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Shadows on the Rainbow: Not including the spectrum in GLBTQ YA

So Karen was emailing me this morning about Malinda Lo (oh, I love her and her tweets and blogs and books) and her blog about David Levithan’s new cover. If you haven’t seen it yet, click here.  And Karen’s all, I didn’t know there was a male privilege effect in GLBTQ books. And I’m like *head smack* it’s EVERYWHERE. Duh.

We like to think that the GLBTQI world would be inclusive of everyone.  In our world in general, and especially in publishing specifically, that’s rarely the case. Those with the bigger names and those whose works will fit broader target audiences and thus make more money will get published, even though they may not have the best quality. There are stories out there that need to be told that aren’t reaching our youth- stories of color, stories of trans, stories of queer. We have imprints that are picking up stories, but new GLBTQ authors are finding massive hurdles in their way, and only a few make it to big imprints. Those that do worry that the next book might be their last.  Authors who have a huge backing like Levithan are rare in the GLBTQ world, and there need to be more.

And the fact that publishers and bookstores and even libraries can just put GAY or GAY AND LESBIAN on the entire section and feel happy that they’ve done their job means that there needs to be more education within the entire system. GAY does not cover everyone within the Rainbow- far from it- and by slapping on labels you’re actually doing a huge disservice to those in and out.

Even the award winners for youth do not cover the spectrum. 

The GLBT-RT roundtable of the American Library Association puts out the Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award (Stonewall Youth Awards) yearly, and has since 2010. 

  • 2013:  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (gay)
  • 2012:  Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy (gay)
  • 2011:  Almost Perfect (trans)
  • 2010:  The Vast Fields of Ordinary (gay)

Lambda Literary has been crowning winners for children’s/ young adult category since 1993: winners from 2002-2011:

  • 2011:  Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy (gay)
  • 2010:  Wildthorn (lesbian)
  • 2009:  Sprout (gay)
  • 2008:  Out of the Pocket (gay)
  • 2007:  Hero (gay)
  • 2006:  Tie:  Full Spectrum (GLBTQ) & Between Mom and Jo (lesbian)
  • 2005:  Swimming in the Monsoon Sea (gay)
  • 2004:  So Hard to Say (gay)
  • 2003:  Boy Meets Boy (gay)
  • 2002:  Letters in the Attic (lesbian)
  • 2001:  Finding H. F. (lesbian & gay)
  • 2000:  Out of the Ordinary (gay, lesbian, trans)
  • 1999:  Hard Love (lesbian)
  • 1998:  Telling Tales out of School (gay, lesbian, bisexual)
  • 1997:  The House You Pass on the Way (lesbian)
  • 1996:  Good Moon Rising (lesbian)
  • 1995:  From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun (lesbian)
  • 1994:  Am I Blue? (gay, lesbian)
  • 1993:  The Cat Came Back (lesbian)

Out of 20 titles, only two deal with transsexual issues, and one is an informative anthology.  Only the two anthologies deal with bisexual issues. The most recent titles (2007-2012), save for Wildthorn, were all written by males.  These are disturbing trends- we always say we need diversity, we need to reflect our teens in what they’re reading because they need to find themselves….  Are they finding themselves in GLBTQI literature for teens? 
Without even addressing the issues of self-censoring or community hurdles of getting books like these onto the shelves, are publishers getting the books out there for booksellers and libraries to purchase?  I don’t think so.

Karen’s note: What I said was, “I had never thought about there being a white, male privilege in GLBTQ lit.”

More on Sex and Sexuality at TLT:

More on Sex and Sexuality on TLT:  

Book Review: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman

I first heard about October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard from Terri Lessene at the 2012 YALSA YA Literature Symposium, who described it by saying:

“it introduces Matthew Shepard to a generation too young to remember him.”  

My heart sank when I heard that. Matthew Shepard’s story was pivotal for me and many of my contemporaries.  I was two years younger, three inches taller, and twenty pounds heavier than him when this slight, bright, trusting young gay man was beaten to death in a hate crime that would later play a part in national hate crime legislation. A number of of my friends and classmates were in the midst of coming out, and Matthew Shepard’s murder was a shattering event.

