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LGBT History Month in the UK: Reflecting on Sexuality as Portrayed in Young Adult Literature

LGBT History Month in the UK: Reflecting on Sexuality as Portrayed in Young Adult Literature

Author: David Mattar

February 18, 2013

B.J. Epstein, lecturer at the University of East Anglia, UK, asks us to consider representations of LGBT characters in literature and prompts a discussion on how to avoid inaccurate, sometimes damaging portrayals. While the progress LGBT communities have made in these past years can invoke marvel, Epstein feels some “leaps” are not as successful as others:  “The men in (some of) these books don’t always use protection, which is a worry in this era of increased knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases.”

While exploring the various presentations of sexuality in literature Epstein ponders the question, “How are LGBT people depicted in various types of media? What does that tell us about society? What messages does that send to readers/viewers? What can we do about it?”

MBE Awarded to Jean ‘Binta’ – Jamaica’s First Female Dub Poet

Speaking for the ‘oppressed and the dispossessed’, Jean’s distinctly Caribbean voice filled theatres in the 1980’s and brought a fresh flavour to the UK poetry scene. Despite receiving criticism from some of her political friends ‘Binta’ says she is “delighted” to receive the award “despite the history of empire.” Her poetry on the page reads beautifully, however it is as a spoken word poet that she is admired most, the subtle touch of fire to her voice:

She rocked the rhythms in her chair,
brushed a hand across her hair,
miles of travel in her stare.
“De simple tings of life.”

LGBT Inclusive Jewish Superhero — “The Purim Superhero”

The refreshing new children’s book, written by Elisabeth Kushner, provides the children of same-sex couples with something relatable and encouraging. Nate, the book’s protagonist, his sister and two fathers portray the many American Jewish families who, for so long, had not been validated in the books their children read in Hebrew school or brought home from Jewish libraries.

The author calls on her own experiences as a gay parent but does not suffocate the book with LGBT issues. Rather, she applies the parentage as a side-factor, something to be noticed but not something problematic or detrimental. She tells The Times of Israel:

“We also didn’t want a didactic book about gay issues, about gay bullying and the like,” said Catherine Bell, Keshet’s director of education and training. “We asked people to share stories that would be interesting to all Jewish families, where the main character just happens to have gay relatives.”

A Spotlight For 5 Queer Authors in Black History Month

Race, sexuality and gender are all factors that contribute to the neglect of talented artists and authors. As part of GLAAD’s month-long celebration of LGBT and ally African Americans, Daniel Villarreal takes a moment to nod to those authors who’s work has challenged a world of white, heteronormative, male privilege and radicalised the publishing industry that we know today. Audre Lorde, Jewelle Gomez, Pauli Murray, Samuel R. Delaney and Angela Davis are five picked from a colossal list of writers who are less acknowledged and less appreciated for their contributions. Collectively, the work of these authors, and their activism outside of the writing world, has begun to liberate the written word from its whitewashed conditioning and paved the way for writers to continue that work today. In his guest post at SDGLN Villarreal writes:

Throughout her life, [Audre] actively fought for the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements even while openly criticizing them for ethnocentrically focusing on the needs of middle-class Caucasians while ignoring the many socio-cultural subdivisions within their own ranks.

Daniel Radcliffe Acknowledges His Position as a Straight Actor Playing a Gay Poet

Free from the safety net of his 10-year-long experience as Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe can now take as many risks as he wants as an actor. Radcliffe has often spoken out in booming support of the LGBTQ community, but his newest role in Kill Your Darlings as world renowned poet Allen Ginsberg is setting some on edge:

I can see why people are skeptical about me playing Allen Ginsberg – I don’t look like him, and I’m English and middle-class and not from New Jersey. But that’s what I think is so exciting about it, because people have no idea.

In a new interview with Out Magazine Daniel provides his commentary on the criticism that has arisen as a result of his new role and attends to the issues of being a straight man taking part in explicit, gay love scenes.

You never see a gay actor getting asked what it’s like to play straight — to my knowledge, at least, there is no difference in how heterosexual and homosexual people fall in love.

David Mattar photo

About: David Mattar

David (Day) Mattar currently studies and lives in Liverpool, UK, where he studies English and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in Radical Faery Digest magazine and In The Red, where his essay, 'The Importance of Tea' was also published. He plans to move to NYC after graduation to apply for a MFA in Creative Writing.

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