Once upon a time, there was a gay teenager in America who would not share his “secret” with anyone; not his teachers, not his friends, not his siblings, and (God forbid!) certainly not his parents. Instead, he kept this part of his identity completely to himself, waiting for the day when he met like-minded individuals, when he could finally and openly share and discuss his unique nature in this world.
Even when he was a child, before he knew he was gay, there were other boys in school who saw he was different, and they called him names and bullied him. But he hung on, because he had a loving family, because he had good friends, because he was curious, because he could read, and because he did read. His father had a collection of books and magazines about science and the natural world. His mother signed him up for a children’s book club and read to him. His sister introduced him to the world of comic books and short stories. When he became a teenager, he went to the library and investigated many things, including a natural phenomenon known as “homosexuality.”
Eventually, he grew to adulthood and finally did meet those like minded individuals. He discovered he was not alone (he always knew this) and that most people, whether straight or gay, were loving and accepting, and ready to welcome him. And he lived happily ever after.
This is not a fairy tale. (Pun most definitely intended.) It’s real, and I lived it. And it’s a story that goes on even today in our country. It’s encouraging that society is increasingly becoming more knowledgeable and understanding of human sexuality, and I know it must be much easier for many young gay teenagers today. But I also know that there is a darker story that continues to play out across the states; one where rejection by loved ones, ostracization, isolation, and hateful speech from the pulpit and the political arena can lead young people to very different ends: depression, drug and alcohol abuse, risky behavior, and even suicide.
We know that reading entertains. It educates, it inspires, and sometimes it is a literal lifeline. How many of us turn to books, be they spiritual or secular, for solace and assistance when times are tough? The intellectual pursuit of knowledge and understanding helps. Books help. I remember how popular The Lord is my Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay, by Reverend Troy G. Perry, was with some of my crowd. It helped these people bridge the gap between their religious upbringing and the truth of their nature.
Today’s gay teenagers have a wealth of literary lifelines to explore and to help them find their place in the world. The Today Show’s website has an excellent article: Teen books with gay themes take off. The article includes a quote from a 15-year-old teen that makes me burst with joy:
“I see the characters trickling into the mainstream genres. I really like that,” Brent said. “It makes being gay feel natural, which it is, of course. Books give you hope.”
Books give you hope. It sounds like a marketing slogan for the publishing industry, yet we know it to be profound and true.
It’s Gay Pride Week in OKC. The gay pride events across the nation have always been about hope: hope that the world will change and the LGBT community will soon enjoy the same rights and freedoms as other citizens. Today, gay Americans are discovering this hope at a much earlier age.