Queerily Ever After by Cody Kennedy

Cinderella meets Princess Charming3 Writing romance for queer youth is important. Teens, by definition, are discovering who they are and romantic relationships are at the center of their lives, providing formative experiences that shape their long-term development. Young people spend a great deal of time thinking about, talking about, and being in romantic relationships and, although most teen romances last only a few weeks or months, they have long lasting effects on self-esteem. They provide a training ground to develop interpersonal skills, refine communication and negotiation skills, develop empathy, and skills in how to maintain an intimate relationship in adulthood. They also shape personal values in romance, intimacy, and sexuality. Lastly, the emotional ups and downs associated with getting together and breaking up also help develop emotional resiliency and coping skills needed to handle difficulties later in life.

Most parents choke on the idea of having a birds and bees talk with their burgeoning teen and this is doubly so for queer teens for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that there are few resources available to them and their teen. Community-based programs help youth recognize gender-based stereotypes, improve conflict-management and communication skills, and decrease violence, but they aren’t as effective as we’d like them to be. In addition to romance, sexual reference is everywhere in society and is obvious, and young adults will engage in sexual exploration irrespective of age, law, and popular opinion. Sadly, little or no sexuality education exists for queer youth. They are left to gather and process information from a range of unsanctioned and potentially unreliable sources.

As adolescents become more autonomous from their parents, their romantic relationships become an increasing source of emotional support. Romance as a source of support and identity formation is especially important for queer youth who are often compelled by social norms to keep their sexual orientation secret. Their romantic partners may be the only people with whom they feel comfortable (and safe) sharing their thoughts and feelings about their sexual identity.

Cinderfella meets Prince Charming2So where do queer youth turn for information and advice on romance? BOOKS! Other than the educational and clinical information provided in health and sexuality education in school, and what teens learn from their peers (and the internet – yikes!), books are often a youth’s only resource for romance knowledge. Hence, what we write is often their only resource and becomes ever more crucial to their lives. Writing about normal, healthy romance and sexual exploration in relationships provides introductory information to young adults that they may not otherwise find or have access to. It goes without saying that a young adult is always far better prepared for the outside world if armed with knowledge and our books are a bridge, not a gap, for our youth.

I’ll take this a step further. Censoring and withholding vital information from youth in the name of protecting them from themselves is often applied inappropriately and to extremes; and speaks to a lack of confidence in them. Youth can read and think for themselves and I wholly support their right to do so.

Many stories about queer youth are about abuse and dysfunction. While valid to a degree, being reflected prevalently so in literature isn’t always conducive to good mental health for our queer youth. Healthy queer romance should be reflected in our literature and normalized in popular culture. By reflecting queer romance as a norm, our youth will grow and develop with positive reading material that reflects who they are and gives them something to identify with. Above all, our queer youth are entitled to any and everything that any youth are entitled to and that includes a happily ever after, even queerily so.

To the queer youth out there I say, no matter your appearance, personality, or circumstances, there is someone out there especially for you. Somewhere, someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer. Dare to believe. Never stop believing. And READ!

“There are countless reasons for reading, but when you’re young and uncertain of your identity, of who you may be, one of the most compelling is the quest to discover yourself reflected in the pages of a book.” ― Michael Cart


 Win Things!

Win a free ecopy of Safe. Simply leave a comment and your email address below. The winner will be chosen at random at the end of Queer Romance Month.

Read an excerpt of Safe here.


Cody’s Queer Romance Recommendations

Books for queer youth:

How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity by Michael Cart

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Luna by Julie Anne Peters


About Cody Kennedy

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Cody doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward, and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Cody contemplates such weighty questions as If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Cody can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marvelling at all things ordinary.

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 About Omorphi

Omorphi-400x600Όμορφη. Ómorphi. Greek. Meaning pretty

Pretty. adj. /pritē/ Pleasing by delicacy or grace

~*~

High school senior Michael Sattler leads a charmed life. He’s a star athlete, has great friends, and parents who love him just the way he is. What’s missing from his life is a boyfriend. That’s a problem because he’s out only to his parents and best friend. When Michael accidentally bumps into Christy Castle at school, his life changes in ways he never imagined. Christy is Michael’s dream guy: smart, pretty, and sexy. But nothing could have prepared Michael for what being Christy’s boyfriend would entail.

Christy needs to heal after years of abuse and knows he needs help to do it. After the death of his notorious father, he leaves his native Greece and settles in upstate New York. Alone, afraid, and left without a voice, Christy hides the myriad scars of his abuse. He desperately wants to be loved and when he meets Michael, he dares to hope that day has arrived. When one of Michael’s team-mates becomes an enemy and an abuser from Christy’s past seeks to return him to a life of slavery, only Michael and Christy’s combined strength and unwavering determination can save them from the violence that threatens to destroy their future together.

Read an excerpt of Omorphi

Grab a copy on Amazon US
Or on Amazon UK

38 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks for this post. It’s so important for LGBT youth to get their hands on all the wonderful YA & NA books available now. I just hope these books are actually getting to the young people who really need them.

    I used to donate my print books to the local GLYS but now I read mostly ebooks. It recently occurred to me that I should spend a little more and buy these books at Barnes & Noble or other local bookstores so that I can pass them on after reading AND so these stores see that there’s a demand for them. But that only helps young people who can afford to buy the books or who have someone buying them for them. It’s also important that we make sure school & community libraries are stocking these books too.

    I like that you used a quote from Michael Cart. I loved ‘My Father’s Scar’. I really wish he’d write another novel.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Jax. Getting LGBTQIA literature into the hands of youth remains a difficult process. Most school and community libraries have approval processes that are not conducive to stocking our books. Continuing to donate print books to local LGBT centers remains the most effective way to put our books in the hands of the readers who want, and often need, them most. Glad you liked the Cart quote.

