Greetings writers, we are here with another Writer Wednesday and today we are talking about the future of Queer Fiction. As we round the corner in this last full week of Pride Month, there are a lot of important conversations taking place in author circles right now, conversations that are resonating through the industry as a whole, of where publishing needs to change, and the future of #ownvoices literature. We currently, hopefully, find ourselves on the precipice of true change. Welcome to the conversation.
The past couple years have seen an upswing in LGBTQI+ fiction, from MG to Adult, though it has been a slow burn within the top tier of the industry. Many successful titles emerged from mid-level and indie houses, both new and established, who picked up the slack of representation. #Ownvoices stories are rolling out, but it took the push of decades to crack open a literary narrative that has been dominated not only by straight cis authors stories but straight cis authors writing queer fiction.
Agents and Publishers are now actively seeking #ownvoices stories, with more and more making space for them as the conversation continues to push forward. The voices who are championing these books and stories in our social media spheres are such powerhouses it’s easy to forget the reality of actual diverse representation. Genuine #ownvoices stories still represent a very slim portion of the overall pie as we previously saw in Lee & Low Books Diversity Survey.
The authors who have pushed through are being celebrated, rightfully so, and are continuing to wedge the door further open for more queer fiction in every age group. But it is vital to keep lifting these voices beyond Pride month. It is vital to recognize these stories are a fraction of the books released and that Queer rep in the industry still has a long way to go.
LGBTQI+ fiction has some intense hurdles to overcome, not only within the industry but within the realm of societal acceptance. With the recent Supreme Court victory, queer authors may be seeing one of the longest standing hurdles finally cracking. As a living wage in the arts is often out of reach for even big five/ four traditionally published authors, many authors walk the delicate balance of writing versus their nine to five job, a situation that left many queer voices in a limbo. Can a person safely promote themselves as an #ownvoices individual when they weren’t sure that tag wouldn’t come back to bite them? Could they fully separate their social media circles so that their author identity and their professional identity didn’t cross?
This was the age old struggle of presenting as genuine when they had to bury those parts of themselves that do not fit ‘the norm’, doubled by the pressure of a work environment that holds one’s livelihood over their heads, and could turn on them. Even now, though the landmark case was upheld by the courts, fear and pressure check many authors not only in their professional circles, but their social circles as well. For those authors that are openly out, they each overcame their own set of hurdles and push backs. Each journey to open acceptance is different and everyone is at a different place on that journey.
A hurdle in the future will also be economics and ‘quotas’. The push back against quotas and pay gaps has hit harder than ever this year, especially with the jarring discrepancies brought to light by the #publishingpaidme tag, a tag that highlighted the advances gap between black authors and non black authors compared to cis white authors. This pointed to further gaps of equality within the higher echelons of the publishing industry; LGBTQI+ authors are also a part of this conversation, especially cross sectional authors, who face discrimination on two fronts. The industry needs to equate the desire for diverse fiction with desirable deals. Repeatedly shafting marginalized voices is playing into the societal systemic debasement when the arts should be doing the very opposite.
Words Are Our Souls
Art is meant to be the reflection of a society’s soul. It is why readers have pushed and demanded to see themselves in stories. We often find our identity in the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the books we read. Authors often find their identities in the stories they tell. Some day, following the trail blazed by the authors before them, we will have genuine stories that embrace the full spectrum of gender identity and sexuality. We fight, and write, for a future where art truly reflects the full spectrum of ourselves.