Couples challenge Northern Ireland's gay marriage ban in court

Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close, and Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, the first UK couples in civil partnerships, pursue legal battle over full marriage equality

A rally calling for same-sex marriage to be made legal, in Belfast.
A rally calling for same-sex marriage to be made legal, in Belfast, earlier this month. Sinn Fein has called for a referendum on the issue in the province. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

An American woman and her partner, who were the first couple in the UK to have a civil partnership ceremony, are to challenge Northern Ireland’s ban on gay marriages.
Shannon Sickles, a US citizen, and Grainne Close made history a decade ago when they were the first gay couple to have a civil partnership in Britain, sealing their union at a ceremony at Belfast city hall.

Now the couple are taking part in a legal case to overturn the bar on LGBT couples getting married in Northern Ireland. They will launch their legal case on Friday morning.

Shannon Sickles, left, and Grainne Close
Shannon Sickles (l), and Grainne Close at Belfast city hall in 2005. Theirs was one of the first gay civil partnerships in the UK. Photograph: Paul Faith/Press Association

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where there is no gay marriage equality. The deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, has suggested a regional referendum – similar to the one that passed in the Irish Republic last month – on gay marriage.
Sinn Féin and other parties have made repeated attempts to legislate for gay marriage equality in the Northern Ireland assembly, but their proposals have been voted down by unionists. The evangelical Christian wing of the Democratic Unionist party has mounted fierce opposition to introducing gay marriage equality in the province.

Close and Sickles will be joined by a male couple, Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane (previously Christopher Flanagan and Henry Kane) in seeking a judicial review of the ban.

On her Facebook page, Close posted on Wednesday: “This year, December 19th, 2015 Shannon and I, along with Chris and Henry Flanagan-Kane, will celebrate 10 years of our civil partnerships.

“Northern Ireland was the first place in the UK to recognise civil partnership legislation and is now the last place in the UK and Ireland to recognise equal marriage.

“On June 26th, 10am in the high court, the four of us are bringing a legal challenge for a judicial review of the legislative prohibition preventing us from entering into civil marriage.”

“Our barrister, Laura McMahon, will argue that to bar equal marriage is a fundamental discrimination of our rights under the European convention on human rights, which is without justification.”

Henry Kane (R) and Christopher Flanagan had a civil ceremony on the same day in 2005 in Belfast. They are also fighting the ban on gay marriage in the region.

Pinterest
Henry Kane (R) and Christopher Flanagan had a civil ceremony on the same day in 2005 in Belfast. They are also fighting the ban on gay marriage in the region. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

She added: “You will hear the arguments from DUP and other religious groups (all the same that have been played out in the Irish referendum) that we have civil partnership, so why marriage?

“The fact that we have to stand in a different queue from opposite-sex peers when it comes to having our relationship recognised by the state is itself indicative that we are treated differently.”

The Rainbow Project, one of the main gay rights organisations in Northern Ireland, said it will attend the hearing in Belfast this Friday, in solidarity with the couples.

“Anything that tests the legal basis of Northern Ireland’s ban on civil marriage is a positive step,” said John O’Doherty, the Rainbow Project’s director. The organisation has been planning to launch its own legal challenge, based on human rights legislation, this autumn.

Earlier this month, thousands attended a rally in Belfast organised by the trade union movement and Amnesty International, calling for gay marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has backed the campaign to lift the ban, claiming that it not only violates European human rights law but also equality legislation contained within the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Loving Comrades by Paul Salveson

Publisher: P.Salveson (Aug. 1984)

Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman

This book sets out to investigate the history of socialism in Bolton, and of some of the famous people who were involved in the movement, or adopted by it, in it’s early years.

I came to this fifteen page book with a fresh mind and no preconceived ideas or knowledge.  I found it to be well linked together, with the test interspersed carefully chosen b&w photographs.  But, it is unfortunate that a book of such wide interest should be faulted by spelling mistakes and word omission.  These are not sufficient to affect the readability of the book, but do lower the standard of an obviously well researched and written book.

For the gay community, the book is well worth a delve for it’s comments and outlook on Edward Carpenter and the rest of the literacy group that was part of the movement.

I think ‘Loving Comrades’ is worthwhile reading; and it has been thought provoking enough to leave me wanting to know more about all the people referred to, and their writing also.

 

 

Out of the Winter Gardens

Publisher: Verulam Publishing Ltd; paperback / softback edition (Sept. 1984)

By David Rees

This book, Out of the Winter Gardens,  is up to the normal David Rees standard, well written and constructed, however, I do feel that the ‘gay’ content is limited and publicised beyond it’s actual content.

You feel sympathy for Mike during his investigative adolescence; despair for his father Jo who appears to be lacking in a deep-rooted characters and some loathing for Adrian the harpist.

If you enjoy a well-written book, and don’t look for real characters, this book is for you.

 

 

Book Review: Sticky White Label by Paul Culshaw

Now former Liverpool drag queen Paul Culshaw has written a book to help others beat the labels – Sticky White Label

Paul Culshaw who has written a book about gay bullying

Paul Culshaw’s life has been filled with extremes. As a young child, lonely and tormented for being different; as a teenager struggling to come to terms with being gay, subjected to a primitive exorcism to drive out the ‘demons’ of homosexuality.

He went on to become Liverpool’s most reluctant drag queen DJ, never quite fitting the extravagant persona he created.

“I went from this isolated little boy to born again Christian, then child soap actor to being Whitney Wide-On,” he smiles. “So when I thought about it, there was quite a lot of scope and stories to tell.”

Now 31, Paul sat down to write down a collection of his experiences, anticipating a mix of anecdotes and fun recollections.

“It was only when I wrote them all down, these emotions started to come out and I began to recognise quite a sad troubled character,” he explains. “That was when I tapped into the bullying and low self-esteem, and how that still affects me on a daily basis as an adult and what I was writing became part autobiography and part self-help book.”

The result, Sticky White Label, is, he says: “raw, painfully honest and finishes on a very positive, uplifting note that we can defeat the bullies and we can live with and overcome our mental health issues. And it challenges gay slurs and labels which can be hard to shake off, hence the title.”

A quote from Paul Culshaw’s book Sticky White Label
Sticky White Label traces Paul’s life from infant and primary school years spent struggling to be accepted.

Brought up by a single mum in Crosby, she would often take him to the park to play. “I always wanted to connect with other children because I was an only child, and I was very polite, but when I asked to join in the games they’d always say ‘no, you talk like a girl.’

“So I was aware, even at five or six, that there was something different about me, even though I didn’t understand what it was. I’d spend every lunchtime at school walking round doing laps of the playground, just looking at the clock because it felt like the break went on forever.”

When he won an assisted place at Merchant Taylor’s Boys School he begged his mum not to send him.
“I knew what it would be like because boys didn’t like me, but with hindsight I’m grateful that I went there because I got a wonderful education and I think I probably would have had a tough time whatever school I’d gone to.”

The bullying and rejection was constant, he says. “And the name calling. I remember being on the bus and the word faggot used to terrify me because that was the word that meant I was going to get beaten up.”

Landing a role in C4 soap Springhill only served to draw more unwanted attention, but it wasn’t until he was 14 that he finally found the courage to come out as gay.

“I was a born again Christian and I remember going to one of the girls and asking her to pray with me because I’d been having thoughts about boys and I was attracted to them,” he recalls. “It must have taken me about half an hour to get the sentence out, I was so terrified.”

The girl he chose to confide in was supportive, but his experience within the church wasn’t always so positive.

Paul Culshaw’s take on self-esteem from Sticky White Label
“I was ostracised by some of the group for confessing my gay feelings, and they had a private exorcism. I didn’t realise what it was at the time, I thought it was just a prayer meeting, but looking back it was like a bad Hollywood horror movie. There were people praying and commanding the demon of homosexuality to leave my body in Jesus’ name.

“I think they were trying to help a troubled soul in the best way they could, and some of those people are still very good friends of mine, but the experience was traumatic and it stayed with me.”

Paul’s life took a positive turn when he found friendship with his mum’s hairdresser who was also gay. “He was a confident, successful person and a great example of someone who was happy in themselves so it gave me hope,” he explains.

Since leaving school to pursue a career as an actor/DJ and writer, Paul has continued struggle with panic attacks and low self-esteem.

“They are daily challenges I’ve learned to live with and manage,” he says. “And so much stems from the bullying and being made to feel ashamed when I was younger.

Paul as drag queen DJ Whitney Wide-On
“Even when I was Whitney Wide-On, working at G-Bar for six years, I realised that a lot of those one-liners and the sharp witty comebacks came from learning to defend myself. They were from a negative place, that’s why I was never truly happy doing it. The other drag queens were very comfortable in their job, in the sequins and the glamour, and I was envious of that but it was just a character to me and I couldn’t wait to be Paul again.”

Whitney features in Sticky White Label, but for now at least her lipstick and Lily Savage wig are consigned to Paul’s past.

As for the future, he hopes that the book can help anyone going through bullying or suffering chronic anxiety and go some way to dispelling the lingering harm of labels.

“We all get labelled don’t we?” he says. “Not just for being gay, for being different in any way, but the book isn’t all doom and gloom, it does have a happy empowering ending. I’d just love to think people relate to my experiences and they could help someone else. I might not be famous or in the public eye, I’m not Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, but that doesn’t mean my life is any less valid!”

