(Update: I read a blog post by literary agent, Kristen Nelson, who also read this same article. I think her post is enlightening. Check it out here.)
I honestly don't know the answer to this. I've never worked with an agent myself. But I do know, and this is first hand not hearsay, gay agents who will not live openly gay lives in New York. I don't know why. I've never asked because I never thought it was any of my business. But it's there and I know this for a fact.
The article below is interesting. I find it especially interesting because I've been thinking of querying agents with a mainstream novel that has gay characters. This isn't erotica or erotic romance. And I've been hesitating because I don't want to waste my time querying if agents aren't interested in mainstream gay material. I can self-publish it and probably promote it better that way.
Here's part of the article, and here's a link to the rest. It's worth reading if you're interested in gay fiction of any kind.
Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA
Rose Fox -- September 12th, 2011
Editor’s note: The text of this post was written by Rachel Manija Brown, author of All the Fishes Come Home to Roost, and Sherwood Smith, author of Crown Duel and a great many other novels for adults and young adults. I am posting it in order to provide a pseudonymity-friendly space for comments from authors who have had similar experiences to the ones that Rachel and Sherwood describe. I strongly encourage all authors, agents, editors, publishers, and readers to contribute to a serious and honest conversation on the value and drawbacks of gatekeeping with regard to minority characters, authors, and readers, and to continue that conversation in all areas of the industry. –Rose
Say Yes To Gay YA
By Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith
We are published authors who co-wrote a post-apocalyptic young adult novel. When we set out to find an agent for it, we expected to get some rejections. But we never expected to be offered representation… on the condition that we make a gay character straight, or cut him out altogether.
Our novel, Stranger, has five viewpoint characters; one, Yuki Nakamura, is gay and has a boyfriend. Yuki’s romance, like the heterosexual ones in the novel, involves nothing more explicit than kissing.
An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.
The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.