Why I Love LGBTQ+ Retellings

‘TIS I, actually writing something for Pride Month! *dances* I’m rather excited to write this post, because I kept writing some very angsty depressing posts about conversations I’ve had with people and it was Not Fun. (There is a time for depressing posts. But right now I just feel like being excited.) (And I HAVE SO MANY OTHER POST IDEAS THEY ALL CAME AT ONCE.)

So! Today I decided to write about something I love a lot, which is retellings with queer characters. THIS INCLUDES ALL RETELLINGS. Not just fairytales. Which sort of applies to every book if you want to get philosophical, but I guess I’m mostly talking about tropes as well…?

ANYWAY. A big reason why I love queer retellings is because I think that they give the story way more nuance than just…a straight relationship. Perhaps it’s rather self-indulgent, because in most cases I would rather about queer characters. But there are so many novels with straight romances that I don’t feel too bad.

Especially with fairy tales, the original story is usually pretty old and so is rather rooted in your typical gender and historical constraints. I feel like if you’re going to rehash a story that’s been told so many times over and over, it’s important to make it original. Also, it really sucks to never see yourself in these stories.

Loads of people are irritated because Russell T. Davies’ adapation A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the BBC apparently wasn’t’ true to the original. (He cut some lines about suicide which worked fine in the 16th century but not today and ended with same-sex relationships.) And it was really fun! QUEER SHAKESPEARE FOREVER. I saw another adaptation of it at the Globe the other week where they put in a queer relationship so I feel pretty good. Anyway, RTJ said: “I find it hilarious that people get up in arms about Titania kissing a woman, but they’re perfectly happy with her kissing a donkey.” That encapsulates a lot of my feelings.

a midsummer night's dream gif.gif

Titania and Hippolyta; source

Ash by Malinda Lo is one of my favourite books. It’s an f/f retelling of Cinderella with way cooler fairy lore. But when I first read it at the age of around 9 (probably) I didn’t understand the romance. I knew that Cinderella was supposed to end up with the prince and I didn’t understand why she ended up with a girl.

ash

I feel sad for younger me. I didn’t get the obsession I was supposed to have with boys but I didn’t know there was any other option. I really hope that in the future we don’t end up with kids growing up like that. And I think an important way to do that it is more diversity in kid lit. (Because also, let’s remember that I used to call the peach pencil the ‘skin colour’ pencil.) I find it really frustrating that people think showing kids there are options other than being straight/cisgender/allosexual is ‘pushing an agenda on impressionable minds’ or whatever. -_-

We deserve to have fairytale endings too. We deserve to go on grand adventures and spaceships and ride dragons. Retellings allow different experiences to be written into stories where before they were erased. They let us say: this belongs to everyone. I mean, I guess I’m talking more about older works of literature. In those not everything translates the same way as it would have done at the time. The audience reaction changes, you know?

I think that part of the reason I do like fanfiction (although I can’t deny that itS many flaws) is because I can read happy stories with queer characters. I guess it’s another kind of retelling, in a way. If I’m irritated at a book with no diversity — I still maintain that Keira Cass’ The Selection would have been 100% better with queer characters; SO MANY OPPURTUNITIES — then I can go and read something where the girl does end up with the girl. And they fight supercomputers together and save the world.. I can read stories about agender space pirates. I can read stories about asexual wizards. I don’t know any books with genderqueer characters that aren’t coming out/self-discovery/self-affirming kind of thing.

Those stories are important, but I wish there were more queer characters in other narratives.  I think it’s such a shame that we don’t have more queer characters in fantasy and sci-fi, because there’s such potential in a created world. Does homophobia still exist? The gender binary? Does magic or virtual reality make it way easier to change your gender presentation. *sweeps hands* SO MANY THINGS. If you’re creating with a new world there are so many opportunities to play with dynamics in society. Like in a dystopia: where there’s prejudice between, like, people of a different District, is it okay to be queer in the Capitol? I don’t understand why people can be perfectly okay reading about aliens and elves but say that being non-binary doesn’t exist. *scowls*

Overall: KEEP RETELLING ALL THE THINGS. Make it something that shows me something new about the original trope. Because I do not want to read another straight we’re-playing-Romeo-and-Juliet-in-the-school-play-and-I-have-a-crush-on-you.

do you like retellings? shakespeare fan? got any queer ya recs for me? i’d love to hear!

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13 thoughts on “Why I Love LGBTQ+ Retellings

  1. I LOVE THIS POST. I have to say I’ve never read any LGBT+ retellings myself but I really want to! What better way to bring new life to old stories than showing society’s progression to accepting diversity? I also need 100000 more diverse fantasy stories. Contemporary is great and everything but that doesn’t mean alternate universes can’t also be diverse. Also I’ve heard great things about the RTD’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and I’d love to see it. Basically all in all I love your post ❤

    • Aah I’m glad you liked it! Yeah, that’s something I really like about them — and it’s super fun with old stories. *nods* DIVERSE FANTASY FOREVER. More diversity in contemporary is fabulous too, but I feel like the increasing contemporary diversity hasn’t translated as well to other genres. I hope you enjoy RTD’s Midsummer Night’s Dream if you do see it! 🙂

  2. Ey, I just read Ash! I enjoyed it quite a bit (although, full disclosure, the fairy lore was cool but I felt like it was vague and I wanted to understand more). I definitely appreciate this more and more as I find new stories to read—diversifying not just the main characters but the accounts of people who can live happily ever after is so important. 🙂

  3. I love queer retellings because they subvert the books in the best way. Have you read Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue? Apparently it does it very well, so I am eager to check that book out at some point!

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  5. Have you read As I Descended by Robin Talley? It’s an LGBT+ retelling of Macbeth, and I’ve only read the beginning of it so far, but Lies We Tell Ourselves (Robin Talley’s previous book, about a black girl and a white girl, and the process of desegregation in 1960s America) was fantastic, so I think that AID will definitely be good! Do you know of any other retellings?

    • YES I have, I actually just finished it! I really enjoyed Robin Talley’s other books and am always trying to get my friends to read them. Although AID was a little different, I still LOVED it!
      I’d really recommend Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz (the Little Mermaid), Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Lord of the Flies) and Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott (Cinderella). I’ve also heard that Beast by Brie Spangler is good too! (Sorry. I have aaall the recs haha, and there are some great lists online too.)

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