For the queer community, positive representation is important but sorely lacking. Having the privilege to see themselves on a screen or characterized in a book creates a sense of security and illustrates what they can achieve later in life.
Award-winning young adult author Mason Deaver brings attention to the issues of queer and transgender youth through writing. Shortly after the successful release of their novel “The Ghosts We Keep” in 2021, Deaver is returning with their third book, “The Feeling of Falling in Love,” set to hit shelves August 16.
The story centers around the life of Neil Kearny, a transgender man, as he navigates college life and ensuing relationships. “A new kind of love story, about the bad decisions we sometimes make, and the people who help get us back on the right path,” Deaver said.
While many films have queer characters, they are rarely written by queer writers. As a non-binary author, Deaver wishes to bring a reflection to queer youth and show them what expressing themselves freely can look like.
“It’s helpful for my readers to know that my books will always end happily,” said Deaver. “The queer characters will survive and there will probably be a love story.”
24-year-old Clark student Ryan Schmidt identifies as asexual. They recalled the first time they found a story whose main character’s journey involved coming to terms with her asexuality, written as a response someone made to a blog post years ago.
“Finally coming across someone who managed to put into words that sheer wonder and relief of finally having a way to describe who you are, of what your experiences have been was moving beyond belief,” said Schmidt.
Clark student Emily Martinez, 19, also identifies as asexual and gender-nonconforming. They recall the Hays Code, a set of regulations imposed by the motion picture industry from 1934 to 1968 that enforced strong moral censorship of movies. Queer characters were mostly banned, and if allowed were downplayed or used as comedy.
“When I do find actual good representation I value it,” said Martinez. “Lesbian stories are moderately easy to come across but gender-nonconforming ones not so much, so I really do appreciate those kinds of stories.”
Today, rising young adult author Brenna N. notes that an ongoing ban on LGBTQ+ books has limited her from publishing in 26 states, including her home state of Georgia. She is currently working to publish her debut novel “The Shattered Lands,” a novel about a lesbian princess named Sapphire set in the fantasy kingdom of Eriobis.
“If anything, it’s made me work harder. Write more stories. Push boundaries,” she said. “I’m not in this for money. They can ban every book I write, and I will simply write another to take its place. Representation is vital to the mental health and freedom of these groups and I will continue to push content to ensure they have access.”
While the novel has no release date yet, she hopes her readers will find comfort in the world of Eriobis where sexuality is celebrated, rather than a reason for exclusion. She hopes once her novel is released, it brings readers peace and understanding like it has for her.