Saturday, October 13, 2012

Questing for QUILTBAGs

Content Note: Homophobia, Prejudice within Families

Sometime between my first marriage and my second marriage, I realized that I am bisexual.

I have never acted on this knowledge. At the time of my realization, I was quietly musing on how to proceed with altering my online dating profile to include "seeking women" while still being upfront that this was new territory for me, when (quite unexpectedly) my second Husband fell into my romantic lap. For my part, I was open with him about the fact that if we did not work out, I was going to start dating women; but as it turned out, we managed to be surprisingly compatible together and sailed off into the sunset, married and determined to live Happily Ever After.

Since that time, I struggle with how to classify myself in public. If anyone were to ask -- and they never do -- I would say that I'm a Kinsey Scale 2: predominantly heterosexual but more than incidentally homosexual. Or I might say, as above, that I am bisexual. Both terms seem accurate to my identity. However, I worry about identifying as a bisexual. I recognize that, as a woman in a different-sex marriage, I retain all the rights and privileges that come with being (or presenting as) straight. I also recognize that, as a woman with little* personal sexual experience with other women, an open identification as bisexual may imply more about my personal past than would be strictly accurate. I understand the pitfalls of misrepresentation and appropriation, and I additionally recognize that there is good ally work that I can do from the Presumed Straight side of the fence.

Because of all this, and because it isn't something that comes up in frequent conversation (despite what television would have us believe), and additionally because I live and work in environments where conversations about Bisexual Women / Lesbian Women tend to lead to hurr hurr sexy porn hurr comments which would make me uncomfortable, I basically don't talk about my sexual orientation.

But lately I've been thinking that maybe I should.

A few weeks ago, my Young Niece tentatively came out as either a bisexual or a lesbian (she says she isn't sure which yet) after having been secretly dating another girl for two months. Her mother -- my sister -- has been less than supportive because Sister-Mother thinks homosexuality is a sin. My Older Niece pointed out to her mother that both Sister-Mother and Older Niece are currently living out-of-wedlock with men, and Older Niece has recently just had a baby out-of-wedlock with her man, to the ample rejoicing of almost everyone in the family. Older Niece argued to Sister-Mother that surely homosexuality can't be a worse sin than heterosexual shacking up, so what's the problem?

But a problem there is, as far as Sister-Mother is concerned. And stuck in the middle of all this is Young Niece, who didn't choose her orientation and now has to hear about what a dreadful, awful, deadly sin it is to be a girl who likes girls. It's all very heart-breaking and infuriating, and it's not something that is going to be solved in a 30-minute Very Special Episode in which Sister-Mother learns a Very Important Lesson, much as we would all like it to be. Beyond anything else, there are serious complications (that can't really be gotten into here) revolving around finances and disabilities and a myriad of other things which add up to mean that Young Niece and Sister-Mother are effectively stuck with each other for a long while to come.

Enter me, stage left. 

I'm not the best aunt in the world. I only really see my nieces about two or three times a year, and then only for a few hours at a visit. I vaguely keep up on their life events through Facebook and conversations with my mother (their grandmother), but we're not bosom-buddies. I'm the cool aunt who got an engineering degree and has two cats and doesn't go to church and votes for Obama, but that's about the extent of our relationship. And most of what I know about my nieces comes second-hand over the family gossip-vine, including this latest news about Young Niece coming out, which means that I can't directly insert myself without it being made clear that (a) someone tattled, and (b) that Young Niece's orientation is something being gossiped about in general. The former will get me in trouble with my mother; the latter will probably hurt Young Niece's feelings. Most people don't like to be gossiped about, after all.

All week long, I have wracked my brain for ways to offer support to my niece without starting up an email conversation that outright says, "So I hear you like girls?" I don't want to make my niece feel cornered or put on the spot. I don't want her to feel like she has to talk to me, especially not when so many other people are banging down her door demanding that she let them vocalize their opinions. But at the same time, I want her to know that there's nothing wrong with liking girls. I want her to see that there are good, wonderful, interesting, lively, incredible, awesome women out there who also just happen to like girls. I want liking girls to be presented to her as normal, as something that isn't odd or unusual or marks her as bad or wrong or different.

In the end, my plan revolved around reading. I continue to be, in that regard, a one-trick pony.