* Sticky White Label is available on amazon.co.uk. £3 from each book sale goes to PACE (LGBT mental health), Ditch The Label, (anti-bullying) and The British Heart Foundation.

New Book Releases: June 2015.

LGBTQIA+ CHARACTERS IN YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE

New book releases June 1st (USA)

Love Spell by Mia Kerick — (G,Q)

Love Spell (Cool Dudes Publishing, 2015)

Love Spell (Cool Dudes Publishing, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Strutting his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug orange tuxedo as this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon feels so very right to Chance César, and yet he knows it should feel so very wrong.
As far back as he can remember, Chance has been “caught between genders.” (It’s quite a touchy subject; so don’t ask him about it.) However, he does not question his sexual orientation. Chance has no doubt about his gayness—he is very much out of the closet at his rural New Hampshire high school, where the other students avoid the kid they refer to as “girl-boy.”

But at the local Harvest Moon Festival, when Chance, the Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper Donahue, the Pumpkin Carving King, sparks fly. So Chance sets out, with the help of his BFF, Emily, to make “Jazz” Donahue his man.

An article in an online women’s magazine, Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love with You (with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure), becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.

Quirky, comical, definitely flamboyant, and with an inner core of poignancy, Love Spell celebrates the diversity of a gender-fluid teen.”

Cool Dudes PublishingAmazon

June 2nd (USA)

*GAY YA’S BOOK CLUB PICK FOR JUNE!*

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera — (G)

More Happy Than Not (Soho Teen, 2015)

More Happy Than Not (Soho Teen, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut novel offers a unique confrontation of race, class and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

When it first gets announced, the Leteo Institute’s memory-alteration procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto—miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron can’t forget how he’s grown up poor, how his friends all seem to shrug him off, and how his father committed suicide in their one bedroom apartment. He has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough.

Then Thomas shows up. He doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession over the Scorpius Hawthorne books and has a sweet movie set-up on his roof. There are nicknames. Aaron’s not only able to be himself, but happiness feels easy with Thomas. The love Aaron discovers may cost him what’s left of his life, but since Aaron can’t suddenly stop being gay Leteo may be the only way out.”

Amazon / Book Depository / Indie Bound

June 2nd (USA)

Skyscraping (Philomel Books, 2015)

Skyscraping (Philomel Books, 2015)

Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen — (Gay parent)

Goodreads Summary: A heartrending, bold novel in verse about family, identity, and forgiveness.

Mira is just beginning her senior year of high school when she discovers her father with his male lover. Her world–and everything she thought she knew about her family–is shattered instantly. Unable to comprehend the lies, betrayal, and secrets that–unbeknownst to Mira–have come to define and keep intact her family’s existence, Mira distances herself from her sister and closest friends as a means of coping. But her father’s sexual orientation isn’t all he’s kept hidden. A shocking health scare brings to light his battle with HIV. As Mira struggles to make sense of the many fractures in her family’s fabric and redefine her wavering sense of self, she must find a way to reconnect with her dad–while there is still time.
Told in raw, exposed free verse, Skyscraping reminds us that there is no one way to be a family.

Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble

June 4th (USA)

The Geek and His Artist by Hope Ryan — (G)

The Geek and His Artist (Harmony Ink, 2015)

The Geek and His Artist (Harmony Ink, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: Simon Williams spends his lunch periods drawing his geek and trying not to think about the terrors waiting for him at home. He needs to get away from his abusive father before he suffers the same grisly fate as his mother. Because he’s learned the hard way running away doesn’t work, he’s counting the days until his eighteenth birthday.

Jimmy Bennet should be spending his lunch studying so his senior GPA is good enough to get him into college, but he can’t seem to focus thanks to his distracting artist. When he’s given the opportunity to tutor Simon in Trig and discovers Simon’s home-life nightmare, he wants nothing more than to get Simon out of danger. This need becomes more urgent when Simon comes to school the Monday after their first date with bruises, but it takes a broken leg before Jimmy can convince his boyfriend the Bennets really want him.

But the danger Simon thought was past shows up at the most unexpected time, and he must stand up to the fears he’s held so long to protect not only himself, but the man he wants to spend his life with.”

Harmony Ink Press / Amazon

June 5th (UK)

Starring Kitty (Catnip Publishing, 2015)

Starring Kitty (Catnip Publishing, 2015)

Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton (Middle Grade – L)

Goodreads Summary: Sometimes the greatest love stories happen behind the scenes…

Kitty’s keeping secrets. Like how she’s struggling to cope with her mum’s illness. And how she’s falling for the girl with the purpley-red hair… A fun film competition with her friends Sunny and Hannah seems like the perfect distraction. But then Dylan wants to be more than Kitty’s secret. Is Kitty ready to let her two worlds meet or will she risk losing Dylan forever?

