As you may have seen on Twitter today (1.4.14) I had a nasty surprise in my inbox and I wish it were an April Fool. It’s not.
So, as you know, I LOVE doing school visits and I like to think I’m quite good at them. I have testimonials from librarians in the ‘Contact’ section of my site if you’re interested. I work for First Story and Stonewall visiting secondary schools every week. I think it’s important to state I am more than qualified for the role I went for.
As you can never do too many school visits, I approached an agency that sends authors abroad as well as to UK schools. Within minutes I got this response.
I am afraid we will have to pass on this occasion and wish you all the best with your school visits.
As you know, #BOYQUEEN has been my tag in the run up to this year’s Queen of Teen Prize.
So my reaction went like this: At first I was shocked but not surprised. I’m not sure I’d go to the UAE even if I was offered a trip. It feels morally weird.
Then I wondered if, three years ago when I started writing full-time, I’d made a terrible mistake in being as open as I am. Had I made a terrible career choice?
And finally I thought NO. This is what homophobia does. It makes you doubt your choices, your worth, your existence.
When the dust had settled I realised there was no real reason for this agency to ‘pass’. They could have said ‘we might struggle with the UAE, but we’ll give it a go’ or ‘we’ll focus on Europe’. After talking to some other authors, one wondered if she, a Jewish author, would get the same response given that she wouldn’t be welcome in the UAE either. The more I think about it, the more this was discrimination. It is discrimination. My sexuality is being used as a reason to not give me work.
I’m looking into legal advice. Why? Because the days where I used to keep quiet and keep my head down when bullies said things to me are over. That was five years of school I’m not looking to repeat. That voice in my head is right now saying NO, NO, DON’T MAKE TROUBLE, IT MIGHT AFFECT YOUR CAREER. But if it does, that’s more discrimination and I won’t take that either.
I draw strength from the response on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you to the readers, authors and librarians who agreed this isn’t good enough.
Whereas once I would have crawled under a rock and taken it, I won’t any more. I will be your Gayzilla because I hope my readers, especially those in school can see me NOT TAKING IT ANYMORE. This is another reason I’d like to be Queen of Teen sometime. I will NOT ‘tone it down’ because it makes some small minded people uncomfortable. I’m not doing anything wrong. Nothing. Not a single thing.
I like the books I write, I love my characters and I really love getting out into schools and meeting readers. I hate that, even for a second, I doubted myself.
Once more, for those of you who have always let me be me, thank you.