LGBTQ Fiction: Fitting In and Non-Binary Representation

I love LGBTQ fiction, and I love LGBTQ representation in the media. But despite the increase in LGBTQ representation in the media, for a long time I still felt left out. And it’s only recently that I realised why.

When I flick through description of gay novels, they appear either to be endless remakes of Dorian Gray or cheesy YA fiction.  Lesbian novels seemed great but still not quite right for me. But ultimately I felt neither lesbian or gay novels really fit me or depicted the kind of relationship I wanted. I felt the same looking at images of same-sex couples, imagining myself with someone of the opposite or same-sex. I was only then I realised, that what I really wanted was a non-binary relationship. For a long time I have been really open, warm towards the idea of dating someone genderqueer or intersex, and recently I thought about how nice it would be to date another nonbinary person, so I wouldn’t have to cross-my-fingers and explain and hope they understand, but instead have someone who understands my view of gender and what it is to be non-binary. However, I never realise that this was what I wanted until this week. There’s something about the way cisgender homosexual relationships are depicted or are that never quite felt like an easy fit for me, and then this is when I realised that I was interested in genderqueer/non-binary relationships more than any other form of relationship in both fiction and real life.

However, that’s where it gets a little shitty for people like me. Non-binary characters virtually do not exist in YA fiction, and hell, give me a call if you find a non-binary character in adult fiction. Mainstream fiction. Even in LGBTQ fiction, I do not see many non-binary characters (mainly YA I am talking about). It’s great to see gay and transgender literature flourishing, but there’s always that bitter tear of being left behind and forgotten.

This lack of non-binary representation is a reflection of the lack of discussion of non-binary identities in the media and real life. After Caitlin Jenner came out, transgender identities have been a hot topic for discussion for the past two years. Most people know what the term means. But being non-binary? Haha. Hell no. There’s been very limited media coverage, if at all. My ‘liberal’ friends barely understand the concept- they told me that it’s contradictory to be putting yourself in yet another ‘box’ or ‘label’! Yet anyone who is non-binary will know that being non-binary is the ultimate anti-box.

Anyway, hopefully in the future there will be more representation for non-binary folks. This is something we can strive to do, that I will do. As if making up for the abominable lack of non-binary characters in fiction, at least 3/6 of the main characters of the long-ass literary/comic series I am writing are non-binary ;). If something doesn’t exist, you can always make it exist.

Anyway, this is not all rain and grey skies. The depictions of relationships which I feel are close to what I would like are those found in certain anime.

uranus and neptune injred

Although the relationship between Michiru Kaioh and Haruka Tennoh in Sailor Moon is often seen as being a typical butch/femme relationship, there is something in that relationship that seems to transcend those tropes. Maybe it’s because both characters have traits that transcend their supposed ‘type’. Maybe it’s because they’re so well-written they feel real. I don’t know.

Image result for utena

And then there’s Utena! The ultimate non-binary character! Although Utena never exactly says “I am non-binary” since I don’t think the term was really in currency back then, everything about her character and about how she is framed and portrayed screams non-binary (one of the CDs is entitled “androgynous me”).

Maybe I’ll write something more coherent and better structured another time, when my life is less hectic and when I’m feeling better.

Review: The Art of Being Normal, Lisa Williamson

I have to admit, the book doesn’t exactly draw you in at first. But as I got past the first few chapters I really began to enjoy the book. The book if full of happy and sad moments, and it deals with themes of: gender identity, coming out, bullying, poverty, family and friendship. I really liked the exploration of different social backgrounds and family structures, because this sort of thing is sometimes neglected in YA.

I enjoyed it. The book was fast paced and had a diverse range of characters. However, it appeared that Lisa Williamson hasn’t yet mastered teenage slang of the 21st century…

Although the author’s purpose of this book is definitely to encourage acceptance of trans individuals, it is not a textbook. The characters are their own people, will their own lives. However, the author’s handling of its transgender characters could be improved. For example, the real transgender community is very diverse in relation to how they negotiate their transgender identity. But in this book all the transgender characters seem to have the same story: they knew they were trans since they were 5, they like all girly/boyish things and nothing else. It would have been less of a problem if there was only one transgender character, but if you put more in, you should really try to show the diversity of the trans community! I also felt like she focused overtly on the physical aspect of being transgender, and sometimes she really doesn’t choose the right way to show their body dysphoria.

The character also uses 2 POVs, however I wish I could get to know David and his friends more. It does seem quite focused on Leo at most of the time. I found David whiny and annoying at first, and I liked Leo’s stern and serious character. However, in the second half of the book I began to like David more as a character and I enjoyed the development of David and Leo’s friendship. However, I felt that this book lacked closure in some parts.

tl;dr Sweet and informative for those who know little about transgender individuals, but could have had a more creative plot and better representation of transgender individuals.

NB: Too much horny teenager talk in this book!


Spoiler section and discussing

The ending… I felt like it was unnecessary to devote a giant paragraph to Alicia sort-of-apologising-sort-of-removing-the-blame-from-herself. It puts the focus on her, not Leo or Kate, who had really struggled and progressed throughout the book. It annoys me, because she was obviously to blame to some extent for what happened, and Leo should not have had to apologise for not coming out earlier, especially given his past experiences! Other than that, I thought the party was cute and so was the Christmas present. I think if Alicia was going to apologise, she should have done it earlier or not at all, because putting that apology as the ending somewhat ruins the nice ending that was the party. I felt uncomfortable that she was friendzoning Leo…

Also, why didn’t we get to know Mam’s story? I felt like the writer couldn’t be bothered to think it up.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Image result for oranges are not the only fruit vintage

A simple and enjoyable, yet challenging and thought-provoking novel on growing up in an evangelical Church community and discovering one’s true self. Winterson weaves complex ideas and heavy emotions into a simple yet at times fragmentary and experimental novel.

Jeanette was adopted as young age, and poised like Christ to save the world through her future missionary work. However, as she grows older, she discovers that the battle she must fight is not against the sinners ‘out there’ but within her own home and church, and ultimately she must decide to accept herself for who she is or remain in the rigid church community. The novel is laced with humour and sweetness, as well as interesting ideas.

However, I do wish that Jeanette’s lovers were better developed, but I understand the focus of the book was about her, her mother and the church, and the lovers played mainly a supporting role. I cannot help but feel the book is quite simply sometimes, perhaps it is the prose or the oldness of my copy. The ending did not meet my expectations and at times I disliked the fragmentary and brief nature of the novel. However, I still enjoyed reading the novel as a whole.

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Ari is angry and self-doubting. Dante is confident and poetic. Ari’s household is locked in silence as his older brother remains locked in prison. One fateful day, Dante teaches Aristotle how to swim, and the two boys who have struggled to make friends until this point, create a friendship that will change them.

This book had sweet prose and well fleshed out characters. The family dynamics and the individual struggles of Sáenz’s characters felt real. Although the book isn’t fast paced, it manages to keep you interested through little twists and turns before reaching the climax. The last part is quite fast in contrast to the rest of the novel.

The book explores topics such as sexuality, growing up, family and identity. Although the book is well-written overall, I don’t think all the themes were tied up neatly and some characters seemed random and their purposes in the novel weren’t clear.

I was glad to read this book and learn more about the Latinx community since I have only know properly known 1 Latinx person in my life (there aren’t many Latinx people where I live). I enjoyed the sincerity of Aristotle and Dante’s relationship as well as the tensions and developments within each family.