Starring Kitty is the first in a new series about first love and friendship by much-loved teen author Keris Stainton.”

Book Depository

 

June 9th (USA)

The Rules of Ever After by Killian B. Brewer — (G)

The Rules of Ever After (Duet, 2015)

The Rules of Ever After (Duet, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “The rules of royal life have governed the kingdoms of Clarameer for thousands of years, but Prince Phillip and Prince Daniel know that these rules don’t provide for the happily ever after they seek. A fateful, sleepless night on top of a pea set under twenty mattresses brings the two young men together and sends them on a quest out into the kingdoms.

On their travels, they encounter meddlesome fairies, an ambitious stepmother, disgruntled princesses and vengeful kings as they learn about life, love, friendship, and family. Most of all, the two young men must learn to know themselves and how to write their own rules of ever after.

The Rules of Ever After is the debut novel from Duet Books, an imprint for Young Adult LGBTQ fiction from Interlude Press.”

Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble

June 11th (USA)

The History of Us (Harmony Ink, 2015)

The History of Us (Harmony Ink, 2015)

The History of Us by Nyrae Dawn — (G)

Goodreads Summary: “Sometimes it’s not about coming out, it’s about settling in.

Eighteen-year-old Bradley Collins came out a year ago and hasn’t looked back since. Who cares if he doesn’t know any other gay people? Bradley has friends and basketball—that’s all he needs. Even if that means always sitting on the sidelines when the guys go out looking for girls.

When cute film-boy TJ tries to flirt with Bradley while his friends are doing their thing, he freaks. Yeah, he’s gay, but he’s never had the opportunity to go out with a boy before. He’s never had to worry about how his friends will react to seeing him with a guy.

Bradley accompanies TJ on a road trip to film TJ’s senior project documentary. In each city they visit, they meet with people from different walks of life, and Bradley learns there’s a whole lot more to being honest about himself than just coming out. He still has to figure out who he really is, and learn to be okay with what he discovers.”

Harmony Ink Press / Amazon

June 16th (USA)

Glittering Shadows (Dark Metropolis #2) by Jaclyn Dolamore — (book#1 featured L and A characters)

Glittering Shadows (Disney Hyperion, 2015)

Glittering Shadows (Disney Hyperion, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: The revolution is here.

Bodies line the streets of Urobrun; a great pyre burns in Republic Square. The rebels grow anxious behind closed doors while Marlis watches as the politicians search for answers—and excuses—inside the Chancellery.

Thea, Freddy, Nan, and Sigi are caught in the crossfire, taking refuge with a vibrant, young revolutionary and a mysterious healer from Irminau. As the battle lines are drawn, a greater threat casts a dark shadow over the land. Magic might be lost—forever.

This action-packed sequel to Dark Metropolis weaves political intrigue, haunting magic, and heartbreaking romance into an unforgettable narrative. Dolamore’s lyrical writing and masterfully crafted plot deliver a powerful conclusion.”

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Indie Bound

June 23th (USA)

The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015)

The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015)

The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek by Seth Rudetsky — (G)

Goodreads Summary: Broadway, New York. The shows, the neon lights . . . the cute chorus boys! It’s where Justin has always wanted to be–and now, with a winter internship for a famous actor, he finally has his chance to shine. If only he could ditch his kind, virtuous, upright, and–dare he say it?—uptightboyfriend, Spencer. But once the internship begins, Justin has more to worry about than a cramped single-guy-in-the-city style. Instead of having his moment in the spotlight, he’s a not-so-glorified errand boy. Plus, Spencer is hanging out with a celebra-hottie, Justin’s best friend Becky isn’t speaking to him, and his famous actor boss seems headed for flopdom. Justin’s tap-dancing as fast as he can, but all his wit and sass might not be enough to switch his time in New York from nightmare-terrible to dream-come-true terrific.

Seth Rudetsky’s second YA novel is endearingly human, laugh-out-loud funny, and for any kid who’s ever aspired to Broadway but can only sneak in through the stage door. ”

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Indie Bound

June 30th (USA)

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler — (B, L)

Under the Lights (Spencer Hill Contemporary, 2015)

Under the Lights (Spencer Hill Contemporary, 2015)

Goodreads Summary: “Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents’ wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls…opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he’s trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he’s in the spotlight—on everyone’s terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents’ disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she’s painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van’s life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she’ll have to choose between the one thing she’s always loved…and the person she never imagined she could.”

LGBTQ YA by the Numbers: Gender and Genre

 

After seeing an ask about speculative fiction with LGBTQ+ protagonists on the Gay YA tumblr a few weeks ago, I got curious, so I did what I often do in circumstances like these: I went through the masterlist to figure out just how much LGBTQ+ speculative fiction was on it. Thinking about speculative fiction numbers got me thinking about other numbers, so I thought it might be interesting to do a gender breakdown as well. This turned into a slightly more involved project (“more involved” meaning “I had to count more books”, basically). These numbers are based on the list as it stood on 21 April, 2015; they would look (slightly) different if recalculated today.

