The Art of Sharing Your Own Story
We’ve thrown the phrase ‘Own Voices’ around a few times here. This is the post that explains what we mean by that. I’ll try and keep it short for the sake of not causing you to cry, but if you want further information or to discuss, debate, haggle, flirt or otherwise engage with us, hit up the comment section and we’ll come play.
What is it?
Own Voices started on Twitter in September 2015 by Corinne Duyvis, who called for a hashtag to highlight diverse YA books written by diverse authors. Own Voices applies to not only LGBTQ+ books/authors, but POC and People with Disability. In this context of this site, we are only referring to LGBTQ+ books written by LGBTQ+ authors. For a good article about the importance of Own Voices from an Indigenous perspective, check out this article by Ambelin Kwaymullin.
It might seem pedantic to focus on Own Voices when there are so few AusQueerYA books written in total, let alone by LGBTQ+ authors. We’re so damn niche we could probably all fit in my living room and have a dance party and still have room to politely click when someone starts doing a poetry slam.
That’s the reason, actually. There are so few AusQueerYA books that make it on to the market, it seems bizarre that a minimal amount of these are actually written by Queer authors. Why? I have a theory on traditional publishers and their ‘diversity’ quotas that I might be so kind as to bore you with in a future post, but for now let’s focus on why we’re focusing on it for this site.
Being Queer puts us in a marginalised position. Even if we have privilege in other areas (e.g being white, being male etc.), if you are LGBTQ+, you do not share the same privilege as heterosexual authors. Because of this, heterosexual authors are more likely to get books published, even if they are about LGBTQ+ characters. Great, you might say. We love GayYA! Yeah, but what if I told you that because Straight Guy published his book about lesbians this year, Straight Guy’s publisher knocked back Lesbian Author’s book about lesbians? Seem’s kinda messed up right? Isn’t Lesbian Author more qualified to write about the lesbian experience than Straight Guy? Wouldn’t we rather read books with Queer characters written by Queer authors who actually understand us? Who have been there and lived to tell the tale?
But we’re writers, you say, we are supposed to be able to get outside of ourselves and write about people different to us. You don’t need to be gay to write a gay character. Sure, and that would be a fine argument if Straight Guy’s publisher published both books. Reality is though, they don’t.
So we at Get YA Words Out are attempting to correct this imbalance, by shining a light on Own Voices books, finding new Queer voices and encouraging the publication of more Own Voices AusQueerYA.
Worried about Straight Guys’ career? No, neither are we, but in case you run into him at Pride this year, fear not. Just show him this handy diagram.
As you can see from this highly technical illustration, Non-Queer YA authors already have a leg-up on Queer authors in the traditional publishing world. Our project aims to even out the playing field by highlighting those books by Queer authors that remain in the shadow of Non-Queer YA authors, whether they are traditionally published or self-published. Print this off and hand it out every time someone tells you heterosexual privilege is a myth.
Confused? Super impressed by my Paint skills? Hungry? Tell us about it in the comments below.