Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

Thanks for putting this together. And so wonderfully formatted!

The whole thing got so messy in such a short amount of time. I don't think anyone really wanted to admit that there was something wrong with the publishing world in regards to LGBTQ representation in YA, as noted by how quick many people were to unquestionably defend & support the agent's post. It's all well & good to defend LGBTQ content in YA and support diversity on twitter & blogs posts and so on, but when it comes to the crunch, the numbers back everything up. 1% is embarrassing. At the end of the day, we just need to support LGBTQ YA books with our wallets as well as our words. I've had worse reasons to buy more books!

Thanks. Re: formatting, this is one of those moments where I do not in the least regret dropping out of grad school, because 1) I clearly got sufficient learnings out of the classes I did take, and 2) oh dear God I do not want to pay to write things like this for a grade ever again.

I'm just so amazed by how violently everyone flip-flopped, particularly after the critical thinking that was afforded to the Wicked Pretty Things case. For some reason, this was a situation that people just really, really did not want to hear or believe in. And names weren't even named!

I don't want to believe that the agency account is untrue, but I cannot believe that Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith are lying. If you turn it into an issue of mutually exclusive truths--which was unnecessary in the first place--I have to believe the writers. As several people pointed out, if they were really doing this for publicity--if they were lying--the easiest thing to do would be to keep lying and swear up and down that this agency was not the one in question, rather than have someone try to "expose" them.

As for why they were motivated to speak out in the first place--scroll down that list of complaints I threw in. It goes on FOREVER. If they were hearing a similar number of complaints, I can see why you'd want to call for change. It made me want to, and I don't even have a dog in this race.

(Sorry, this isn't really in response to your comment. Apparently I have a lot of feelings about this.)

Nice summary! Thank you. :)

-The Gneech

*leans back satisfied and has a cup of tea* This post was fantastic. Thank you, Cleo. :)

I'm really, really uncomfortable with the tenor of Lindsay's post. So much of it sounds so much like she (and the people backing her up) are trying to blacklist or silence the authors insolved by painting them as diva-tastic troublemakers who wouldn't accept that their book sucked. It's not quite Chrictopher Navatril terriroty (. . . yet) but it seems to have been done in a similar spirit, and I don't like that at all.

And yeah- the agent/publisher response to the whole thing seems to run along the lines of "nuh-uh! I'm not a homophobe! The mean authors called me a bad word!" This is the opposite of constructive, especially since the authors never said that. They said "this is a systematic problem, and we need to address it." Making it All About Them is not only disengenous, it's also silencing and dismissing the people who are ACTUALLY being hurt by this- i.e. the gay teenagers.

I understand the tone of both her note and the agent's post itself: there's a lot of personal hurt there, and people are often compelled to say some really rough things when they want to defend others. My question is how present Joanna Stampfel-Volpe was for the actual conversation. I mean, she totally might have been there. If she wasn't and The Agent in Question simply told her the story, that's yet another telephone in the game, as it were. And it's not even that I think TAIQ is lying, either. I just think people involved are very invested in their own idea of themselves as good, not-homophobic people (which may also be objectively true), and it hurts to be told that well-meant advice was silencing, particularly if they don't see it that way. Maybe you even minimize what you actually said because you're afraid you've damaged the agency itself, and your defenders run with that. And so people come out with guns blazing, and the further we get into people's feelings and away from the event itself, the more distorted the story becomes.

That's what I think happened, at any rate.

God. I reblogged that announcement when it came out, and just...no. I can't wrap my head around it. Finding myself an author for the first time ever (of fanfic) and that fanfic being mostly of the slash variety, I'm really pretty incensed for the authors here. You can't just...flip a character's sexuality like turning off a light switch. Sure, it may not be the most important thing about who they are, but it is who they are. And doing so in service of sales to make people more comfortable with their own latent homophobia? Just feeds the ugly beast, no matter what the marketer's personal opinions might be.

Honestly, that anonymous comment was kind of a gift, because it was such a perfect illustration of why YA publishers are so anxious about LGBTQ content in the first place, as completely separate from any possible personal homophobia.

Thank you for putting this all together.

Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to sort through all the comments and posts and put this together. It's really helpful.

I also think it's useful to look at Stampfel-Volpe's post very carefully, and realize that there is not nearly as much difference in the actual content of what she claims they said to Smith and Brown as what people are taking away from it. I feel like everyone is focusing on, "Oh, they didn't MEAN to be homophobic" instead of the more insidious "Take out the gay character [for these dumb reasons]." I know you talk about that in the post, but I'm just baffled by people who seem to read Stampfel-Volpe's piece and come away with an idea that it makes what Brown and Smith say FALSE.

I mean, the agent doesn't actually say that they didn't talk about the gayness of the character, does she? She just says that all of those reasons were because of editorial comments and middle grade issues (which, by the way, when did we get the memo that ALL MG couldn't have even the barest hint of sexuality in it, no kissing, no crushes?). So what might be happening here is that Smith and Brown didn't include the excuses for the straight-washing because they felt it wasn't particularly relevant. Sadly, there's a subset of people who seem to feel that the excuses for people behaving in homophobic ways (who might not actually be homophobic) matter more than their actions.

