Since the publication of the first young adult novel to deal with issues of sexual identity, John Donovan’s (1969) I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth the Trip, over 200 novels have been published centered around gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) characters and conflicts (Cart and Jenkins, 2006, The Heart has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969–2004. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press). In significant contrast to early texts, many authors in recent years have sought to promote inclusion of LGBTQ individuals and to present LGBTQ characters in a positive light. To do so, they frequently create antagonistic homophobic characters and situations that provide a sense of realism (Crisp, 2009, Children’s Literature in Education, 40, 333–348). In this paper, I present several representative examples from these novels that challenge homophobia, but ultimately leave it intact. Text excerpts are drawn from the numerous contemporary realistic LGBTQ-themed texts, published between the years 2000–2005, and marketed to young adults. I then contrast these texts with the novel Boy Meets Boy (Levithan, 2003). Through the novel’s blurred genres and inventive use of linguistic features, Boy Meets Boy is able to more effectively undermine heteronormative assumptions by presenting the unthinkable: children as sexual beings, hegemonic masculinity as in fact non-hegemonic and detrimental to success, and homosexuality as normalized and even ordinary.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aston, J.R. (2001). Deconstructing Heterosexism and Homophobia in Schools: Case Study of a Hate Crime by an Adolescent Offender. Doctoral Dissertation, Texas A&M University. Dissertation Abstracts International, 62, 1372.
Benduhn, T. (2003). Gravel Queen. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Block, F.L. (1989). Weetzie Bat. New York: Harper & Row.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble. New York:Routledge.
Butler, J. (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’. New York: Routledge.
Cart, M. (2004). What a Wonderful World: Notes on the Evolution of GLBTQ Literature for Young Adults. Alan Review, 31(2), 46–52.
Cart, M., & Jenkins, C.A. (2006). The Heart has Its Reasons: Young Adult Literature with Gay/Lesbian/Queer Content, 1969–2004. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.
Chauncey, G. (1994). Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940. New York: Basic Books.
Connell, R.W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Connell, R.W., & Messerschmidt, J.W. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender and Society, 19(6), 829–859.
Crisp, T. (2009). From Romance to Magical Realism: Limits and Possibilities in Gay Adolescent Fiction. Children’s Literature in Education, 40, 333–348.
Cummins, J. (2004). Understood Betsy, Understood Nation: Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Willa Cather Queer America. Children’s Literature, 32, 15–40.
Cuseo, A.A. (1992). Homosexual Characters in YA Novels: A Literary Analysis 1969–1982. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press.
Donovan, J. (1969). I’ll Get There. It Better be Worth the Trip: A Novel. New York: Harper & Row.
Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge.
Ferris, J. (2000). Eight Seconds. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.
Fone, B. (2000). Homophobia: A History. New York: Metropolitan Books.
Foucault, M. (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books.
Freymann-Weyr, G. (2002). My Heartbeat. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Friedrich, W.N., Fisher, J., Broughton, D., Houston, M., & Shafran, C.R. (1998). Normative Sexual Behavior in Children: A Contemporary Sample. Pediatrics, 101(4), E9.
Hartinger, B. (2003). Geography Club. New York: Harper Tempest.
Howard, J. (1999). Men Like That: A Southern Queer History. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Howe, J. (2001). The Misfits. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Howe, J. (2005). Totally Joe. New York: Atheneum Books.
Jessica. (2009). Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan. 28 January 2009. Jessica is Reading Blog Post. 4 May 2009. http://jessicaisreading.blogspot.com/2009/01/boy-meets-boy-david-levithan.html.
Johnson, M. (2004). The Bermudez Triangle: A Novel. New York: Razorbill.
Kidd, K. (1998). Introduction: Lesbian/Gay Literature for Children and Young Adults. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 23(3), 114–119.
Kosciw, J.G., Greytak, E.A., Diaz, E.M., & Bartkiewicz, M.J. (2010). The 2009 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools. New York: GLSEN.
Larsson, I., & Svedin, C.G. (2002). Teachers’ and Parents’ Reports on 3- to 6-Year-Old Children’s Sexual Behavior—A Comparison. Child Abuse and Neglect, 26(3), 247–266.
Levithan, D. (2003). Boy Meets Boy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
MacLeod, A.S. (1994). American Childhood: Essays on Children’s Literature of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Hillsdale, NJ/Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press/Erlbaum Associates.
Myracle, L. (2003). Kissing Kate. New York: Dutton’s Children’s Books.
Pandora. (2007). Review of Boy Meets Boy. 15 Feb. 2007. Powell’s Books Online Review. 4 May 2009. http://www.powells.com. Path: Boy Meets Boy; What Our Readers Are Saying.
Pascoe, C.J. (2007). Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Pattee, A. (2008). Sexual Fantasy: The Queer Utopia of David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 33(2), 156–171.
Pollard, N. (1993). The Small Matter of Children. In A. Assiter & N. Pollard (Eds.), Bad Girls and Dirty Pictures: The Challenge to Reclaim Feminism (pp. 105–111). Boulder, CO: Pluto Press.
Peters, J.A. (2003). Keeping You a Secret. New York: Little, Brown & Company.
Peters, J.A. (2004). Luna: A Novel. New York: Little, Brown & Company.
Plummer, D.C. (2001). The Quest for Modern Manhood: Masculine Stereotypes, Peer Culture and the Social Significance of Homophobia. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 15–23.
Pugh, T., & Wallace, D.L. (2006). Heteronormative Heroism and Queering the School Story in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 31(3), 260–281.
Rabinowitz, R. (2004). Messy New Freedoms: Queer Theory and Children’s Literature. In S. Chapleau (Ed.), New Voices in Children’s Literature Criticism (pp. 19–28). Staffordshire, UK: Pied Piper Publishing.
Renold, E. (2005). Girls, Boys, and Junior Sexualities: Exploring Children’s Gender and Sexuality. New York: RoutledgeFarmer.
Reynolds, M. (2001). Love Rules. Buena Park, CA: Morning Glory Press.
Ryan, S. (2001). Empress of the World. New York: Viking.
Sanchez, A. (2001). Rainbow Boys. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Sanchez, A. (2003). Rainbow High. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Sanchez, A. (2004). So Hard to Say. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Sandnabba, K.N., Santtila, P., Wannäs, M., & Krook, K. (2003). Age and Gender Specific Sexual Behaviors in Children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27(6), 579–605.
Sedgwick, E.K. (1990). Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Shyer, M.F. (2002). The Rainbow Kite. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish.
Smith, F. (1995). Between Hope and Havoc: Essays into Human Learning and Education. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Van Dijk, T.A. (2008). Discourse and Power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Watts, J. (2001). Finding H.F. Los Angeles, CA: Alyson Books.
Wickens, C. (2007). Queering young adult literature: Examining sexual minorities in contemporary realistic fiction between 2000–2005. Dissertation Abstracts International, 69(1). UMI No. AAT 3296578. Retrieved 11 Feb 2009, from Pro Quest/ Dissertation Abstracts International database.
Wyeth, S.D. (2004). Orphea Proud. New York: Delacorte Press.
Corrine M. Wickens is an assistant professor in the Department of Literacy Education at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests examine issues of ongoing discourses around sexuality and schooling, gender and sexual characterizations in contemporary young adult literature, and disciplinary-based literacies in secondary teacher education.
See Table 1.
About this article
Cite this article
Wickens, C.M. Codes, Silences, and Homophobia: Challenging Normative Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary LGBTQ Young Adult Literature. Child Lit Educ 42, 148 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-011-9129-0
- Gay and lesbian fiction
- Discourse analysis
- Young adult literature