Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: YA Lit on Asexuality Resources


Earlier today guest poster Laura Perenic shared with us an introduction to asexuality (Introducing Asexuality, a guest post by Laura Perenic). This really resonated with me because of a recent interaction I had with one of my regular teen patrons. I was sitting in the Teen MakerSpace working on some collection development. Specifically, I had a list of Asexual (or Ace) YA Lit titles that I was checking the catalog to see if we owned a decent number of titles on the topic for our teens. As I sat there, this teen came up to me and saw the word asexuality on my computer screen. “What are you doing?,” she asked. So I told her I was checking to make sure we had some YA fiction titles on asexuality in our teen fiction collection. She then pointed to the word asexual on my computer screen, “That’s me,” she said. She then went on to tell me that she had no idea that there were teen fiction books that featured asexual characters, she said it in a way that clearly communicated that this moment was important to her. For the first time, she knew that there were teens like her in our teen fiction collection. Thankfully, I was able to get a couple of titles in her hand in that moment, which is why it is important that we do our due diligence in collection development and can meet the needs of any teen we encounter in our libraries. Here are a few resources for you to check your collections to make sure you have some asexual representation in your YA collection. I particularly recommend the Gay YA as it is curated by members of the GLBTQIA+ community and they really discuss representation and quality. When evaluating the quality of books featuring asexual teens it’s important to listen to members of the asexual community to make sure that the representation is not harmful and does not perpetuate stereotypes.

Masterlist: Asexual – Gay YA

Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction – The Hub

Books with Asexual Main Characters – Quiet YA Reads

Not Broken: Julie Daly talks asexual representation in YA

Also, check out this multi-part discussion:

Reading While Asexual: Representation in Ace YA – Gay YA

National School Climate Survey results about LGBT students’ experiences in school

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, released its biennial National School Climate Survey, which documents the experiences of LGBTQ students from across the country, in late October. If these statistics shock you, you clearly haven’t spent much time talking to gay students or hanging out in a high school or a middle school.  The good news is that things have improved slightly from their 2011 survey. The bad news is that it’s still really ugly out there.

168 page report (which is available as a PDF and as an hour-long webinar) looks at discrimination, harassment, assault, biased language, school resources and support, and more, and examines how these factors affect educational performance, safety, and mental health of LGBT teens. The report is filled with statistics, charts, and graphs that drive home the point that LGBT students face a lot of opposition at school and frequently don’t feel safe or supported.  Being knowledgeable of their potential struggles and understanding where they (and you!) can go to find useful resources (books, websites, helplines, etc) is a major step in the right direction. As GLSEN reports, “The survey has consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.” This report should be required reading for anyone who works with teenagers. 


Findings of the 2013 National School Climate Survey include: 

Anti-LGBT Remarks at School

•  71.4% of LGBT students heard “gay” used in a negative way (e.g., “that’s so gay”) frequently or often at school, and 90.8% reported that they felt distressed because of this language

•  64.5% heard other homophobic remarks (e.g., “dyke” or “faggot”) frequently or often.

• 56.4% heard negative remarks about gender expression (not acting “masculine enough” or “feminine enough”) frequently or often.

• 51.4% of students reported hearing homophobic remarks from their teachers or other school staff, and 55.5% of students reported hearing negative remarks about gender expression from teachers or other school staff.


School Safety, Harassment, and Assault at School

• 55.5% felt unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and 37.8% because of their gender expression.

• 74.1% were verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 55.2% because of their gender expression.

• 36.2% were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 22.7% because of their gender expression.

• 16.5% were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 11.4% because of their gender expression.

• 49.0% of LGBT students experienced electronic harassment in the past year (via text messages or postings on Facebook), often known as cyberbullying.


The high incidence of harassment and assault is exacerbated by school staff who rarely, if ever, intervene on behalf of LGBT students.


• 56.7% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school did not report the incident to school staff, most often believing little to no action would be taken or the situation could become worse if reported.

• 61.6% of the students who did report an incident said that school staff did nothing in response.


The report goes on to discuss: 

*absenteeism (“Many LGBT students avoid classes or miss entire days of school rather than face a hostile school climate. An unsafe school environment denies these students their right to an education.”)

*academic achievement (“School safety affects student success. Experiencing victimization in school hinders LGBT students’ academic success and educational aspirations.”)

*psychological well-being (“Experiences of harassment and assault in school are related to poorer psychological well-being for LGBT students.”).


Additionally, it looks at discriminatory policies, discriminatory discipline, restrictions, and prohibitions regarding public displays of affection, attending dances, forming a GSA, writing about LGBT topics, etc. It breaks the data down by race, ethnicity, school type, location, region, and more.


