First, who am I? I'm a writer of LGBT books for young people. I'll make it clear to begin with that I use LGBT only as a convenient shorthand for ALL people of the Rainbow Community. I myself am on the ACE spectrum and am just squeezing under the edge of the Rainbow umbrella. I write characters who are gay, bi, trans, intersex, genderfluid, blind, mentally challenged, autistic and a whole spectrum of other wonderful things.
THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME
This post is not about abbreviations, umbrellas or where one fits under it. This post is about my concern for our young people and how I, and those like me can, and must, help them.
The statistics regarding suicide rates among Rainbow Youth are frankly frightening.
LGBT youth are 4 times more likely, and questioning youth are 3 times more likely, to attempt suicide as their straight peers.
So what can a writer do to help? Potentially a whole lot. Suicide rates are vastly increased in young people who are not supported by their families and have no positive role models. They struggle with finding acceptance, and a place for themselves in a world geared to an 'ideal' into which they don't fit.
Television programs, films, books, music etc are all aimed at straight, cis, men and women and contain very few characters from the Rainbow Community. This hardly engenders a supportive environment for young people questioning and exploring their place in the world.
I've received emails from young people in distress, with one theme, one message - thank you for writing characters who are just like me, I never thought I'd see it.
And so many STILL don't see it, because although it's out there it's not in bookstores or libraries, and even if it were they wouldn't know about it.
Yes, the LGBT genre as a whole is getting more recognition, although not a lot, but the majority of LGBT books are not inspirational to young people. Some are harrowing tales of struggle with no happy endings, while by far the largest number are romances aimed at adults, and although by no means all, most of them are erotica.
I'm not saying erotica doesn't have its place, of course it does, and I write adult books too - but under another name and in another place. I'm also not saying there is no sex at all in any of my young adult books. Young adults, after all, have sex. However, it's not blatant, it's not much and it's only when necessary to the plot. Don't read my books if you're looking for scorching hot sex scenes scattered through them. There are plenty of other books out there that do. Nephy Hart writes good ones ;)
It worries me that some of the tweets and emails I've recived tell me that reading my book has saved a life, at least for now. No teen should ever feel that way; EVER. To write to an author and say 'you saved me' is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. To think something I wrote was capable of doing that is great, but the fact that someone was so desperate they actually wrote to an author and poured out their hearts because no one else was listening is awful and should never be necessary. That being said I'm always here for my readers and anyone else who needs a listening ear and a kind word.
I repeat LGBT books aimed at young adults should and MUST become mainstream. They MUST be in every library. They MUST be in major and minor bookstores around the country (and every country where it's legal). They MUST be in supermarkets and malls, schools and colleges. They MUST be on books lists and winning prizes. It would be nice if they were mine but that doesn't matter; what matters is that someone; anyone, is out there making a difference.
Major publishers and agents don't even look at LGBT books
So if you know of a good LGBT writer of young adult books shout about it, tweet about it, demand the media, the publishing world; in fact, the whole world sit up, take notice and DO something. If you don't know one, find one.
You might just save a life
NOTE. IF YOU ARE FEELING HELPLESS, SUICIDAL, HOPELESS, FRIENDLESS OR JUST PLAIN DESPERATE HERE IS LIST OF RESOURCES THAT MIGHT HELP