Sensitivity to LGBTQIA+ in YA Lit by Saundra Mitchell, Update October 2016

Suggested LGBTQIA+ Sensitivity Guidelines for Reviewers of Children’s and Young Adult Books


Remember that gender and orientation are not synonymous with sex.

A 12 year old transgender person is no more sexual than a 12 year old cisgender person. If a first kiss is appropriate for a 12 year old heterosexual person or character, it is equally appropriate for a 12 year old bisexual person or character.

Kissing, hand-holding, romantic language, infatuation, cuddling, etcetera, between two girls or two boys or two mixed gender people is not inherently more  sexual or  mature in content than the same activities between a cisgender male and cisgender female character.

The existence of characters or people who present or identify as something besides cisgender and heterosexual is not sex, is not sexual, and their presence should not be a reason to label a book for more mature readers.

Only explicit sexual content between any combination of genders or people of various orientations is actually sexual content.

Remember that children of all genders and orientations exist.

Just as most cisgender, heterosexual people were always aware of their own gender and orientation, so are many LGBTQIA+ children. This awareness can present itself as early as the toddler years, when children first become aware of themselves as separate beings from their parents.

It may take longer for LGBTQIA+ children to express this, especially if they live in a community that actively advocates against their presence and acceptability, but many are aware of their own gender and orientation from an early age. The existence of LGBTQIA+ children in picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels and non-fiction is an accurate representation of the diversity of children.

These guidelines can be summed up simply as:


While some actions, activities, descriptions, and themes may be slotted as appropriate for certain ages, the fundamental existence of certain groups of human beings is not mature content.

When writing reviews for material that features LGBTQIA+ people or characters, they should be treated no differently than heterosexual, cisgender people or characters. Their existence is not mature content, their relationships are not inherently more sexual, their sex isnot inherently more explicit.



GLAAD  Media Reference Guide.

LGBTQIA+ Glossary.

Genderqueer and Non-Binary Indentities Glossary.

People Are Not Mature Content Infographic.



All Information Provided By:

Guidelines by Saundra Mitchell:

Art by Irina Mir: