This has been something that my best friend, Erin, and I have been complaining about for a longgggggg time, but something that’s been an issue in the media for much longer than we’ve even been alive. Queerbaiting is a huge problem, and not one I’m going to specifically tackle today, more one of the side effects of queerbaiting, which is when it takes the form of trying to hide the queerness.
There are dozens of books that I can think of where I’ve tried to pore through the cover, the title, the summary, the reviews just to find out if something is queer, and it’s like digging through a haystack looking for a needle. For some reason, the queerness of a character became something like a plot twist, like it needed to be hidden from the reader until surprise! The two main characters are getting together because they’re queer! And I’ve just had more than enough.
Tomorrow, you’ll see a list of obviously queer books, and it frustrates me how long it took me to find ten of them. It should have taken no time at all to look at the book’s cover and be able to tell if it was queer. And no, I’m not saying I want people making out on every book, but when there are two women on a cover, and I can’t tell if it looks gay, so I dig a little deeper in the summary, and there’s still nothing? That drives me bonkers. If you’re going to put two women on the cover, make it obvious. I can always tell when a book is straight! Always. So why is it so hard to figure out if a book is queer?
This happens a lot with television, too. I honestly can’t remember the name of this show, but I think it’s the ballet one that looks way more dramatic than it needs to be, and I remember seeing the thumbnail and getting excited because it was two boys kissing. And yet, when I dug a little deeper, it was to find out that they weren’t main characters, and Netflix was just using them to snag people’s attention like me. But I can guarantee if they hadn’t done that, it wouldn’t have gotten as much traction. And while I don’t think this is necessarily queerbaiting since there is queerness in the show, it’s a form of it because it’s drawing specific audience members in based purely on the fact that they’re going to see themselves represented.
Love, Victor is on my mind right now because the final season is coming out next week, but one of the things that I love so much about it is that there’s no question. Even Love, Simon–though it shouldn’t surprise me that there’s no question, given its author–is blatant right away. There’s never a time when the fact that Simon & Victor are queer is hidden. In fact, their queerness is front & center in the story, and there’s no question of what it might be about. And that’s the kind of obviousness that I want.
When I pick up a YA contemporary that I know has romance in it, I want to know if it’s going to be queer or not without having to read through Goodreads reviews on the off chance someone might mention it. I want to not have to look for other people’s Pride TBR lists to figure out if the books I want to read will actually have representation in them or not. There are so many straight YA contemporary romances out there that are so obviously straight, and I just want that same treatment. And I guess that’s kind of the age old adage, right? Just like women’s rights are not meant to create inequality with men, queer people just want the same rights as heterosexual people, and, for me, that means being able to tell if something is queer without turning into a detective.
The only thing you actively do by making something obviously queer is not deceiving people. You get the audience you were hoping for and not the ones that won’t appreciate it, and you get a whole slew of readers that are probably overhyped about the possibility of a new queer book. I love when I can tell a book is queer without having to dig past the summary, and I hope we see more of that in the future.