Jessica Verday, New York Times best-selling author of The Hollow and The Haunted, was to be included in a Young Adult faerie anthology entitled Wicked Pretty Things. Her story, Flesh Which Is Not Flesh, features two boys, Wesley and Cameron, who fall in love with one another. All went according to plan until Trisha Telep, the editor for the project, told Jessica that she would have to change the gay relationship into a heterosexual one.
In short, Jessica said no. She posted a blog on her website entitled Being Gay is Okay, announcing she would be withdrawing her story from the anthology.
Other authors previously included in the anthology have since pulled out, including Lisa Mantchev, Francesca Lia Block, Lesley Livingston, Karen Mahoney, Seanan McGuire, and Brenna Yovanoff.
Melissa Marr, whose name was featured in the cover copy, requested the phrase "dark faerie stories with a Melissa Marr-ish slant" be removed. Oddly enough, Melissa was never asked to partake in the "Marr-ish slanted" faerie anthology, though she is the author of the best-selling Wicked Lovely series, which feature fey.
Ann Aguire, Saundra Mitchell, Stacia Kane, Caitlin Kittredge, and Andrew Smith have also protested by opting out of future anthologies edited by Trisha Telep.
The importance of this issue doesn't revolve around Trisha Telep, Running Press, or even Jessica. The debacle made its rounds, Trisha offered an apology or two, and Running Press delivered an explanation. In time, this issue will be forgotten; what won't fade away as easily, however, are the issues that underline the situation.
This is one of many setbacks for a portion of our world's population. It is heartbreaking for the teens who are made to feel as though part of their existence is wrong - that part of themselves is a deformity, a mistake, a choice, and something that is acceptable to shun and ridicule. Something that would be rejected from editors and publishers. Something that would be rejected in school, at work, and in their own homes.
There are 28 definitions of "love" listed on Dictionary.com, not one of them signifying love is defined based upon loving a person of the opposite gender. Love is beautiful in all of its various forms; why would we ever attempt to erase it? It is impossible to have too much love in this world, and the love that we have cannot afford to be limited or discriminated against.
Nearly every day teens write to me to tell me how they feel lost. How they feel as though they lack a safe-haven of any kind. For some, that safe-haven can be found within a book - say, a short story in an anthology that weaves tales of many different characters all dealing with different struggles
The messages that are sent to me do not end at feelings of being lost, however. The messages often describe how comforting it would be to not be alive at all - that life is too much of a struggle. That it's them against the world. And who is anyone to write that off as teenage angst? It's true, is it not, when a short story which features two people of the same gender who love each other is rejected? It's true, is it not, when people go their entire lives living in fear and must hoard a secret? Even when that secret is something out of their hands entirely?
These people aren't looking for royalties, a paycheck, or political and marketing agendas. They are looking for acceptance.They are longing for the license to truly and wholly be themselves without any attachment of guilt or persecution. They not only want the ability to love, but the very possibility of being in love.
These people are a part of our world and shouldn't be made to feel any different from the rest of us. They shouldn't be made to feel insecure, suicidal, and forced to live in fear because of their sexuality. They have not chosen to amplify it; a large chunk of society has, and still remains to do so.
Society has bastardized what it means to be gay. Ironically, society has decided very little of "being gay" has to deal with being in a relationship. Being gay is now based on the stereotypes available in movies. Being gay is based on clothing, music, and friend choices. These stereotypes are in the back of everyone's mind at all times; how would you feel if you belonged to that group of people so brazenly being stereotyped? Would you not be made self-conscious? Would you not be subjected to the pressures of doing everything to avoid fitting the confines of those stereotypes?
If a person is gay, they will date a member of the same sex.
You are not "gay" because of what you wear, what genres of music you listen to, or what hobbies you have. You are not "gay" because you have friends who happen to be gay. You are not "gay" because you join the gay-straight alliance or support gay rights. These are myths and it is unacceptable to perpetuate them.
I don't believe there is such thing as a gay person - only a person who happens to be gay. A person who likes the color orange is not referred to as "the orange-loving person." The very thought is absurd; it's unfortunate that this absurdity doesn't carry over to other facets of a person like ethnicity, sexuality, and race. We are all beautiful people with an overwhelming catalog of traits, desires, wishes, and qualities - none of which should ever be used against us.
In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat up on the bus for unfair and unjust discriminatory laws. The authors who withdrew their stories from Wicked Pretty Things refused to give up their seat as well - not for their own benefit, but because of a social issue that extends far beyond making a few hundred dollars and having an added title to their list of works. We can all refuse to give up our seat, just as we can make sure the destination our bus is heading to is a positive one.
We create our future and the futures of others. Be mindful of what you say and what you don't say but should. Be careful with others, be gentle with your own self, and know that we all belong to the same Earth. We all have an enormity of difference, but we're all brought together here on this journey together. And that, my friends, is the greatest opportunity this life offers us. I hope you cherish it.