Pride Month Blogathon: Day 1 – Introduction to Pride Month Blogathon
by Brent Lambert
Writing this makes me a bit sad because I really wanted better for all of you. I hoped that by the time I got the courage to tell this story that it would be antiquated and an experience that felt too far removed for any teenager of today to really be able to grasp. Unfortunately, I hoped too much for the future and we are where we are. And now instead of looking forward to my story being a relic, I find that I am hoping it has value in a world of ever creeping shadows.
Being a gay teenager was rough, and quite frankly, it remains to this day the darkest period of my life. Sugar coating that fact would be disingenuous. There were many days I wished I just didn’t exist. Fear dominated every aspect of my life then. The emotion lived with me like a constant companion, stifling my ambitions for love, for friends and all the other things teenagers should get to experience freely. Because I was gay, it constantly whispered to me my worthlessness: nothing could possibly be worse than being attracted to another man.
I kept most friendships on a surface level, always afraid that a deeper look would reveal my shame. I didn’t play the sports I actually wanted to because I was scared of doing something that would expose me. The locker room, full of hormones and admittedly attractive guys, might as well have been the last walk to the electric chair, as much as I wanted to go into it. I avoided male friendships because my sexuality felt like a wall that would keep me from ever meaning anything worthwhile to them. I became the person that people poured their problems on because helping them through theirs worked so well in helping me avoid mine.
I did great in school academically because it was all I had. I didn’t have friends to convince me to skip a day, to sneak in a beer or get away for the weekend. I spent nights crying myself to sleep because I was sure it would never get any better and no one would ever want me to have any substantial part of their lives. Navigating romantic feelings was a no-go because the idea of even confessing feelings for a guy felt like pushing the red button and ending the world. So I walled that part of myself off and just tried to appear uninterested in it all. Good grades became a refuge and one of the few sources of actual self-validation I had.
Satisfaction came in the form of a blank page instead. I always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until my 10th grade Creative Writing elective that it became something therapeutic. In those pages, I was able to become the outgoing, attractive guy I always wanted to be, hopelessly in love with all the various crushes I had throughout the years. Those stories gave me hope, but in the end they also built the walls higher. I turned in more on myself because the fantasy of the page allowed me to dream of a better life.
But it’s not actually a solution to turn something you love into a drug to avoid all the things you hate. You’ll just poison it and all those problems will still be right there.
Horrible times can’t always be beaten and sometimes all you can do is weather the storm. No one walks away from a hurricane and calls it a resounding success, but somehow that’s what us queer folks are expected to name it. Society always expects action. It commands we take life by the horns and control it. They neglect to mention that those horns can rip you apart and leave lasting wounds. There’s no shame in wanting to avoid that. If that’s where you are, then be that. Simply outlasting a bleak time is still a victory.
For many of us, our teenage years were simply a landscape of devastation we spend our adult lives rebuilding from. I know that isn’t uplifting or inspirational, but it’s honest. And I have a strong feeling you would rather hear that than an empty platitude. But you can and you will fix all that has been broken. You’ll build monuments to joy, museums of happy moments and libraries full of love.
But in this moment; survive, outlast and endure. And feel no shame in it. The world demands enough of us, so don’t demand so much of yourself.
What. A. Year.
I began planning this blogathon the week after the U.S. election. Over the past six years, our blogathons have focused on general love of LGBTQIA+ YA, but this year, I knew that that would fall short. I was personally seeking something more, something that would help me grasp the world as it is now, and I figured many of our community members would be as well. This year, our blogathon explores two major themes: intergenerational conversation and the role that story plays in resistance, resilience, and joy.
Over the last year, I’ve been struck by the importance of intergenerational conversation. After the Pulse shooting, I remember Alex Gino talking about the history and power of queer dance clubs. I remember Alex London tweeting that “this wasn’t supposed to happen to you.” I went to a vigil at my church, where I listened to a gay man in his eighties, hand in hand with his husband, say, “I was spit at, beaten up, called slurs. I made it through that. Things have gotten better. That hasn’t been lost after a single act of hate. We’ll make it through this.” Afterwards, after I’d shared my story, he gave me a nod and a somber smile as we were leaving. I don’t know what he’d say now, after the election, but that was an incredibly powerful moment for me. I wanted to bring that kind of connection to teens who might not have it in their lives.
It’s equally important for adults to hear from teens about our lives and experiences. Just as queer teens look at adults and desperately want to understand how they made it through, I think there is also deep curiosity and yearning to understand what our lives as teens are like now.
The other major theme that our blogathon explores is the role that story plays in resistance, resilience, and joy. It’s an intense and personal theme, and I asked a lot from every person I emailed. Everyone who accepted the invitation approached what I was asking of them with courage, gravity, and excitement, and I’m so grateful. Through their work, this series has become a concentrated place for book people to talk to book people about surviving and finding joy.
This was an important resource to curate for me, personally, as someone who doesn’t just have an incidental relationship to stories, but has them knit into my very being. Lots of people have been talking about resistance and resilience since the election, in smart and necessary ways. But nothing I’ve read has spoken to me on a soul level for how to deal with this administration—until I started reading our contributors’ posts.
I think LGBTQIA+ teen readers in particular have a unique relationship with writing and reading. Many of us didn’t grow up reading about LGBTQIA+ characters, so finding a book in which we see ourselves reflected for the first time is often a memorable and impactful moment. When I was 16, LGBTQIA+ YA books helped me hold on to my life when I didn’t want to—they gave me a future that might be worth living for. There are thousands of teens who share a similarly close connection. For LGBTQIA+ teens, books can heal, restore hope, reveal unknown truths, and sometimes hurt like hell. Each book holds different possibilities in its pages. Because of this incredibly intimate relationship, stories are instrumental to our survival and joy.
This series is a number of essays that speak directly to that relationship. I see this year’s blogathon as a survival guide for lovers of LGBTQIA+ YA, for lovers of writing, on how to get through the next four years.
I hope you enjoy GayYA’s 2017 Pride Month blogathon, and find these posts as healing and helpful as I did.
-Vee S., admin and co-founder of GayYA
*I am immensely grateful to my friend Claire Spaulding who was able to step in and give our contributors some brilliant edits when I was too overwhelmed with my home life. This series would not be what it is without her invaluable contribution.
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