LGBT literature is on its way out of the closet. Over the years, as the plots have become bolder, so has the representation of the characters. India too has come a long way, from the publication of Ismat Chugtai’s “Lihaaf” that led to charges of obscenity to the opening up of a publication house, Queer Ink, exclusively for LGBT literature. While mainstream books like ‘Harry Potter‘ and ‘Game of Thrones‘ series has given us subtly gay characters like Dumbledore and Loras Tyrell, they contained only a hint in the book and their sexuality had to be often confirmed later by the author. However, alongside there has been a parallel stream of openly gay, lesbian and transgender characters. Here’s listing some of them.
Cameron Post, in “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily Danforth
Set in rural Montana in the early 1990s, this novel revolves around Cameron who loses her parents in a car accident. Orphaned she goes to live with her old fashioned grandmother and ultraconservative aunt Ruth. There she falls in love with her best friend, a beautiful country girl. As the news comes out, her aunt sends her to a religious conversion camp to help “cure” her homosexuality. What follows is confusion and the long road to self discovery.
Kickass quote: “How could I pretend to be a victim when I was so willing to sin?”
Yudi, in “The Boyfriend” by R. Raja Rao
The novel has explored Mumbai’s gay sub-culture like never before. The protagonist is Yudi, a freelance journalist in his 40s who’s an “out” gay man. Using the objects of Yudi’s obsession, Milind Mahadik (a semi-literate office peon) and a Dalit boy half his age, Rao tries to understand the equations of caste, class, religion and masculinity that define love and sexuality in the city.
Kickass quote: “I’m a homosexual. Gay by caste. Gay by religion.”
Angela Katz McNair in “Parrotfish” by Ellen Wittlinger
Angela who has never felt quite right as a girl shocks everyone one day as she cuts her hair short, buys men’s clothing and changes her name to Grady. Her family and friend have a hard time adjusting the changes. Moreover, the other practical problems are highlighted such as which washroom should he use. He becomes the victim of bullying and cruel jokes in school, before finding unexpected allies and learning to cope.
Kickass quote: “People changed lots of other personal things all the time. They dyed their hair and dieted themselves to near death. They took steroids to build muscles and got breast implants and nose jobs so they’d resemble their favorite movie stars. They changed names and majors and jobs and husbands and wives. They changed religions and political parties. They moved across the country or the world — even changed nationalities. Why was gender the one sacred thing we weren’t supposed to change? Who made that rule?”
Rafe, in “Openly Straight” by Bill Konigsberg
Rafe is just a regular guy who loves to play soccer and ski. Except he has been out as a gay since 8th grade. He isn’t subjected to bullying and goes to other high schools to talk about tolerance. However, his character is marked by a conflict as he wishes to be a regular guy, not the “gay guy”. He shifts to an all boys boarding school and decides to keep his sexual orientation a secret. However, things become difficult as he falls in love with a boy. The character highlights that while sexuality is important, it isn’t and shouldn’t be the only criteria to typecast a person.
Kickass quote: “There are so many different kinds of relationships out there, sweetie. The thing that makes one okay and another not is whether it comes from a place of love. Nothing that comes from love could ever be wrong.”
Lisbeth Salander, in “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Steig Larsson
The 20 something protagonist with her body piercings andtattoos, along with black dyed hair redefined feminity and sexuality in more ways than one. Sleeping with both men and women, she didn’t make a big deal out of her bisexuality. With a violent and tortured past marked by rape, she literally kicks some serious ass in the novel leading to its immense popularity. Larrson aptly describes her in this quote – “Don’t ever fight with Lisbeth Salander. Her attitude towards the rest of the world is that if someone threatens her with a gun, she’ll get a bigger gun.”
Kickass quote: “I’m not going to apologize for the way I’ve led my life.”
“Orlando” by Virginia Woolf
In the book playfully constructs the figure of Orlando as the fictional embodiment of Woolf’s close friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West. Orlando starts out as a young nobleman in Elizabeth’s England and traces his experience with first love. In the midpoint of the novel, Orlando, now an ambassador in Costantinople, wakes up to find that he is a woman. Virginia treated the sex change lightly, as if the sexually defined roles were no more than fantasies that could easily be stripped off for the benefit of another that better suited the individual. It further traced the role of women in 18th and 19th centuries, ending with the granting of suffrage in 1928.
Kickass quote: “Different though the sexes are, they intermix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male and female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above. Of the complications and confusions which thus result every one has had experience; but here we leave the general question and note only the odd effect it had in the particular case of Orlando herself.“