This month's mini-challenge for the GLBT Reading Challenge 2010 is pretty simple actually. The challenge is to write one or two paragraphs on why this challenge or issue is important to us. Of course just because it's simple doesn't mean it's easy to put into words.
I've been debating with myself what to say and how to say it every since I signed up for the challenge. To be quite honest I almost didn't sign up for it. I kept on thinking to myself, what if some of my readers are turned off by it, especially some of those I've come to like and respect. What if those same readers decide to never come back, how would I fell about it? After all this thinking and worrying, I remembered something. I dealt with these issues years ago, back in high school actually, so why am I worried about it now? I've dealt with rejection before and it didn't break me, what made me think I couldn't deal with it now?
I guess I still haven't answered the question though have I? I've always know I was gay. My childhood crushes were always on boys in my class or celebrities like Rick Astely (don't judge). I never liked a girl for anything than as a friend. I still did things that the typical boy does; climbed trees, raced bikes, joined Cub Scouts, went camping, played with He-Man and G.I. Joes, and had a thoroughly good time getting filthy in the mud. Doing all those "normal" activities never changed who I was, who I was afraid to be.
Skip ahead to when I was 12, this is where I really start to answer the question. This was the age I really started to deal with it and what it would mean for me. I don't come from a religious home but I have always gone to church with neighbors or friends. I have always felt that God was there and looking out for me, that he loved me and I loved him. That was the problem for me. I grew up being told that if you are gay you are going to Hell and that God doesn't love you. Why would any 12 year old want to go to Hell? So for the next few years I would pray to die in my sleep. That if my being gay was wrong, let me die. I didn't want to live in sin. I didn't want God to hate me. I wanted to be just like everyone else. I even went as far as doing something a lot of gay youth still do, I contemplated killing myself. Can you imagine being so scared of who you are that at the age of 13 you would even think of ending your own life?
Thankfully, I never even attempted it. After a few years of this I started to realize something, God loved me no matter who I am because he created me as is. I realized that after all those years of praying, going to church, and talking to God that I had my answer, that I was loved no matter who I ended up loving myself. I started to come out when I was a Sophomore in high school to a few friends and adults that I trusted, by the time I was in college I was completely out though I never made a point of telling people about it. Being gay is a small part of who I am, it doesn't identify me or label me as a person. I feel no guilt or shame for it, because then I would be ashamed of myself and I'm proud of who I am. I have turned into a man that I can be proud of.
Here is my point, I want those young men and women who are now in the position I was in to know that they are not alone. That there are millions of us who went through the same turmoil and felt the same conflicted emotions they are feeling now. That it is OK for them to embrace who they are and love themselves the way they are loved by their family, friends, and God. I don't want one more gay youth to even think about committing suicide the way so many already have. If I can even help one person by showing them that they will survive, that the pain will go away, and that they are special and loved, then losing every follower I have will be worth it.
Now with the heavy part out of the way I want to say something about the books I will be reading for this challenge. In high school I would go to the library and check out every book I could find that dealt with gay characters or being gay. For the most part they were pretty depressing, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet, Maurice by E.M. Forster being a few of them. They depicted, for the most part, doomed or failed relationships and unhappy lives. They all painted a pretty bleak picture of what I had to look forward to.
So for this challenge the majority of books I read will be the gay equivalent of chick lit. They will be light, romantic comedies that always end well and where the guy always gets the even cuter guy. Now I may throw in a few paranormal/horror and fantasy books in for good measure, we'll see.
Now I know I've written way more than the challenge called for so I will end this here. I wish you all happy reading and I look forward to discussing the books I read for this challenge with you.