I was in my late 20s when I found out the many of the later Baby-Sitter’s Clubs books had been ghostwritten by people who were not Ann M. Martin, and let me tell you something: I felt so betrayed! I poured my adolescent feelings into those books like Ginny Weasley did with Tom Riddle’s diary (particularly the feelings I had about the feelings Kristy very obviously had about Mary Ann). I trusted Ann M. Martin with my deepest secrets, but it turns out it wasn’t Ann M. Martin at all! Well, I’m over that now because in a new profile with New York magazine, Martin explains that she wrote a whole lot of the books and outlined and line edited every single one of them. Oh, and also she’s totally queer.
You heard me: I said, Ann M. Martin is queeeeer.
Apparently rumors have been swirling about such a thing for years, fueled by the fact that: a) Martin went to Smith, which is true of exactly 87 percent of all queer writers, and b) She just walked around town talking about her gayness to people in literary circles, as reported in 2007 by a famous gossip LiveJournal. The confirmation of Martin’s sexual orientation is tucked unassumingly in today’s New York magazine interview about her new book series.
With her partner at the time, Laura Godwin (they’ve since broken up), she wrote four Doll People books, tales of what a child’s doll collection does when no one’s watching.
Okay, but that’s not all. Listen to this gayness. I might as well be copying and pasting this out of my own personal journal:
“I’ve probably fostered hundreds of cats,” she says. “Right now I have five kittens, and their default setting is making the tiniest little hisses you can imagine,” she says. “Taking care of them is like my version of babysitting.”
On the one hand, of course Ann M. Martin is gay. One thing people do at A-Camp is leave little cut-out snippets of Baby-Sitter’s Club books in each other’s pigeon holes (not a euphemism). I was involved in an impromptu Baby-Sitter’s Club theme song singalong that broke out at A-camp this very summer. You know, and the Baby-Sitter’s Club is a company founded by a brilliant, ambitious tomboy femme who empowers a diverse group of young women to get out in the world and get paid and change lives. Was Kristy Thomas based on the child Riese Bernard? It kinda seems like it! There’s a reason these books remind us so much of ourselves, even though there aren’t any overtly openly gay characters in them.
On the other hand, I feel shocked that Ann M. Martin is gay. In a wonderful way! My bisexual sister and I spent half our lives devouring these books in our tiny little town in rural Georgia, and even though neither of us had language or an outlet for our feelings at that age, we were being babysat by the ultimate babysitter and now it’s apparent that she was also our queer guardian angel! She protected our imaginations!
Ann M. Martin’s new book, Miss Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure, hit shelves today. It’s a reboot of Betty Macdonald’s beloved series, and you can bet I’m going to read the heck out of it.
In case you were wondering, Ann M. Martin also identifies as “a Mary Ann.”
Ok, this is super important to me, because my mum died three weeks ago and when I read Ann M. Martin’s autobiography when I was ten (sidenote: she fell out of a tree as a child and had to have her spleen removed!) my mum read it too, because that’s what she did, and she told me she thought Ann M. Martin might be gay — just as a passing thought. She did that stuff all the time and even though I never told her I was queer outright (Bi woman married to a man here) she always made sure that we knew and knew of LGBTQ people. And she would have loved for me to call her up to tell her.
This seriously means the world to me. I never comment, even though I’ve been a ‘straddler since 2010, but I should try to more often. I’ve been to Straddler meet-ups on 2 different continents and this community means so much to me. Sorry for getting super feelings-y.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like she was an amazing person. <3
oh dear one, i’m so sorry for your loss
Your mom sounds like she was an amazing person and you are clearly keeping her alive through your own life. My very best wishes weathering her loss and keeping that connection alive.
Your mom sounds so, so cool. I’m so sorry for your loss. <3
That was beautiful!
Love this! Around early middle-school age, three friends and I had our own, Babysitters Club – Kid Kits and all. (Yeah – a different time, when parents trusted middle schoolers with kids and even infants! Umm, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that if I had a kid.)
