Suzanne: They're as important as any other type of teen literature. YA literature needs to reflect the diversity of real in race, religion, culture and sexuality, approaching the various issues facing young people today with sensitivity and authenticity. Teens should be able to pick up a book in any genre and relate to the character, to recognise themselves in the character.
Zoë: Very, very, very. When I was a teen I never read a single book aimed at my age-group in which there was a gay character. Not one. There certainly weren't any acknowledged gay characters on TV or in films. And since I went to an extremely rough school in a very deprived, working class area where racism, homophobia and all kinds of nastiness were rife, I don't think I even realised gay people existed in real life except as the butt of vile jokes and insults until I started working in the public sector, years later. Books were my only real window on the wider world, and sadly that window let me down when it came to gay characters. It took several more years for me to glom onto the fact that this was a war - like the battle against misogyny and racism - that was being fought around me every day. My privilege had insulated me from all awareness, and as a result it didn't occur to me to include a non-heterosexual character in my own work until my third book (there was a big gap between my second book, which I
wrote when I was twenty-two, and the third, which I finished when I was twenty-eight, and I did a lot of growing up and learning in that time). If there had been books which introduced gay characters as a simple part of the story, having adventures alongside straight kids, I'm sure I would have started trying to to be a QUILTBAG ally years earlier.
Laura: I think they've very important, especially for YA. It's important to reflect our society accurately, and there are intersex and people from all shades of the LGBTQIA. To marginalise them for YA, or SFF, or fiction, is a disservice. Teenage years are when people are discovering their gender identity or sexuality, and reading fiction can sometimes help them work through their thoughts and feelings. They even call this "bibliotherapy." So to sweep different experiences under the rug makes it seem like something that should be shameful rather than celebrated.
Daniel: Very important. As a teen, I know I struggled with my identity, as I'm sure everyone did at some point in their childhood. In school, and even at home, sexuality never came up as a topic for discussion. Why was I attracted to men when all my friends were talking about the opposite sex? I didn't know. I'd never even really heard the word 'gay' until my peers began using it, often in a derogatory way. It almost seemed like it was a taboo subject because no one was talking about it. Was there something really wrong with me?My search for answers led me to chatrooms and pornographic sites from the age of thirteen, and it wasn't until I was almost seventeen that I really understood what it meant to be gay. I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, if there had been books out there, with characters I could relate to, then I might not have struggled to find myself for so long. I might have realised earlier that I wasn’t wrong, I was just different.
Alfie: As important as any other books. Reading in itself is important, as is reading a wide variety of genres, points-of-view, authors et cetera. I wouldn't put any sort of emphasis on LGBTQIA books, because that would be discrimination, and that would be wrong.
Ria: Very important! Teens need greater exposure to non-heteronormative characters in order to better understand the world around them and how they relate to it.
LH: Massively. I think everybody has the right to be reflected and acknowledged in literature and denying that right concerns me.