For Christmas this year, Young Niece will receive a Kindle e-reader from me. There will be a number of books pre-loaded to that e-reader, as well as a gift card so that she can buy more of her choosing. The books I will buy for her will have normal plots, perfectly benign in their commonness. A fairy tale retelling. An epic fantasy adventure. A paranormal vampire romance. A futuristic dystopia. The sorts of things that parents so frequently aren't interested in, the kinds of books that can be summed up in a few simple sentences. Books with innocuous covers that won't be seen anyway because they'll be on an e-reader.

But every single one of these books will feature a QUILTBAG person (preferably a bisexual woman or lesbian woman) somewhere in the cast, living and existing and being without it being a big issue-y deal.

This plan, quickly dreamed up on a lazy Saturday morning, hasn't come easily to fruition. Less than one percent of all YA novels traditionally published in the USA within the last ten years have any QUILTBAG characters at all, even minor supporting ones. QUILTBAG protagonists are even harder to find. Those books that are published are frequently either "blink and miss it" references or outright "issue books" where the whole story is about being QUILTBAG. (Those aren't bad novels to have by any means, but they're not what I need for my stealthy support approach.)

In the end, these are the novels that I ended up with (courtesy of a number of online links and references but most especially this one from Dangerous Jam).

Eleven books. Eleven books with plots that can be described without reference to QUILTBAG issues, were the reader so inclined to not get into a fraught conversation about what they are reading. Eleven books with lesbian, bisexual, or gay characters -- many of which aren't protagonists and some of which are "blink and miss it" references. Eleven books that (based on my research) handle QUILTBAG issues at a YA level without diving deeply into explicit sex scenes that (I think) would make Young Niece potentially uncomfortable**.

Eleven books isn't bad for a Christmas present. Not all of the above are $10 a pop (some are significantly cheaper, in fact), but let us pretend that they come out to about $100 total. It's a good Christmas when I acquire $100 worth of new books from my relatives. Eleven books is nothing to sneer at.

But it's eleven books that were selected after literally hours of research and looking. If I say to myself, "Self, I want a paranormal romance with a straight female protagonist," I can find a 5-star book to suit my needs within minutes. If I change that "straight" to "lesbian" or "bisexual", I can expect to spend hours searching for something that meets my needs. And what I find will more likely than not be 3-stars or less, leading me to eye the 1-star, one-sentence, "I DIDN'T LIKE IT" reviews with suspicion and wonder fruitlessly if their vague and laconic hatred came from something genuinely wrong with the book, or from the protagonist being Not Straight. I guess you'll get to buy the book and find out, won't you!

It's eleven books that, after Young Niece has finished reading them, I don't know what she can follow up with. That Dangerous Jam list has (at time of typing) only fifty-four novels on the list. Fifty-four novels to cover all eight letters of the Q-U-I-L-T-B-A-G alphabet, and over a dozen or more genres, many of which may not be a given reader's particular cup of tea. Fifty-four novels where the entrance criteria is simply to have a major character -- somewhere, anywhere -- in the novel identified as a QUILTBAG person. That makes me sad. It makes me wish that there was more out there to be had and read. Books where QUILTBAG people are just plain people, doing people-y things, and existing in the genres that I read and loved as a kid. Sort of a We're here, we're queer, we're going to drop that fucking ring into Mount Doom and knock off for elvish pastries. I want that. My niece, and other girls like her, deserve that.

From now on, as an author and a blogger and as a person in face-space, I am going to identify openly as a bisexual. Not because I want special liberal creds for having another marginalization mark on my liberal library card. Not because I feel like my Presumed Straight privilege doesn't exist or that I don't enjoy significant social privileged because of it. But because I live in a family where my youngest niece is experiencing prejudice for liking girls, and because I want her to know that she's not alone. And because I want to be part of a market growth that acknowledges that people like she and I exist, and that we want to see ourselves in the literature we consume.

At least occasionally, and at least more than fifty-four times in ten years.

* "Little" because that is more accurate than "no", but I also recognize that this word choice seems to conflict with other things stated in this post. I will just say that It's Complicated and leave it at that, as my sexual history is not the point of this post. 

** I have never cared for explicit sex scenes in my casual reading, and Young Niece has said things that lead me to believe that she feels similarly. However, the possibility for projection on my part is high in this regard.


