Wednesday, January 6, 2010

January GLBT Mini-Challenge: Why Reading GLBT Works Are Important To Me

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.


Amanda said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Zia said...

I enjoyed reading this post Ryan. Thank you for posting your story. I'll be interested in finding out what books you're reading for this and the reviews that come with them.

I think both you and your blog are fantastic and I enjoy our chats on twitter. =)

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm still here. :)

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

Ryan, I am not going anywhere! I love your blog and I love that you shared a part of your story with us.

My best friend is a single gay man and father of four adopted children. My heart is wide and open and full of rainbows!


Stephanie said...

Wow. Your post actually made me cry. :-) Thank you for sharing your story.

I never thought about the fact that classical literature about homosexuality painted such a bleak picture. I can't imagine being a gay teen and not having more hopeful books to turn to. Thank God the tide has turned. I love what you said about "the gay equivalent of chick lit." :-D

By the way, I love your writing. I am adding myself as a follower.

Ryan said...

Amanda, Thank you for hosting the challenge.

Zia, Thank you, now I'm blushing.

Heather, Thanks for sticking around.

Michelle, You are awesome! Thank you.

Stephanie, Thank you for your kind words and for following my blog. I hope I won't dissapoint in the future.

Michelle (su[shu]) said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I can definitely relate to your thinking about what other people would think, the part where we fear rejection. But then we remind ourselves that it's alright to throw caution into the wind. We are who we are.

I'm always at awe of people who are 'out'. (I've written it funny, but I'm sure you get my point..) It's one thing to know and accept yourself for who you are. But sometimes it's just not that easy to get the people you truly care for to accept you as is.

Anyway, am looking forward to happy gay reading suggestions from you. =)

Anonymous said...

Ryan- How brave you are to write about this. It breaks my heart to think of you, of kids out there wanting to die because of something that you have no control over. I feel humbled by this post. And I very much admire you.

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

I am so proud of you...what an eloquent and heart-felt post. I am so happy that I met you and I truly hope we will meet in person one day. Your goodness comes through in everything you say and, yes, you should be proud of the man you are...a great father, friend and blogger. And, just so you know, I wouldn't care if you were an alien from another would never stop me from being your friend and respecting you as a person. I have never judged a person by their race, color, creed, or sexual orientation and I certainly do not intend to start now.

I have two sons and I hope that if one (or both) discover this about themselves that they will handle it as bravely as you have. I know I will support them every step of the way.

bookmagic said...

Ryan, I feel so bad for all that you went through with your struggle. I think you are an amazing person and I am glad that you are proud of who you are!
I'm glad you are doing this challenge and I hope you read lots of fun, light reads. I bet you can even coin a great phrase to equal chick-lit.
I look forward to your reviews ans watching you pick up tons of followers, not lose them.

Who is Rick Astely? I assume I should be mocking you for this.

Ryan said...

Michelle, Thank you for your words. I agree, it is easier to come out to yourself than to others. I've been out for so long that when I'm in a situation where I'm having to come out to a group of people, like blogging, I sometime forget how hard it can be. I keep hoping for the day when coming out isn't even neccesary. When people can just be who they are from day one.

Stephanie, Thank you. It's horrible how society can still be towards gay and lesbian youth. The suicide rate is out of control and I hope that someday soon that it won't even be an issue anymore. By the way I'm jealous of the FF win.

Michelle, You are awesome. What you just said means so much to me, you have no idea. Your friendship if valued by me and I hope it continues for a very, very long time.

Deb, Thank you for being who you are. You are a wonderful friend and I treasure every conversation we have. You are a kind soul who's friendship I hope I always have. As far as Rick Astley, go to this youtube page for his song Never Gonna Give You Up. I think it's just the voice for me and the smile maybe.

Amy said...

Thanks so much for your beautiful and heartfelt post! (is this a little of what you were talking about on twitter the other night?)

Ali said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm new to your blog (came over from the GLBT challenge blog), so if you lose a reader or two, maybe it helps to know you've gained another?

Ali said...

Oh, look, I used the exact same description of your post as my friend Amy. I should read the other comments before I post. Great minds think alike, I guess!

Stephanie said...

Ah Ryan. What a beautiful post. My best friend is gay. He's my children's godfather. I want them to grow up in a world where it really doesn't matter, ya know? Their godmothers are a lesbian couple that are also dear friends of mine. They like to tease that my kids have real "fairy" godparents.

So, I'm certainly one that will NEVER judge you for being who you are. Of course, the Rick Astley crush is a whole different thing!!

Lezlie said...

You haven't chased me away! :-) (I loved Rick Astley's voice!) I can't wait to see which books you choose. I'm almost finished with Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian, and I've really enjoyed that, though I have a feeling it won't have much of a happy ending either. :-(


Ryan said...

Amy, Thank you and yes this was what I was talking about on twitter. For a second I was 14 again and coming out for the first time.

Ali, Thank you. Your words are much appreciated.