Totals

I’m going to go down the list from most books to least books.

Gay: 315 books

  • male author: 174.5 (55.4%)
  • female author: 130.5 (41.4%)
  • non-binary author: 0 (0%)
  • multi-author anthology: 7 (2.2%)
  • anonymous: 1 (0.3%)
  • I couldn’t find out: 3 (1.0%) (two books by M.C. Lee and one by R.J. Seeley)

While a majority of books about gay male characters are written by men, a significant portion of them are written by women (a far, far greater percentage than the numbers for books about lesbians written by men, as we’ll see in a moment).

That said, my initial perception that the majority of the books in the Gay section of the masterlist were written by women was, obviously, very wrong it’s clear I fell victim to the 17%/33% fallacy (if you’re reading this, are a man, and haven’t heard about this, I’d highly recommend reading the article; it really opened my eyes to the limitations of my perception and is the reason that in contexts like this my approach is to actually count so I have accurate numbers instead).

I’d be very interested to hear from authors about why they chose to write the stories they wrote (as opposed to writing stories about non-straight female characters).

Lesbian: 203 books

  • male author: 13 (6.4%)
  • female author: 172 (84.7%)
  • non-binary author: 1 (0.5%) (S.J. Adams)
  • multi-author anthology: 15 (7.4%)
  • I couldn’t find out: 2 (1.0%) (two books by Ari Bach)

These percentages become even starker if you exclude the anthologies: over 90% of the non-anthologies were written by women.

Bisexual: 81 books

  • male author: 21.5 (26.5%)
  • female author: 58.5 (72.2%)
  • non-binary author: 0 (0%)
  • multi-author anthology: 1 (1.2%)

A further breakdown of the bi books by the gender of the bi character (and character gender vs. author gender) would be very interesting, but that will have to wait for another time.

Transgender: 38 books

  • male author: 6.5 (17.1%)
  • female author: 26.5 (70.0%)
  • non-binary author: 2 (5.3%) (one book by Sassafras Lowry and one by Rae Spoon)
  • multi-author anthology: 3 (7.9%)

The same note as for the bi books applies here, as well.

Asexual/Aromantic: 19 books

  • male author: 2 (11%)
  • female author: 17 (89%)
  • non-binary author: 0 (0%)
  • multi-author anthology: 0 (0%)

Caveat: the ace/aro section of the masterlist includes non-YA books, in deference to the rarity of ace/aro representation in YA, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.

Intersex: 6 books

  • male author: 0 (0%)
  • female author: 6 (100%)
  • non-binary author: 0 (0%)
  • multi-author anthology: 0 (0%)

There are so few books with intersex characters. Hopefully that will change in future.

Genre

I’ve included a gender breakdown here, as well. For the purposes of this list, I counted all forms of speculative fiction: high fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal stuff, science fiction, postapocalyptic and/or dystopian books, magical realism, etc. Not included are things like thrillers, historical fiction, sports books, and the like. Again, I’m going to go through by number of books.

Gay: 76 (24.1% of total)

  • male author: 39 (51.3% of genre)
  • female author: 33 (43.4% of genre)
  • multi-author anthology: 2 (2.6% of genre)
  • I couldn’t find out: 2 (2.6% of genre) (two books by M.C. Lee)

Lesbian: 58 books (28.6% of total)

  • male author: 3 (5.2% of genre)
  • female author: 48 (82.8% of genre)
  • multi-author anthology: 5 (8.6% of genre)
  • I couldn’t find out: 2 (3.4% of genre) (two books by Ari Bach)

Bisexual: 40 (49.4% of total)

  • male author: 5 (12.5% of genre)
  • female author: 35 (87.5% of genre)

Asexual/Aromantic: 17 books (89% of total)

  • male author: 1 (6% of genre)
  • female author: 16 (94% of genre)

As above, these statistics are perhaps a bit dubious considering that the masterlist includes non-YA books with ace/aro characters.

Transgender: 9 books (23.7% of total)

  • male author: 2 (22% of genre)
  • female author: 7 (78% of genre)

Intersex: 2 books (33% of total)

  • female author: 2 (100% of genre)

There are so few of these that these statistics mean nothing, basically.

Comments

Excluding asexual/aromantic and intersex on the grounds that there are too few of them to make any real judgments, the percentage of genre fiction is pretty consistently around 25% for gay, lesbian, and trans books.

So what’s up with the bi books? I mean, that’s awesome if you’re looking for speculative fiction about bi characters (and really, is anyone not?), but still: almost 50% of the books on the masterlist about bi characters are speculative.