Ps – Those doll books also sound super scary.
I loved the doll books! They aren’t quite as scary as they seem-one of them is but that’s the one with the Bad Doll. The rest of them are great.
HOLY CATS. What a splendiferous day.
I AM LITERALLY SCREAMING RIGHT NOW I AM SO HAPPY.
I am a Mary Ann who wanted to be a Claudia who was in love with Kristy.
(Also I relate soooo much to that scene in one of the books where Kristy goes on a date and a boy kisses her and she doesn’t know if she’s supposed to close her eyes and I always think about it when someone is like “but how did you know you were gay?”)
“I am a Mary Ann who wanted to be a Claudia who was in love with Kristy.”
THIS IS SO ME. Mary Ann/Claudia-Wannabes unite!
i yelled a little bit when i saw this important news on twitter. ann m. martin is the first other person i ever knew of named ann. in third/fourth grade my classmates knew me as the girl who spent her time reading all of the BSC books we had in the classroom bookshelf, and also the ones i had at home from my sister. (also i too am like 150% mary ann)
I have to say that though Ann M. Martin’s queerness is a huge revelation, my world is currently being rocked by the realization (16 years later) that she wrote The Doll People!!!!!! I read that book like probably as many times as there are Babysitters Club books!
OH MY GODDESS
This just really makes my day! Those beloved books just became that much more.
Oh my god, YES! I was obsessed with these books and the movie when I was a kid. My sister and I watched it all the time, and now I still evangelize the books and the movie to young kids at my work.
Also I wanted to be a Claudia but I was painfully aware that I was a Kristy. I even played softball and wore ponytails almost exclusively!
*fingers crossed for Gail Carson Levine next*
I also have some seeeerious theories about Beatrix Potter.
Cool that Autostraddle apparently forgot “lesbian” was a word.
No, in fact, we did not forget “lesbian” is a word. I identify as a lesbian, as do many (probably even most) of our writers. However, Ann M. Martin did not choose to label her sexuality and this story includes only one previous relationship, which was with a woman. She could be a lesbian. She could be bisexual. She could be lots of things, but we don’t know, and so I used “queer” as a catch-all.
I respect that she didn’t identify and that is why you used “queer” instead, but you also straight-up (no pun intended) called her “gay” in the article??
If she was bisexual or unidentified why is “lesbian” unacceptable but “gay” an ok way to describe her? I’m just saying, I understand why the original commenter would be confused.
“Lesbian” is a more specific and narrowly-defined word than “gay”. Although “gay” does usually imply “exclusively attracted to the same sex”, it is also used a bit more loosely sometimes as a synonym for queer. For example, I don’t identify with a particular label myself, but sometimes refer to things about myself as “gay”. Also, it’s one thing to use a word in context in the middle of an article, and another thing entirely to put it up in the headline.
It’s one thing to call a relationship or a certain kind of attraction “gay” and another to call a PERSON gay. For example, one might say me and my partner are in an “interracial relationship” but neither of us are mixed race ourselves. I speak English but I’m not English, etc.
Saying “I feel shocked that Ann M. Martin is gay” while in the same time preaching about conscientious use of language when the person’s identity is unknown is hypocritical.
An honestly, “gay” is not a synonym for queer and it’s insulting that a site with otherwise deliberate wording would use it as such. It is offensive to gay woman who are constantly told that they are probably attracted to men deep down, and it is offensive to bi/pan woman who have their individual experience of attraction erased.
“wlw” and “sapphic” and “queer” exist, you don’t need “gay” to be an umbrella term too, not without further stripping wlw and LGBT people in general the ability to differentiate our nuanced experiences.
I am really, really tired of monosexual people telling me that certain words – words that ARE sometimes used in ambiguous contexts, whether you personally approve of that or not; words that have been spoken against people like me as slurs, and that I therefore have as much right as anyone else to reclaim – should not be available to me because doing that somehow hurts other gay people.
