Each of us lives within a story: our families and other loved ones; our experiences; our successes and failures; our hopes and dreams. And all of that affects, and is affected by, who we are at our core.
As a het, cis individual, I cannot imagine even needing, let alone having the kind of courage it takes for those who are LGBTQI+ to tell the world who they are. So when the (Joe) Biden Foundation launched the As You Are campaign earlier this week and asked for people to share their stories about LGBTQI+ equality and its lack, it gave me pause.
According to the program, the purpose of collecting stories is “to help educate the broader public about the critical importance of affirming, accepting, and supporting our LGBTQ young people, and the harms these youth face when their families and communities reject them.”
Beyond that statement, the foundation doesn’t specify how they will share the stories, other than to say it’s “with the hope that they will serve to inspire, to create communities, to heal families, and to change the broader culture to ensure a bright future for all LGBTQ young people.”
As the author of several novels about gay teens, I’m keenly focused on how young people are affected by society’s and government’s opinions and actions, so this program grabbed my interest. I’m also aware that for LGBTQI+ individuals, especially young people, sharing is a double-edged sword.
One blade: Release. Relief. Freedom. Validation. Self-love. Pride.
The other blade: Exposure. Vulnerability. Ridicule. Rejection. Pain.
The program has a web page where it invites people to describe themselves and tell their stories. (Note that they require you to agree to their Terms and Conditions statement.) Presumably they are most interested in the stories of LGBTQI+ young people, and of older people in the community willing to tell stories about their experiences as a youth. However, there is a field asking if you’re an “ally, educator, parent, activist, etc.”
So as an ally, I told them my story. I told them about my writing motto (“The only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out.”). I told them of my second novel, Thinking Straight, about a gay teen in an “ex-gay” camp. I told them that my stories seek to assure teens that their destinies are not completely determined by their orientation, and I said that many of my characters are gay, bi, trans, gender queer, and intersex.
But I’m not sure it’s my story they want to hear.
So if you’re LGBTQI+, I’m asking you: Does the idea of sharing your own story, the story of how your life has been affected by the search for equality and recognition, appeal to you? Does it make you cringe, or does it make you want to shout out your truth, or both?
Whether you want to share your story with Joe Biden, I would love to hear from you about why or why not. You can use the Comments section of this post or contact me directly and confidentially with whatever you’d like to say.
And if you want to know more about the story of my journey as an author in this genre, just ask. It’s easy for me to share. I have nothing to lose.