This raises two questions that are two sides of the same coin: first, why is it that we can more easily imagine bi characters in speculative contexts than in the real world? And, relatedly: why is it that gay, lesbian, and trans characters are limited (relatively speaking) to realistic (or at least grounded in the real world) fiction?

I think the answers to those questions are related in much the same way the questions are:

  • the dominant narrative about LGBTQ+ youth is the coming out story, prototypically about gay men, lesbians to a lesser extent, and more recently trans people (cf. Casey Plett’s excellent commentary on the “Rise of the Gender Novel“). Bi young people don’t fit as neatly into this narrative, so fewer versions of it are written.
  • by the same token, the dominant narrative about LGBTQ+ youth is the coming out story about gay men, lesbians, and trans people. Speculative fiction plots don’t tend to leave as much room for this as realistic fiction does, so less speculative fiction about these groups is written because it’s harder to fit that dominant narrative into speculative stories.

The (relative) overrepresentation of bisexuality in speculative fiction worries me: it’s already easy enough for realistic media to refuse to say the word “bisexual”. Moving to a fantasy world where contemporary labels for sexuality aren’t used or don’t apply can be liberating, but it can also be an uncomfortably convenient way to not engage with real-world questions about identity.

The (relative) underrepresentation of gay, lesbian, and trans characters in speculative fiction has been extensively discussed elsewhere, and I don’t have much to add that hasn’t been said elsewhere, better, before. Speculative fiction allows members of marginalized groups to imagine possibilities for themselves beyond what the dominant group(s) acknowledge, and that’s incredibly important (N.K. Jemisin has an amazing essay on representation that you should go read immediately).

This is not at all to say that realistic fiction isn’t important, because it is. If we take one thing away from this post, let it be that there just isn’t enough LGBTQ+ YA being published. The Gay YA Masterlist is not a complete list, by any means, but it’s fairly comprehensive, and it’s also short enough that it’s not unreasonable for me to sit down and count every book on it. Malinda Lo estimated in 2013 that only “1.9% to 2.4% of YA books published in 2013 include LGBT main characters or are about LGBT issues”.

Realistically, there just aren’t enough LGBTQ+ YA books being published for any of these numbers to be more than vaguely suggestive of questions or trends. How meaningful is it to say more books about bi characters in speculative contexts are being published when only a handful of books about bi characters are released every year? Or that there are “too many” coming out stories when major publishers released only 24 LGBTQ+ YA books total in 2014?

We desperately need more stories. In N.K. Jemisin’s words (seriously, read the essay I linked to above):

We all have futures. We all have pasts. We all have stories. And we all, every single one of us, no matter who we are and no matter what’s been taken from us or what poison we’ve internalized or how hard we’ve had to work to expel it —

 

 

— we all get to dream.

Nathaniel | May 28, 2015 at 6:00 am | Categories: Guest Blogs, Updates and Announcements | URL:http://wp.me/p1tHav-Bv

Give Your Characters an Online Presenc

There was a time when you could be all alone even when surrounded by dozens, even hundreds, of people. I’m talking about high school and the time before the Internet and smart phones.

Everyone feels isolated now and then, but true isolation, being ignored while the rest of the world goes about its day, is something teenagers face. Especially LGBT teens. We’re the outsiders, after all. Different. Sometimes special, but very different. Where we look we see a world that was built for heterosexuals and cisgendered people. Seeing a film, watching a commercial, noticing a sign that features two boys holding hands or two girls kissing or androgyny–we remember this as the exception to the norm. Our being different is reinforced every day, sometimes every hour.

When I was an adolescent, the isolation was terrible and terrifying. I know that for many kids that is still the case, but I lacked the technology that could soothe my loneliness. I was closeted. There was no option of a gay-straight alliance. I did not know a single other gay kid except the effeminate boy who surrounded himself with a flotilla of girls. I could not relate to him. I could not tell anyone my secret. Being a nerd did not help matters–nerds talk a lot about science-fiction and fantasy back then, but invariably the conversation would turn to talk about lusting after girls. And I became hushed and alone even among the few friends I found.

As a writer, I think about how life as a LGBT teen has changed because of technology. The Internet brings people together. When you’re LGBT, often you need to construct an artificial family because of issues (real or perceived) with you biological family members. I say artificial but I do not mean to suggest that this constructed kin and kith are less valuable. We want our family to shelter us and nurture us. And a family constructed from people from around the world, who we speak to online, can be incredibly caring and encouraging.

