Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith co-wrote a post-apocalyptic young adult novel and sent it off to agents. They got offered representation, on the condition that they make a gay character straight, or cut him out altogether.
The authors decided that was the line they wouldn’t cross and they declined the offer. Brown replied:
“Making a gay character straight is a line in the sand which I will not cross. That is a moral issue. I work with teenagers, and some of them are gay. They never get to read fantasy novels where people like them are the heroes, and that’s not right.”This one agent was not the only agent to reject the book:
Previous agents had also offered to take a second look if we did rewrites… including cutting the viewpoint of Yuki, the gay character.And they did have an offer to represent the book, but turned it down because of creative differences that had nothing to do with the identities of the characters.
Forcing all major characters in YA novels into a straight white mold is a widespread, systemic problem which requires long-term, consistent action.You might be worried that these YA characters where having explicit sex. The author say there is only one kiss between the gay characters.
When we privately discussed our encounter with the agent, we heard from other writers whose prospective agents made altering a character’s minority identity—sexual orientation, race, disability—a condition of representation.
You can read the longer article in Publishers Weekly.
Is there a bias against gay characters? Or characters of color? Or disabled characters?