If people are shitty to you about your sexuality for any reason, that is because they are shitty people. Period. It. Is NOT. The fault. Of other queer people choosing certain words to describe themselves. Stop trying to turn it into our fault. Just stop.
So you’re allowed to be offended by the actions of ~ monosexual queer~ people (who are not to blame for our biphobic society and the actions of straight people!), but I can never get annoyed at the actions of other wlw?? (which has also, btw, largely been debunked as exclusively aave, because one senior thesis isn’t actually Canon, but I guess language is only in stone when convenient for you lot)
You are sick of ‘monosexuals’, I am sick of people who act like society’s attempt to paint us all with the same ‘homo’ brush to better categorize and abuse us is my fault as a lesbian! And attempting to clarify our differences is oppressive, somehow!
Like, this isn’t even about queer, I don’t give a fuck about queer. This is about ‘gay’
And skinny straight boys are called gay, it’s still not a ‘slur’ and it’s still not their right to reclaim it
Ok seriously, please do not compare my experiences to that of “skinny straight boys”. There is no equivalence there whatsoever. Skinny straight boys can’t reclaim “gay” because attraction to the same sex is not any part of their experience or identity. When I get words like “gay” or “dyke” thrown at me as an insult (and yes, any word can be used as a slur depending on the context and intent of the person saying it), it is because I’m holding hands with a girl, or going to Pride, or using a rainbow filter on Facebook, or dressing androgynously, or any number of other things that I do because same-sex attraction is in fact a very important part of my experience and identity. When someone sneers “gay” at me I’m not going to turn around and say “No, I’m not” – I’m going to say “Fucking right I’m gay, what’s your problem?” THAT is reclaiming and I have every right to do it.
Also I’m not “sick of monosexuals”, I’m sick of people (most of whom have been self-identified lesbians) trying to police the language I use for myself without having any understanding whatsoever of what it’s like to live as a person who doesn’t fit neatly into any of the available categories.
we know queer is not a catch-all for everything, so we use different words at different times, *always* imperfectly. often in the same article!!! “queer” does not mean “also wants to sleep with men” and if anybody is truly using the word “queer” to imply that lesbians secretly want to sleep with men, as suggested upthread, then those people are assholes. there are lots of people who still find “queer” offensive, and it should never be thought that a self-identified lesbian or bisexual is automatically also “queer.” okay? that’s all ridiculous. it’s also not what heather is doing here and you know it! yes, it *could* be read that way but what if we decided not to. what if we decided to just accept this imperfect situation, because *we* have, which’s why this is the last time i am ever going to say anything about it until something official changes about these words or opinion sways largely in one way or the other.
ann has not self-identified as anything, meaning we have to come up with our own words.
you have to trust us that we have been doing this for seven years and i *promise* you based on the heaps of regular feedback we get on this topic that y’all have *not* agreed about what “queer” means or on what words we should use to serve all our purposes. people have vastly different definitions from one another. and also we have to write headlines and copy that will show up on search engines, it’s like the one SEO-strategic thing we do. each individual writer here will choose their own words for their own purposes. i’m the one usually getting yelled at for using “gay” or “lesbian” instead of “queer,” we all have our ways in which we are constantly disappointing somebody. based on ann’s age, it’s unlikely she identifies as queer, but from the information we have it’s the best approximation of a word partially because it is so approximate, as words go. for example, some people count straight trans people as “queer,” others think “queer” is just about sexual orientation. like that is a HUGE difference of opinion! i don’t know who’s right!
we literally cannot spend another minute of our lesbian lives on this planet arguing about this! there are so many people pleased with this usage, and so many offended by it. and “not straight” is like not even a word when it comes to keywords and also just drawing in readers. “girlfriend” is not LGBT-specific.
