Gay Character in Kids Book Causes Kerfuffle
Just when we see a positive gay character in a kids book, the heavens explode and all the adult content warning labels come out. From what I gather, Better Nate than Ever isn’t a gay book, but there’s minor sub-plot that deals with coming of age and the character is starting to realize he’s attracted to boys and he’s not certain why. (I think any gay man alive can relate to that feeling.)
And then librarians started pulling the book. After that, in a blog post, an amateur book reviewer who is a Christ Follower gave the book a good review, but also put a warning on the book stating that it contains homosexuality in a positive manner…as if that’s grounds alone for a warning label.
This isn’t all that unfamiliar to me. I know there are web sites that classify anything with LGBT content with warnings about adult content…yes, even if the book doesn’t contain sex scenes and it’s completely g-rated material. Author Alex Beecroft wrote a post about this topic not too long ago in a way that I found interesting and well executed. Just the fact that there’s a gay character in a book makes it adults only, as if kids aren’t gay. Trust me, Mrs. Kids Book reviewer, I knew I was gay when I was three years old and my parents didn’t have to explain it or tell me about it. I got it then, and I get it now. It wasn’t sexual either. Most openly gay adults would agree with me.
In an odd way, this all reminds me of what happened on Big Brother, the TV series, a few years ago when Jeff Schroeder decided that Dumbledore in Harry Potter couldn’t be gay because it wasn’t appropriate for kids to read. And Schroeder was very passionate about it. I posted about that here. I had to remove Schroeder’s photo for copyright reasons (my own decision), which is why there’s a blank in the post.
To say this news took Jeff by surprise would be an understatement. Noting at first that Dumbledore “doesn’t have any gay tendencies,” Jeff grew increasingly agitated and irate. “He’s in school with little kids!” he shouted. “You don’t want to make that guy gay!” Asked to expound, Jeff explained, “It isn’t right to have it in a little kid’s book, and have the head master locked away in this magical land, be gay.
In any event, now the author of Better Nate Than Ever is dealing with this, too. And I thought it would be interesting to let my readers know how some of these people in the mainstream view gays, or anything with a hint of gay content…they view it with adult warning labels.
But there is a bright note. From Tim Federle’s post:
Happily, there are many more educators, booksellers, young readers and parents who have been supportive of this book and books like it, books that tell stories that star diverse characters who aren’t just relegated to the sidelines as the sassy sidekick or the tomboy cousin. And some of Better Nate Than Ever’s most noted reviewers celebrated its “inclusive” storyline or didn’t even mention the gay thing at all, which I kind of loved. If anything’s to be picked apart, let it be my exuberant usage of exclamation points and parentheses, not my character’s maybe-he-is-or-maybe-he-isn’t sexuality.