  • What a great article. Thanks for sharing!!

    I love this: “…no matter your appearance, personality, or circumstances, there is someone out there especially for you. Somewhere, someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer. Dare to believe. Never stop believing”

  • This: “I’ll take this a step further. Censoring and withholding vital information from youth in the name of protecting them from themselves is often applied inappropriately and to extremes; and speaks to a lack of confidence in them. Youth can read and think for themselves and I wholly support their right to do so.”

    It’s been rather a while since I was a teenager and I have no children in my house but it amazes me how little adults trust their children or the children around them. Letting them choose their reading material is just one step of many that need to be made to be able to make the decisions required of adults.

    Also this: “Healthy queer romance should be reflected in our literature and normalized in popular culture. By reflecting queer romance as a norm, our youth will grow and develop with positive reading material that reflects who they are and gives them something to identify with.”

    I think this applies in another way as well. Normalizing queer romance in popular culture is best not only for queer youth but for youth that doesn’t identify as queer. Normalizing queer relationships, taking away the “other” that is still sadly prevalent today, will eventually make queer romance simply romance and isn’t that what we are all working toward? A world where there doesn’t need to be lines where love is love without limits?

    I already own Safe so please don’t enter me into the contest. :)

    • Excellent points on both fronts, Allison. If we don’t allow our youth to learn through the decision making process, they’ll be ill-equipped for adulthood. I also agree that removing the “other” has become an imperative in society on multiple fronts. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Great post, and so true. I devoured romances as a teenager and it did help me wade through my feelings once I got romantically involved, got my heart broken and started the cycle again. Of course I’m straight and was therefore spoiled for choice. Everybody wants to read books with characters they can identify with, queer teenagers as much (if not more) as every other teenager. I can only hope more will be written and be made more widely available.

    There is however a very good non fiction book for queer teenagers called, This book is Gay by James Dawson. I’m not sure it’s possible to post a live link here, but my review of the book can be found here: http://helenasheat.blogspot.ie/2014/09/this-book-is-gay-byjames-dawson.html

  • Good article Cody. Very helpful. You know, when my girls were ready for “the” talk I had no problem with giving it. I think they were mortified by the time I was done but at least they stayed safe and knew they could come to me with ANY thing. Now some years later and my own child is faced with this. We will need the books you listed for sure. When my step granddaughter came out she was 14 and done so proudly. She was a little upset that we all already knew but once out she went on about her life. She is 16 now and the thought of talking about anything involving sex turns her pale. She almost covers her ears. She knows most of my books are m/m and thinks it’s cool but gross. Well….yeah, I can see that. No one wants to know their nana reads romance books of any kind. Oh to see the look on her face though, “snickers.” I don’t think my daughter and son-in-law really know how to approach the subject either so again the books will come in handy for all of them. Thank you for the article and information .

  • I think it is important because as teens they need to know that, they are accepted, that nothing is wrong is a guy wants a Prince instead of a Prince or vice versa…

  • No surprise that I firmly believe in books and stories as a place for teens to find reflections of themselves and their world, to figure out they’re not alone, and to find reasons for optimism and hope. There are some great YA stories out there, with more every week, and we’re beginning to see more variety, different representations of the LGBTQ rainbow and the range of teen experiences. And also more YA stories with a positive romance in them, where being LGBTQ and coming out doesn’t have to be all about angst and pain.

    The issue of getting books into the hands of teen readers is perhaps now tougher than finding good books. Many teens don’t have access to commercial ebooks or online paper book purchases, mainly because they lack a credit card to buy them with. Library and bookstore collections are often limited. There are some good free stories online, but often hard to find or mixed in with large quantities of adult and not-ready-for-prime-time stuff. We need to not only pursuade teens to read and not just surf and view the Net, but we also need to have the stories in places where they can get their hands on them.

    (I already own and read “Safe” so don’t enter me in the drawing.)

    • Thank you for you wonderful and accurate comments, Kaje. Excellent points, all. As an author of LGBTQIA lit for youth, I find that nearly fifty percent of my time is spent marketing and trying to get our books (not only mine) into the hands of the youth who need and want them. I also agree with you that we need to get our youth to read – or read more. How we do that in this information age is a conundrum, but I know our community keeps trying! Thanks again for your terrific comments!

  • What a great article, Cody. You sure give a lot of good information to think about.

    (Please don’t enter me either. I own a copy of Safe already. )

  • Excellent post, Cody. You make some very valid points there, especially the ones about having positive stories, you said it very well: “Above all, our queer youth are entitled to any and everything that any youth are entitled to and that includes a happily ever after, even queerily so.”
    Loved this. Lets write more positive stories for our youth.
    (Don’t enter me in the give-away, I have and love Safe already!)

    • Thank you for the compliment, Anna! Equality is important on so many levels that it’s difficult to encapsulate them all in one post. We DO need positive stories for our youth and we need to provide them to ALL youth equally. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Awesome My Cody! I will tell you what we need. We need a library (not public and ruled by the city,state, or government) that is exactly what we want the public ones to be like. If the were one in very big city, then eventually people will see that it works and it’s GOOD.
    <3

    • You know, Timmy, by golly, I believe you have hit on something! What a terrific idea! I know that most LGBT centers around the country are beginning to create libraries for youth and I can only hope that it continues. But you’re right. The masses need to see that having LGBTQIA lit in our libraries is a GOOD thing! Thanks for dropping by and commenting! It’s great to see you here!

  • I am a queer youth, and even though I feel lonely most of the time… Thank you for showing me that there’s at least one person out there who partially understands the fight for us. :”)

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