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Should Gay Romance Be Shelved Separately?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Posted in: Uncategorized

This was a question that Bonnie Dee posed to me the other day, and my answer is…I’m not sure.

Bonnie wrote in an email to me:

… I realize m/m romances haven’t made strong inroads into brick and mortar stores, so the question might not apply there. I actually have no idea where they’re shelved in a regular bookstore. The question arose from my own website. I was redesigning my backlist library, which is separated by genre since I write in many different ones.

I realized I had the m/m books in a group of their own even though the titles could be classified under scifi/fantasy, contemporary and anthology (and soon some historicals). I started to consider whether I shouldn’t shelve them with their correct genre, but it doesn’t seem to make sense since some readers are specifically looking for same sex books. Why make it hard for them to locate them?

Anyway, that’s what brought to mind the whole issue of separation by shelving and what it says about the way we view certain groups, whether it be by race or sexual orientation. When is it all right to group separately as simply a sensible business move and when is it insensitive?

Certainly it would be easier for MM readers to find MM books if they were shelved separately, but isn’t that the same argument that people use in the shelving-by-colour debate? Doesn’t this otherise (made-up word alert!) gay and lesbian relationships, and how is segregating by sexual preference any different to segregating by colour?

I would love to ruminate longer on this, but quite frankly, I don’t have the time right now, so I’ll open the floor to you guys. What do you think? Does it genuinely make good business sense to shelve gay romance books separately?