The Bookseller – Commentary – Pride and Prejudice

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Growing up bisexual in the 90s, the shadow of Section 28 cast a long shadow of misunderstanding, institutionalized homophobia and a dire lack of resources and support. An avid reader of books then as now, I found almost zero representation in literature. My queer literary education went so far as to chase a rumor of lesbianism through the pages of The well of lonelinessreading Winterson’s sexy tunes Written on the body to obsession, and leaning on Emma Donoghue Jumped up with fascination. It was the environment in which, as a teenager, I only told one other person that I liked girls as well as boys. When I had my first relationship with a woman in my early twenties, I kept it completely secret.

Now in my 40s, belatedly confident and vocal about my sexuality (despite and despite the continued existence of bi erasure and biphobia), I devour queer stories on screen and on the page, making up for lost time. There are new posts every week, more than I can keep up with, and it’s exciting.

As publishing wakes up and becomes more inclusive, now is the time to foster and invest in true intersectionality – across race, age, class, and neurodiversity – and champion stories and non-fiction through the magnificent expanse of experience and lifestyle contained within the acronym LGBTQIA+.

As an industry, we need to celebrate this openness and – lately – the platform of queer joy. It’s a great gift for young readers to find themselves on the page in an upbeat and uplifting way, and to open up conversations that foster understanding and – I remain hopeful – empathy.

We are doing well and of course we have come a long way since the 90s, but we can do better. We have yet to transition to a position where LGBTQIA+ stories are no longer labeled niche and where we post in a truly broad and intersectional way. I’d like to see LGBTQIA+ publishing move more and more towards the nuances of those identities and move away from the big brushstrokes of being queer.

As publishing wakes up and becomes more inclusive, now is the time to foster and invest in true intersectionality – across race, age, class, and neurodiversity – and champion stories and non-fiction through the magnificent expanse of experience and lifestyle contained within the acronym LGBTQIA+.

I hope that as we unlock the true potential of LGBTQIA+ publishing, we do so in a way that centers the power of this collective acronym and community as they support each other, while allowing and respecting the different identities contained in each of these letters.

Let’s also see more accessory diversity. More stories centered on gay characters that are also read by straight readers, in the same way that gay readers have had to read straight character stories for years for lack of anything else.

And let’s be careful not to be too forceful in what we tell queer authors to write. Because there’s still a lot to unpack and discuss, and it’s not all happy. We are entitled to our hidden stories and our forgotten figures. One aspect of this is the need for more allies within the industry, inclusion across all departments, and trust that writers from these backgrounds know their audience better than mere gatekeepers.

We see wonderful imports coming to us once they’ve proven themselves in home markets – especially from America – but it’s time to center and nurture more local talent. I hope the success of Heart stroke will fuel an increase in investment in UK-based talent and a willingness to take risks and deliver new voices across all genres.

We’ll see an explosion of corporate support during Pride Month, and it gives us a moment of focus to reflect on where the industry is still failing the LGBTQIA+ community. This week alone, I have witnessed biphobic and transphobic attacks on authors and publishing professionals, and we must face up and heed the message this sends to members of our community working in the industry and to those considering entering. Just as there is no place for homophobia in this industry, we must not condone, platform, or condone transphobia. As we trade freedom of speech, we must also be mindful of the real danger of hate speech. As I watch the assault on trans rights, both politically and within the industry, it’s clear to me that it stems from the same policing of people’s bodies and hearts that has targeted the community. broadly queer over the decades.

Each person’s experience is unique, and the world is accepting – too slowly – the wondrous spectrum of human sexuality. My teenager would be stunned to find a section on bisexuality in an entire LGBTQIA+ writing bookshop, of which the UK now boasts several. As we continue to fill these shelves and find new readers, let us commit to being tolerant and respectful of those whose lived experience is not the same as ours. Let’s continue to nurture talent and populate these shelves with ever more diverse stories.

At TGLA, we are always open to submissions from LGBTQIA+ writers. For Pride Month, we’re offering special submission package notices to six randomly selected writers. A TGLA SPR is a 1,000-1,500 word report on the three main elements of an author’s submission – argument, synopsis or proposal, and sample chapters.

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