Huzzah! The first story with lesbian parents “The Very, Very, Very Long Hike” by Debbie Urbanski just appeared in Spider magazine in the April 2018 issue. This sweet little story is about a reluctant girl, Edun, her parents, Mama Jade and Mama Sara, and Edun’s brother Will out on a family hike. I specifically requested illustrations of a mixed-race, blended family, and it turned out beautifully.
This is the first time a fully-formed LGBTQAI+ story has appeared in print at my company that wasn’t young adult (Cicada does a fantastic job with queer content for teens); a comic or 1-page sidebar (both of these appearing in Muse during 2017); or a letter from a subscriber (appearing in Cricket magazine). I’m both encouraged and disappointed by other publishers and/or editors who don’t make it a priority to make sure that our readers see a range of families, even just once a year. I’ve been told “We don’t do that” and “I’m not sure how we would incorporate those families” and “It’s not appropriate” and “I don’t have a story on that topic.” It can be really frustrating to be told that when I have children my family would not be appropriate, acceptable, or important enough to warrant representation.
This is not to say that I haven’t been supported in trying to increase LGBTQ content in my own magazine. The company leaves it up to individual editors to decide how to handle diversity, and some editors are more conservative and cautious than others. I really appreciate the support and freedom I’ve been given by the management side to include LGBTQ content.
There have been some negative reactions and cancelled subscriptions from parents in response to the story, but nothing unexpected or alarming. I have only gotten two letters so far of my 30,000 subscribers. Here is an excerpt of our Editorial Director’s response to these negative subscribers: “Each child, and each child’s family, is a part of the world and shares in the experiences all families share. We don’t advocate for a particular identity or family structure—we want kids to see that families of all configurations can be safe and nurturing, both their own and others.”
On the whole, the response has been positive both inside and outside of Cricket. The story is sweet, wholesome, and kids don’t see it as any different than the world they already know. (Guess what? Sometimes your friends might have two mommies, and it’s not a big deal!) See these positive reviews about the story from Dana Rudolph at Mombian and Bay Windows.
If you are a queer author or aspiring writer, please submit to me any time! The text below is my call for more LGBTQAI+ stories:
Over the Rainbow Deadline: Rolling Deadline
Spider (for ages 6-9) and Ladybug (for ages 3-6) are looking for LGBTQAI+ inclusive fiction, poetry, and non-fiction manuscripts. We would like to see warm family stories, entire stories without gender pronouns, children with different gender expressions, and gentle realistic or metaphorical coming out stories. We are especially interested in matter-of-fact stories where being different isn’t the heart of the story, but part of the character’s identity. SUBMIT HERE.