  1. Thank you. It's good to see a Slacktiverse article again.

    A lesbian paranormal adventure with cat burglars and time travel.

    I think I know what I'm getting next time I get my virtual hands on an Amazon gift code. (I suppose I could use less-limited-purpose money and buy it now, but I have a zillion other things to read. I'm in no hurry.)

    people like she and I exist

    I see this form often enough that I'm starting to wonder if it's just a grammatical variation. I was taught to use the same pronouns together I would use apart ("people like her exist", "people like me exist", therefore "people like her and me exist"), but I was also taught that the possessive form of James is James's, with no mention that James' is also acceptable.

    1. @Brin: It's very common to use the subjective case for "[person] and I." This is because of a rule of etiquette* that you always name yourself second, which was usually presented as "Jane and I, not I and Jane." This then got twisted into "Always Jane and I," implying you should never say "Jane and me."

      Of course I'm a strict descriptivist--grammar isn't a set of rules passed down from on high, it's a description of how people write and talk. If "the rules" don't reflect the way people communicate, it's the rules that are wrong.

      *By which I mean a bunch of arbitrary rules designed purely to serve as a class marker, as opposed to politeness, which is about respecting and caring about others.

    2. If "the rules" don't reflect the way people communicate, it's the rules that are wrong.

      This pretty much sums up my attitude as well. :)

      (People are always surprised that I have an English degree because I'm so virulently against grammar policing in my workplace. For some strange reason, engineers can be terrible about grammar policing. I have been 'corrected' so many times by co-workers; most recently because I offended by pronouncing the word "route" as "root" instead of "r-owww-t". Yeah, I know.)

    3. In some dialects of English "root" is slang for fucking, so since I learned that I pronounce "route" as rowt, even though in my native dialect of English route is root.

    4. Not in my neck of the woods, though. This guy was just being a jackass.

    5. (I also haven't attempted to expunge "come", "finger", "eat", or "pussy" from my vocabulary, though. y gods, if we got rid of everything that has to do with fucking, we'd have no words left.)

    6. Well I've had to get rid of root; my girlfriend laughs at me everytime I say it. :)

      But yeah, anything can be an innuendo, if you say it in a certain way.

    7. The version of "X and I" that I learned is "take away X" - if you'd say "I" if you weren't mentioning the other person, you say "I" when you are, and the same for "me". This has the virtue of making sense, which goodness knows English often enough doesn't.

      (While I have some grammar-policing tendencies, (a) I know it often doesn't go over well so I tend to avoid it, and (b) the non-UK terms used for English grammar are entirely alien to me - I can work out what Froborr means by "subjective case", but I've never heard it before - so even if people wanted explanations of why something was wrong I probably wouldn't be able to do it.)

    8. I'm of the school of thought that says everyone falls somewhere between descriptivist prescriptivist.

      If we're going to meaningfully communicate some rules have to be followed. So if someone says, "The boy bit the dog," when they mean that the dog was doing the biting and the boy was doing the being bitten, that's simply wrong and the sentence will not convey accurate information. Communication fails.

      The answer to this is to be a prescriptivist and say, "The correct way to describe the situation is either, 'The dog bit the boy,' or, 'The boy was bitten by the dog.'" The situation of the incorrect sentence calls for someone to step in and say how language should be spoken.

      On the other hand if people had been doing that about all rules all the time then the English language wouldn't exist at all and we'd all be speaking Proto-Indo-European, assuming that no language preceded that.

      For a language to live and thrive it needs room to grow and change, and the only way to keep track of a language like that is to be a descriptitvist.

      When Shakespeare writes, "Between you and I," when everyone knows that I is the subject and me is the object so the object of the preposition "between" should be "me" instead of "I" the appropriate response isn't to say, "Well Shakespeare was a fucking idiot and no one should ever do that again, DO YOU HEAR ME? NEVER AGAIN!" Instead the appropriate response is to point out that for hundreds of years people have been using, "and I" in place of "and me" and while speculation as to why may be indulged in, it's firmly lodged in the language by now.

      In other words, the situation calls for one to put on their descriptivist hat.

      The interesting thing is that everyone seems to draw the line in a different place. What for some people might be a perfectly acceptable bit of linguistic evolution is for other people a travesty.