With the passage of time, most names and lives and stories will be forgotten,  but this is one name, life, story, that needs to remain in the public memory, and this slim volume is a beautiful, powerful way to aid in this.

For those too young to remember Matthew Shepard’s story, too young to get chills and feel an ache at the bottom of your heart when you see it, the fence pictured above may just look like a fence.  It is the fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming where Matthew Shepard was tied for eighteen hours, beginning October 7th, 1998, after being lured into a truck by two men, beaten savagely with fists and a gun, and left barefoot, alone, for eighteen hours, before he was discovered, hospitalized, and later died from his devastating injuries.  He was twenty one.  He was a college student. He was gay.
October Mourning doesn’t tell Matthew’s story as a straight narrative, it invokes everything involved in the incident, giving each element a distinct voice thorough poetry:  the man who didn’t invite Matthew to stay for an extra drink, the bartender who offered him his last kindness, the truck, the killers, the  fence, the moon that saw it all, the biker who discovered this beautiful blonde boy, who was so crumpled and beaten he was first mistaken for a scarecrow, the parents who heard the news, the nurse, the tree that became the urn that held his ashes, the friends who wore angel wings to shield mourners from the protesters that picketed his funeral, Matthew’s own heart:

This is just to say
I’m sorry
I kept beating
and beating
your shattered chest

Forgive me
for keeping you
so long
I knew it would kill me
to let you go

I am no great fan of novels in verse.  They can seem affected, using the form as a gimmick more than a deliberate and correct choice to tell the story.  But when they work, they really, really, really work. This one really works.  You may note that the poem above is written in the style of William Carlos William’s famous piece.  Newman uses this device a number of times, turning the wry apology of the original into genuinely grief filled moments of regret here.  She also employs classic forms to great effect a number of times, notably in her use of the rhythmically echoing pantoum as the fence speaks in THE FENCE (that night) (excerpted from page 16 below)

His own heart wouldn’t stop beating
The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood
I tightened my grip and held on

The cold wind wouldn’t stop blowing
We were out on the prairie alone
I tightened my grip and held on
I saw what was done to this child

The rallying repetition of a villanelle is employed in a pair of poems, one from the perspective of anti-gay protesters who spewed hate filled epithets at the mourners, and another, on the opposite page, from the silent counter protesters from the Angel Action group, formed for this event and still active today to provide a silent, peaceful barrier between mourners and protesters.
But this is not a book filled with strict poetic forms.  Free verse, found poems, and notably a concrete poem from the perspective of the stars overhead, scattered across the page like stars in the sky keep the reader connected to the voice of the various speakers.  A note at the end explains the forms and construction of the poems.  Many teen readers will be unfamiliar with the references to famous works and use of forms, so I wish this note had been a part of the front material.
Because the crime was so far beyond words, so senseless, so divisive (will today’s teens even understand why it was divisive?), the impact so far reaching, spawning plays and movies and crime tv shows and counter protest measures and federal legislation, it is not just a crime story, not just a hate story, not just a story of gay bashing.  And while the facts of Matthew Shepard’s murder are startling enough and certainly could and have been told in narrative form, Newman’s “song” gives voice to the players in such a way that the reader moves through the event with a different kind of understanding.  It forces the reader to think of the event not as a story – it is not a fiction – rather a life and an experience that has a power all its own and needs to be remembered.

Guest Blog: Stonewall Book Awards by Peter Coyl

Looking to add children’s and young adult GLBTQ literature to your collection? Start with the Stonewall Book Award’s Mike Morgan and Larry RomansChildren’s and Young Adult Literature prize.  Added in 2010 to the first and most enduring awards for GLBTQ books, the Stonewall Book Awards, it is now one of three awards annually given by the Gay,Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association.  The Stonewall Book Awards are awarded for books exhibiting exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience.  While many of the titles selected often appear on the Rainbow Book List, the Stonewall Book Awards are an official award of ALA, which means that the winners and nominees have the right to carry the official seal on the cover.

