Parents, take note. Agents, publishers, and their customers at schools and libraries are looking for “more diverse books.”
There is a “shift in thinking” among agents for children’s book writers, says Julie Masis in the February 2016 Writer’s Digest. Agents are seeing a demand for “stories with diverse and LGBTQ main characters'” “more LGBT YA [Young Adult]. Esp. if you have a trans protagonist.” “Would love LGBT YA realistic sports fiction for ‘tween boys with gritty, raw, and honest depiction of LGBT athletes today.”
Not just agents but editors are looking for LGBT materials for young adults. The reason given is disturbing. The Writer’s Digest article quotes literary agent Annie Bomke, “I think these books are not so much to be informative, but to give children who might be leaning in that direction a sense that this is normal, they’re not alone. Also, it’s good for [heterosexual kids ] to see a diverse range of people so that they can recognize it as not them, but still normal and OK.”
She goes on to say that if two stories were otherwise equivalent, publishers would be more likely to accept the one with LGBT characters. Another agent, Brent Taylor, suggests that the boom in LGBT YA books reflects schools’ and libraries’ “conscious effort to purchase them.”
Not discussed in this article: whether ‘tween boys are interested in reading “gritty, raw, and honest” stories of LGBT athletes. A few years back when Phillip Pullman’s virulently anti-Christian (especially anti-Catholic) Golden Compass trilogy was making waves—and even being offered as curriculum by Scholastic—our local librarian told me not to give it much thought. Libraries were buying the books but kids weren’t reading them. I could see why: I read the trilogy and found the plot to be poorly constructed, the characters oddly uninteresting.
Maybe some of the new LGBT YA books are more interesting. What is undeniably of interest is the intentional effort to normalize homosexuality and transgenderism for “children who might be leaning in that direction.” This contradicts typical LGBT rhetoric. Gays and lesbians commonly declare that their sexuality was never their choice. Based on my own conversations with gay men, I have no reason to doubt that is true — for those men, that is. Whether the same is true for all is hard to say: the research so far is inconclusive for multiple reasons, including pro-LGBT bias.
The material under discussion here, however, is for children who admittedly are making a choice. They’re leaning. They’re wondering. They haven’t discovered that they’re same sex-attracted regardless of choice; they’re making decisions about it.
Maybe they’ve had a furtive experience or two with peers. Maybe they enjoyed some aspects of it. Maybe they’re wondering what that might mean. I’m pretty sure that kind of thing was going on among students when I was in school. The majority of them, I’m also quite sure, wrote it off as nothing but a guilty and odd experience. With repeated experiments of that sort being discouraged by the saner morality of the day, most of them moved on to realize they were made for intimacy with the opposite sex.
I don’t have numbers: I don’t know how many youth of my day had experiences fitting this description. It matters little here. The point is that some of those students might have been described as “leaning.” Many of them probably leaned back again: they chose heterosexuality for their future experiences. The point of the current publishing trend is to push them over the rest of the way. They call it being “supportive.”
Gay activists want to have it both ways, it seems: their sexuality was never a matter of choice for them, but they sure want to be there to help young people decide to be like them.
What Needs Supporting
There really is a certain kind of support that gay, lesbian and gender-questioning students need. They get bullied, taunted, and shunned. That’s wrong, and they need support from other students to put an end to it. (They’re not the only ones.) Christian students should be the first to stand up for any classmate who is being mistreated. They should indeed support the full humanity of their LGBT classmates, though without endorsing all their choices.
Sound complicated? It needn’t be as hard as it sounds, though it takes some thought and effort. That’s part of the reason I wrote my forthcoming book, Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents’ Guide To Discussing Homosexuality With Teens.
But that’s not the kind of support today’s publishing industry is focused on. As Bomke says, it “isn’t just about the market” — or as I would interject, whether or not boys want those books about gay athletes after all — “it’s about reaching readers and making a positive difference.”
Positive? No. It misplaces badly the kind of support LGBT and questioning students need most. Difference? Definitely.
Parents, take note.