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Kicking Off the GLBT Reading Challenge

January 7, 2010

The 2010 GLBT Reading Challenge, cleverly dubbed The Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name, is underway, and our hosts have offered this challenge.

Hi everyone! January’s mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name is a simple one. What we’d love for you to do is take a moment to write a paragraph or two on why this challenge and/or this issue is important to you.

I am not sure I have anything to add to what Trisha posted — she pretty much said it for me. But I will throw in my thoughts.

My husband was raised by loving, devoutly religious parents who held very strong views about sexuality, so much so that a gay family member waited until she was nearly 40 to “come out” to them. I can only imagine how lonely that must have been. I never wanted my children to go through anything like that. My husband and I discussed this before any of the munchkins were conceived. We agreed that we hoped each of our kids would eventually settle into a loving, monogamous relationship. It really didn’t matter whether it was with a member of the opposite sex. Love matters. Commitment and fidelity matter. Joy matters. Being “straight” is not a mark of normalcy or morality — it’s just one way of being.

With my three kids — Sarah, James, and Trisha — we’ve always talked openly about homosexuality, starting when they were very small. We just told them — in a casual, straightforward way, that most men fall in love with women and most women fall in love with men, but some people love individuals of the same sex. I never wanted them to think this was some Big Dirty Secret.

One of my girls has Asperger’s Syndrome and, like me, she knows what it’s like to grow up feeling Really Different. So even though she seems to be heterosexual, she developed an interest in GLBT issues. She decided she wanted to do a homeschool unit on it, so we did that for a while. We delved into some good authors, like Julie Anne Peters and Rita Mae Brown.

In a very real way, books, along with other media, shape our view of the world. Literature that talks honestly about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered matters, because it brings it into the open, as I’ve always tried to do with my kids. Love between people who are GLBT might be beautiful, exhilarating, messy, agonizing or destructive, just as heterosexual love can be any of those things. But it is a part of the human experience, and it needs to be part of our awareness. Books play an important role in that.

Books also help us feel we’re not alone. They allow us connect with people — whether real or fictional — who share our struggles. I am happy for today’s kids who are GLBT or questioning that they have great authors like Alex Sanchez and Julie Anne Peters to keep them company on their journeys. I’m also glad, for their sakes, that these things are being talked about now.

During my formative years, I only remember one adult, aside from my parents, who talked about homosexuality, and it was in a destructive way. He was a high school teacher who had served in the military and was rightly proud of this. But I remember him boasting about how he and his army buddies would beat up “faggots” back in the day, and he openly encouraged his students to loathe gays. “How many of you get sick to your stomach when you even think about them?” he once asked, and most of the hands in the class shot up. (I like to think most of those students were just big suck-ups.) I was one of the few students who spoke up and argued with him. And statistically, there were probably 2-3 gay students — 10% of us — in that classroom. I can’t imagine what they were feeling. 😦  Thank God we have come a LONG way since 1983. At least I hope so.

I appreciate the good books about the struggles of being GLBT in our society. However I also think it is important to write about GLBT characters without their “differences” being central to the plot. Our sexuality is only one part of who we are, and it doesn’t always have to be an Issue, if you see what I mean. For example, in The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank, one character was being raised by two moms. She wasn’t having any kind of problem with that, and it wasn’t part of the plot. No one commented on it. It just was — one of the many variations in the way we humans live, love and lead our lives.

Children and teens are very close to my heart, as you might guess. 🙂 The main reason this challenge is important to me is for them. Because GLBT teens are at increased risk for depression, suicide, and being victims of violence. Because no one should feel lonely because they have to hide an important part of what they are. Growing up is hard enough without that crap.

I really believe our society is going to change. Someday, maybe in my lifetime, we’ll look back on all the hoopla over gay marriage that took place in the 2000’s and it will seem peculiar and foolish — the way we now view the laws against interracial marriage that were once such a prominent feature of life here in the Southern U.S. And I’m glad we have smart, insightful, courageous authors leading the way.

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