Every year, the Stonewall Committee of fourteen members including the chair read through hundreds of newly published books.  The committee is charged with selecting the best in three areas:  Literature (adult materials), Non-Fiction (adult materials), and Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  As such, the committee must read all types of materials, not just youth and young adult materials.  You need to have the time to read and critically analyze all the materials that come in, as well as participate in the substantive discussion of all the titles that are considered for nomination.

To volunteer to serve on the committee starts with a fairly easy process:  fill out the ALA committee volunteerform.  A list of all the GLBTRT committees is available here, and the instructions for the form can be found online.  Once you’ve filled out the form, appointments will be made by the Chair and Chair Elect of GLBTRT, and notifications will be made in a timely manner.  Since the Stonewall Awards are part of GLBTRT and not YALSA, you will have to hold an active membership in GLBTRT to qualify for service.
Once appointed and the committee is full, then the real work begins.  The committee Chairperson assigns specific publishers to each committee member, and throughout the year as the committee finds books that would fit the qualifications for the list (through reviews, publisher’s catalogs, ARCs, or other means), they fill out a spreadsheet and then committee members request those titles from the publishers they are responsible for contacting.  By the time the Stonewall Committee meets at the ALA Midwinter Meeting (this year in Seattle), we will have discussed hundreds of titles and narrowed down the field to the top 15 in EACH category.
During ALA Midwinter, the Stonewall Committee meets behind closed doors to discuss the 15 top titles in each of the three categories.  During these sessions, the 15 are narrowed down through discussions and debate, and a winner and four honor books are picked in each category.  The winner of the Stonewall Book Award’s Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature prize is announced during the Youth Media Awards on Monday morning, alongside the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz awards, making it an exciting time for committee members.
The amount of material published relating to the GLBT community has expanded in recent years, but there is not a lot comparatively speaking so the number of books considered for the Children and Young Adult Literature Award is significantly less than for adults.  However, there is more published every year, and hopefully more and more will be published in light of the recent strides across the country.  It makes for very interesting discussions to compare the adult materials to the young adult materials, especially in light of where different libraries catalog things.  I have a specialization in Youth and Children’s Services, but I still find the adult materials fascinating.
If you are going to the ALA Midwinter Meeting, then I highly suggest attending the Youth Media Awards on Monday, 28 for the announcement of the Stonewall Book Award’s Mike Morgan and Larry Miller Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  If you are in or around the Dallas Fort Worth area, I’ll be giving three presentations about the winners and honor books the following weeks:

       Wednesday, February 6, 7-8 p.m., Oak Lawn Branch Library (4100 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, Texas, 214-670-1359

Thursday, February 7, 7-8 p.m., Audelia Road Branch Library (10045 Audelia Road, Dallas, Texas, 214-670-1350

Saturday, February 9, 5-6 p.m., North Oak Cliff Branch Library (302 West Tenth Street, Dallas, Texas, 214-670-7555

I’ll also be presenting at the Texas Library Association on Friday, April 26, at a presentation entitled Out of the Closet and Onto the Shelves: GLBT Literature Today, along with Rainbow Project incoming chair and TLT blogger Christie Gibrich and other members of the GLBTRT in Texas, and Tim Federle, author of the forthcoming book Better Nate than Ever.
Peter Coyl is a Manager with the Dallas Public Library and occasionally blogs at http.www.adventuresofaguybrarian.com. He currently serves on the Stonewall Award committee through June 2014. He can be emailed at peterdcoyl@gmail.com.

What’s the (Short) Story?

In my review of The Curiosities, I mention that short stories seem to be a hard sell to teens.  Most often, they are also a mixed bag; I have yet to come across a short story collection where I thought every story was a divine work of inspiration (although The Curiosities comes close).  But here are 5 short story collections that I think are must have for teens and the libraries that serve them . . .

Steampunk Poe
They are the original works of Poe with Steampunk illustrations.  You can never go wrong with Poe.

Although there are some good stories about being bullied, standing up to bullies, etc., the reason this book is a must have is for the short story How Auto-Tune Saved My Life, a story that reminds us that sometimes adults in positions of power can be bullies.  This is a must read for all teachers.

