Literature has and always will be a monumental facet of our culture and has served as a snapshot of what it was like around the time it was created. Throughout history, literature has been something like a tool, used to push certain agendas, promote certain ideas, spread awareness of certain topics, and more.
In particular, queer literature and representation of queer people in the media has evolved and changed so much from what it once was. Good and genuine queer representation used to be scarce, most often in the form of side characters or couplings who were accompanied by their center-stage and non-queer counterparts. And even then, the queer characters were most often only implied, with their subtlety reaching heights of non-comprehension.
Back in the day, any slim mention or possible affiliation with queerness was automatically seen as a red flag and the perpetrator blacklisted. Now though, queerness is celebrated, and in some cases, exploited by big corporations. Something that has historically been a niche and taboo topic treasured by its people, has become something of a marketing tactic that big corporations have used to boost their reputation and image. As seen by the phenomenon wherein large companies will wave their pride flags and rainbow-covered merchandise all throughout June, but once it hits July, poof, nowhere to be seen. The recent influx of queer representation isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Albeit most often used as a cheap marketing ploy, representation is still a huge thing. With this being a good step forward towards genuine and normalized queerness.
As a queer person, growing up I never did see many people like me in the mainstream media, and if I did it would be a big shock, something to be excited about. It’s amazing now to see young kids with access to TV shows and books with casual and genuine queerness.
Reading and literature has always been a big part of me and who I’ve become. The books I’ve read have truly helped shape who I am today. When I was younger and still today I’ve searched out queer books that I can relate to and that resonate with me. I distinctly remember being in 6th grade and finding an openly queer author, and me excitedly telling my friend about it, reading all of their books and being utterly enchanted by the simplicity and matter-of-factness of their queer characters.
Two of the major queer authors I read growing up include:
Anna-Marie McLemore writes with a fairytale touch. Their work feels as if it’s coated in a deeply whimsical overlay, with beautiful prose and rich, vivid descriptions. Their work is often about the very real struggles with identity, coming of age, and becoming oneself. All swept together with a hint of storybook magic and queerness.
Nina LaCour is a heavier writer, working with topics such as depression, mental health, and grief. Her stories come with visceral feelings of the grief, sadness, and the horrible feeling of “returning to normal” after a loss. Her work is powerful, truly capturing the pain of losing someone and the following dysfunction. She writes beautiful, complex, and casually queer characters with such deep understanding.
To sum it up, queer representation in the media and seeing good queer role models was and still is monumental to young queer kids. Seeing people like you in the media you consume is a powerful thing, helping the person accept their identity as whatever they are. Queer literature has evolved so much and if you want to find good representation for people like you or consume as an ally, queer authors with amazing stories are easily accessible!