GLSEN offers many recommendations for turning these statistics around, such as giving students more access to LGBT-related information (literature, history, etc), forming GSA groups, providing professional development to increase the number of supportive teachers and staff, ensuring school policies are not discriminatory, having anti-bullying and harassment policies that make it clear that they provide safety for LGBT students, and teaching an inclusive curriculum.


Previously at TLT:

Check out my previous post GLBTQ YA Resources for Building a Collection and Supporting Teens, which compiles articles and websites for great suggestions on books to add to your library collections and how to support GLBTQ youth.


Also check out:

The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools Project, which “is one of the few LGBT and gender-inclusive programs in the country that has a K-5 focus with resources to help elementary schools and educators address bias-based bullying—including anti-LGBT slurs and gender put-downs.”


HRC’s Time to Thrive conference (Februrary 13-15, 2015, in Portland, Oregon, “where nearly 1,000 educators, social workers, professional counselors and other youth-serving professionals are expected to attend.” You might remember that it was at this conference earlier this year that actress Ellen Page gave a moving coming out speech)


Unfamiliar with GLSEN?

From their site: GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN’s research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

@GLSEN on Twitter

Rant: Because Faking It isn’t Real, or Helpful


I admit, I have watched MTV for a long time. A LOOOONG time. I watched music videos and loved the VJs, and had my favorites. I watched the original Real World when it aired in 1992 (even though I had to hide it from my parents- they didn’t think it was appropriate as it was a little too extreme for our area). I watched when Real World: San Francisco was lauded for AIDS activist Pedro being honest about his story and his life. I have watched numerous episodes of True Life, watching teens document their real stories, and Catfish: The TV Show, where the dangers of online dating are exposed. I even watched the short lived WWE Tough Enough, where contestants were trying to become wrestling stars. I’ve seen 16 & Pregnant, Teen Moms, and other shows, and seen MTV become more television than music. It’s not on my favorite channel list on Roku, and I don’t tune in that often. I admit that I haven’t been able to get into Teen Wolf or Akward, but I haven’t really tried.

Across my Twitter stream the other day came #BanMTVsFakingIt, listed by some people that I actively follow and some I just browse. I follwed the thread, and then got curious. Faking It is a new teen show launching this week. Accoring to the New York Times:

Katie Stevens and Rita Volk star as Karma and Amy, best friends desperate to crack their school’s inner social circle. (As usual, there’s no obvious reason — looks, charm, body mass — why they shouldn’t already be there.) Karma is the more desperate of the two, and the show opens with her latest scheme, to generate sympathy by pretending to have been blinded by a sudden-onset brain tumor.
Within a few minutes of screen time, a better solution falls into their laps: They’re mistaken for a lesbian couple, and Karma realizes that they should play along: Being a brave, public same-sex couple in liberal Austin makes them instant celebrities.
That’s enough of a hook to make the show stand out, but it takes a further step (spoiler alert here) by making one of the girls realize that maybe she’s not just playacting her new sexual orientation. It’s a slightly melodramatic twist, though it raises the stakes from teenage farce to something with a little more emotional resonance.

Now, I’m sorry, but faking your sexuality, even if in the middle of the series one of the the girls realize that “maybe” they’re not playacting is hurtful and painful and just wrong.
I’ve read blogs that post on the opposite side of my opinion, noteably on

Here’s the thing: Are parts of Faking It problematic? Sure. But when it comes down to it, I believe this show will do more good than harm. I am ecstatic over the kissing scene at the end of the pilot (I’ve watched it ten times). I’m even more ecstatic about the additional kisses shown in the Season 1 teaser. In a world where Glee dragged its feet for nine episodes (seriously?!) between confirming Brittany and Santana were a couple (S3, E4) and actually showing them kissing (S3, E13), it is a joy to have a show like Faking It, which shows Karma and Amy kissing in its teaser trailer.

When we watch Faking It, there will be no waiting around for the two queer/”queer” girls to show up on screen. They will be on screen in every scene. Karma and Amy’s story is not the subplot to a larger story about straight characters. (They are not Glee. They are not Pretty Little Liars.) Karma and Amy are the story. If the Faking It writers handle these characters responsibly—and I’m praying they will—we have a beautiful, heartening journey to look forward to.

 “Ten years ago, we would have never been able to put this show on telly,” said U.K.-born Gregg Sulkin (Pretty Little Liars, Wizards of Waverly Place), who plays Liam, Shane’s straight best friend who develops a crush on Karma. “This is a great opportunity for us to show the world that times have changed. This is the future, this is where things are headed, so get on board or get out of the way.

The young cast’s universal attitude toward the message Faking It espouses — Be true to yourself and people will love you because of that — reinforces a perceptible moral shift among twentysomethings who have grown up in a world with representations of the LGBTQ community omnipresent in pop culture. 

They are more than welcome to their opinion.
The only hope I have for the show is that the creator works for the Trevor Project, and the Trevor Project itself is promoting the show on their site.

