Context: VOYA recently published a book review that ended on a line containing a biphobic message. Upon receiving complaints, they responded with a poorly constructed, insensitive email (which they later made public, together with a signed, rather personal letter of complaint) and eventually published an apology on their public facebook page, which many (us included) find lacking. This is a public letter from Ink & Locket to VOYA. This letter has also been posted as a comment on their facebook apology.
Dear editor in chief,
It is with the deepest respect for VOYA magazine, and what you are trying to do and are doing for YA librarians and young readers, that I am sincerely asking you to do better.
You have been called out for perpetuating the idea that bisexuality is something dirty; something young children shouldn’t be exposed to the existence of. You have been asked to consider that saying “the story contains many references to Bo being bisexual and an abundance of bad language, so it is recommended for mature junior and senior high readers” is the same as saying that mentions of a bisexual identity are unsuitable for children.
If we take a step back from this specific review, and imagine a character called Matthew who falls in love with Lisa, would it be natural for VOYA to say “there are mentions of Matthew being straight, and therefore the book is recommended for mature readers”? Probably not. And that is why this is problematic: you have equated bisexuality with something other than a term for who you fall in love with. You have made it inherently sexual. We are sure there were plenty of good reasons to recommend the book to mature readers – swearing and actual descriptions of sex and sexuality, perhaps – but being bisexual is not such a reason.
Now, you seem to partially address this in your apology, as you admit the bisexuality should have been mentioned separately from the age guidance. We are happy you understand and agree with this point. We think it’s great that you want to point out bisexual characters to make it easier for YA librarians to present them to young readers.
However, your apology does not take responsibility for your actions – this being a clumsy wording or mistake, at best, and directly harmful, at worst. In fact, you apologise only that anyone was insulted and/or read the review as biphobic, not for the fact that your reviewer wrote something biphobic. The intention behind it was probably 100% innocent, but the message is not, and the subconscious attitude beneath it is something worth giving a thought.
What was expected was an apology for a harmful sentence and that this sentence was reworded or changed. What you gave was an insulting and hurtful response (which you have even made public on your webpage), and then an apology without an apology.
I sincerely believe this to be a problem caused by a lack of understanding, and not done in any ill-will. But I am asking you to reconsider, reword and do better.
M. Amelia Eikli
Ink & Locket Press