Dear Teen Me
It’s such a unique concept and a great look at life as a teenager, and an important reminder that most of us make it out alive and relatively unscathed.

The Letter Q: Queer writers notes to their younger selves
David Levithan, Malinda Lo and more talk about growing up, coming out and surviving as they learned to understand their sexuality and embrace who they are.

And of course, The Curiosities

Now it’s your turn. What short story collections are on your must have list and why?

Book Review: Queer- The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke

 My Big Gay Revelation
 For me, the signs were probably there from the start. I was the kind of little
 kid who played dress-up in his mom’s clothes, ran around singing show tunes
 at the top of his voice, and pretend-flirted with other boys. (My parents even
 have pictures of me kissing one of my boy cousins on the lips when we were
 in diapers!) In grade school, I also fooled around with some other boys in my
 neighborhood and from my school. But I didn’t really think about it in terms
 of whether I was gay or straight or whatever. I knew lots of boys who did
 stuff like this, and it didn’t seem like a big deal. 

 It wasn’t until around sixth grade, when I started developing deep crushes on
 other boys, that I started thinking I might be a little different. But I still
 couldn’t put my finger on it. I had never even heard the word gay until some
 older boys from another school tried to insult me by calling me that. I did a
 little research in the library to find out more and discovered a whole history
 of people who not only had sex with people of the same gender but had
 passionate romantic relationships as well. In fact, there was an entire
 community of people who felt the same way I did; it was a delicious
 wonderland of queerness! I realized it was OK to like other boys in “that
 way,” and even though it took a little while to find other boys who liked me
 back, I knew that I wasn’t “abnormal” or “weird”—just a little bit different.

Written especially for GLBTQI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, and intersex- in case you didn’t know) teens, Queer is a humorous and straightforward guide to life for tweens and teens looking for answers to questions that they may not feel comfortable asking another adult, or questions that they may not have someone there to answer.  Written by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke, who share their own personal stories throughout the book, it’s chapters covers whether you’re GLBTQ, coming out to family and friends, finding other GLBTQ teens, and dealing with the hate and phobia that exists still in society, even with the strides in the political sphere.  It also goes into dating, relationship, and sex on the GLBTQ scale as well, which is both informative and thought provoking- the authors discuss the difference between sex and love, and that they don’t have to go together, as well as the importance of being safe with sex if you choose to go that route with your partner. 
Queer does not shy away from the ups and downs of life:  it covers abusive relationships and what signs to look for, how to find positive counselors to help you cope with things in their life, and stresses getting involved in the GLBTQ community.  It talks about steps to take if you face physical assault (third most likely reason for physical attacks after race and religion), how to approach a crush, how to deal with rejection, and knowing your rights as a GLBTQ teen.  Also covered are STIs and HIV/AIDS, religion, and has an excellent resources section in the back with websites and books for further investigation on the topic.
Queer is a very comprehensive and excellent addition to any collection.  It was also on the 2012 Rainbow Book List, sponsored by the American Library Association’s Social Responsibilities Round Table and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table.  I know that more conservative areas might think that the material it covers can be too much, but I cannot stress how much this information is needed by GLBTQI teens, and how much they may not get that information.  It’s a positive and informative view on the subject, without the hype or negative connotations that can seep into books on the subject, and that is extremely hard to find for this type of book.  There should be more books like this out there, so that teens aren’t scrambling to find this information, and getting misinformation instead.  However, getting Queer into their hands is a start.

For more information on GLBTQ issues, check out our previous posts:
You want to put WHAT in my YA?
Taking a Stand for What You Believe In
Steph’s Top 10 GLBTQ Titles

Top 10: For Annie and Liza

I love Annie on My Mind.  I personally think it should be a book choice for those in schools, not a forced book, but a reading choice for those reading classes where you have to choose one of five books on relationships and write about themes, and what did you learn from these books.  Yes, there would be some that would be all upset because it is a GLBTQ book, but there would be others (and I bet many others) that would cheer for it’s inclusion.

