This. Read this. Then come back.
Allegedly, two authors submitted a book and were told by an agent that if they removed a gay character, that the agent would represent them. I only say allegedly because the authors won't reveal the agent (and I'm on the fence about whether or not they should), making their story unverifiable at this time. I wouldn't be surprised though, to find out that it's true.
I really only have this to say: Any agent or editor who tried to force me to remove a gay character or a black character or a Muslim character or a disabled character, because they were worried the book wouldn't sell, is an agent or editor I wouldn't ever work with.
I'm on the agent hunt right now. And when I created my list of agents, I sought out those who published books by authors who were courageous. Books that pushed the boundaries. Those are the agents I want to work with. The kind of people who get handed a book by their author that might be a tough sell, and then go out sell the crap out of it. Those are the kinds of people I want to work with.
And I think that the agent who suggested these authors remove gay characters from their books is probably going to find it difficult to remain an agent for long. Karma's like that sometimes.
Sometimes I think some agents take their roles as "gatekeepers" too far. They only want to take books to editors that are 100% guaranteed to sell. Where's their adventurous spirit? Where's their drive to push the boundaries? Andrew Smith has a book coming out next month called STICK. I'm going to do a full fledged review of it as the date grows closer. It's exactly the kind of book I'm talking about. Fearless, courageous, amazing. And probably the kind of book that a lesser agent might have had difficulty placing. But his agent found it a home. And his editor helped bring it to the world. And when you read it, you're going to be really grateful that not everyone is as close-minded as the agent who requested those changes.
I'm done here.