I do wonder, though, if we could ask the agent explicitly (and it is strange that the agent in question didn't actually post this rebuttal, and adds a layer of obfuscation that doesn't sit well) about the part of the conversation where she supposedly said they could reveal the character to be gay in later books. It isn't addressed one way or another in the rebuttal, you'll notice.

Yeah, the only "evidence" that the original post was false is an assertion that "none of it is true," really. As Jane pointed out, it's also inconsistent, which is telling. And honestly, yeah--the "let him come out in later books" part is the crux of the issue to me. Either you had a conversation about minimizing the character's sexuality or you didn't, and it's clearly separate from the POV issue, which at least is an appropriate technical critique.

I've been hearing about this for days--both sides of the argument--and thank you, thank you so much for bringing all the fallout to one place for our convenience.

As a YA writing bisexual (not exactly closeted, not exactly out either), I often wonder how prominent to make my LGBT characters, or how relevent to make their sexuality to the story, and whether I'm writing them this way to fill a certain quota or because it's actually right for the story.

And that's before wondering what will happen once I finish edits, synopsis-writing, and work up the nerve to submit the damn thing.

Can I have a link for your books?

I'm thinking of doing a follow up post of where to purchase GLBTQ YA books.

Excellent job here. Glad to see it all laid out. I've known Rachel through mutual fandom friends for over a decade, and I lean strongly toward her version of events.

My main questions about the agency response are the same as yours: Was the agent who wrote it directly involved in the negotiations or working off the word of people who were? And did the agency's lawyers approve the post? Because it makes me think of words like "libel."

I don't know about the post itself, but the "hoax" tweet was so casually libelous that my patience with the whole business just snapped. Not that the poster was intentionally malicious, but it was just such a sign of how badly misconceptions were snowballing.

The post itself--I'm with Jane, there is no lawyer who would have approved that, and even Rose Fox wrote that she suggested an "alternative" statement. Which I'm guessing was like, please, hand me the rope you are about to hang yourself with, I can't watch you do this.

This is the best summary I've read on this subject, thank you for this.

I think this one of the problems with a lot of homophobia (and racism and sexism for that matter): it's a lot quieter and less conscious--it's not active hatred ("there should be no gay characters!") but something subtler and not necessarily badly intended* ("it's very hard to market gay YA"). I think it's part of why a lot of the changes that need to happen go so slowly.

(And yeah, great write-up.)

Yeah. I just really think--particularly having watched the WPT thing go down--that it's important to see that good people can do well-intended things that still need to be reconsidered. Otherwise, it's just "I'm not homophobic!" all over the place.

Thanks so much for this post, especially the round-up of people with similar experiences. I'm sure there's so much more out there that we don't know about, too.

All this energy spent on finger-pointing when we should be focusing on the bigger picture... it's exhausting.

Do homosexuals exist? Do rapists exist? Do drug addicts and drug dealers exist? Do dark and scary things exist?


::takes a chill pill::

That is just the most amazing comment, yes. "It has nothing to do with homophobia or bigotry of any kind." O RLY. Also, apparently a (hypothetical) nice, sweet YA book about a queer character is by default "a dark and scary thing." Good to know.

Thank you for this comprehensive and level-headed summary.

Thank you so much for writing this up!

Thanks for the extensive summary! Wow, I had no idea it would just explode like this. I really hope something good comes out of it and Rachel and Sherwood aren't given the publishing stink-eye instead.

I have noticed a ton of authors defending them or taking their side, although a lot of people are also standing by the agency, which seems to have a good reputation of long standing. It's a tough situation. Obviously there are various sets of people who would never want to work together after this, but I'm hoping neither side is blacklisted over this.

Thanks so much for your post, which does a fantastic job of exploring a nuanced issue. And that's what the internets forget. This is a complicated nuanced issue.

I'm struggling with it, I have to admit. In some ways, it seems we are asking publishing to be a light unto the nations - to publish content that (maybe) people don't buy because it should be out there and people should read it - which is a moral judgment based on personal values. (I'm trying to distance the fact that those moral values coincide with mine, for the sake of discussion.)

But we defended publishing for doing just that when it came to the Wall St. Journal scandal about "dark" YA. Is LGBTQ content any different? No. Or at least, it shouldn't be considered differently. Is it? I'm not sure. I really feel from ALL of the various comments and posts that I can't tell. They're all anecdotal and they are all feuled by lots of very personal hurt and anger. One challenge in my consideration of this issue is that publishing rejection is subjective. And often there aren't clear reasons given. Some people say they were specifically told gay was the problem. Do I believe that? Sure. Do I also believe that people may be rejected for other reasons and ascribe it to gay content? Sure.

