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'The Outsiders' author S.E. Hinton is in hot water with gay-rights supporters

Writer S.E. Hinton drew fire from readers on Twitter after she denied that two of the characters in her classic young adult novel "The Outsiders" were gay.

The flap started on Monday after Hinton responded to a tweet from a reader asking whether there were "any romantic feelings" between the characters Johnny and Dallas, two members of the Greasers gang.

"No. Where is the text backing this?" Hinton replied. Hinton, who wrote “The Outsiders” when she was in high school — it was published in 1967 — has continued to write novels for young adults and has more than 40,000 Twitter followers.

After the reader replied he thought a relationship between the two teenagers would be "cute," Hinton tweeted, "ask someone in the '60's how 'cute' it was to be gay. I have many friends I love & do not want to sleep with."

"The Outsiders" tells the story of two competing youth gangs in Tulsa, Okla.: the Greasers and the Socs, whose rivalry turns deadly. Penguin  recently released a special edition of the book in anticipation of its 50th anniversary next year.

The novel inspired a 1983 film adaptation directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It starred a host of emerging young actors, including Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio (as Johnny) and Matt Dillon (as Dallas).

On Twitter, Hinton doubled down on her assertion that the characters weren't gay, writing, "I have no problem with anyone being gay. Long time supporter of LGBT rights. ... No, they are not gay. I wrote them, I ought to know."

One reader called Hinton's responses "trash," writing, "Why would you reject young gay kids interpreting your characters in a way that makes them feel safe?"

"Young gay kids can identify with the book without me saying the characters are gay," Hinton replied. "I never ever set out to make anyone feel safe."

Hinton spent much of Monday responding to readers who were upset with her tweets, reiterating that the characters were straight and denying that she harbored homophobic feelings. She told one Twitter user who had suggested she apologize, "I said I did not write the characters that way. I apologize for nothing."

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