WE’RE SORRY THIS LANGUAGE IS NONSENSE.
but we have to get used to seeing words used imperfectly a lot of the time. i honestly think we are really wearing ourselves out with this. the conversation hasn’t budged or developed in years. we’re in a stalemate. i should add that i feel this way about a lot of language-related conversations. there are lots of words i use that probably a lot of you don’t want me to. other writers make different choices.
i’m sorry but we can’t. i promise you that our time is better spent doing something else. this just isn’t a place where we are going to ever succeed 100%.
jeez, you guys!
We mustn’t dwell. Not on Rex manning day!
Seriously, no one is erasing anyone’s identity in this article
Heather knows that language matters
Language is also imprecise and inherently imperfect, as Riese says
NOW LET’S ENJOY THE FACT THAT ANN M. MARTIN IS ALL OF OUR NEW ROOTS
(I always knew something was up when her author bio in her books told us she lived in Connecticut with her cats)
Yes! And also wlw is AAVE and not a catch-all
Riese, I love you.
Lol this site is the pits, jumping all over a woman for assuming the author you outed is a lesbian when the writer of that article calls her gay! Yah, language is always ambiguous, but all I’m getting from your shit policy is that ‘implying that someone is a homosexual is insulting, because language and self-identity are important, so no words for homosexual should ‘
*should exist at all!
Like, great, I feel super respected!
Don’t call a woman gay if you’re going to be insulted when someone assumes you believe she is a lesbian! What the fuck
I’M ANGRY THAT LANGUAGE IS FLEXIBLE AND DOESN’T ALWAYS FUNCTION EXACTLY HOW I WANT!
Am I doing this right?
First of all, YAAAAY to the content of this story. It’s super important for us as a community to have childhood heroes and a diversity of folk who do and love in some of the same ways as we do.
I understand the needs for certain words for SEO reasons, and general media practices, etc. But I hope that one day when writing about someone who hasn’t labeled themselves, we can Kristen Stewart it and “live in the fucking ambiguity of this life”. The labelling of a person who hasn’t come out as queer or gay is less important, and reductive when compared to the thing she has in common with us – she loved and partnered with a woman! That could make her a whole slew of self-defined things while still overlapping with many of the venn diagram circles of love of many of us.
P.S. Much better job with the Liz Gilbert article, who was another person who just came out with a new relationship, but didn’t put a flag in any sexuality.
Thank God we didn’t miss this opportunity to squabble about semantics!
the word lesbian isn’t used in the original article, and a woman can be queer and have a same sex partner without being a lesbian.
In fact, Jenn, I am one of those queer women with a same-sex partner and neither of us are lesbians! :D
Totally!! No no, it’s only PC if we group everyone in with Queer.
I was a Kristy/Abby hybrid because Abby was Jewish and a writer and Kristy was gay as hell and had divorced parents and was awkwardly upper middle class in a normal middle class town and made everyone uncomfortable by not realizing how to be appropriate. I was an awkward kid, is what I’m saying.
hello what’s all this then omg
I was such a little trash kid and read literally nothing but Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley until middle school
(ALSO does anyone know whatever happened to that tumblr where the human running it would provide a hilarious assessment of the cover characters’ outfits??)
Oh my god, it was like “what Claudia wore” or something, right? I remember drunkenly reading that blog in college
I was OBSESSED with the BSC when I was younger!! I’ve always kind of thought of myself as a Mallory/Stacey hybrid. I remember finding this out in some vague way years ago and also being totally shocked and totally pumped at the same time. I thought Ann M Martin had kind of modeled Kristy after herself (although apparently not, since she is a “Mary Ann”??) so her being queer totally made sense to me. Kristy was a baby tomboy dyke if anyone ever was.
This blog about the babysitters as adults and their fashion choices is really fun, if totally inaccurate about Kristy IMHO. (Would Kristy ever wear heels? No, no she would not). https://babysittersfashionclub.com/
Omg I really hope Ann M Martin reads autostraddle and comments under a pen name.
i always thought ann m martin WAS a pen name!