I’ve been working with GLBTQ/QUILTBAG teens for years. I have yet to have one not have a painful experience upon coming out to someone. I have yet to have one not have hazing/harassment/violence in school because someone suspected their sexuality might be different than the accepted norm.   (I’m not even going to touch the fact that the cast is pale beyond compare for Austin, Texas– my head already hurts.)
If you look to Twitter and other social media, or even in the majority of hometowns or local news, it’s not the case. If it was, we wouldn’t need services like The Trevor Project. GLBTQ/QUILTBAG teens wouldn’t be 5 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. It wouldn’t be illegal to be gay and in love in 1/5 of the United States. I wouldn’t have teens takling to me about their relationships when their religion says they’re going to hell. There wouldn’t be protestors saying that fags are demons. There wouldn’t be postings like these on Twitter:

 The pilot has already “aired” everywhere in the free world.
The first episode airs April 22 on MTV.

“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.  

Body Image, take III – Popular culture and the effect on gay teens and body image (a guest post)

After seeing the follow-up post about body image issues that not only girls, but guys have, it got me thinking about something. Sure, straight guys have these messages coming from society that they need to have these sculpted Adonis-esque bodies, but it becomes even more difficult for gay teens, especially gay and bisexual males who have to deal with additional pressure coming from what is supposed to be an open and accepting community.
One thing I did to come to terms with my orientation was to read books from the library about guys like me who were also dealing with liking other guys. Sure enough, I read my way through Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, some Brent Hartinger, and some other stories along the way. It was then that I noticed something: I had never come across a book directed toward LGBT teenagers where the main character dealt with their weight or body image. How was I, as someone who has dealt with weight a majority of his life, supposed to identify with characters who were not representing me?
And it’s not just limited to books. Look at your TV and see how gays are represented there. Off the top of my head, there at least 3 gay characters on TV who do not fit the standards that gays put upon themselves: Max Blum from Happy Endings, Cameron Tucker from Modern Family, and Dave Karofsky from Glee. And the rest of them either are average, like Mitchell Pritchett from Modern Family, or are very fit physically like Danny Mahealani from MTV’s Teen Wolf.
Some of this focus on body image comes from, yep you guessed it, childhood and what kids are exposed to at a young age. In their book The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession, a great read for those of you interested in males dealing with body image, authors Harrison G. Pope Jr. and Katharine A. Phillips mention how even the body shape of action figures have been supersized, citing a difference in G.I. Joe toy from the 60s to a toy from the same brand now, as seen in the image of the three action figures. Now if you ask me, G.I. Joe over there has really been packing the protein and possibly some steroids. 

 In a post for Hommemaker, Orlando Soria writes, “Gays . . . live in a warped bubble where we are freaks if we don’t somehow magically look like underwear models.” As a gay teen, I have pressure coming not just from American society that I need to drop my excess pounds and have a healthy weight, but because I’m also gay, I should be in the gym nearly every single day so I can be musclebound. And why is there so much emphasis on having a muscular physique in gay culture that teens are picking up? Brian Moyler of Gawker writes that the main reason is fear of being alone and rejected by others. Additionally, a 2012 study conducted in England revealed that 48% of the males surveyed who identified as gay or bisexual said they would be willing to shorten their life by a year in exchange for the “perfect body.” Even more shocking was that 10% of those men would shorten their lives by a decade for that perfect body at that moment.

There’s an additional component involved in this about how within gay culture there are numerous subcultures that revolve around a guy having a certain look, and despite the fact that the LGBT community says it’s all about being together supporting each other, many of us will attempt to make ourselves fit into these groups so we won’t be, just like Brian Moyler said, alone.
So what can we do to fix these issues? Be body positive. This reminds me of something Tina Fey wrote in her book Bossypants; she wrote down a list of the features of herself that she loved and wouldn’t want to change. I’m not saying you need write yourself a list of what you like about yourself (if that helps do it), but to be comfortable with how you look. And if you aren’t and decide that you want to make some positive changes in your lifestyle, do it because you want to and not because you think that if you do you’ll find acceptance. I leave you with a quote from the fabulous RuPaul. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”

GI Joe image taken from http://www.iamhuntergatherer.com/a-real-american-hero/, another interesting post on male body image.

I’m Cristian, or Alejandro, Martinez (either one is fine by me) and I am currently a Youth Services Volunteer at the Glendale Public Library in Glendale, Arizona and have been for about six years. I’m also a college student majoring in psychology with an eventual goal to be a Youth and Teen Librarian, and if that doesn’t work out, I would love to combine my love of books and cooking to own a bookstore/bakery. You can find me either at https://www.facebook.com/SaveGPL, the library advocacy page I administrate, or at my personal Tumblr blog http://kripkeskumquat.tumblr.com/. You can also follow me on Twitter, @CriAleMar.