Stephanie, You are awesome but please don't make fun of the Rick Astely thing to much I was in 5th grade and didn't know any better.

Lezlie, Thank you! Finally someone else who though Rick had a great voice.

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Thank you, Ryan, for sharing your story and for feeling brave enough to do so in this forum.

You are a wonderful writer and blogger friend, and, if anything, your experiences will keep me coming back here even more!

Opening up to others is the key to feeling connected.

Debi said...

"What if those same readers decide to never come back, how would I feel about it?" Of course, I can't answer how you'd feel, but my take on it is that if someone chose not to come back they never deserved your friendship to start with.

I just came here from the GLBT blog, but I can say without question that I'll be back. You touched my heart with your story, and your willingness to share it.

Anonymous said...

"God loved me no matter who I am because he created me as is" - Amen!

Thanks for sharing your story. I love that you're going for the lighter side of gay fiction. I haven't read much GLBT lit, and didn't realize how depressing much of it can be.

Tiina said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm glad you did decide to join the challenge.


Staci said...

Your post moved me...thanks for the honesty and if someone left then they weren't a person you wanted to be around anyway!! God loves all of us regardless....HATEFUL people use religion/God to further their own agendas. To me, God is love not hate.

I love GLBT and have tried to get it back on my middle school shelves. Before I came to the middle school a certain group of people removed over 60+ books. I've added a few back over time and made a copy of the list that I found of the ones they removed. I give those copies to the kids that have put their trust in me and are looking for a story that lets them know they are not alone!!! How anyone can prevent a kid from feeling good about themselves is unconceivable to me!! I can't wait to see what great books everyone will read this year for the GLBT challenge!!!


Staci said...

P.S. I thought Rick Astley was hot!!

Now you got me singing, "never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down...."

ninefly said...

there have been a lot of inspired posts for this mini-challenge, I enjoyed reading your story =)
also look forward to seeing what books you pick, I'm in the mood for some light glbt stuff too lol

also, I have an award for you at my blog:

Alexia561 said...

You're one of my favorite bloggers Ryan, and I'm not going anywhere. Love Ya'! {{hugs}}

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Well, I think by looking at all these comments your worries were for not. One thing to always remember, and I know from talking with you you already know it but, you are a wonderful, kind person. If someone stops coming by just for this reason then it is there loss. Looks as you haven't lost anyone. I am glad you did this post and are doing the challenge as I know you were worried about it. Don't worry Ryan! You are with friends here. :) Always here for ya.

The Cozy Mystery Journal said...

I'm probably going to sound just like everyone else...I loved your post and I'm not going
anywhere. Book blogging is such a great thing that I never think about the nationality or sexual preference of the writer just think about the amazing books they read.

You've made a fan for life in me with your Agatha Christie love and I will be around for as long as you keep blogging.

Ryan said...

Laurel, Thank you so much for your wonderful words, they truly mean the world to me.

Debi, After thinking about it you are more than right. If anyone has a issue with who I am, I probably don't want them around. Thank you so much for your kindness and support.

Carol, Thankfully most of the modern stuff is a little more upbeat and happy. It started to change in the 80s, prior to that a lot of it was rather depressing. Thank you for the support, it means a lot to me.

Tiina, Thank you for coming by, it's wonderful to have you.

Staci, Thank you for everything you are awesome and I wish you the best of luck on getting the books back into the hands of the kids who need them. I also want to thank you for reaffirming my Rick Astely crush.

Nine, Thank you for your support and the award, I'm so blushing right now.

Melissa, Thank you for everything. Your friendship on here has meant more than you can ever possibly now. You are the best!

Bella, Thank you for your kindness and support and your mutual love of all things Agatha.

Rob said...

Aloha Ryan,

You gained another reader and follower. I'd admire you for telling your story which I know will benefit others. In my case I was afraid to come out and accept myself. Finally in my 40's I stepped out of the closet and into the light.

Best Wishes from Rob

Stephanie said...

OK. I'll be kind about Rick Astley. But only 'cause you were in 5th grade!! Otherwise you wouldn't get off so easily!!

I posted my mini-challenge today.

Ryan said...

Rob, Thank you for that and congrats on comming out. Nothing feels as good as being honest with your self and others.

Stephanie, Thank you!

Ceri said...

That was a wonderful post, hun. I'm really glad you decided to do this mini challenge and I'm really excited about the challenge.

I'm glad you're strong enough to just be yourself and not let others affect you. I can understand worrying about losing readers but, at the end of it all, if they'd left because of reasons like this, then what does that say about them as a person?

And to end that serious note - Rick Astley?? Don't judge? ;-) Oh, Ry, too much ridicule - my head might explode. ;-) hehe.

Ryan said...

Ceri, Thanks for everything, you are terrific. Rick was terrific, it really isn't that bad, is it?

Leslie @ This is the Refrain said...

Thank you SO much for sharing your story. This is a really great post.

Ryan said...

Lu, Thank you :-)