The Australian Queer community is facing a tough battle right now.
Our identity, lifestyle and basic human rights are being publicly debated, as though we are a new species of cane toad, rather than human beings. Many people in the Queer community have logged off, powered down and are patiently waiting out the storm. This is not through a lack of caring. This is because reading about how you are considered less-than over and over and over takes its fucking toll. If you are still online at this point in the same-sex marriage plebiscite shit-storm, I am going to presume you have read it all. I’m not going to get into the politics of this debate (though for the record, we at Get YA Words Out are obviously team YES). Instead I want talk about the importance of Queer YA in this current political climate.
A lot of us can look back on our childhoods and recognise how Queer we have always been. You remember crushes you had or movies you loved and although you didn’t realise when you were a kid, as an adult it all screams QUEER. This general nonchalance about who we are and what we like comes to a dramatic end when we hit our teens. Suddenly you are hyper-aware of what you like, what your friends like, if you’re cool, if you’re weird and yes, if maybe you loved your 6th grade teacher so much not because she was very good at teaching, but because you are GAY. Often there is a singular moment of recognition. For me it was a kiss between two girls on an episode of Neighbours that I got WAY too excited about. For others it’s reading a Queer character in a book and thinking ‘that’s me’.
The existence of this for young adults is so damn important. Let’s take a second to tie it back in with what’s happening in Australia right now. Imagine a Queer eighteen year-old who lives with their parents. This person is not out to their family. Their postal vote arrives and dear old mum knocks on the bedroom door, tells this person to tick a box right there in front of her so she can pop them into the post on her way out this afternoon. Imagine if the entire family is voting ‘no’. What would this closeted Queer do? Out themselves before they are ready, potentially risking their safety and the roof over their head? Vote no? Offer to drop off the post themselves despite how suspicious that sounds coming from a teenager?
I’m not sure what I would do in that scenario. What I do know is that if Queer young adults can’t find safety or support within their families, there needs to be somewhere else. That is why Queer YA is so vital. If you can find yourself in a book (or film, or any kind of cultural media), it validates your identity. If you can then go online and join the forums and fan-bases for that Queer character/book, suddenly you find yourself part of a community. Someone’s life can be completely altered by a single character in a single book.
That is why I write Queer YA.
That is why we must continue to write, publish and promote a wide range of AusQueerYA, covering all identities, all communities, all cultures, so that everyone knows that they are not alone. We need more representation of diverse sexualities and genders, more characters of colour and of different faiths. We need real stories, like Nevo Zisin’s. We need historical YA. We need to cover all the genres of fiction, because a Queer sci-fi reader needs to find their place too.
My Instagram has been flooded with people sharing their ‘YES’ votes this week. Publishers are changing their logos to rainbows and high-profile authors are using their platforms to spread awareness and love.
Keep doing this.
Even after the plebiscite is over. Even after same-sex marriage is legalised. Homophobia is very real in Australia and will persist no matter how many queer folk get married. And when the weight of all that hits you and you consider giving up, when you consider if it’s worth taking all of this shit over a book: Keep writing. Keep writing for the people who don’t have the chance, or safe space, or time to write their stories. Write knowing that you are not alone.
Your story matters. Queer YA matters.