I’ve read a few tweets in the past couple days regarding the discussion of f/f (female/female) representation in novels, particularly in the YA category. Writers seem deterred by claims that f/f romance does not have the substantial audience required for it to succeed in the way m/f or m/m romantic plots do, and so agents and editors are less inclined to represent stories featuring f/f romance.
I was actually somewhat surprised to see this discussion pop up, since every agent I personally follow seems desperate for LGBT content. Nonetheless, I think the continued lack of representation in YA literature is a major problem, and writers should fight back against claims that there is not an audience and their stories will not be published. This applies to multiple forms of LGBT representation, but I will focus on f/f since this was the focus of the discussion and it relates the most to my own writing.
It is dismal how difficult it is to find a story based around a non-heterosexual MC that falls for a girl. It’s even harder to find one in speculative fiction, with a storyline that does not center around the MC coming to terms with sexuality. It’s even harder to find one that does not end in heartbreak, death, or overall depression. This mixture gives the impression that if you are a female who falls in love with another female, your life will be riddled with the stress of overcoming your sexuality, and it will likely end in disaster.
This should change. Young Adult literature needs stories of females going on adventures, slaying dragons, fighting demons, and delving into space, while also occasionally developing feelings for other female characters. Even if plots do not revolve around a romance, characters should not be assumed straight until proven otherwise. LGBT readers want to see characters similar to them exploring imaginative worlds—not everyone wants to read about the tragic love between two young women, which inevitably ends in disaster. I myself would rather read about confident and happy females falling in love and working together to make a relationship last. And maybe conquering a kingdom in the meantime.
Changing these long-held beliefs and stigmas will be difficult. The publishing industry does not change overnight, but it can change. There was a time when YA was not a major category, and now it has exploded. People have the power to change the industry if readers, writers, agents, and editors all work to create that change. People might say otherwise, but there are agents and editors who want stories representing f/f romance. Plenty of writers are writing f/f romance, and they should continue to do so. Lastly, readers should support the stories that currently exist. Show the world that an audience exists, and wants more.
Writing and publishing is not an easy career, and writing and publishing LGBT content is harder still. But I think it is very, very worth it.
If you are interested in reading speculative fiction with f/f romance, my recommendations are unfortunately scarce. Malinda Lo has published multiple novels in a variety of genres featuring female MCs falling for female characters. I have read both Ash and Huntress, but you can read about her other novels on her website. Recently, I discovered a newly published YA fantasy called Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller, which follows a gender-fluid MC who seems to fall for a female character. I haven’t had the chance to read it, but it was a promising sight to see, and it will definitely be next on my TBR list.
If you have any thoughts about the inclusion of f/f representation in YA literature, or recommendations for stories already featuring this representation, feel free to comment below.
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.