      I probably would have gone with "her and I" which grammarians would credit as being half right. And that kind of shows you where I stand. Some deviations from "the rules" (scare quotes because who gets to say what they are?) I accept as if they aren't even deviations without a thought or hesitation, others I don't.


      And in closing, anyone who says that the subjunctive mood ought to be allowed to die off is dead wrong. But more on that later.

    9. Oh for the love of fuck,

      Damn it, I cant seem to keep track of what account I'm logged into. Plus I've had a long day that was mostly hellish and stuff.

      I was logged into that account, as you might expect, to check the email so I could work on the weekend post which I swear is coming.

    10. Actually, if someone uses "the boy bit the dog" to mean "the dog bit the boy", they're not wrong because of prescriptivism, they're wrong because of descriptivism. Collectively as a whole the native speakers of English, use "the boy bit the dog" to mean that the boy used his teeth to hurt the dog. Word order is important in English because that's the way native speakers use the language, not because there's a rule that we were all taught.

      If someone decides to refer to the thing we comb our hair with as a pencil, they're wrong, not because the dictionary doesn't define pencil that way, but because native speakers don't use the word pencil way.

      That's what descriptivism is. Something is right if that's what native speakers of that dialect say, and it is wrong in that dialect if no native speakers of that dialect say it. If I say I drink from a paper glass in English, I'm making a mistake, but glasses cannot be made of paper: glasses need to be made of glass, or at least see-through plastic that looks enough like that glass that no one complains. Not because this is the sort of thing we learn in English class, but because if you describe how native speakers use the language, that's what you get.

      Descriptively, "me and my friend" is all right in many dialects of English because native speakers of those dialects say it. It's also descriptively wrong in some dialects of English where no native speakers say it. And the same goes for "she saw my friend and I". Wrong in some dialects, right in others.

    11. Actually, if someone uses "the boy bit the dog" to mean "the dog bit the boy", they're not wrong because of prescriptivism, they're wrong because of descriptivism. Collectively as a whole the native speakers of English, use "the boy bit the dog" to mean that the boy used his teeth to hurt the dog.

      First, sorry it took days to get back to this.

      Second, descriptivism can never say that something is wrong, only uncommon. It can say, "You are the only person to say things this way," but to make the leap to, "Therefore you should not say things this way," is to make the leap to an inherently perscriptivist place.

      Descriptivism can say, "You're the only person on earth who does that." But it can't say that that's a problem. Because it's not, in itself a problem to do something that most people don't.

      For example:

      Almost no one dresses like me. In fact, we can describe precisely how few people dress like me. Take the total population of the world. Subtract one. Divide that figure by the total population of the world. That's the probability that a given person, chosen at random, does not wear my clothing. Multiply 100 and you get the percent of the population that does not wear my clothing. Another way to say it is that roughly 7 billion people, out of roughly 7 billion people, do not wear my clothing.

      Does this mean that it's somehow wrong for me to wear my clothing when 99.99(many nines) percent of people don't?

      No. Of course not. It'd be bizarre if I didn't wear my clothing. Besides, I'm only wearing 8 articles of clothing right now, so even if I were trying to be more like the rest of humanity by wearing not-my clothing I'd still be only be being like 8 out of roughly seven billion (and which eight people's clothing would I be wearing?) which still leaves roughly seven billion of roughly seven billion people I'm not being like.

      Descriptivism can tell you how common or uncommon something is.
      Perscriptivim tells you what to do.

      In language descriptivism provides the necessary basis for any intelligent perscriptivism because commonness is directly related likelihood of being understood, which is generally (though not always) the point of saying/writing something in the first place.

      But to actually come out and say, "You shouldn't say it that way, you should say it this way," is a fundamentally prescriptivist thing.

      Which in turn has it's own effect upon the descriptivism side of things because what we tell people is right and wrong affects their usage, and that usage is what the descriptivists describe.

      If you want to tell someone that "He splangit the a dog took," is a unique sentence then you can do it as a pure descriptivist. If you want to tell someone that it is a bad sentence then you must step at least partially into the bounds of perscriptivism. If you want to tell someone that it's the kind of sentence that one should not say if one wants to be understood, that's very prescriptivist in nature.

  2. I have to say that that's much fewer books than I'd expected - yeah, I know, I'm sitting in the middle of straight-cis-white-male privilege. Excluding the Message Books seems to me a good idea on general principles, though; children always know when they're being preached to.

