The word is out: Val McDermid selects Britain’s 10 most outstanding LGBTQ writers

The bestselling crime writer has nominated her favourite queer and trans authors and poets as part of a showcase celebrating the best in British writing

My first novel was published in 1987. It was the first British crime novel with a lesbian detective. The only route to publication was via an independent feminist publisher. Back then, there were a few radical bookshops that stocked titles like mine. But getting mainstream shops to stock it was an uphill struggle. Finding representations of queer lives took dedication and stubborn persistence.

Gradually, that has changed. Now our words are part of the mainstream of British literary life. LGBTQ writers are not only published by mainstream publishers and stocked by libraries, bookshops and supermarkets; they win major prizes. For so long conspicuous by our absence, we are now conspicuous by our presence.

I wrote a lesbian heroine because I’d grown up in a time and place where there were no templates for the life I wanted to live. The queer struggle for self-definition has been pursued in no small part so that the next generation has a springboard for imagining how to live. Every literary movement requires pioneers to kick open the door a crack. Others spot the opening and push the door wider. Then, at last, there’s room for everyone to walk through and write the lives they want to write.

So I was delighted to be asked by the National Centre for Writing and the British Council to choose 10 writers to showcase the quality and breadth of LGBTQ writing in Britain today. The authors are Colette BryceJuno DawsonRosie GarlandKeith JarrettJuliet JacquesKirsty LoganAndrew McMillanFiona MozleyMary Paulson-Ellis and Luke Turner. From novels to memoirs, short stories to film scripts, poetry to plays, their work covers a broad spectrum of form, style and content. There is, genuinely, something here for everyone.

Because these writers are writing for everyone. These are not words for a niche readership. These are not writings for a ghetto. These are the works of writers who have something to say that can be – and should be – heard by as many people as possible. Although their words will have particular resonance for some readers over others, isn’t that what good writing always does?

LGBTQ writers have forced their way out of the dark corners where we were pushed by a society that didn’t want to be reminded of our existence. Thanks to writers such as Ali Smith, Alan Hollinghurst, Russell T Davies, Carol Ann Duffy and many more, LGBTQ writers are everywhere. And deservedly praised everywhere, too. Recommended by reviewers, librarians, teachers, booksellers, reviewers and friends.

Some might say the battle is won, the war is over. But a quick scan of news headlines and social media on any given day gives the lie to that. LGBTQ people are still bullied at school and in the workplace. We are still the targets of hate crime. In many places around the world, our very identity criminalises us.

Auden was wrong when he claimed “poetry makes nothing happen”. Words do change the world, reader by reader. They open our eyes, they provoke thought, they make us uncomfortable in our entrenched positions. The work of these 10 writers will do all of those things. But most of all, they will awaken in us fresh delight in the wonder of words.

 The International Literature Showcase, run by the British Council and National Centre for Writing, sees six guest curators focus on different aspects of writing from the UK. Val McDermid’s event will be live streamed at 3pm on Saturday. In October, Jackie Kay will reveal her selection of writers of colour.

 Val McDermid’s latest book, How the Dead Speak, is published on 22 August in the UK and 3 December in the US.

First in Asia: Taiwan legalizes gay marriages

Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to allow same-sex marriage after their parliament voted on a government bill that would allow a legal union.

The bill, which had the backing of by the majority Democratic Progressive Party, passed with 93 votes, 66 opposing and 27 abstaining..

The bill is set to take effect after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen signs it into law.

Same-sex marriage bill passes in Taiwan

The passage of the bill comes in the wake of the Taiwanese constitutional court ruling that same-sex couples had the right to legally marry in 2017.

The court had given the Taiwanese parliament two years to legalize same-sex unions.

Fortunately, the bill they passed was the most progressive of three different bills proposed.

The two other bills were submitted by conservative legislators, referring to same-sex partnerships as “same-sex family family relationships” or “same-sex unions” instead of “marriage.”

The new law allows two persons of the same gender, aged 18 or older, to register their marriage.

However, the bill limits LGBT family’s adoption rights as the child needs to be the biological offspring of one of the couple.

Taiwan LGBT celebrate passage of bill

Gay rights activists celebrated the decision, saying this was the only version they could accept.

Likewise, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples have already applied to register for legal union.

“For me the outcome today is not 100 percent perfect, but it’s still pretty good for the gay community as it provides legal definition,” said gay pastor Elias Tseng to the AFP news agency.

Jennifer Lu, chief coordinator of rights group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan, told BBC that it’s “still not full marriage rights.”

“We still need to fight for co-adoption rights, and we are not sure about foreigner and Taiwanese marriage, and also gender equality education,” Lu added.

Benson Lee of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan told Gay Star News, “Legislators have come forward and stood on the side of love.”

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that this “should sound a clarion call, kicking off a larger movement across Asia to ensure equality for LGBT people.”

The Taiwanese president herself said: “Today is a proud day for Taiwan. It is the day Taiwan let the world see the goodness and value of this land.”

One of Tsai’s political platforms when she ran for president 2016 was marriage equality.

LGBT fight for equality in Taiwan

When the court had legalized same-sex union in 2017, it was met with a public backlash. This made the Taiwanese government decide to hold a series of referendum.

Majority of Taiwanese voters rejected legalizing same-sex marriage, opting that instead of changing the Civil Code, a special law should be enacted for same-sex marriage.

Currently, Taiwan leads in LGBT rights in Asia with an annual gay pride parade in Taipei attended by LGBT groups.

While Vietnam has decriminalized gay marriage in 2015, it hasn’t granted full legal recognition for same-sex unions.

Meanwhile, same-sex marriage is still illegal in China though homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997 and officially removed from its list of mental illnesses in 2000.

Last September 2018, the Supreme Court of India had ruled that gay sex was not a criminal offence.

However, Brunei had issued stricter Islamic laws last April that made anal sex and adultery offences punishable by stoning to death.