LGBTQ+ Literature: The Story of a Taboo Identity

Imagine young Lewis, 16-17 years of age. He is asking himself some hard questions about his sexual identity. He hopes to get some answers by reading a novel whose main character is homosexual, and the only book he can find is in the Taboo series. He questions himself even further on the validity of his feelings.

By Lewis Gagnon

For many years I’ve been interested in LGBTQ+ literature, and that, after a rather shaky start. Wanting to read a book with gay characters to confirm my own feelings, I went to the Renault-Bray bookstore looking for a novel on that very subject. In one hand I held my cell phone; on it, the gay page in Renault-Bray’s search mode. I quickly found out that the choices were thin. Certainly there was nothing too attractive to a young man wishing to pass unnoticed. I went home that day empty handed, more mentally confused than ever.

Two years later, newly out of the closet, I finally bought my first book with a homosexual character in it, Recrue by Samuel Champagne, part of his Taboo series. And 284 pages later, it had put me through a lot of emotions because, for the first time in my life, I could completely identify with a character in a novel.

Like Thomas, I’d taken dancing in high school and was bullied because of it. He also talked of the difficulty of admitting your homosexuality to everyone who’d been wondering about it for years. For me, that’s why it took me so long to come out. I didn’t want all those people who had had so much power over me for so many years to think they were right.

A Linguistic Lack

After a period during which I didn’t read any LGBTQ+ literature, I got back on track with young adult fiction. I found that there was a lack of good books in French compared with those available in English. I decided to continue my adventure by improving my English. I discovered authors of great LGBTQ+ classics, such as Adam Silvera and Nina LaCour, as well as cult novels like Call Me By Your Name.

Among the first books that I read was Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me, which is the novel that really gave me a taste for LGBTQ+ literature. It’s a story of grief that doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to coming out, and it has some particularly intense emotions. The way this author writes his books is totally different from other books I’ve read. Having had to face his own mortality at an early age, Adam has a brilliant way of approaching subjects like grief and death.

After several LGBTQ+ novels, I realized that many authors put a lot of importance on heartbreak, mental health issues and family problems. Are members of the LGBTQ+ community more likely to experience social problems? Maybe these authors are simply more open to writing about “broken” characters. In my opinion, I think it’s important that LGBTQ+ community members, often underrepresented in fiction, are more frequently depicted in literature so that society can better understand their (our) experiences.      

Finally, I would like to revisit the novels of Samuel Champagne. It was he who led me to discover LGBTQ+ literature in the first place. Over the last few years he’s come out with a series that follows the story of three students at the same high school. Each book focusses on one character and references other characters. I found Samuel’s writing style interesting and profound. He deals with subjects such as large families, bisexuality, abandonment, suicide attempts and social pressure. Each story proves that the people you meet every day can carry around inside of them a lot more than you can see on the surface.  

Openness to LGBTQ+ Literature

After all that reading, I’ve come to realize that LGBTQ+ literature is on the upswing and that it’s gaining popularity among young people. Today’s youth are lucky to be able to go to the library and find books that talk about members of their community. More and more, heteronormativity is coming into question. I would love to see the book world, as well as the movie world, show more representations of LGBTQ+ persons in order to include more minorities in their projects.

The only question I have left concerns the fact that most of the stories I read take place in high school and deal with coming out. But coming out is just the beginning of the sexual orientation adventure. Where are all the stories about being caught between Grindr one night stands and wanting to find true love? Where are the stories about glorious girls’ nights out at the Cabaret Mado drag club? Maybe I just haven’t stumbled across these stories in my LGBTQ+ readings. But I fear they are more hidden than I’d like to think.  

French version on the Reflet de Société website

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.