  3. I did want to have an on topic reply because it's a really good post and an important topic. But I haven't thought of a good one yet.

    I hope your niece gets a lot of joy out of the gift.

  4. Wolfcry! I like the Kiesha'ra books quite a lot. I picked them up expecting to be average, but they're actually really fun to read.

    I only read the first three, though. I didn't know Wolfcry had a lesbian main character. Now I'm going to go read it.

  5. I keep saying that I should read more fantasy. I like fantasy. So I'll stick a few of these on my list of books to get hold of. (Perhaps Wolfcry, following swanblood's recommendation of the author, but I'm a stickler for reading series in order, so perhaps not.)

    I honestly have read very few books with main characters anywhere on the QUILTBAG spectrum, and certainly no fantasy books. Some books in the Discworld series have hints or even outright mention of homosexuality, and the whole female Dwarf thing in many of the books might perhaps be read as a metaphor for something, but Pratchett does also indulge in harmful stereotypes of various sorts. I like the books (I love the books, actually), but they're not perfect and I wouldn't add them to this list.


    1. Karen Healey's "The Shattering" is a great YA book with a lesbian lead.

      Unrelatedly, one of Karen's other books ("Guardian of the Dead") prominently features an asexual teenage boy. Both books are more-or-less urban fantasy, I guess.

      I don't know much yet about her third book, it's not out in the US yet (Karen is in New Zealand).

  6. Another possible book: Hollowstone by Dennis Upkins. I've been reading Denny's blog on LJ for probably five years now. He's a black gay man living in the South, and wanted to write a good YA book where there were POC and LGBTQ characters, but where those attributes didn't completely define the characters (i.e. not a "message book) and the characters weren't stereotypical, IIRC. His book has been published by a small press--I think it's called Parker Publishing or something along those lines--and he's working on more books now.

    With bisexuality, I'm in kind of a similar situation to Ana. I've known I have at least some attraction to girls since my teens, but even now I still hold back when it comes to thinking about what being with a woman would be like. I was raised strongly evangelical, and even though I abandoned evangelical beliefs about homosexuality in around 2007, it would've been very risky to pursue my attraction to women while I was still financially reliant on my parents. Because I repressed my feelings for so long--and am still avoiding indulging them too much because I'm in a happy long-term monogamous relationship with a man--I don't really know whether I'm the Kinsey 1 I thought I was for years, or whether I'm more definitely bisexual.

    If things work out in the really long term with my boyfriend and I, which I hope they will, I don't know if I'll ever really be in a position to let myself figure out how bisexual I am. We're both very much not poly, so that avenue for experimentation is out. I'm afraid that if I let myself think about women very much, it would result in me being less happy with my boyfriend, whom I love very much (and am financially reliant on--I have a degree that is worthless in the job market, along with multiple disabilities).

    So I'm really not sure how to identify at this point. I know I think women are hot, and I have a sneaking suspicion I'd be bisexual if I let myself. My most serious romantic feelings have been for men, but there's always been some attraction to women simmering below the surface, and given the extent to which I was repressing said attraction, it might possibly be much stronger without the repression. But I don't know if me dating women would really work out, because I don't think I'd ever be comfortable giving oral sex to a woman, though.



    1. Well, bear in mind that I'm wearing the Great Big Privilege Suit, but it seems to me that if/while you are in a relationship that makes you happy then you don't really need to consider other potential relationships - and the chromosomes and appearance of those hypothetical partners are in any case nobody's business but your own.

      While the hetero/homo division is clearly over-simplified, I think that even the Kinsey scale is deceptively un-complex. I've known a surprising (to me) number of men who were straight, or gay, except with one particular person who happened to kick over the right neurons.

    2. Dang and blast Blogger and its refusal to accept the <blockquote> tag.

      If anyone of any gender has sexual thoughts or experiences about both women and men… it’s not up to the rest of us to say that they’re “really” bisexual. Or, for that matter, that they aren’t. It’s not up to the rest of us to say whether these thoughts or experiences are trivial or important. It’s up to the person thinking them and having them.

      "Is Everyone Basically Bisexual?, by Greta Christina.

