Middle Grade and LGBTQIA+ Kids, a guest post by Will Taylor

When people ask why I write middle grade, (which happens way more often than I thought it would) I always mumble some combination of the following: Those were the years I became a big reader; my favorite books are MG even today; some of the very finest writing is being done for this age level; and I still feel eleven at heart. But as I worked on The Language of Seabirds, my first contemporary story, I realized there was one big reason I’d been overlooking: I was ten years old, smack in the middle of those middle grade years, when I realized I was gay. And it was not a happy moment.

This was 1992, and even though I was barely double digits and still collecting stuffed animals I was aware of the raging fire of the AIDS crisis out there in the grownup world. Magic Johnson had announced his status the year before; Freddie Mercury was dead; and kids on the playground told HIV jokes and refused to share foursquare balls with a classmate whose family had recently vacationed in San Francisco. So when I experienced my own first moment of attraction—momentous and confusing for any kid—it was instantly buried by a sense of looming, personal dread. It’s no exaggeration to say I felt doomed, both socially and in terms of my chances at living a full, happy life. The social fears were closer to hand, however, so I resolved to tamp down and hide everything my heart was telling me—as far as I was concerned forever—and went to lose myself in a book.