Pride 2017 held an extra significance for those of us who identify as LGBTQ: it was 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act, which was the first step towards decriminalising homosexuality. It has been good to see some publishers and retailers choosing to mark the occasion with events (Penguin Pride) and promotions (WH Smith's Celebration of Gay Writing From The Past 100 Years), and to see the BBC announcing Gay Britannia, a series of dramas across both radio and television to celebrate the LGBTQ community.
So yes, let's give ourselves a pat on the back for remembering and for marking the occasion in some way. However, while these initiatives are good, it is frustrating that the large majority of work featured is by cis, white, gay men. Yes, I know the Sexual Offences Act only criminalised male homosexuality. Female homosexuality, bisexuality and people who identified as trans were invisible. Fighting criminalisation should be applauded, but let's not continue to allow a failure of visibility to persist. In 2017, to focus on work produced by gay men means that we still suffer from the same problem: anyone who identifies on the queer spectrum but who isn't a cis, gay man (and probably white, too), doesn't count and is invisible. Look at the WH Smith promotion: 32 books (excellent!), but only two women (depressing), both of whom are writing about cis, white, gay male relationships. There isn't even space for Sarah Waters, or Stella Duffy (to name but two). Where are books by trans authors or with trans storylines? The line-up at the Penguin Pride event was slightly more diverse, but still overwhelmingly male, as is the BBC programming.
Many people growing up as LGBTQ didn't have role models. They couldn't see any other couples like them; they didn't know anyone who was trans or bi; they didn't know there were words for what they felt and that it was okay for them to have feel the way they did. It might seem easier from the outside for kids growing up today: they can read CN Lester's Trans Like Me or Juno Dawson's The Gender Games; they can watch "Sense8" or "Orange is the New Black" on Netflix and see that there are people out there just like them. But if we continue to let opportunities to share these diverse stories that fully explore queer lives pass us by, we haven't made nearly as much progress as we think and we continue to fail the next generation by letting heteronormative and cisnormative views prevail. However much we might congratulate ourselves, or tell ourselves that attitudes have changed, it's clear that whenever anyone thinks about ticking the LGBTQ box, gay men's stories and gay men's lives are still the default option.
So what can we do? It's good to continue to promote work by and about gay men, celebrating their lives and their stories, but let's not - please - call this LGBTQ. We should examine line-ups for events and make sure they are truly diverse and intersectional in terms of racial and socio-economic backgrounds, but also in terms of gender identity and sexuality. We should interrogate our own unconscious bias, and publish more diverse stories, bravely and confidently. We should follow the lead of the Tate Britain, whose current exhibition, Queer British Art, celebrates work by artists from across the queer spectrum. As the gallery points out, 'Queer' refers to a diversity of sexualities and gender identities. We should celebrate them all and provide a space for them in the cultural fabric of our society.
Laura Macdougall is a literary agent and a Bookseller Rising Star 2017. She has launched LGBTQ books night Invisible Outlaws with poet Sophia Blackwell. The first Invisible Outlaws will take place on Wednesday 2nd August at 6.30pm at the Bedford in Balham. Speakers confirmed include Stella Duffy and Jake Graf.