    3. Re: Hollowstone, it probably needs a content warning for misogyny. A group of writers at fail-fandom looked through the book and found some problematic stuff. Unfunny_fandom also collected some links about Upkins, his book, and his problematic history here:
      [CW: misogyny for all links] , and another blogger, Korrina, wrote up some more excerpts here:

      On the book:
      [CW: Misogyny].

      "gurer'f cntrf bs guvf zhfvp grnpure vafhygvat rirel crefba ur pbzrf npebff, naq bs pbhefr ur znqr gur ovttrfg, onqqrfg wbpx pel sebz gur furre sbepr bs vafhygvat uvf bobr cynlvat. Naq zber frkhny unenffzrag gura lbh pna funxr n fgvpx ng. V whfg pnzr npebff n cnffntr jurer ur vafgehpgf nabgure fghqrag gb trg evq bs ure thz ol "qbvat jung lbh qb jvgu unys gur sbbgonyy grnz naq fjnyybj.""

      From the book itself, quoted here:

      (this line is spoken by the music teacher):
      "Pvaql jnygmrq gb gur sebag bs gur pynffebbz jvgu ure pynevarg va gbj. Yvxr Zneiva ure cresbeznapr jnf vzcerffvir, ohg gur ohytvat irva va Abyna'f sberurnq vaqvpngrq gung ur jnf yrff guna unccl. "Zvff Eboovaf, sbe gur fnxr bs lbhe zhfvp naq lbhe ybir yvsr, V qb ubcr gung lbh yrnea ubj gb oybj cebcreyl. Vf gurer ab bar va guvf pynff jub unf n zbqvphz bs fxvyy?"

    4. Good grief! Thanks for the heads-up. Those are two wall-banger passages that would have me screaming profanity at my e-reader.

    5. TW: Misogyny


      If you're just joining the thread and thinking about diving into those links, but you have a limited stomach for misogyny, take my word and don't bother.

      I thought I was beyond being triggered by misogyny, but the graphic description of his he'd made his wife take birth control three times a day literally made me physically ill. I think I'm going to go take a long bath and throw the fuck up.

      Thank you, ZMiles. (I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically. Thank you.)

    6. Grr. My kingdom for an edit button. "the graphic description of his he'd made" s/b "the graphic description of HOW he'd MAKE"

    7. You're welcome.

    8. Argh. Damn it. Should've read the book before recommending it. I find the guy's blog mostly OK, but your mileage may vary. Sorry, no spoons to un-ROT13 the quotes right now.

    9. In response to Firedrake's comment: To me, it's important to know how I should be identifying myself to other people, whether I should consider myself a member of the QUILTBAG community, and the like. To me, labels matter because labels mean things, regardless of what my future is likely to hold in terms of relationships. Does that make sense?

    10. @kisekileia: I'm in a similar boat--cismale, in a committed long-term heterosexual relationship, never been in any other kind of relationship, but not long after this one started I realized that I am probably a little bit bi. I generally don't identify that way, however, because taking the label feels appropriative to me.

      If it comes up, which is not very often, I tend to describe myself as "[made up number more than 80 but less than 100] percent hetero" or, less often, "[made up number less than 20 but more than 0] percent bi." It feels more precise to me than playing around with coarser-grained labels like Kinsey numbers or the gay-bi-straight trinary, and doesn't feel like I'm laying claim to a label that rightfully belongs to people rather less privileged than I.

      I also don't really feel like my attraction to some men is a fundamental part of who I am. It's just sort of there, and if it weren't there everything else about me and my life would be exactly the same. So again, it feels like labeling myself with someone else's identity to call myself bi.

      Some of my ambivalence about all this may be tied to being... well, I coined the term "microsexual" a couple days ago. I'm not asexual, but I suspect I'm closer to that than anything else in the QUILTBAG spectrum. But again, I don't want to use the label because I have a low sex drive, not none. But I'm not going to go around identifying as microsexual, either, because again it's not really a part of what I think of as my identity.

      But that's me. Ultimately I think your identity is something you and only you can construct.

    11. It seems like the thing is that with notably few exceptions, everything is on spectrum. There are very few things in the condition of being a person that function like a switch, most of them function like a dimmer, so answering the question of, "Am I really [whatever]?" becomes the question of , "Where on the spectrum counts as whatever?" and those answers are always messy and arbitrary.

