This has been on my mind for a while now – and when I say a while, I mean a few months – and mainly pertains to reviews of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Several bloggers have simply not stated the fact that this is actually an LGBT novel about two boys who fall in love because it is a “spoiler”.
No. No, it is not a spoiler. Being something other than heterosexual is not a spoiler. Being gay or bisexual is not a spoiler. Falling in love with someone who is not a member of the opposite sex is not a spoiler. The fact that Ari and Dante fall in love is not. A. Goddamn. Spoiler.
It’s the reason why I read the book. It’s the reason why the book is beautiful. It’s the reason why there are stickers for LGBT YA book awards on the front cover. It is the reason why you should read the book.
Because it is beautiful. Because Ari didn’t know he was in love with Dante until he finally admitted it to himself and realised that there is nothing wrong with love between two boys. That the love between these two particular boys is the once in a lifetime kind of love that everyone – regardless of sexual orientation – wants.
It’s not a spoiler.
And making it a spoiler – by taking away one of the most important aspects of this novel – is erasure. It’s erasing the fact that Ari and Dante is an LGBT novel. That a boy (or girl) out there needs this book to show them that it is okay to love whoever you love because it’s love. And it’s right. It’s erasing the importance of this novel in the bookish world, and it’s erasing the role this book might play in someone’s life. And that erasure is not necessary. It’s horrible.
Sexual orientation of any character in any book is not a spoiler. Just because they are attracted to someone and that this attraction doesn’t conform to society’s expectations and norms does not mean that that attraction is a spoiler. It’s no more of a spoiler than the colour of their hair, or their sex. It’s simply part of who they are.
So please, if you’re thinking of hiding the sexual oritentation of a character because it’s a “spoiler” think twice before you do it. Because LGBTQIA+ novels need all the exposure they can get. People who want to read LGBTQIA+ novels need to be pointed towards these books. Because the erasure of sexual orientation is taking two steps back for the one step forward that was taken to publish the book.