We are still celebrating LGBTQ+ History MonthWords & Pictures Editor Gulfem Wormald talks to the bestselling novelist, screenwriter, journalist, and columnist Juno Dawson about how her work contributes to the representation of the LGBTQ+ community in children's literature. 

Juno Dawson has become a household name thanks to her work reaching out to the members and friends of the LGBTQ+ community. I remember my then 15-year old daughter coming home one Friday having picked This Book is Gay from the school library and immersing herself into it all weekend. Juno's work is always witty, non-judgmental, accessible and full of wisdom. We love her for that and everything she is doing to represent her community! Here is what Juno has to say about one of her remarkable books, Wonderland



What was your biggest motivation to represent the LGBTQ+ community in your work?


As one of very few trans novelists in the UK, I definitely feel a certain pressure to represent trans and non-binary characters in my work. If I won't, who will? I confess I had misgivings - I didn't want to pigeonhole myself as 'the trans one', but I think that was a sliver of internalised transphobia. In Wonderland, Alice being trans shouldn't affect how we regard her as a girl. She's just a girl with a slightly different experience of childhood.


What challenges did you encounter?


Once I knew she was trans, I don't think I did. In fact, I found it very liberating. Although Alice and I have very different experiences of growing up, it was refreshing to be able to depict life as a trans person in the UK right now.


How did it feel when your work finally reached readers?


Wonderland came out during lockdown one in 2020 which obviously really sucked. But I think readers have discovered it in their own time. People have really taken Alice to their hearts, which means a lot.


Did anyone or any specific incident inspire you to write about this theme?


I don't think LGBTQ characters are a theme per se. Like the theme of Wonderland is self-actualisation, something we all do during our teenage years. Alice is already well aware she's trans, it's more about her discovering her politics, if anything.



        ©Gulfem Wormald

What sort of reaction (positive and negative) did you receive ?


Mostly really positive. There was some highly puritanical outrage on certain forums about the fact Alice has sex in the novel, but that was from people who read a headline in a newspaper, not the novel itself!


Do you have any advice for authors/illustrators who want to write about important and challenging themes?


I really hate giving advice! So much of publishing is luck and timing, but I will say just be authentic above all else. 

*Feature image illustration by David Hutchinson (he/him)     


©Eivind Hansen

Juno Dawson is a bestselling novelist, screenwriter, journalist, and a columnist for Attitude Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, The Pool, Dazed and the Guardian. She has appeared on Pointless Celebrities, BBC Women’s Hour, Front Row, ITV News, Channel 5 News, This Morning and Newsnight.

Juno’s books include the global bestsellers, This Book is Gay and Clean. She won the 2020 YA Book Prize for Meat Market. She also writes for television and has multiple shows in development both in the UK and US. An occasional actress and model, Juno had a cameo in the BBC’s I may Destroy You (2020) and was the face of Jecca Cosmetics Play Pots campaign.

Juno grew up in West Yorkshire, writing imaginary episodes of Doctor Who. She later turned her talent to journalism, interviewing luminaries such as Steps and Atomic Kitten, before writing a weekly serial in a Brighton newspaper.

Juno lives in Brighton. She is a part of the queer cabaret collective known as Club Silencio. In 2014, Juno became a School Role Model for the charity Stonewall.


Feature image illustration by David Hutchinson (he/him)

David Hutchison is a writer, an artist and filmmaker. His YA novella Storm Hags was shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize and had several short stories published in anthologies and on BBC radio. During lockdown he published The Book of Skulls, a BAME and LGBTQI+ story of hidden identity and murder, inspired by Edinburgh’s murky medical history. David lives in Edinburgh with his husband Jamie, and is currently working on the Seordag Stories series of children's picture books and animations.

Gulfem Wormald (she/her) is the Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact:  Twitter: @GulfemWormald

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