Most gay YA with gay main characters ends with the main character not getting the boy or girl s/he has been thinking about/wanting/in a relationship with. The relationship ends badly. The boy/girl turns out to be straight or “just experimenting” or falls in love with someone else. Things don’t work out.
Let me say that again. Because it needs to be emphasized: Most gay YA with gay main characters ends with the relationship not working out.
These books are lauded, over and over repeated forever, as “realistic.” “The relationship was so realistic!” “The ending was perfectly realistic.” Realistic is used so often in reviews of gay YA that I notice when it’s NOT used.
Almost all gay YA ends with the relationship going south.
It’s alarming and it’s frustrating. But, more to the point, has no one else noticed this? There are shockingly few gay YA, so if you’ve read one, you’ve probably gone on to read many. Was there ever a point where you stepped back and said: Huh. This ends the same as the other ones I’ve read. That’s…odd. I think that the relationship-not-working-out thing is even more obvious, because if you compare it to the amount of straight YA books that contain happy endings, it’s actually one of the saddest things in all of young adult literature. In YA that contains straight romances, thousands and thousands more end happily than those that don’t. But in the world of gay YA, the number of those that end “unhappily,” (ie, “realistically”) is staggeringly larger than those that end happily.
Is it because it’s harder to be gay than straight? Obviously, in a world that’s still alarmingly homophobic, no one’s contesting that. But what about in a book where magic happens? So people can fly and petunias can grow out of your ears, but it’s absolutely impossible for a gay person to get a happily ever after with their sweetheart? I’m going to say it because it needs to be said: THAT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER AND IS, IN FACT, FULL OF RIDICULOUS.
“Realistic:” How Queer Kids Don’t Get Happy Endings by Sarah Diemer (via raphaellaskies)
In addition to the last point (and the article itself mentions this): sure if you’re queer shit’s stacked against you. But it is not so stacked against you that nobody ever ends up happy, ever. Queer people face, to say the absolute least, a lot of shit even in the best of circumstances; but it is not like no gay teen boy has ever had a high school sweetheart. It is not like no girl into girls has ever managed to find a lovely girlfriend.
‘Realistic’? Maybe for like, a few books. For every book? That becomes unrealistic to me. Not as a single narrative, but as a whole representation of the world. It is dishonest to represent all young queer narratives as being tragic. Even the mundane kind of tragic.
It’s actually one of my life goals to write YA fantasy/sci-fi/horror books starring QTPoC who actually get happy endings once in a while. Pretty much for these reasons. I’m sick of the few queer characters there are ending up dead, honestly.