Should LGBTQ be a separate genre?
By: Smrithi Senthilnathan
Here are my opinions on this. I’m not saying a complete ‘yes’ or ‘no’, because there are arguments in favor and against both sides so I hope you read this and then let me know what you think in the comments.
LGBTQ is a fairly new genre, because people are slowly starting to come out more right now. It makes me so happy that the world has evolved enough that people do not feel as afraid as before to come out. The world is moving towards being a better society and being acceptive of all people, not just those who fit their traditional ideals. Of course, there’s still a tremendous way we have to go but we have taken steps in the right direction. More and more authors are writing stories with LGBTQ characters in them, and many LGBTQ authors’ books are becoming popular thanks to social media sites booktok (book community of TikTok) and bookstagram (book community of Instagram).
LGBTQ has become a separate new genre, with tons of books being published in the genre. But here arises the problem. When you create a separate genre just for LGBTQ, it shows that they are separate from the normal. That they are different. I get that people want to highlight LGBTQ books but LGBTQ people need to be normalized, and having a separate genre might not be helping that. Moreover, it makes it easier to avoid those books which is not what people should be doing. LGBTQ books should be mainstream.
There are also a lot of LGBTQ books about the discrimination and negative reactions from the community they face. I do think it is important for people to tell their stories so the world knows how it feels. However they should not be the only stories that are told. There should also be tons more books about happy people. The next generation will read these books and if they only read books about the negative experiences, it will structure their mind to think that’s how LGBTQ people are treated. There should be a lot more positive stories and books about people who bonded together and were accepted into communities or simply stories about LGBTQ people being exceptional not because of their identity but because of their character.
Moreover, just because a book is LGBTQ does not make it better. There are many people on the Internet who say ‘everything is better because it’s gay’, and I agree a lot of the time but that does not mean normalizing toxic relationships and harmful stuff simply for ‘the representation’. People are promoting books simply because they are LGBTQ, completely disregarding whether the books are any good at all. Some books can be downright offensive and/or inadequately researched and hurtful. Representation is important, yes, but also normalizing and romanticizing harmful stuff is not the way to go about it.
When you think about it, it all comes down to the point of affirmative action. Should actions be taken to level the playing field for historically discriminated against communities, or should there be no interference so both communities come up by their own efforts and merits? It’s a debate that’s not easily solved, and has been going on for quite a long time. Read about it, it’s quite interesting.
Coming back to the topic, here’s what I think. Yes there should be books dedicated just for LGBTQ people, yes there should be books where they shine, yes there must be more representation. But also there should be a lot more casual representation. LGBTQ people who exist in books not for the sake of representation or hitting an invisible quota but simply because. Characters who are fan favorites not because of their sexualities or identities but because of their actions as characters. Books with LGBTQ characters where their identity/orientation is not the main focus of the story. Casual diversity. Fantasy heroines whose main agenda is capturing a stolen artifact and also happen to be bisexual. Male detectives who are determined to solve a case and happen to be asexual. Non-binary heros that save the world. Protagonists whose sexual orientations don’t affect their goals. This is what I want to see more of. I do not want to read books simply because they’re LGBTQ, but rather because they have a good story and plot and writing. I want to see casual diversity. I want to read books for their stories. After all, the stories are what got me into reading : )