Writer / Reader / Fandom Extraordinaire
Chiara / June 16, 2015 , Tue / books & reading, lgbtqia

I have them. And I wear them all the time. They’re most active when I’m reading books, but then they can emerge when watching TV shows (most notably Merlin), and movies too.

What do they do? you might be asking, unless you have your own pair of queer tinted spectacles, and know exactly what I’m talking about (in which case, BLESS, we’re kindred spirits).

Well. Most of the time, their primary objective is to find a queer character, and usually ship that character with another queer character.

However, unfortunately, a lot of the time my queer tinted spectacles are just … making it up. Or they’re elaborating. Because sometimes I have super feels for what I seriously think will be a queer relationship, and the author goes and writes a completely non diverse heterosexual one. And I cry.

The reason why I decided to write this post is because of a book I was reading recently. One of the characters had died, but someone was sending them poems to their phone regardless. The deceased character was a guy. And he had a guy best friend who just completely disappeared after he died (or committed suicide … no one really knows). I thought to myself: yes. These two were in love. The best friend is sending the texts. And the dead guy might have committed suicide because he felt ashamed or something (which no baby no).

I was super excited, because as much as I ship my hetero couples, I ship my queer couples with the force of a thousand fiery burning suns. They mean a lot more to me. So I was waiting for the best friend to admit to something.

And then. It turns out it was a girl sending the poems. There was nothing between the two guys – there never was.

I was disappointed, to say the least. This book was pretty whitewashed and was severely lacking in sexual diversity (not even a side character, I mean what). My queer tinted spectacles weren’t the ones that let me down, though. Oh no, it was the fact that books are still lacking in diversity. I know it’s an author’s right and decision to create characters and their associated storylines however they want to (including diversity or not), but it still saddens me when there’s so much missing from a book.

With all the We Need Diverse Books campaigning, and countless other plights to include racial, sexual, physical, mental, economic, and so on diversity in books … why are there still books with all white characters who are all straight and physically able and mentally sound and middle class and so on? It makes me so sad and disappointed to come across these books because it’s like nothing has changed, even though so many readers (and agents and publishers) are asking for it.

So I guess that’s why I still need my queer tinted spectacles, because if I didn’t it might mean that something had changed, and I wouldn’t have to search and create my own sexually diverse characters. For now, they’re always on, but I hope one day that they won’t be necessary. I really do.

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10 Responses to my queer tinted spectacles

  1. Alyssa says:

    I knew EXACTLY what you were saying the moment I saw the headline! I do this a lot too, even though I love platonic relationships as well. Although to be honest, my queer-tinted spectacles, as you put them, come into action more when I’m writing my own stuff. Just speaking of my currently-plotting ms, literally three major characters just suddenly weren’t hetero as I continued planning. Good thing? Bad thing? I don’t know. But it’s fun to try and write across the spectrum!

    • Chiara says:

      Yesss! I’m glad you feel the same way, Alyssa. I have headcanons about sexually diverse characters that have nothing to do with ships, as well. But I find that ships are always in greater number and force because I am a hopeless romantic XD

      I think it’s definitely a good thing! We need more diverse characters, so kudos for creating them :D

  2. Beth W says:

    “why are there still books with all white characters who are all straight and physically able and mentally sound and middle class and so on?”

    Marketing.
    The broadest market base might not be the one actively requesting diversity in books.

    Author discomfort.
    Some authors don’t agree with or are uncomfortable with writing queer characters. Sometimes, it’s because of their moral choices, but I’ve had conversations with authors who were worried their characters would come off as disingenuous and unauthentic, because the authors themselves didn’t have firsthand experience with being non-hetero.

    Gunshy publishers.
    Especially when it comes to big businesses, going the status quo has gotten them the power and prestige they currently enjoy. If they have stakeholders, they’re less likely to be agile and adaptive- they want to stick with what has worked for them.

    (if you can’t tell, this is a subject I’ve done deep-dives on. I don’t think books will ever be diverse enough to fully satisfy- we just want options and representation in the world, after all, and the world is a truly diverse place. But we also want those to be in GOOD books, and that’s a narrower field.)
    If it helps, authors like Libba Bray do an excellent job of jumping on board. Beauty Queens comes to mind.

    • Chiara says:

      I think it’s so sad that publishing is such a people driven business and it would make sense to cater to what the people want – which is diversity – but it just isn’t happening. I know there is a slow increase happening at the moment, but I wish it would be faster and larger.

      I think it’s interesting that you said you want them to be good books. I remember reading in a comment or a post (I wish I remembered, so I could credit the person) that there should also be room for BAD diverse books, because then that would mean there was enough out there for them to BE bad. And it’s true. There are heaps of terrible non-diverse books out there that are published nonetheless. But I mean “bad” as in subpar world building in a fantasy, instalove etc. Not bad representation.

      I’m really interested in reading Beauty Queens, which people have recommended to me time and time again.

      Thank you for your wonderful comment, Beth!

