Gender is a really big subject right now. Which is a good thing because apparently there are a lot of people who do not fit the traditional male-female theme. It can be very confusing and I don’t know about most people but I know that the main reason it’s confusing for me is because I try to understand it. I’m a girl and I feel like a girl and I’m straight and don’t go beyond bi-curious, so I pretty much fit the dictionary description of a traditional female. And yet, I can’t say I understand how straight relationships work or why I feel how I feel. I think I understand it because I’ve grown up thinking that’s normal and that’s really all it takes to be able to accept something. Which is all people should do when it comes to how others feel about themselves. But when we hear about someone who acts or feels different, we instantly try to understand it, like a math problem that begs to be solved.
I think what would really help matters is if people of all kinds of genders, sexualities and preferences found a place in literature and the media. If people are introduced to the idea of this at a very young age, they won’t even get a chance to question what’s right or wrong here but they’ll just accept that people are who they are.
One author who is absolutely amazing at including different lifestyles and preferences in his books is David Levithan. With titles such as Two Boys Kissing or Boy Meets Boy, you’ll guess that a his fiction focuses on homosexual boys. And that isn’t so wrong. Most of the main characters of his books are male, usually gay. But they’re never the heroes because they’re gay. Their homosexuality is never really the focus of things. Sure, sometimes it ends up being in the center but it happens in a way that seems perfectly natural. In a world where homosexuality is still often pointed out and judged, of course there are gonna be situations in which those boys will have to deal with that. But they’re not defined by it and there’s never any magical coming out situations.
Quite often, characters will also be less easy to grasp. There’s rarely any black or white when it comes to gender or sexuality and neither does that happen in Levithan’s books.
My favorite book of his is Every Day. Why? Because the main character, A, has no gender at all. And it also puts the reader in its spot quite nicely. You read the first few pages and you automatically assume that A must be a boy. Actually, A is just a being, a soul if you will, that wakes up in a different body every day. When we get to know them, they’re in a male body. Over the course of the book, A falls in love with a girl. That was enough for me to assume that A must be a male character. And it wasn’t until the book actually pointed out that A is neither male nor female that I noticed my mistake. Why does falling in love with a girl or having a male body automatically make someone male? To be honest, I don’t know if these kind of wake up calls are intended by Levithan but I’ve had moments like that a lot while reading his books and I can absolutely recommend them to anyone, especially parents looking for new books for their teenage kids. Apart from teaching gender lessons, Levithan’s stories are also really gripping and beautifully told.
He’s probably best known as the co-author of John Green for Will Grayson, Will Grayson and while that is one of my favorite books, Levithan’s solo work is just as good but rarely gets the recognition it deserves.