Celebrating Jacqueline Wilson on Lesbian Visibility Day

Jacqueline Wilson, a prolific and beloved children’s author, recently came out as a lesbian. Wilson, 74, doesn’t see herself as a positive role model. “I don’t think that girls would ever want a grey-haired, wrinkly writer as a role model if they were wanting to feel good about maybe being gay,” she said. “I’m sure they could find much more glamorous examples.” But the jubilant responses to this good news proved her wrong.

Jacqueline Wilson trended on Twitter. Articles sharing the good news were shared thousands of times. Fans celebrated. Wilson has been with her partner Trish for two decades. They have been living together “very happily” for the last 18 years.

And to top it all off, Wilson announced that book number 111 (yes, really) is her first work of YA lesfic. Love Frankie – to be published in August this year – tells the story of a tomboy who falls for Sally, the prettiest girl in her class.

Of her sexuality, Wilson said that “I’ve never really been in any kind of closet. It would be such old news for anybody that has ever known anything much about me. Even the vaguest acquaintance knows perfectly well that we are a couple.”

Jacqueline Wilson coming out – and the overwhelmingly positive response from young lesbians who grew up reading her books – got me thinking about the importance of lesbian visibility. As a child, I devoured Jacqueline Wilson’s books. She tells the stories of misfits and under-loved kids with a warmth that is still too rare. And while her writing shines a light on social and economic inequalities, her characters almost always have a happy ending – no matter what difficulties they face.

Although these happy endings don’t always pan out in real life, they are comforting to a child whose own life is filled with uncertainty. Given the escape Wilson’s books have given generations of children, it is a relief to know that she has found a happy ending of her own with Trish.

I’m not sure whether knowing Jacqueline Wilson is a lesbian would have helped me to come out sooner. But Wilson’s books are a staple food in the literary diet of British children. She is a household name. Knowing that someone so clever and universally popular was a lesbian certainly couldn’t have hurt. And I am glad for all the children who will read Jacqueline Wilson’s books with the knowledge that they were written by a lesbian.

That one of Britain’s best-known lesbians is a “grey-haired, wrinkly writer” is inspiring. Girls are taught to fear aging, told in a thousand ways that our worth is defined by our desirability to men. And lesbians of all ages are held up as the worst example of what a woman can be. Even in the feminist movement, straight women use thinly-veiled homophobia to warn against the specter of hairy-legged lesbians wearing dungarees.

Seeing Jacqueline Wilson at the height of her creative power, in a loving long-term relationship, challenges so much of the harmful messages young women are sent about older lesbians. Wilson is a positive role model. She is someone that young women and girls admire. Her coming out opens up the space for fans to think about what they want their own future to look like. That is the power of lesbian visibility.