  3. This is definitely something that has crossed my mind too. And it seems like either authors aren’t writing these kind of stories, or maybe they are but there is still a part of society that isn’t accepting, which is extremely heartbreaking. this last thing could affect the profits of books, which could make publishers afraid to bet on diverse books? This is all just guessing on my part of course. I think posts like this are so important because they are thoughts spoken out loud, this means we are not content and maybe people will start to actually listen. People like you who won’t settle, and will write their own pieces are so important because you help educate others, and you are giving the world what it is lacking while creating content, and that is so awesome. And again, maybe someone will listen, or read. So keep at it, my friend. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing too, so maybe we’ll be partners in crime, letting the world know -somehow- we won’t settle.

    • Chiara says:

      I think that the quota of diverse books that agents and publishers are willing to go for is quite small. I’m completely guessing here, but that’s the only thing that makes sense to me. I feel like there are so few being published that I wonder why that number is so small.

      I hope you take up writing! It’s absolutely wonderful to write the characters and the stories you’ve always wanted but never been given.

      Thank you for your lovely comment, dear <3

  4. Romi says:

    That must have ben a really disappointing moment, Chiara, when it was revealed to be a girl, especially when you were becoming so passionate about it. It’s interesting because with following your blog and reading more and more about diversity in books (this wasn’t a discussion at all, as far as I was aware, when I first started blogging and has only taken off in the last two years or so) I’m becoming really aware of character diversity, or lack-thereof. And I was kind of thinking about this because I have a story I’m editing right now and practically every character could be classified as “diverse” for their sexuality, race or mental health, and it feels so right to me that these are how the characters are, I don’t feel as if I really control those aspects- but I also wonder, did I make conscious decisions to have this character fall for another woman? And is it okay to make that decision consciously? At some point early on I was aware that “oh, this is what I want to happen” and I wonder if it should just happen, without you even deciding. Does that make sense? What’s your experience, Chiara?
    Oh, and faintly amusing story. When I read The Winner’s Curse and was really not having a good time with it, I changed “Arin” to Erin, mentally, and it worked a thousand times better. I mean, I loathed him but she was really kinda great. xx

    • Chiara says:

      UGH I was super disappointed by that aspect, and by the book in general, to be honest.

      I think the discussion about diversity has definitely increased, more so in the last year than any other time. I know when I started blogging even two years ago, there wasn’t much talk about it at all! I’m glad that is changing, though.

      First off: I love that your characters are diverse. It’s great!

      And as for making the conscious decision, I don’t think it really matters. As long as it’s natural, I think it’s fine. For me, all my stories have come to me queer. I knew in the first book I finished that it would be about two gay teenage boys falling in love. And then in my second one, I also knew that it would be about two boys falling in love. And my third, which I’m currently writing, is the same. (I write boys, obviously!) But I think if you’re plotting, and two characters seem to come together when you hadn’t planned it beforehand, it is just as valid as if you’d always planned it that way!

      OH LOL. That’s awesome! :D

  5. So I’m writing this the day after the Supreme Court ruling (and if I may interrupt your regularly scheduled comment with this announcement: HALLELUJAH PRAISE EVERYTHING PAINT THE WORLD RAINBOW) and this is especially relevant right now. (Get ready – I have a lot of feelings about this topic.)

    In this day and age, I think it’s honestly ridiculous that we have the amount of straight, white characters that we do. The insane thing is: readers would totally buy books with more diverse characters. We’ve shown time and time again that the market is there, that we want to see ourselves in the people we read about. And actually, I’m going to expand the request even more – you talk about homosexual couples, but hey authors, that’s not the only sexuality out there!

    What about bisexuality? Pansexuality? Demisexuality (*waves madly in the corner*)? Give me stories about ladies loving ladies, sure – but also give me stories about asexual people learning how to love themselves without partners. Love triangles where all three figure out they’re polyamorous and date each other. Give me demisexual people awkwardly trying to explain to that guy at Starbucks who keeps hitting on them that hey, they’d love to go out sometime, they really would, but possibly they could just try being friends first? (<– true story there.)

    Explore the gender spectrum. Give me genderfluid people who tell their parents today's preferred pronouns at the breakfast table every morning. Transgender people who learn how to use binders for the first time. Give me AFAB people who email their college professors their preferred names, who battle with the monster that is dysphoria and ultimately come out on top.

    I suppose what I'm trying to say is – homosexuality is a thing, and it's so so important for it to be recognised in the media. But also, we need to recognise that there are other folks out there who have been silenced for too long. Let's not forget about them, as well. :)

    • Chiara says:

      Oh gosh, I am seriously so happy with that! I only wish that my only country would follow suit and get into gear on this. I guess I will have to wait and see.

      I KNOW. I have no idea why the quota of traditionally published diverse books is so small. Especially when movements like We Need Diverse Books are SO LARGE. I don’t understand why our call for diverse books is being largely ignored, when it’s clearly something we all want (and need, for that matter)?

      Oh, Topaz. YES. I mentioned homosexuality in this post, because it was the aspect of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum that inspired me to write it (because that book was so hetero-washed when I had boy love dreams for it). But I put on my queer tinted spectacles for EVERYTHING. I have demi and ace and bi and so on headcanons for characters, as well. Because those sexualities exist, too.

      I think gender diversity is even more lacking that sexual diversity in novels, especially YA. I would read a book about every single thing you’ve mentioned there because I want them. And readers need them. To learn, to identify, to feel a sense of community.

      We need books from every walk of life – sexual, gender, race, religious, socioeconomic – everything.

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