Keep It Queer is an original, biweekly feature on my blog where I talk about being queer and all the various things this has meant to me over the years. Sometimes this will also involve me babbling about LGBTQ books. It’s also a chance for others to share their stories.
Since it's Contemporary Conversations this month, I thought I might choose a quite contemporary topic! THE INTERNET. Now, what does the Internet have to do with being queer? I think these days, it has everything to do with it, and I wish more LGBTQ YA contemporary books would reflect that!
I practically grew up on the Internet. From around the age of 9 or 10 I was already on the Internet, with a personal blog, talking to strangers. Now I knew this was something I shouldn't do, but it was fun, and I was always sensible. I grew up in a household where nobody really talked about gay people, and I didn't know any either, so I didn't actually even realise that gay people existed, that it was possible to like someone of the same gender as you, until I discovered fanfiction on the Internet at the age of 11.
So, that's one way that the Internet has always been important to me: fanfiction. Throughout my teenage years, fanfiction was how I could read about queer people coming out and falling in love and having sex, when actual books and TV shows and movies were so lacking in LGBTQ characters. (Shout out to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda for having Simon read some Harry/Draco fanfiction! ;D)
But the Internet is also important in so many other ways. When I realised I was bi, I didn't really have many people to turn to in real life. As I've mentioned before, I went to an all-girls boarding school which was quite an isolated environment, and no one was really out – maybe only 2 or 3 people in the entire school of about 700 girls, as far as I knew. I came out to a few close friends but I never felt comfortable really talking to them about it beyond simply coming out to them – and there's so much frustration and anger and so many worries that I just had to bury, without anyone to talk to about them. But thankfully, I had the Internet.
As I had a personal blog, I made online friends, and I realised some of them were also queer, and it was so wonderful to share all my experiences with them and to listen to them talk about their experiences in turn.
I sought out specifically queer online communities as well – and there are so many of them! Communities made specifically for queer people to rant about homophobic/biphobic/transphobic things they had experienced, communities to share only the happy LGBTQ news because everyone needs a place to cheer up, forums where you can just talk about anything and play games and read other people's coming out experiences.
Now, these days, queer teens probably all use Tumblr to find these communities (before the days of Tumblr, I used Livejournal, mostly). Tumblr is a really amazing place to find queer safe spaces and meet other queer people, and when I used Tumblr (I've mostly stopped now because book blogging takes up a lot of my time), I basically managed to surround myself with queer friends. I think about 90% of the people I followed were queer? At least, that's what it felt like!
One of my favourite queer websites though has got to be Autostraddle. I think I found it when I was about 15 or so? (It was founded in March 2009, so I must have discovered it not too long after it was founded.) I love how Autostraddle strives to be as inclusive as possible. As a bisexual girl it's sometimes easy to feel excluded from other female communities that only seem to cater to lesbians, but Autostraddle is a lot better on that front. It cares a lot as well about the experiences of queer PoCs and trans women. It's got a real variety of amazing content (advice, recipes, TV show recaps, politics, fanfiction recs, posts about comics and anime and books – EVERYTHING). It's always helped me feel less alone.
So, I'd just really love to see more characters in contemporary LGBTQ YA using the Internet in these positive ways! To find other queer people to talk to if they're feeling lonely, to read about LGBTQ-related things – news, advice, fanfiction, other people's coming out experiences, anything really. I think Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is the only contemporary LGBTQ YA that I've seen which really shows an LGBTQ MC using the Internet for such purposes, and it's just really odd to me that there aren't more books which show this!