      Another thing that comes to mind is gender identity. At Typepad Slacktiverse there was a conversation between two cis-women who you'd think would experience gender identity in very similar ways, but in fact they were completely different. They weren't at different places between cisgender and transgender, they were at different places between "Strong gender identity" and "No gender identity" (note that they weren't polar opposites, just in different places) which I wouldn't have even thought was a spectrum had I not read the conversation.

  7. I would suggest this link:

    Not all the books there are suitable for children (I've read Companion to Wolves, and while I thought it was awesome, I recall there being fairly graphic sex), but it's a good starting point nonetheless. I see you already have the Melinda Lo books, but the other authors are good too (I've read some Tamora Pierce, for instance, and loved her works).

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  9. I don't know if this fits what you want at all (not really YA, I guess?) but I highly, highly recommend Steam-Powered and Steam-Powered II. They are lesbian steampunk anthologies and they are fucking awesome. I recommend them on pretty much all fronts. For the QUILTBAG representation, for the feminist viewpoint and variety of female characters, for the racial and cultural diversity and anticolonialism. (The last two are probably YMMV, but sooo much better than so much that's out there.) SRSLY. Heroic librarians in medieval Grenada! Industrial espionage in alternate-history Haiti and New Orleans! Love and chess! Love and labor activism! Airships! Mermaids! Love and ambiguity in the Chinese afterlife! A rollicking tale of love-hate and bootlegging! Etc.

  10. Hmm. Makes me feel I should bump up the priority of my rough-draft superhero novel. I loved that cast, but the plot was kind of a mess that couldn't quite embrace any single direction. I didn't want it to be a story straight out of comic books, but I did want it to be happening in a universe where that sort of thing plainly went on. It's just that the invasion of the world's biggest city by an army of cosmic-powered robots led by a megalomaniac happened last year, and this year's big issues have more to do with media circuses and government programs. As far as queerness, the intent was very much that it would be a story that could be summarised without mention of anyone's orientation, but the central hero was lesbian with a bi girlfriend and I don't know if I've ever enjoyed writing a couple more. (Mind you, I rarely write couples whose lives are that awesome, so the stress and angst were lower than for any of the couples in the book I wrote immediately prior to that one.)

  11. Have you checked this one? I recollect that it's a pretty long list, and I recommend the Tanya Huff Four Quarters series--she's a good writer, and the main character is bi, in a committed lesbian relationship at the beginning of the story. It's been a while since I picked it up, so I don't recall a lot more than that.

    1. Alas, a lot of Huff/Pierce stuff isn't available on ebooks, I've found. But thanks for the link; I'll check!

  12. Spoons. Spoons, spoons and more spoons.

    As an actual disabled person who actually does have to keep very careful track of my spoons, I find the constant use of "spoons" to mean "don't really feel like it right now, maybe later" to be offensive and appropriative of disability. Why anyone anywhere would wish to appropriate disability, I really don't know, but if you want to trade ...

    Look, spoons is supposed to represent the very limited energy and ability experienced by the chronically ill/disabled. For example, this morning, I peed when I woke up at 5:50 and then not until noon. Why did I go 6 hours without peeing? Because the bathroom where I work is down a flight of stairs* and going up and down those stairs will consume precious spoons, so I deliberately dehydrate myself so as not to have to pee.

    I am so thirsty.

    So unless you know what being constantly, agonizingly thirsty feels like, 5 days a week, because it's better than the voyage to go pee, please don't use "spoons". Just say, "I've seen enough misogyny, I'm in no mood to view this misogyny."

    Thank you.

    *Before anyone attempts to ablesplain to me about the ADA and accessibility, I'd just like to point out that while I could sue the pants off my employer, I wouldn't then have a job, nor would I be likely to get a job in the area in the only field I can make money in, so sometimes you have to suck it up and not drink anything.

    1. Erm. As another actual person with a disability, I disagree with you on this topic. Strongly.

      We cannot judge what people's circumstances are when they say they don't have the spoons for something right now. We don't know if they mean "genuinely triggered" or "mental health" or "physical health" or anything else. We don't know; we can't jump to conclusions.