An example: I recently watched the film Romeos (which I give two thumbs-up and recommend). The lead is a young transgender man in the midst of transitioning. The emotional toll is devastating but the lead goes online and records his own progress, checks in with others through Skype, and watches videos of those who are both ahead and behind him in the transition process. I’m in my 40s now. I had no idea that this vibrant community of transgender folk (I am sure it’s not just teens) existed and that they did so to help others dealing with gender issues. Sometimes the pain expressed in the videos was almost too much to bear, but then there were moments of joy for the lead, as he could see the aftereffects of surgery.

Back to books and why I am writing this blog: when I was a teen, there was no etheric community I could join–likely anonymously to begin with, then identifying myself as my confidence was reinforced. Gay teens of my generation had to either wait until graduation (cars! college! clubs!) or run away to major cities and find the gayborhoods. If you are writing gayYA and it’s set before the Internet, you cannot avoid the issue of isolation. Except for the boys who were flamboyant and hid behind drama and female best friends, few boys would dare come out of the closet.

But now…now, in contemporary YA fiction, there exists an entire realm of friends and acquaintances that can comfort.

I’m certainly not going to suggest that LGBT teens today no longer have to deal with loneliness or being outcasts. An enormous number of runaway teens are queer. But you cannot ignore the role of the Internet in the everyday life of any adolescent. Tumblr. Instagram. Even those hoary old sites like Facebook. Social networking means that a gay kid can find someone to talk to someplace in the world 24/7. The characters in your novel need to have an online presence. Whether they live in a rural state that is highly conservative and religious and they are afraid to come out or they are fortunate to be in a liberal neighborhood and have parents who love them for who they are, that teen will be socializing online. And not just socializing. How do LGBT kids learn about being…well, queer? Straight kids have the heteronormative world that instructs them how to dress, how to speak, how to ask a boy or girl out, how to make out, how to navigate adolescence. Now some of this is patterned off of media like television and movies and has terrible elements (like misogyny) but they have role models to follow. Gay kids have fewer examples to follow and so they need the Internet more than their straight counterparts. Watching a gay short on Vimeo…following a popular blogger…asking dating advice from friends that they have never even met in person. This is a very real and strange (and wondrous) life for so many LGBT teens.

It may seem silly in a blog post to champion the role of the Internet in your fiction. But take a step back and realize why this blog exists. How are queer kids discovering that books they can relate to have been written? Not every baby dyke’s mom is going to be handing her the latest Malinda Lo book. Not every gay boy is brave enough to ask the school librarian if they have anything by David Levithan. And a teen questioning gender? Likely their first investigations will be made online before they can seek professional and clinical help with the decision to transition.

Your queer kids in the book may be loners, may be introverts, but they will also be using the Internet as a lifeline. Don’t deny them that.

Steve Berman is a writer of queer speculative fiction for teens and adults, and an editor. Visit him online or follow him on Twitter.

Policing Board publishes update reports on LGB and Transgender human rights recommendations

Following the publication in 2012 of the Human Rights Thematic Review on the policing with and for people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB) and/or Transgender, the Policing Board has now published two reports on how the 18 recommendations made by the Review are being implemented by the PSNI.

The Review looked at how the PSNI engage with LBG and Transgender individuals across a range of circumstances – as members of the public generally; as victims of crime; as suspects; and as employees or potential employees.

Chair of the Policing Board Anne Connolly said:  “The Board recognises the positive progress made by the PSNI in this area since we published our Thematic Review in 2012.  We know, however, that many LGB and Transgender people in Northern Ireland continue to be the target of hate crimes which can have a devastating impact upon their lives, their families and the wider community. Hate crime is a wider societal issue that cannot be tackled by the police alone yet the police play a critical role in a victim’s experience.

Despite increasing budgetary pressures, the police must therefore continually seek to improve their response, to bring more offenders to justice and to build confidence in people to report incidents and we welcome the fact that tackling hate crime is a strategic priority for PSNI.”

Ends

For further information, please contact the Northern Ireland Policing Board’s Communications Office on 07801738795.

Notes to editors

  1. To view the update report on LGB people click here and the for update report on Transgender people click here.
  2. To view the 2012 report, click here.
  3. In recognition of the fact that gender identity is in no way connected with or related to sexual orientation, a commitment was made in the thematic review that any further reporting on transgender issues would be separate from LGB. Thus two update reports have been produced, one reporting on policing with and for transgender individuals and one reporting on policing with and for LGB individuals.

Notes to editors ends.

Same-sex marriage in the UK and Ireland

Same-sex marriage in the UK and Ireland by Gavin Boyd, Policy and Advocacy Manager of The Rainbow Project.

The cause of marriage equality for same-sex couples has been growing globally for a number of years with many European and Latin American countries moving quickly to legislate and with legislation and strategic litigation furthering the cause in the United States. The passing of same-sex marriage legislation in England, Scotland and Wales coupled with the passing of the marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland has left Northern Ireland as the only region within the UK or Ireland which neither conducts nor recognises same-sex marriages.

