Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

“The Gay Characters”

Almost a year ago (February 21, 2012, actually) I reviewed Drama for Teen Librarian Toolbox.  Drama has been named a Stonewall 2013 Honor Book, a 2013 Rainbow Project Top Ten title, and a Great Graphic Novel Top Teen for Teens.

A few days ago, we (Teen Librarian Toolbox) got this comment in response to my review:

I felt this book was inappropriate for my 10 year old who was interested in it until reading about the gay characters. There should have been an indication in the opening or book synopsis that explains what “Drama” the story will be about.-Anonymous

Before we go any further, I would like to point out that the back cover has a very nice explanation of what the “drama” of the story is about without spoiling the entire book: 

Now, if you are concerned about what your 10 year old is reading or your 10 year old is concerned about what they are reading, there are many ways to go about finding out what books are about. Check out websites, review sites (*cough*) like this one, the subject headings in library catalogs, or even flip through the book or read it before your 10 year old does. That way you know if there is something “objectionable” in the reading material.

What you feel is appropriate for your 10 year old is up to you. I am not the parent of your child. You, however, do no get to put indications more than what the publisher chooses to put on the book in order to indicate content. You also do not get to choose what’s “objectionable” for someone else’s 10 year old. I have a number of 10 year olds that I work with that love the book, and those that toss it aside. I have others that are desperately waiting for the next issue of Wandering Son, which details two cross-gender children growing up in Japan and dealing with all that entails. It’s beautiful, poignant, and really reaches kids- because they identify with the feelings of not fitting in, whether it’s gender related or not. Just like readers identify with Cassie and the rest of the cast of Drama, and everything that goes on within a middle school.

If you do not want them to read about “the” GLBTQI characters, then do not have them read this book. Or A Girl Named Dan. Or Yuck, That’s Not a Monster. Or See You At Harry’s. Or Lola and the Boy Next Door. Or Better Nate Than Never. 

Definitely don’t have them watch cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants. Or Sesame Street. Or Teen Titans. X-Men: Evolution. Superman: The Animated Series. Sailor Moon. DragonBall Z. X-Men.

Oh, and don’t watch TV shows that my nieces adore, like Project Runway and Project Runway: All Stars. Or shows like Top Chef or Chopped. Or Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Definitely stay away from anything science fiction (Doctor Who and Torchwood, Firefly or Star Trek). Don’t watch Glee, Gilmore Girls, Degrassi (original or next generation), or Modern Family. 

According to Gallup, 3.8% of the population admit to being LGBT (same as GLBT). That’s those who admit to it: those who are hiding their sexuality, or who think it’s really none of anyone’s business. That’s 4 out of 100 people. 1 out of 30 that admit it. 30 is the typical United States public classroom size. Statistically, there is at least one GLBTI person in each classroom. In each grade. In each school. Statistically, there will be at least 2 more (in each classroom in each grade in each school) that are questioning before they leave high school. 

For my local grade school, that’s 26 classrooms- so 26 kids that will by the time they are adults come out statistically, plus 52 more that will either hide what they are, or question.

More stats: 

  • Attendance for Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in 2013: 71,024. Statistically out GLBT fans: 2,804. Not counting the gay athletes.
  • Six Flags Corporation (all of the Six Flags parks combined) third quarter 2013 attendance: 11.8 million guests. Statistically out GLBT coaster riders: 472,000. Not counting the workers.
  • Magic Kingdom (Florida) annual attendance (one park): 17.5 million people. Statistically out people visiting the most Magical place on Earth: 700,000. Again, not counting the workers.

So, if you’re not going to have your 10 year old read about “the gay characters,” when will you “let” your tween? Because “the gay characters” are all around- just like everyone else…..

Karen’s Note: My tween has read both Smile and Drama by Telgemeier, and she loves them both.  We’ve watched episodes of Glee and many other shows now where she has seen a boy kiss a boy or a girl kiss a girl.  I come from a conservative Christian background, so I get where some of the issues are coming from for parents.  But here’s the deal, last year one of my favorite family members entered into a same sex relationship.  It didn’t change her worth as a person.  It didn’t change our history together.  It didn’t negate all of our memories.  She fell in love with another woman and I can’t hide that from my tween.  People are in same sex relationships all over the globe and no amount of putting our head in the sand is going to negate that.  Our children know, they see it.  It is our job to teach them about the dignity of all people – even people we may not agree with for personal or religious reasons – because all people have basic, fundamental rights and value.  Coming out as GLBT is one of the leading causes of bullying, suicide and homelessness among our today’s youth.  I happen to think that is a problem.  One of the ways that we can help address this alarming stat is by promoting love and kindness.  

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