I wrote in my earlier post about how it was hard for me to find books like Annie when I went looking.  For the record, I’m not GLBT or Q; for personal reasons in my life I am an *extremely* vocal straight ally.  For those who liked Annie on My Mind, here are my personal Top 10 books that would go on a booklist with Annie and Liza, in no particular order.

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters.  Cece and Holland have to hide their growing relationship just as Annie and Liza did, and when their relationship is found out, it has serious repercussions.

Kissing Kate by Lauren Myracle.  When a friendship is blown apart by a kiss, Lissa must learn who she is and start accepting who she is.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson.  It’s always been Nina, Avery and Mel, BFFs…  until one summer when it starts to be Avery and Mel, together.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan.  When Nic falls in love with Battle, she must struggle to figure out if she’s bisexual, lesbian, or if she really needs any label at all…

The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson.  Not as obvious as some of the others, but Staggerlee definitely fits into this list.

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn.  When Very gets sent to “unplug” during her electronic addition rehab, she learns that her love has been right in front of her all along.

Sister Mischief by Laura Goode.  After Esme confirms that she is definitely “a homo.  Like, Same-Sex City, Esme”, her feelings for another band member may become too much to handle.

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins.  When Cara, ever so perfect Cara, decides that she needs to come out about her preferences to everyone, what will she have to give up?

Pink by Lili Wilkinson.   Trying to be “normal” for once by transferring to a new school, Ava hides her relationship with Chloe while trying to figure out just who she wants to be.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner.  After Julia dies, Cass is left questioning her own identity, including her sexuality- can she find herself and learn to live without Julia?

Book Review: Between You and Me by Marisa Calin

You’re asking me to listen?
I can see your retaliation pressing to escape, and then:
You are so caught up in your own little world that you have no idea what’s going on with the rest of us.  Suddenly you want to talk to me, and I’m supposed to jump at the chance?  Well, sorry, I can’t be ready just because you are.  I have my own things to deal with but what would you know!
Bloomsbury August 2012
ISBN: 9781599907581

“The words ring painfully true; humiliation fills my chest.  The line between this exercise and life is way too blurred.  I stare at you.  Faltering, I find anger much easier to experience, and hear my defensive words cut through the silence.

Well, then I can’t image why you would want to be friends with me in the first place!
My voice cracks, making me sound less resilient than I’d hoped.  I swallow, and look at the floor.
Mia’s voice pulls me from the moment.  Not far enough.” – Marisa Calin

Told entirely in screenplay format, Between You & Me introduces readers to the life of Phyre (ME).  A 16 year old in love with the stage, Phyre (spoken as Fire) sees herself the star of everything- not only her life, but the life of her best friend, who is only referred to as You.  When the new drama teacher, Mia, graces the boards of Phyre’s play, Phyre finds herself completely crushing on the charismatic and beautiful new lead, placing You in the background.  Phyre pours over every gesture and word from Mia for hidden meanings to a possible relationship, and it’s almost too late when Phyre realizes that the person she should be interested in is a lot closer than her teacher.
What makes Between You & Me extremely interesting is that You, the best friend, is never reveled in their gender.  Readers can believe that You is female or male- there are no clues what-so-ever in the book.  Believe me, I looked for them.  There’s no mention of whether the hair is long or short, just that hands run through their hair.  Clothing is always ambiguous.  Gestures and mannerisms are ambiguous as well- the way You sits, the way they walk, the way You subtly courts Phyre could be read as either a female best friend or  a male best friend wanting more but afraid to test the boundaries, especially with Phyre’s unhealthy and stalker obsession with Mia.   It throws out the stereotypes of how to see a book, how to see a character, and how to see a relationship, which is really quite brilliant.  It makes a reader question how much a gender can influence your reading- teens may not phrase it that way, but that’s what they’ll come away with.
Personally, I love reading it with You as female.  To me, even with the references to Phyre’s boyfriends in the past and the light male flirting throughout the book, it reads to me that with the appearance of Mia, Phyre clicks onto the fact that love can come in any form, in any appearance.  With reading You as male, the only thing that makes the book unique by the end is that it’s told in screenplay format, and for me that doesn’t make the book special.  And when I read YA, I want special.  I want new and unique, and since Calin gives me the option, I’m making You female.
Between You & Me has a huge intensity and a drive in it that, while not action, certainly makes this book a ride.  I’d give Between You & Me to readers who devoured Rachel Cohn’s books like Very LeFreak and Naomi & Eli’s No Kiss List (co-written with David Levithan) ¸ Will Grayson, Will Grayson, or Louise Rennison’s books.