      Assuming people mean it flippantly when they speak of spoons is completely inappropriate, just as it is inappropriate when people assume we disabled people are healthy because we don't look or sound or act a certain way. I don't look disabled, but I am. I don't have the spoons to do X today, but I might have those spoons tomorrow. Tone policing over whether I spoke of my spoons in precisely the right tone is silencing and inappropriate to me.

      For my two cents in general, I would strongly prefer it if people didn't call things appropriative when those things come from a long-term member of the community communicating in apparent good faith and not exercising any ableism in their language. I've had enough flamewars over what people "meant", and I frankly think that's the last thing this community needs.

      For this thread in particular, since the community standard is that authors moderate their own threads, and since this I am the OP author, I think my opinion on this issue matters. I'm declaring the spoon-discussion off topic for this thread; if people want to discuss it further, they can write an OP for the community and moderate that thread as they please, or they can open a thread in the forum. Case closed, move on.

  13. A little farther afield, Diane Duane's Door novels, which you can buy through her online store. (In the Young Wizards series, it's implied that some of the characters are gay.)

    1. Seconding the recommendation for the Young Wizards series. They're seriously awesome books. The earlier books were written in the 1980's, so that's probably why it's not mentioned in the text that the two characters in question are gay, but it's a great portrayal of two adult men living together, having pets together, and working together as wizards without anyone blinking an eye about it. Her other series are more open about sexuality, but maybe too open for your niece's preferences/slipping safely under the radar.

      -- A different Anonymous

  14. Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healy was, when I read it a couple years ago, pretty good. Straight, female protag, yes, but also an asexual male friend and gay sister. It was based in Maori mythology, too, which is pretty unusual and really interesting.

  15. Maybe... Mercedes Lackey's The Last Herald-Mage series? The main character is homosexual and he goes through a lot of grief over it and his magical abilities. It's been a while since I've read it, though, and I can't remember if it was graphic or not.

    Personally, I don't know how to identify myself, sexual orientation wise. Romantically, I'm attracted to males; sexually, only to females. Very hard to explain to anyone.

    1. Anon, while the Last Herald-Mage isn't particularly graphic I found it rather preachy, and therefore I think it would fail the "under the radar" test.

    2. Romantically, I'm attracted to males; sexually, only to females. Very hard to explain to anyone.

      "Androromantic gynosexual" seems like a perfectly understandable label to me, but I suppose there's a fair bit of groundwork needed to get to the point where it's understandable.

  16. A good resource for you is the YALSA Rainbow List. They put it together every year, and it's books that are friendly to GLBTQ (that is their specific initialisation of choice). for the 2012 list (I really liked Gemini Bites on it, fwiw, but it's about a brother and a sister who both fall in love with the same boy - the plot and themes are more about sibling rivalry and finding your identity than Big Gay Issues, too, which I appreciated - both the sister and the boy in the story were trying to please others by pretending to be different than they are, which made them unhappy, for example -- there may not be much focus on queer girls, but I think the fact that the brother and the boy dating wasn't a Huge Thing compared to the sibling relationship makes it fit what you're looking for (actually, the biggest bully about the brother's sexual identity is the sister, and she eventually apologises and says she was using it as an excuse to pick on him because she was angry about other things, and it was an easy target - hardly anyone else treats him badly over it, iirc))

  17. You may want to check out Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. There's a lesbian and a drag queen, neither of whom are "blink and miss" characters. I was in grade school when I read it, so there may have been problematic things that I missed, but a discussion of the relevant characters can be found here:

    It's covert in the sense that the main plot centers around a girl struggling with her identity as an Indian-American, but it does discuss the QUILTBAG-ness of the characters more overtly than, say, "a girl going on an adventure who just happens to have a girlfriend," or something like that.

  18. Some recs, all fantasy with prominent lesbian characters, with little or no graphic sexj, and the sexuality is not made an issue:

    Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan - modern Gothic/mystery, one of the main female characters is a lesbian
    Passing Strange by Daniel Waters - third in a zombie series, but the one that focuses on the lesbian character
    The Stepsister Scheme (and sequels) by Jim C Hines - fairytales retold with YA crossover potential; major lesbian character
    Hex Hall (and sequels) by Rachel Hawkins - the supporting lesbian character gets her own romance!
    A Great and Terrible Beauty (and sequels) by Libba Bray - some racefail, but the lesbian relationship is well done
    Zombies vs. Unicorns, ed. Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black - great anthology with gay and lesbian characters


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