Jun 4, 2016

Why we need LGBTQIA in Children's Lit || From a South Asian's Perspective

Happy Pride Month everyone!!! ;D

In case you missed the announcement a few days ago, Shelly and I are doing something special for Pride Month via #DiverseReads2016, with more exclusive content on our blogs! Don't forget to check out Shelly's master list of LGBT Lit!!!

Today's my turn to bring the spotlight onto books which celebrate and feature the LGBT community! I myself opted to tell you all, why I personally think that children's Lit and YA needs LGBT representation!

It's like a duh factor by now that we indeed need the representation! But what I am going to talk about is, why, and in the perspective of a South Asian teenage girl from a conservative society!

P.S - I haven't written discussion posts in a looooooong time. I may be out of practice! So don't mind it!

P.P.S - I'll bring some personal incidents and opinions into the post often!

Let me start this post with a small story.

The location shifts to a Sri Lankan primary school. Grade 3. Where 8 year old Mishma was supposed to write a story for English. I was, what you might call a little girl with an overactive imagination. What my teachers called as "too much for this grade" Well that's not the discussion for today.

I got a F for the story I wrote. I cried. Hard. I've never gotten anything less than A. But the worst part was that I was supposed to meet the teacher after the period finished. At 8, that's the worst nightmare ever! So when I met my teacher after the period, I learned what was "wrong" with my story.

My story was about two boys. They were named "Ice" and "Cream." Both lived in candy land, and they were best friends. When the evil Chocolate King tortured their citizens, both my heroes, fought for the people and saved them. That would be, in a nutshell, my story.

But that was not the teacher's problem. In fact, she could've just laughed at my silly story. But her problem was that I ended the story as Ice and Cream married and lived happily ever after!

Maybe I ended it that way because that's how all the fairy tales ended? Well, to 8 year old me, it was absolutely normal! I didn't see anything wrong with Ice and Cream getting married, or rather from the teacher's mind set, two boys getting married. But for my teacher, it was a huge crisis. She made me sit down, and tried to explain to my little brain about how these kind of things are wrong, and I shouldn't think like this, blah blah blah.

As a 17 year old, when I look back, I don't know whether to laugh at this teacher's stupidity or be angry at her for spoiling my mind then. If she had just let it go, it would've gone over my head. But she didn't. She decided to make a fuss, and in the end, took away my freedom to decide whether it is indeed a normal thing or not for two boys to get married.

LGBT is a taboo subject in my country. And I am sure all kids who grew up in a conservative South Asian neighbourhood would agree with me. The best part is we don't even know that such a community exists until "something" happens. By something, I mean, two girls getting caught kissing in the bathroom at an all girls school, or some naive boy who unfortunately had to stumble upon some gay action in an abandoned classroom. When these "somethings" happen, we're suddenly lectured and advised about how these things are "unnatural, wrong and absolutely disgusting"

Fast forward to Grade 8. Now 13 year old Mishma was a bit of a mess. I really don't know why I did half of the things I did, and that again is not the discussion for today! 13 year old Mishma, did something which even now at 17, I'll never ever stop being ashamed of.

I had a friend then. Long story short, she was a lesbian. Or rather, as she has now discovered, bisexual. Longer story even shorter, she liked me. She was going through some family crisis at that time, and I was her only friend. Maybe I was kind to her, and she liked me for that. I don't know. But bottom line was she liked me. And I did something awful.

At 13, fresh with the knowledge of the birds and bees stories, which is lectured upon us at that time, and religions periods where they try to define your love life, I actually didn't understand what she was trying to convey to me. I was weirded out at her advances and did the only thing I could think of at that time. Told my teacher.

What I didn't expect was the teacher to penalize the girl in front of the entire class. I still tear up, when I think of that moment. The teacher was crude, harsh and horrible. She scolded her, insulted her and gave us all a crash course of how disgusting the LGBT community is, and how this girl is going to hell for the activities she's embarking on.

Well, that was a good 5 years ago. She moved on. I moved on. We still talk. We're still friends. She has finally come to terms with her sexuality, and I was the first person she confided in about all of that, and we're all happy.

But those 5 years was hard. On her. On me. As is the years for every single kid from the LGBT community from a country like mine. It is hard. It's a period filled with self doubts, self hatred, shame and contemplation of suicide.

What does this have to do with my topic in hand??? Well, let me tell you this. There was no way. that anyone could've changed the mindset of my teachers. Both my teachers in question. Or our parents, who will never begin to understand "these things" But the minds of us, kids and now teenagers, could've been different. We could've embraced my friend and made her feel normal. I could've dealt with the the whole situation in a much more graceful manner. But we didn't

This is why, I say we need LGBT representation in Children's Lit. Reason number one, WE. DON'T KNOW. We don't know about the community. We don't understand the situation. We don't know how to cope with their feelings. We react just as how our peers would do. Because, I, as a South Asian kid, know for a fact that we are not exposed to the LGBTQIA community on a daily basis. So of course, when we hear of these things, we are weirded out. It all comes down to one single thing. Ignorance.

There needs to representation of LGBT from our small age. We need to read about gay couples in our Radiant Ways and required reads when we're small. They need to be featured in our hypothetical maths questions. We need to see the LGBT community in our fiction, as a norm, so eventually, the community itself, would become a norm.

Reason number two. LGBT kids. I just can't begin to describe how hard their lives are, in countries like mine. But the worst part? Even they, themselves, can't understand their feelings. They don't know, what is "wrong with them" They need to know, they're normal. They need to know that loving someone from their own sex is normal. They need to know, that it is completely alright for them to feel that they're not binary.

And I, as a South Asian kid, who likes to call herself a divesity advocate, write this post as a plea in behalf of my country. Of the kids in my community. Of the kids, who grow up in ignorance, and who will eventually grow up to be the teachers and parents who didn't do it right by us.

Why do you think we need more LGBT representation in YA and Children's Lit?

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