Saturday February 12, 2005
In the bad old days there was no fiction for gay teenagers; more recently gay characters in books for young adults have tended to be victims or outsiders.
But in what is being heralded as a breakthrough by activists and the gay press, a teenagers' novel has been released by a major publisher in which a gay couple's sexuality is incidental.
Boy Meets Boy by the American author David Levithan has a cult following in the US, though it has been banned by some conservative schools.
In Britain Harper Collins has distributed 200,000 postcards advertising the book to almost 1,000 schools, the biggest drive of its kind.
Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools Out! - which campaigns for gay equality in education - is enthusiastic about the book, saying: "... It's probably the first romance that is set in a non-homophobic environment, which makes a refreshing change."
Joseph Galliano, the deputy editor of Gay Times, is also a fan who believes the book is a breakthrough and ends his review in the forthcoming edition of Gay Times with the words: "Vive la révolution".
In the book, Paul falls for a fellow pupil at their high school. His object of desire is a boy, Noah, and nobody sees this as odd.
"There isn't really a gay scene or straight scene in our town," Paul says, "And whether your heart is strictly ballroom or bluegrass punk, the dance floors are open to whatever you have to offer."
Another striking character is Infinite Darlene, a cross-dresser who is also the star quarterback of the school football team. Again he is accepted by all.
The cynics may say this is not an America they recognise, but Levithan is not bothered. "Up until now gay characters have always been tinged by misery," he said, "I wanted to write a story to counterbalance that."