We have Malinda Lo's post with actual numbers (ya for facts!) about the amount of LGBTQ content that's published. I'd be very interested to see figures about whether those books sell/get award attention. Is it true that LGBTQ content doesn't sell? (If so, is the publishing business still required to be a light unto the nations and expend money on things that don't make it money because it's the right thing to do? I don't know what I think about that . . . if I put my own values about the matter aside.) I also worry about whether we have a chicken/egg situation in which this content is screened out before the buying public is given a chance to vote with their pocketbooks.

In sum, it's complicated . . . .

Yeah, I have a hard time demanding that companies publish things they might lose money on Just Because. It's their right to refuse. That's why I think the original post was more on point, because it was about changing the atmosphere in which publishers would be wary of LGBTQ content--getting readers to show that they want to buy it, and so on.

What I would really like to see (poor Malinda Lo, like she needs more work to do) is what percentage of YA bestsellers have LGBTQ content. If bestsellers have a significantly higher percentage than books that just didn't sell for whatever reason, that suggests that the market could support more LGBTQ content, and the overall low percentage is due to not much being published in the first place.

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At first I thought that this was, in fact, a continuation of the Wicked Pretty Things mess. Which, in a sense, it is... but not like I thought.

Yeah, when I first RTed something about it, people were like, "Didn't we already go through this?" Yeah... we did.

This is an important issue! So many LGBT youths feel so isolated because there's no proof out there that anybody else exists that's going through what they're going through. Just as important a message as "It gets better" is, "You're not alone."

Yeah... I'm just so amazed that this happened on the heels of #YAsaves. I thought we went over this already!

nicely done.

Hopefully this gets some traction and progess gets made.


I am so glad you've put that last link in there, because I plan on buying a bunch of those.

My favourite author, Tamora Pierce, has written a book where one of the main characters is gay - but this was about 20-25 books into her publishing career. I do wonder what it would be like if this was the first book she'd published.

IIRC, Thom and Roger from the Alanna books were explicitly in a relationship in the earlier drafts, but it got taken out. I have no idea whether or not it was an editorial decision, though.

would love to vote with my wallet and buy more books with LGBTQ characters. Anyone have recommendations of books with a female, latina, bisexual character?

Mayra Lazara Dole's Down to the Bone has a Latina teen questioning her sexuality (I think she decides she is lesbian in the end, although IIRC there are bi and genderqueer characters too)! I have a few issues with the book but also really liked how there was a spectrum of Latin@ teens and sexualities.

Thank you so much! I've always been a bit suspicious about it so it's nice to see everyone's version of events.

Now about those best-selling YA books...

Lord of the Rings...depends on your point of view...Gimli and Legolas were totally Romeo and Juliet with a better ending...

Twilight...nada, zilch, zip...gay werewolves are apparently impossible?

Harry Potter...now I thought it certainly seemed like she was describing Albus and Gellert in a torrid romance but it was nice to have that confirmed. However, in the movies?

nada, zilch, zip

Someday, I would love for a movie about Albus' early years, like X-Men: First Class but with actual kissing...

The statement in question could possibly mean that the characters could remain, but their POV scenes should be rewritten from the perspective of the (now) "main" characters; the differing accounts of the conversation leave this unclear.

I can explain that part. We were given several alternatives for dealing with the character, Yuki.

1. Cut his POV and remove all references to his sexuality. He'd still be in the book, but be seen through the eyes of other characters. And he wouldn't be gay. He'd be a straight-seeming non-POV character.

That was the point in which the agent in question suggested that if we just never mentioned his orientation, maybe he could be revealed to be gay in hypothetical later books.

This was the change which got discussed the most. Alternatives 2 and 3 were mentioned briefly and in passing, when Sherwood and I argued vehemently against # 1. They were:

2. Cut him from the story entirely.

3. Make him straight.

It was not explicitly said that if we made him straight, we could keep his POV. We never asked about that. So I'm not sure if that was ever on the table or not.

But it was very, very explicitly stated that we could not have an out gay character in the book.

I will also note that while his main storyline isn't about being gay per se - the book is set in a non-homophobic society - he has a romance with another boy which is a major part of his storyline, and also plays into larger plot issues which affect other characters. Cramming him into the closet would entail significant rewrites to the entire book, and would destroy his own story.

Cut his POV and remove all references to his sexuality. He'd still be in the book, but be seen through the eyes of other characters.

Yeah, that was my best guess from the wording of the statement. I'll add that in.

I went to a publishing event last night and was chatting with an agent, telling her about a YA I'm trying to sell and she perks up an asks if it's a GBLT YA. So, from my experience with this agent, there's interest in GBLT YA.

As for this whole out of control situations, I honestly don't know what to believe. What would these 2 authors and even the agent get out of lying or flubbing the facts of what was said?

And if an agent did ask to make a character straight instead of gay, doesn't that necessarily make them a bigot?

There seems to be more here than meets the eye.

"And if an agent did ask to make a character straight instead of gay, doesn't that necessarily make them a bigot?"

I apologize, I meant to say it doesn't necessarily make them bigot.


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