coraa: (keep calm and carry on)
Yesterday, Rachel Manina Brown ([livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija) and Sherwood Smith ([livejournal.com profile] sartorias) posted Say Yes to Gay YA, about difficulties they've had finding an agent for their YA novel with a gay protagonist; specifically, an agent offered to represent them—if they removed the gay POV character, and/or made him straight instead.

As you might expect, I find that infuriating. While they are my good friends, they are also talented and proven authors—and furthermore, the situation they describe is clear: the book was rejected not for quality, but for having a gay main character. And other comments around the blogosphere make it pretty clear to me that this is a systemic problem, not a one-off bad-apple.

I'm not going to natter on. Instead, I'll suggest you go read the article—all the way to the bottom, where they suggest what we (all of us) can do to help improve the situation. There isn't a lot most of us can do, but there is something.

Say Yes to Gay YA (or, if that site is down—it has been linked by Neil Gaiman and similar, which can be hard on a server—there's a mirror here.)
coraa: (hopeful flamethrower)
The boy and I just got back from going out for pizza. While we were there, a man entered the restaurant -- I'm not sure whether he was homeless, panhandling, mentally unstable, or what, but he made a beeline for us and tried to get our attention to ask us for something. An employee intervened very quickly with a polite but firm "I'll have to ask you not to disturb our customers," very quickly.

I was sitting facing the door, with my back to the wall, at the very back of the restaurant; the boy had his back to the door, facing me. I observed, "I wonder why he came straight to us? He had to walk through the entire restaurant, right past the counter, and he passed tables and tables full of people."

"Hm," the boy said. "I wonder if he thought I was female?" (He has long hair, and not long hair in a guy-ponytail but long, relatively well-groomed, loose wavy hair. And as I said, he was sitting with his back to the door)

I looked around the restaurant again, and sure enough, there were no women there at that moment (the restaurant was only maybe half full) who were by themselves, or with another woman; there were a couple of men alone, and a few women with men. I suspect he saw a table with two women and no men and thought we were the best target, and so passed by every other person in the restaurant to get to us.

That's something that's happened to us a few times. I'm used to getting catcalled/shouted at when alone, and when I'm with my female friends. (In fact, sometimes it seems like a group of women together gets more catcalls than a woman alone; I'm grateful for this, because they frighten me less when I'm in a group, even if there are more of them.) I'm pretty used to hearing them.

But I never heard them when I was with a guy until the boy's hair grew out enough that he was mistake-able for a woman at a distance, or from the back. (From the front, up close, the persistent stubble does give him away. ;) And as soon as that happened, we started to get catcalls. Not often, but more than often enough, thank you.

(Another example: we were walking down the street when a pickup truck full of young men -- I'd say late teens and early twenties -- pulled up to a stop at the same time we were waiting for the light to change. We happened to be holding hands. The men in the truck started to holler at us, whoop, shout, "Oooooh BABY," say "Kiss her! Kiss her for us!" and "YEAH, that's SEXY!" We were absolutely croggled; why on earth would a truck full of men be so interested in watching a couple of very normal-looking people hold hands? It wasn't until they'd driven on that it occurred to us that they'd mistaken the boy for a woman, and therefore that they'd thought we were a same-sex female couple.)

And you know? It hadn't even really occurred to me the difference -- that the hollering, catcalling, shouting, sexual remarks didn't happen to men as much, or to men with women, but instead happened mostly just to women alone or women with women... until I noticed that it started happening to us when the boy started being mistaken for a woman at a distance. And if I didn't realize it, how many guys don't realize that it happens at all?

(And, to show my own lack of perceptiveness and empathy: despite having several gay and bisexual friends, I hadn't realized how much abuse lesbian couples can get on the street until we started being mistaken for one. I should have, but it didn't occur to me, and there's my privilege.)

(And one more thing -- another element that I was privileged enough to not realize until I started reading a wider variety of blogs this year: I am told that African American women get even more catcalling on the street than white women [I don't know about other POC; I think I've heard Hispanic women say the same thing], which furthers my impression that this -- reducing a woman to her sexual characteristics and assuming that they're there for your pleasure -- is mostly about power, and about who 'owns' the public sphere.)

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