Welcome to a super special post on Queer Books for kids/teens/Young Adults.
I am reviewing LGBT books for kids/YA – the index of other reviews is here. Looking just for nonfic? Here is my non fiction tag.
QUEER: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens
by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke
This is a teen survival guide written specifically for LGBT people – coming out, dating, gaydars, communicating, surviving abuse, sex and so on. It’s pretty awesome, and filled with a lot of right-on advice. I spotted essentially nothing I disagreed with.
Much queerteen advice overlaps with straight advice – this includes safer sex and the signs of an abusive relationship. However, this book does a nice job of discussing specific queer issues which, I think, most straight folk wouldn’t consider. This includes:
I feel like these are uniquely queer issues, issues that a straight author blithely writing “be yourself! being gay is normal!” would not pick up on.
For gay, lesbian and bi teens, this is a brilliant, wonderful, affirming and sensible book. It deserves a home in every library, school or otherwise.
You knew this but was coming, though:
This isn’t a great trans book. It’s inclusive to an extent – it mentions trans people throughout - but contains very little useful info. It treats coming out as trans and coming out as gay as identical experiences – uncertainty, bullying, and being yourself! It doesn’t touch on the greater prejudice trans teens may face – my gut feeling is that coming out as trans is a whole different ballgame in terms of keeping yourself safe and affirming your identity. It also does not discuss uniquely trans issues – this book does not contain the word “dysphoria”, nor anything about hormones, gender therapists, legal documents. Anything which would not also apply to a cisgay is not in this book.
In addition, it advises that trans teens disclose their gender history to potential partners before things get physical. This sounds like really sensible advice, but in reality – this is a complex and contentious issue in the trans community. I feel like this is the advice given by someone who has never been in this situation would give. I feel like most trans people would discuss it with far more nuance and with sensitivity to what a complex decision this is, even if they also came to the conclusion that disclosure is best. Simply saying “tell your partner first!” ignores the reality of how people might view their own gender or history, and ignores the increased risk of violence/murder directly after telling someone. There is no trans author on this writing team as far as I can tell (I gather they are a gay man and gay lady), and the book sorely needs one.
I only have one other gripe: it fudges its treatment of kink/bdsm. Simply by not using the word “kink” or BDSM. It vaguely intimates that some people are into unusual stuff, like dressing up as animals or wearing high heels; and that it’s important to communicate with your partner if that’s your bent. But I feel like if you’re going to mention the topic, you should be comfortable enough to use those words. You need the words “kink”, “fetish” and “BDSM” for google if you need to learn more. I see no benefit in not using those words – it’s literally to the detriment of the reader, hampering their access to information.
Playing with ropes, knives or other potentially dangerous objects can cause serious injury.
You’ve got 100 words to write about kink, and you choose to throw that in there? No info about how to do those things safely; no words to google, or places to find out more. You literally throw ropes and knives at the novice reader as options, with zero context. I think BDSM has a place in any book about sex/sexuality, including ones for teens, and it requires more than this feeble paragraph. Ditto with the poly para, which does not use the word “polyamorous”. If you think either poly or kink sounds like a good idea based off those paras, you are literally going on a post-it note sized square of information, with no signposts to find out more. Bad call!
YES for every library; YES for your LGB teens. For trans teens, it’s perhaps better than nothing and much info will still be relevant, but you should be aware this is not trans specific and Tumblr is still your best bet.