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I may be a grown up, but I read a lot of young adult fiction aimed at LGBT teens.
Wait. I shouldn’t use the term “aimed at” less I fuel the fire behind Eric Metaxas’s idea that YA books are “disproportionately gay” and are trying to turn young people gay or at least make kids cool with the so-called sinful gay lifestyle.
In a recent commentary on BreakPoint which, according to their website, “provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends,” Metaxas proclaims “an alarming trend in youth lit.”
“The way to win over a culture is to capture the minds and hearts of its young people,” he says. “The gay-rights movement has certainly learned that lesson, which helps explain a current trend in youth literature. Anyone who reads books for teens these days will tell you that portrayals of gay relationships and characters are rapidly increasing.”
He’s right, in a way. Though what he sees as a bad thing, I see as a good thing. It’s true that there are more LGBT themes and characters being explored in YA lit. But it’s not because all of a sudden “the gay-rights movement” ramped up production.
When I was discovering I was attracted to girls and not boys in the mid-90s, there were books about lesbians out there, but I didn’t know that and didn’t know where to find them. I couldn’t just Google “lesbian books” and I certainly couldn’t ask a librarian to help me find them. One of the first books about lesbians that I read was “The Well of Loneliness” by Radclyffe Hall (even if you haven’t read it, the title alone gives you a pretty good idea of the suffering therein). In college I read “Stone Butch Blues” by Leslie Feinberg (more suffering).
There were YA books that I could have read in high school. “Annie On My Mind” by Nancy Garden, for example, was first published in the early 1980s. But like I said, I had no way of knowing that.
But today, there are plenty of books to choose from and I’ve read many of them. I want to know what today’s young people are reading. And I’m very happy that LGBT young people no longer lurk in the shadows without books that reflect their lives.
Metaxas sees something far more nefarious at play. “Authors who work to normalize homosexuality are trying to promote what they see as compassion, understanding and acceptance,” he says. “I believe they’re also trying to break down sexual boundaries of all kinds, to push what they see as ‘freedom’ as far as they possibly can.”
What’s wrong with “compassion, understanding and acceptance”? Unless, of course, you believe that LGBT people are unworthy of it and should simply be scorned. As far as breaking down “sexual boundaries of all kinds,” that’s a common claim of the anti-gay right who think of LGBT people only in terms of sex. As if having sex — really freaky sex in the imagination of the anti-gay right — is the only thing LGBT people do or think about. It’s a fun way to dehumanize us.
Metaxas continues, “Even when there are no explicit descriptions, sexual themes are often introduced before kids are ready to deal with them in a mature way. Moreover, the way they’re introduced can be confusing to vulnerable and impressionable readers.”
Earth to Metaxas: all kids are exposed to sexual themes before they’re ready to deal with them in mature way. I would much rather have kids, gay and straight, read a book written just for them that promotes “compassion, understanding and acceptance” than learning about sex by Googling “boobies” and “wieners” on the Internet.