Back in spring of 2015, I was editing a YA anthology of Shakespeare retellings called Perchance to Dream. Though I had published several short stories in various collections at that point, it was the first time I had ever edited a book myself, and I was excited and nervous and all the things that come along with doing something like this for the first time. I was worried about doing a good job on the edits, worried about living up to the authors’ expectations, and worried (but hopeful!) about the book being a success.
The one thing I hadn’t been worried about was the book being scrutinized for containing stories featuring LGBT characters.
I suppose maybe I should have been—I still vividly remembered what had happened to Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith when they were querying Stranger—but I guess I’d figured that over the following four years, things had changed. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement had taken off, gay marriage bans across the US were being overturned (and we were just months away from Obergefell v. Hodges making marriage equality legal nationwide), opinions were shifting, and I was feeling quite optimistic about the state of the world—or at least the state of YA.
And then a publishing professional asked me if the content in Perchance to Dream was age-appropriate. And when I cheerfully answered yes, they clarified: but did it have LGBT characters? As if the mere presence of LGBT characters automatically made it inappropriate.
I was flabbergasted and infuriated. In the long run, it didn’t really matter; the book came out as expected and has been well-received. This was just one person. But it still bothered me, particularly since this person was aware that I am queer when they said it. I kept thinking about all the readers out there who have been denied stories that reflect them because of people like this. About kids who might be feeling alone, and who really need to see people like them in the books they read.
When we were coming up to the one-year anniversary of Perchance to Dream’s publication, I thought about this encounter again, and I decided that I was going to do something about it. I wanted a way to counteract these kinds of toxic people, whose ignorance and cruelty drive LGBT teens to suicide at two to six times the rate of straight teens.
That’s when I came up with the idea for YA Lifeline, a charity auction benefiting The Trevor Project, the leading crisis intervention hotline for LGBT teens and young adults in the US. What if the YA community could come together to show our support for the LGBT community and help save lives through our books?
I got in touch with fellow YA authors G.L. Tomas (sisters Guinevere and Libertad, who write under a joint pen name) and shared my idea with them. And together, we’ve made the event a reality: an online charity auction running from October 6-17.
I’m so excited by how much incredible support we’ve gotten from the YA community. So many amazing authors have donated books, swag, and critiques, including Jodi Meadows, Cindy Pon, Kim Zarins, Pintip Dunn, Louise Gornall, Julia Ember, and many, many more. Whether you’re a reader or an aspiring author yourself, there’s something for everyone. There will also be an option during the auction to donate directly to The Trevor Project if you’d like to help out but aren’t able to bid.
I’m incredibly hopeful that our event will help make an impact, and that moving into the future, things will continue to change and improve for the LGBT community, until incidents like the one that sparked YA Lifeline are just a distant memory!
About the Author
LYSSA CHIAVARI is an author of YA science fiction and fantasy, including Fourth World, the first book of The Iamos Trilogy. She is also a blogger for The Pack of Aces, an evil alliance of asexual speculative fiction authors that seek to promote ace visibility in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her exploring the woods of her home state of Oregon or losing an unreasonable number of life balloons on Donkey Kong. You can visit her at her website or on Twitter @lyssachiavari.