I avoid the topic of LGBT books as much as I can on my blog, but frankly, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of pretending I don't write LGBT fiction. I'm tired of worrying about offending people. I'm tired of brushing it off like these books are just side projects and not books I really love. So today, we're going to talk about it. Well, I am, anyway, and you can read along.
Falling From The Sky. I love this book. I love it. I don't say it enough, but I love this book, and these characters, and the way their story unfolds. Micah Youngblood will always be "my first love" as an author. I wish more people would read this book. I wish I was braver so I could tell people about it. I wish all these slash-reading fanfic lovers would be as open to LGBT stories as they are to Larry Stylinson sexy fanfics. (C'mon, you know Directioners love that stuff.)
When I queried this book, it ultimately failed. And then a lot of people weighed in to tell me what the problem was. 1) You should've made Micah a girl, and 2) No one reads LGBT because they don't believe in it.
I understood, sickeningly, where point #2 came from. This is what local people told me. I lived in the Bible Belt of Mississippi, where people can't understand that there's a whole world of diversity out there. But I couldn't understand the first point. People - other writers - actually told me to rewrite the book with Micah as a girl. I was told that YA contemporary romance from a guy's POV was extremely rare, and I could capitalize on this. The story was there - Micah just needed to be a girl. Just strip out the LGBT angst, focus on Ridge trying to find happiness again, and ditch Micah completely.
WHAT!? Just literally, WTF?! The worst part? I heard this from more than one person. (No, I'm not in contact with any of those people anymore.) That's like saying, "Oh, hey, you don't like your sexual orientation? Just have a sex change." Or "Sorry you're angsty over being a gay dude. Just change your boyfriend to a chick. Problem solved." UM. NO. Forget the industry or what sells or what readers want. Forget all of that. People need these books. People need stories like Micah's and Ridge's. People need these kind of characters and situations and issues and happy endings. #WeNeedDiverseBooks, yes? YES.
No one pointed out Ridge's passive voice or the fact that the first three chapters needed to be cut. No one bothered to tell me that Terrence needed to be more involved in the book or that Ridge was flat. No one told me the things that could've fixed the book. These were things I realized three years later reading it on my own and trying to salvage a story I loved. The only thing anyone pointed out was that the book would sell better if Micah was a girl.
This is not okay. This is not acceptable. I've seen too many people online who say, "I don't read LGBT." When I ask if they're open to it, many say 'yes.' They just haven't. This needs to change. We're open to reading fantasy and sci-fi and paranormal. We're open to reading about drugs and sex and abuse. We're open to reading about first loves and friendships and coming of age. We're open to reading about tough stuff like rape or suicide.
So why are we so shut off from reading about people who are part of the LGBT community? Why are we so shut off from LGBT characters? You don't believe in gay rights? That's cool - that's your problem. You may not believe in underage drinking or premarital sex or suicide. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It doesn't mean those people don't exist. They do. They're real. They're your friends and family and co-workers. They're the people taking your order at restaurants or treating your health issues or singing to you on the radio. They're the people who stop in the pouring rain to help you fix a flat tire. Sometimes, they're even the people sitting next to you in church. They're human, just like you, and no one should ever be told that a character in his/her book should be the opposite sex for such an insensitive, closed-minded reason.
I challenge you, reader. If you're open to reading LGBT, don't just say it. Prove it. Use this month and take the plunge. Crack open that LGBT YA (or NA) you've had on your TBR forever now. Download (legally) that LGBT novel you've been on the fence about. Or ask me for a copy! I'll send you an e-copy of Falling From The Sky for free. No review required. It's a great 'beginner' book for people who haven't read LGBT and are unsure if they're comfortable with it. There's no sex, no BDSM, no erotica. As much as I love Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, it's much milder than Brokeback Mountain. So you have no excuse. If you're open to reading LGBT and want to give it a try, you have a free book offer right here and now. Take the plunge. I DARE YOU.