I also identified as “a Mary Ann” as a kid while I was devouring these books, and this news warms my little queer heart!
This is the best news I have heard all day!!!! Her books were my childhood. I’m so happy!
this totally and completely validates my childhood need for karen brewer to be a queer (cc: @audreyfaye real-life karen brewer)
PLEASE STOP LABELING PEOPLE AS QUEER WHO HAVE NOT EXPLICITLY SAID THEY ARE QUEER. IT’S SOOOOO NOT OKAY.
Call them “not straight” but not queer. Especially older not straight people. Jesus.
But this is a website for queer women? If someone doesn’t want to be labeled as “queer” they are certainly able to say so.
Totally unrelated to the discussion about whether we’re allowed to refer to other people as queer, but this queer lady fucking loves your Kitty Pryde user picture, just FYI.
@diplogeek Thank you! :D
Rachel, my identity isn’t a slur, thanks! If someone doesn’t want to use it that’s fine though! We have Queer Theory, Queer History, Queer Studies, etc.
The word is ingrained and is here to stay. It’s far more inclusive and not as cold as an acronym. So, while some people may have hurtful memories (and I do respect that), it’s also unfair to simply reject modern use of the word for our culture and personal identities and reduce to it a slur.
“My identity is not a slur”
With respect, reclamation is real. YOU don’t have to reclaim the term, but to refer to it only as a slur denies the fact that it HAS been widely reclaimed and is a real identity for a lot of us. When you deny that, you deny our identities.
(That was for Rachel, this thread got a bit out of order?)
It did, but I’m not very good at doing things straight… lines and sequential order included. ;)
But the author didn’t give Ann M. Martin a choice when she referred to her as “queer” from the get-go. Hearing/seeing that word can be (and is) painful for a lot of LGBT+ people, especially older LGBT+ people. The policy shouldn’t be “we’re just gonna label people with a slur until they say otherwise”. It should be “we respect that other peoples’ experiences may differ from ours and that referring to them with slurs could be uncomfortable or painful for them”.
And see my joint reply above! :D
This truly combines several of my greatest loves – female authors, LGBTQIA people, and the MOTHERFUCKING BABYSITTERS CLUB. Say hello to your friends, indeed.
So many feelings! Identify as Claudia Kishi and pretty much know that AMM wrote side fic about her & Stacy. Right?
WAIT, WHAT. What side fic?
I totally read Claudia/Dawn fic, because they always seemed the coolest of the cool, but I could get behind Claudia/Anyone in BSC, because really, who wouldn’t kiss Claudia Kishi?
I’m guessing that Sarah was wishful fic-ing.
That makes me so sad. I thought she’d found a secret, magic tome of Claudia/Stacey awesomeness.
Yeah, I’m quite convinced both Claudia and Stacy are bisexual.
I was a self-hating Kristy, who wanted to be Claudia, and had crushes on all of them (except Mallory, Jessi, and of course Kristy). Lucky for me I was there when the first books came out when Ms.Martin was writing them, and missed out on them getting awful. This news truly made my day, and then the comment section gave me some laughs. Thanks Autostraddle!
Yooooooooo. I had no idea either! Huh.
I was definitely a Claudia. Weird clothes, snacks, creative, and parents who wanted me to have straight As? *sharp exhale* Yep.
Everything about this is excellent. (and I’m a Kristy)
I am approximately 1,000,000x more happy that I rescued some BSC books from the recycling bin at my library the other day. I’m like 5 feet tall and the recycling bins are made of cardboard and probably also very nearly 5 feet tall and the walkway is about six inches tall so I can see into the bins, but since the books were all the way down at the bottom there was a lot of hoisting myself up, balancing on my stomach on the edge of the bin while my legs kicked in the air and I prayed not to fall on my head, grabbing any book I could reach, and then diving back in again. I only quit when I had a full bag worth-including all 4 Super Specials! I am so much more excited to re-read these now.