Madison Gallup ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
While there are some absolutely wonderful characters who identify as part of the LGBT community, there is undoubtedly a need for more. These characters better serve to provide insight into the LGBT community, and perhaps even more importantly, they allow someone who identifies as part of the community to see themselves reflected in popular culture. It is crucial for there to be more diversity in the sexual orientation of characters who make up the world of Young Adult (YA) literature, since it is within that world that many young people first start to form opinions about themselves and the people around them. With an underwhelming number of 94 books published with any kind of LGBT character in them in 2013 (http://www.malindalo.com), and the majority of them having cisgender male protagonists, the need for more representation is evident. Here are ten of the most important YA characters who identify as a part of the LGBT community.
1. Dumbledore (Harry Potter series)
Beginning with one of the most popular and controversial LGBT characters, the great Albus Dumbledore from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a prominent member of the literary LGBT community. No, he never officially comes out in the course of the series, but there are hints to the wizard’s sexuality. Not making Dumbledore’s sexual orientation define his character was an interesting and important choice for Rowling to make. Even though she was quick to say that she wrote Dumbledore as a gay man, it is not explicit in the text. Perhaps Dumbledore would be a more powerful icon if he had come out within the series, but he serves as a reminder that a character’s sexual identity should not be what makes them intriguing and worthwhile to write about.
2. Wallace Wells (Scott Pilgrim)
Many may recognize this character as Scott Pilgrim’s gay roommate from the Scott Pilgrim series (a group of six graphic novels) by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Even though Wallace is quite the opposite of Dumbledore in terms of being defined by his sexuality, he still adds a lot of humor and depth to O’Malley’s series. Yes, Wallace does follow a lot of the stereotypes associated with a gay man, but that does not mean he is not a worthy and important member of the LGBT literary community. It is just as important to have characters who do meet stereotypes (and are still awesome within the novel) as it is to have characters who defy them.
3. Petra West (Beauty Queens)
A transgender woman from Libba Bray’s novel Beauty Queens, Petra West is a fierce and fascinating character. The fact that Petra is the only transgender member of the LGBT community to be on this list really speaks to the lack of representation that this group has in literature. More author’s should take a page out of Bray’s book and include transgender characters in their own work. Petra West is another example of a character who is not defined by how she identifies — she is not even revealed as a trans woman until later in the book. Bray really creates a great variety of interesting women characters in her novel, and she spends time focusing on each one of them. Petra West’s storyline is reason enough to pick up this feminist YA novel.
4. Cameron Post (The Miseducation of Cameron Post)
Emily M. Danforth wrote The Miseducation of Cameron Post and introduced readers to 12-year-old Cameron Post who is sent to a camp meant to “turn her straight.” Clearly this does not fly with Post, and the novel is all about the struggles she faces coming to terms with her sexual orientation in an environment that does not accept her. Characters like Post are important to represent the oppressed part of the LGBT community who must try to remain strong despite the bad living situations they find themselves in.
5. Tony (Boy Meets Boy)
This supporting character in David Levithan’s novel, Boy Meets Boy, is notable for the fact that he lives in a toxic home environment. While Tony is fortunate to have supportive friends and go to a remarkably (almost utopian) gay friendly high school, he is still very much affected by his unsupportive family. This is the first of several Levithan created characters to make an appearance on the list. This is no accident, as David Levithan is one of the people who work hardest to increase the representation of LGBT characters in YA literature, both through writing them himself and helping to publish books that include them.
6. Avery Dekker (The Bermudez Triangle)
Avery is one of the three central characters in Maureen Johnson’s novel, The Bermudez Triangle. Nina Bermudez is shocked to discover that her two best friends, Melanie and Avery, have struck up a romance while she has been away for the summer. This steadfast friend group is rocked as Mel and Avery discover their sexuality together, and Nina has to learn to cope with the changing dynamic. Avery Dekker is important because she comes to realize that she is bisexual. The B in LGBT is even less represented than the rest of community, so it is important to have characters like Avery exist. She reflects a grey area in the sexual orientation spectrum that many people deal with, even though it is not often shown in literature.
7. Tiny Cooper (Will Grayson, Will Grayson)
Another David Levithan creation, Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson is loud and proud of who he is. The book, written by John Green and David Levithan, deals a lot with the LGBT community at a high school level. Tiny Cooper is president of the GSA at his school, as well as a football player and a force of creativity. Tiny is a very flamboyant person, but (as mentioned with Wallace Wells) this is not a bad thing to show in literature. Tiny is one of the most confident gay characters encountered in YA, and he does not let very much phase him. This makes him an inspiring member of the community.
8. Patrick (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Like Tiny Cooper, Patrick from Stephen Chbosky’s novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is a force to be reckoned with. He certainly is not a perfect person, and he faces a lot of pain in high school. This pain primarily stems from a hidden romance he has with the closeted quarterback. Patrick takes advantage of having Charlie (the main character of the novel) around whenever he feels lonely or upset. He hopes for a better life, one that he doesn’t have to zone out of, after he gets into college. Serving as a prime example of his struggles to shut out pain and wait for things to “get better,” Patrick is a popular and prominent member of the LGBT YA community.
9. Harry and Craig (Two Boys Kissing)
Okay, yes… there are two characters in this space meant for one, but to split up Harry and Craig from David Levithan’s recent novel, Two Boys Kissing, would be a crime. Harry and Craig’s whole mission throughout the novel is to stick together. They want to make a statement against a homophobic community by taking over the world record for the world’s longest kiss. Levithan does a masterful job at representing all sorts of situations that gay people have to deal with through the characters in Two Boys Kissing, but Harry and Craig are particularly motivational because of the dedication they show to their cause. This strong sense of purpose and activism they have at a young age is just as important as the fact that both boys identify as gay.
10. A (Every Day)
Ending with one of the most complex and interesting of Levithan’s creations, A is the protagonist of Every Day, a novel which explores the life of a character who wakes up in a new person’s body every morning. For this reason, A does not have a gender or sexuality with which to identify. A still experiences feelings and desires, but struggles with the temporary nature of every bond formed in the span of a single day. While A does not fall precisely within the boundaries of the LGBT community, this does not diminish how important it is that a character like A exists in YA literature. Many people struggle to pigeonhole who they are and how they feel, and A serves to represent this uncertainty. Not everyone will fit into a category perfectly, and that is important to show.
There are some pretty wonderful characters in Young Adult literature who identify as part of the LGBT community, but there is definitely a need for more to exist. The community especially lacks in representation of bisexual and transgender characters, as seen demonstrated in this top 10 list. Also evident in the list is the fact that many of these characters come from the same author: David Levithan. There is just as much of a need for a greater variety of authors to write about this underrepresented community as there is for the characters to exist. Future authors should keep this in mind — the more representation there is for the LGBT community, the better!