve seen it occurring more and more often in books these days.

    I’m romantically attracted to guys, but does the fact that I can look at a chick and say “Damn she’s hot” change the fact that ultimately I’d like a husband? Ah, no. It just means that I can appreciate the magnificent example of humanity that’s standing in front of me.” — I totally LOL’d at this part. I do this all the time and I don’t find myself becoming attracted to women. At most, all I feel is envy because why must that person be more beautiful than I am the universe isn’t fair asfgjissduaisc

    You’re totally right, though. My best friend is gay (I’m just using this as an example to drive home my point, not to disagree with you), but I don’t make it a point to introduce him as that, because that’s not who he is. I don’t care if he’s gay or not — he’s my best friend, he’s an amazing person I can go to if I ever need a laugh, and best of all, he’s always there for me. THAT’S who he is. Besides, I don’t know what’s all the big fuss about a person’s sexuality anyway. There are so many of them for them to be called “different” anymore, so I can’t understand why people make such a huge issue out of it, when they are EXACTLY like us!

    The stereotypes — gosh, I feel for you. “So when a gay man is presented as fairy-like, obsessed with fashion, prissy, and talks with a lisp, it’s just like, “Come on, really?”” — I’ve seen this one the most, and it annoys the heck out of me. Either that, or the gay character is always the outcast of society because he’s gay. Which is how he and the MC, who also happens to be at the bottom of the social ladder in school — become fast friends.

    I have no problems with that. What I don’t like is that gay people are ALWAYS the outcasts. Have you noticed that? And I don’t only mean outcasts, as in, they don’t fit in with the popular group but still have their little circle of friends — no. This outcast doesn’t have ANY friends. At all. That’s worse than always being given a more feminine attitude, in my opinion.

    But yeah… um, I’m sorry for such a long comment. I didn’t know I had so much to say until I typed it all out, and now I’m not even sure I made sense. I may have just been repeating what you said without knowing it. T_T All the same, this post was brilliant. It needs more views and comments, and I’m so glad you took the time to type this all out, Kayla. Uh, I’ll just go now. 😛

    • NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR LONG COMMENTS AGAIN. I LITERALLY WAIT AROUND WONDERING WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO POP UP ON MY BLOG THE COMMENTS MAKE MY DAY SO SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND KEEP TYPING WOMAN.

      Now that we’ve covered that point…

      1. Exactly! I was watching Star Trek Into Darkness with a friend (it was like our second or third time hanging out), and there was a trailer for Catching Fire playing. My friend commented on how hot Jennifer Lawrence was, and said that she’s his celebrity crush, to which I immediately said, “Oh yeah she’s hot!” Or something to that effect. He immediately turned to me and asked straight out – “Are you bi?” It was absolutely hilarious! It was like, can’t I admit it when another girl is attractive? I mean, that’s what we do half the time – compare ourselves to one another. Obviously we’ve built up a list of what’s hot and what’s not. Duh!

      2. You have more life experience than I do! I’m only speaking hypothetically, since I don’t actually know any gay people that I’d consider friends (my cousin, but he and I don’t speak for reasons other than his sexuality).

      Thanks for stopping by! And refer to the all-caps paragraph if you need another refresher.

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  7. Yes! Brilliant post! =)

    It made me so angry when I read the first ‘House of Night’ book and Damien was immediately introduced as gay (apparently his only defining characteristic), and then later on one of the girls said he didn’t count as a guy, because he was gay. Right. And he was very much a stereotype.

  8. I was watching a show a little while ago when one of the female characters made some comment to her friend asking if the friend’s boyfriend had a sister just like him. I didn’t think much about it but later for some reason I was on the message boards for that show and people were going off. How dare they bring so much attention to her sexuality blah blah blah… if it was a girl asking about a brother then no one would have noticed.

    I don’t get why people care so much sexuality – both in fiction and real life. To be honest, I don’t care about anyone’s sexual preference except for my own and whoever I’m with romantically. I hate books that bring so much blah to it.

    I read David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing recently and yes, they talk about the societies view on gay relationships but for the characters themselves, I thought they were more true to people and less annoying about it all.

    Kurt on Glee annoys me for al lthe wrong reasons…. he’s a one issue character with eveything about how he views himself and how others view him based on his sexuality… that’s the type of character I hate.

    • People get so butthurt sometimes it’s ridiculous! Just… calm the heck down dang it!!!

      I’ve heard that Two Boys Kissing is a really good representation of a gay relationship. And I’ve also heard the same thing about Kurt – I haven’t seen the show, but I really hate “issue characters.” It’s just horrid writing.

  9. Oh you got a macbook!!!!! I love them. *swoon* And I also love this post. Accurate. All of it. Plus you referenced Doctor Who. Be still my heart.
    You are so right though. Sexuality shouldn’t be made a big deal of. It’s just a fact of a person, like the color of their hair. It hurts no one. Great post!

    • I love mine too! Even though the monthly payment is like taking a punch to the gut… repeatedly xD

      You’ve summed it up perfectly – it’s just another aspect of a person, just like hair or eye color.

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  11. Sorry that I’m late to the party, but I just found this post through your October wrap-up.

    I love when LGBT characters pop up in YA books,but I do agree that it needs to be done correctly. I actually recently made a post about YA books that include LGBT characters where the LGBT themes aren’t a huge part of the story.

    The Hex Hall trilogy by Rachel Hawkins is a good example. The main character’s roommate is a lesbian. She’s an outcast, yes, but only because she’s the only vampire in the school. She’s super girly and loves the color pink. Her back story is great, too, because it parallels the traditional vampire story (falling in love w/ a vampire a turning to be with them forever) but the only difference is that she fell in love with another girl.

    Abandon by Meg Cabot had another great gay character: Mr. Smith, the cemetery sexton. He’s an important mentor character for the main character, and then, over halfway through the book, he mentions his partner. I actually stopped and thought that maybe he was just one of those modern people who use the word partner even if they are straight, but no. Later on, his partner gets the name Patrick. And no one EVER makes a huge deal about it, even when Patrick enters the story. It’s so great!

    Magnus in the Mortal Instruments probably would have bothered me more w/ his stereotypical traits if Alec wasn’t there to balance him out. Because Alec is such a badass! lol

    I could go on and on, but I’ll stop right here so that I don’t take up any more space. If you’re ever interested in reading GOOD books either with or about LGBT characters, feel free to contact me. I know quite a few of the. 🙂

    • No worries! I’m glad it’s still relevant enough for people to comment even weeks later!

      I don’t like witches (or vampires) too much, but I’d love to read that story! And I’ve actually never read anything by Meg Cabot either…

      I LOVED Magnus – I always attribute his flamboyancy to his personality, not his sexuality. And their relationship is so perfect it’s really the reason I’m going to keep reading the books!

      And I’m totally open to suggestions whenever you want!

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