Saturday 24 September 2016

5 Simple Rules For Reading and Reviewing LGBTQ+ Books

I don't claim to be the expert when it comes to reviewing queer books - far from it.

I'm human, I make mistakes. I may even make mistakes in this post (but I'm damn well gonna try my best not to.)

But, I don't want people to be afraid of reading and reviewing books with LGBTQ+ characters.

So I figured I'd give you some tips which seem common sense, but, as you may have seen this week, clearly need to be spelt out.

So listen up my nerdlets, hopefully this will be helpful (and feel free to correct me if I do make a mistake,):

1. Neither sexuality nor gender are a lifestyle or a preference.

Would you refer to a straight person as having a heterosexual lifestyle? I doubt it.

I know that a lot of the time, referring to LGBTQ+ people as living a certain lifestyle, or having a certain preference, is well-intended.

I may even have done so in the past myself.

Some LGBTQ+ people may not have a problem with it; a lot do.

It gives the wrong impression.

To a lot of LGBTQ+ people, it is offensive. It feeds into the idea that this is something that people could 'choose' not to be - which is just wrong.

It can also give the impression that you find their sexuality too disgusting to even talk about in the open - which is hurtful.

Sexuality is not a lifestyle or a preference. Gender is not a lifestyle or a preference.

I know that what language is acceptable, and what is not, has changed a lot over the course of the 20th, and even 21st, centuries.

(And I will never get elderly relatives to understand that times have changed *face palms.*)

But please understand that a heck of a lot of people do not like it when people refer to their sexuality that way. It's a misconception at best.

2. Sexuality does not require a content warning.

Sexuality is not the same as a sexual act. Sexuality is not in any way explicit or pornographic.

I am sexually fluid - but haven't had sex, with anyone; that doesn't change the fact that I'm sexually fluid (I'm ok with the term queer too, by the by.)

(I know, if a dragon comes I'm going to be the one with my a*s tied to a rock as sacrifice.

But I have too much respect for myself to be with someone who I'm not in love with, and I simply haven't found that person yet. #DealWithIt.)

Likewise, you can be involved in a sexual act which doesn't conform to your sexuality.

See the difference?

So, unless you are planning on putting a warning in for cis-het characters too, please do not put one in for an LGBTQ+ character.

If there are sexual acts in the book, then you can point out that the book is sexually explicit in your review. No problem.

Otherwise, in order to convince me you're not being prejudicial, you're going to have to point out when straight characters kiss or fancy each other. #JustSaying

3. Gender and sexuality are not the same thing.

Yes, they are inter-linked. No, they are not the same. Just remember that. Please.

4. Refusing to allow genuine criticism is not acceptable.

People are allowed to question you. Take their feedback in. Apologise and correct your statement if necessary.

Under no circumstances act like a jerk and become aggressively defensive (yes, that's a thing that happens.)

Do not follow-up legitimate concerns by claiming that they are not legitimate concerns. Do not get personal in your response.

In case you need more, here's an example of a good response to criticism (albeit on a different representation issue):

I pointed out to a blogger that they had called a fictional character weak next to a gif of them literally committing suicide.

Their response was to apologise for the mistake (and I believe it was a genuine mistake,) profusely, and change the wording immediately.

This blogger's grace and acceptance (not to mention their genuine remorse,) actually made me think better of them than I had before.

5. Not all LGBTQ+ people are the same.

So your gay best friend read your review of a book about a gay person, and said it was fine.

Someone else read it, and was offended. But they must be making it up, mustn't they? After all, you got a gay person to look it over, so it must be fine. NOPE. Guess what? People are all different.

I - and a lot of LGBTQ+ people - don't like it when my sexuality is referred to as a lifestyle. There are people who are fine with this. That doesn't mean that no-one can be offended by it.

People's concerns are relevant. Please at least take the time to really think about what they're saying.

Doubtless, there are a million other things I could've said in this post.

But I just wanted to point out a few key things about how to approach LGBTQ+ book reviews.

Mistakes happen. It's how you react to them, it's how you learn and move forward, that matters.

Like this post? Try these:


  1. OMG it's funny how you mentioned #2 because literally yesterday say school I was trying to read a blogpost someone had put up about 100 LGBTQA books to read but my school had blocked the page for "pornography". I was like: just because it has the word "sexuality" in it, doesn't mean it's talking about sex!

    1. ...and just because something talks about sex doesn't mean it's porn either!

      It annoys me like hell when people confuse sexuality with sexual acts - they are not the same thing! Like, do you question a heterosexual kid and tell them they can't be straight until they've had sex? *sighs*

      Schools may have good intentions, but they can be damned stupid sometimes.

    2. Exactly! It's funny because school is supposed to teach children, but it instead teaches them ignorance.

    3. Em, you're an amazing person :) thanks for making me smile :)

  2. I am so annoyed when people say being LGBTQ+ is a lifestyle. Nooo, it is just a life! Sometimes I am petty and say things like "heterosexual lifestyle."

    1. Agree! Ha, and I'd love to see someone's face when you do that.

      I do understand that the acceptability of phrases has changed a lot over recent years - my parents are basically hippies, but they were raised working-class in mining villages, so it took a while to explain that various things they thought were ok to say are NOT ok to say.

      But I know that *they* thought it was ok - so I'm not going to yell at them or anything. I love them after all ;)


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