If Not You, Then Whom? Taking a Stand For What You Believe In

By now you might have heard of the debate going on about Chick-Fil-A, Chick-Fil-A’s President’s Dan Cathy’s statement about the company’s statement that they support the “biblical definition of the family unit” which does not include same-sex couples.  The company actively gives money to anti-gay organizations.  YA author Jackson A. Pearce has a couple of wonderful YouTube discussions on it ( http://youtu.be/JprRWKQys7A and http://youtu.be/ABY27P12eWQ ), and I’m sure there are more floating around. 

You can download and share this poster at
WHY DOES IT MATTER?  Because marginalization of any group of people is wrong.  PERIOD.

We live in an imperfect world that has prejudices.  There is ageism (look at movie theaters that refuse to let teens in after 9 p.m. unless they are accompanied by an adult), racism (my teens will get looked down on at places because they’re Mexican-American, even though they were born in America), sexism (even though I know more about cars than my husband, he will instantly get respect in a repair shop while I get treated like an airhead).  
Yes, we in the United States of America are a nation under God.  Practice your religion however you like.  The problem is when you decide that your beliefs trump mine. 
The First Amendment states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Now, Chick-Fil-A and its President can say and do whatever they want.  That’s freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of exercise of that religion.  Where the problem lays is when the anti-gay groups have decided that the acts of GLBTQ go against *their* beliefs, so it should go against *everyone’s* beliefs.  When they attempt to restrict others’ actions, they interfere with the free exercise of others’ beliefs.  I’m not hurting anyone with my beliefs, nor am I trying to say that anyone cannot practice their version of Christianity, or Buddhism, or Hindu, or whatever.  But when you say that my version of Christianity (or Buddhism, or Hindu, or Judiasm, or whatever) is invalid because it doesn’t fit with your worldview, then we have a problem.
This is exactly the type of thinking that was rampant during the pre-Civil Rights movement, when African Americans where the second class citizens and Jewish synagogues were bombed.  Religion was used to support the beliefs that African Americans were less than Caucasians, that Judaism was less than Christianity.  Today it’s GLBTQ who are fighting for their rights to be how they were made.  
FACTS:  GLBTQ teens are bullied and harassed for being who they are- they are mentally and emotionally abused, physically beaten, and all because the adults and peers in their area allow it.  If it were anyone in a different minority taking this type of abuse, people wouldn’t stand for it.  GLBTQ teens have the highest number of suicides.  They are 3 times as likely to feel unsafe at school, and 90% of them have been harassed at least once because of their sexuality. 
Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and accounts for 12.2% of the deaths every year in that age group. (2009 CDC, “10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group – United States, 2009”) (From Trevor Project website)
TALKING IN NUMBERS:  No matter which side you stand on, there are ways to take a stand.  Teens have enormous potential, and can do more than you might think.  According to the 2010 Census, over 40 million, or 14% of the US population were teens 10-19 years.  FOURTEEN PERCENT.  Only 54% of those who could voted in the last presidential election.  Teens have over $200 BILLION in spending power.  And you ARE the future voters.  So while you may not think you can make a difference, you can. 
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT:  There are a variety of different ways you can make a difference. 
  • Start a petition, either physical or virtual on change.org and then get the word out. 
  • Do research on companies that you frequent, and learn where the profits go- are they doing things with their money that you support?  If so, keep on supporting them.  If not, find other businesses to patronize.
  • Find a volunteer organization that supports your world view, and give your time.
  • Find like-minded teens and have a fund raiser for your favorite charity or volunteer organization.
It’s up to you.  If you don’t take a stand, whether with your time, your money or your energy, you are floating downstream and can just accept what’s going on.  But just remember, it is only a matter of time before you are the one that the focus is on- what happens when no one speaks up for you? – TLT contributor Chritie Gibrich
If you are a GLBTQ teen, and are thinking about suicide, PLEASE, don’t.  Call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386
Previous Posts:

Way to Go, happy book birthday and a contest

Today I present you with a guest blog post by debut YA author Tom Ryan.  His debut novel, Way to Go, comes out today.  Read on to hear more about this exciting new addition to the ya field and how it can help teens struggling with their sexual identity find peace in their lives.

This is an exciting day for me. My debut novel, WAY TO GO, has been released into the world, and I couldn’t be happier. Growing up, I always hoped and imagined that I’d one day be a published author. If you’d told me in high school that this day would come, I would have been thrilled.  If you’d told me what the book was about, I would have been shocked.

WAY TO GO is about a summer in the life of Danny, a gay seventeen year old who’s coming to terms with himself and the world he inhabits. It’s a straightforward story, far from revolutionary, but a book like this would have been unthinkable to me when I was a teen. I’ve since learned that there were a few brave books in print back then that dared to describe LGBT teenagers in a positive light, but I wasn’t aware of them. I wish I had been. They might have made a big difference in my life.

Like Danny, I grew up gay in a small town. I didn’t know it at the time, but there were lots of people just like me. There still are. Countless young people from around the world feel unsafe in their communities, their schools, and even their own homes, because of their sexual orientation.

Last week I logged into Twitter and my heart sank into my stomach when I saw that one of the top ten trending topics was #SignsYourSonMightBeGay. Against my better judgement, I clicked on the link and scrolled through an endless list of heartbreakingly ignorant comments. Some people were using the hashtag to fight against stereotypes, which was great, but most of the tweets were sick, sad, small-minded and mean-spirited. We may have come a great distance, but we still have a long way to go.
I’m an adult. I’ve learned to deal with the reality of a world where it’s funny to degrade someone for who they love, where stereotypes and offhand slurs are tossed around as if they don’t matter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m upset about these things every single day of my life, but I’m equipped to handle the negativity, and I’m lucky enough to live an exciting and empowered life despite it. What I can’t handle is knowing that there are so many kids out there who are forced to internalize this crap and continue to feel scared and ashamed of who they are. They need all the support they can get.

There’s no question that we’ve made lots of progress in the last ten years. When I was in high school, back in the 90s, there were very few publicly gay role models. Now it seems as if new examples of happy gay adults and even some young people – celebrities, politicians, characters on TV shows and movies – are springing up every day. Positive messages from gay-straight alliances and the “It Gets Better” project have done a great job of countering homophobic discourse. In the world of YA literature, there have been a number of new and fabulous books about LGBT teens published over the past several years. From WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, to WITCH EYES, to THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, we’re starting to see more great queer titles getting the attention they deserve.
You can download this poster of other GLBT titles for YAs at
But we need more of them, and more importantly, we need them to be readily available to the kids who need them most. I was astonished to learn that there were bookstores that chose not to carry my book because they didn’t think the subject matter was “appropriate.” A book about friendship and summer vacation which happens to have a “questioning” MC is somehow inappropriate? The fact that there are still bookstores and libraries in North America that hesitate to carry these kinds of titles completely blows my mind, but it’s a reality. Depressing.

Any avid reader knows that a good novel, arguably better than any other medium, can show you the world in its story, and yourself in its characters. Growing up is tough for everyone, but it’s especially difficult for young people who’ve been taught that they’re inherently flawed because of their attractions. Everyone needs to feel that they belong, to know that there’s room in the world for each of us. Often times books are where we find this space.

Gay kids have a right to see themselves portrayed in literature. Their stories matter. We need to make sure that they can find them when they need them.

You can find Tom all over the Internet, but you might try these places first:
My twitter : @tomwrotethat
Way to Go on Amazon : http://goo.gl/NzdUa

Enter to Win a Signed Copy of Way to Go

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