Seriously, this is a question that has been plaguing me for the past couple weeks or so. (I was also partly inspired by this post from the book wars, which is well worth a read). In the literature that I read as a child – where were the lesbians? Bearing in mind, I lived in a quite conservative part of the world, and it was the 90s – but still. Surely there was at least one?!
I’ll be honest – I can’t think of any. In retrospect, I probably read Aunt Elinor from the Inkheart series as queer, but I was too focused on her obsessive love of books to give it much thought. I also read the Sherlock Holmes stories as a bit of a romance between Holmes and Watson. What can I say, all that ‘platonic’ bed-sharing, as well as the Three Garridebs story, just did it for me. (Any other fans out there?!)
The first book with out and proud gay characters I actively remember reading is Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. This was published in 2012. I was a pretty big John Green fan at the time (I was 16, ssh), so I’m pretty sure I read it soon after its initial publication. All I remember is quite a lot about gay musicals, which, thinking back on it, probably wasn’t the most well-rounded introduction to gay characters that I could have had. Ah, well.
Other than that? There was Thirteen from the TV series House (2004-2012), and Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who (his character appearing in Doctor Who and Torchwood from 2005-2011). I love both of these characters, I really do. Seeing Jack kiss Rose and the Doctor the same way (if you’re a Who fan, you know the scene) really changed my perspective about what was acceptable – and it helped that he was a cheeky bastard, to boot. *sigh*
As for other LGBT+ narratives? I once watched a movie about a transgender woman at school, but it was one of those awful sob stories. To put it in perspective – the whole narrative was based around catching her killer, and included graphic details about the hate crimes that were committed. To balance that, however, my parents were also great fans of Eddie Izzard, a comedian who has self-defined as a transvestite, as well as a “male lesbian”. In that respect, I think I was educated about gender, and the fluidity of gender from a fairly early age.
I think that the relative lack of representation I encountered as a child and a young adult is one of the main reasons why I am dedicated to reading LGBT+ literature today. It almost feels like I need to make up for all the lost characters, the lost time, and the lost sense of belonging. I’d definitely be interested in reading more LGBT+ children’s and middle grade fiction to see what current generations have that I just didn’t.
Have any recommendations? Please let me know!