These legislative changes which are happening around the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland have led to an increase in speculation as to how or when equal marriage can be introduced. In light of the successful marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland, many activists and politicians have intimated that a similar campaign could introduce equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

It is, however, important to remember that the referendum in the Republic was used because it was the only way to introduce equal marriage. Had the responsibility to introduce fallen to Dail Eireann, equal marriage would have already been introduced because all of the main political parties supported its introduction. However, the understanding of the government and its legal advisors was that the constitution of the Republic would have to be amended to allow for same-sex marriage and only a national plebiscite or referendum could amend the constitution in this way.

As UK has no written constitution there is not the same tradition of referenda to amend or create laws. In the UK, Parliament is sovereign and referenda are not legally binding. Although referenda may indicate public support for an issue, Parliament still has the authority to give effect to the will of the public or legislate in another way. The Rainbow Project believes that a referendum is not the solution to marriage inequalities in Northern Ireland. We know that there would not be the same consensus among political parties as there was in the Republic, likely leading to a more divisive and contentious campaign, without a certain outcome, which would still have to be voted on by the Northern Ireland Assembly. As the Northern Ireland Assembly has now failed four times to introduce marriage equality, we see no reason that a referendum result would compel those members, who are intractably opposed to its introduction, to vote for a marriage equality bill, even if it was supported by the public.

Due to the barriers which exist to a legislative solution to marriage for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, The Rainbow Project has turned to strategic litigation.  When same-sex marriage became lawful in England and Wales in March 2014, we understood that although couples from Northern Ireland could legally marry in England or Wales, they would only be recognised as civil partners when they returned to Northern Ireland. To us, this creates an anomalous situation where someone has their relationship reclassified against their will when they move to another part of the same state i.e. the United Kingdom. We are of the opinion, that if someone is married in the UK, then they are married everywhere within the UK and that any attempt to reclassify their relationship is an unlawful invasion of their rights to privacy, family life and marriage.

To this end, we are now supporting a couple who were lawfully married in England in 2014 who are seeking to have their marriage recognised in Northern Ireland. We are asking the family court to make a declaration of marriage; essentially stating that their marriage was lawfully conducted and that their marriage remains lawful in Northern Ireland. The role of The Rainbow Project in this test case is to source and support the clients. Our external solicitor had prepared the papers, sought counsel, and engaged with PILS to secure funding for the challenge.

Our clients wanted to be married, they did not want to enter a civil partnership. Had they wanted a civil partnership, they could have entered into one in Northern Ireland. The best option for them was to get married in England, as many people from Northern Ireland do.  When they came back to Northern Ireland their relationship was downgraded to a civil partnership. We do not think that this is reasonable. We do not feel that this achieves any kind of legitimate state interest and we strongly feel that there is a public interest in ensuring that a person’s marriage is recognised everywhere within the state they live and cannot be reclassified without their consent.

We are not, at this stage, asking the court to declare that same-sex couples may marry in Northern Ireland, but simply to state that if someone is married they must be recognised as married. The referendum result in the Republic makes the need for recognition of marriages even more urgent. We could now have a situation where a married couple who live in Derry/Londonderry are not recognised as married at home but if one partner travels across the border to work in Donegal, they are recognised as married but the partner who remains in Northern Ireland is not recognised as married. This is a truly unreasonable position for any government to hold and deliberately devalues a same-sex relationship comparative to an opposite-sex relationship without providing any evidence as to why they should be treated differently.

It is important to note that recognition of marriages is only one part of the puzzle, the second is to ensure that same-sex marriages can be conducted in Northern Ireland. However, we believe that the most strategic outcome is to secure recognition of marriages in Northern Ireland and then either allow the Assembly to legislate for marriages to be conducted in Northern Ireland or challenge the failure of the government to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

As our recent rally for marriage equality in Belfast City Centre, with our partners Amnesty International and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, demonstrated there is enormous public support for the introduction of marriage equality in Northern Ireland.  Thousands of people attended to make their voices heard.   If legislative or referendum solutions are not practical to achieving this, then the public interest is best served by strategic litigation.

 

Reprinted 11th Edition: 22nd June 2015

Unrealistic Gay Beauty Standards

 

SHUTTERSTOCK / ZURIJETA
A new study of gay men found they had a clear image of their ideal body but on average they felt they needed to look even hotter than their ideal body simply to get dates. The study authors think this is probably leading to eating disorders. Gay men, this bears repeating: nobody’s perfect and that’s okay.
Family Support Helps Queer Teens… Maybe
Corbis
A new study on family support and depression among LGB (no T) teens had some weird findings: queer girls with lots of family support were less depressed but queer boys with lots of family support were more depressed. Why? No idea. More research is needed but until then we should be looking out for all our youth — boys and girls alike.