I’ve had librarians say to me, “People in my school don’t agree with homosexuality, so it’s difficult to have your book on the shelves.” Here’s the thing: Being gay is not an issue, it is an identity. It is not something that you can agree or disagree with. It is a fact, and must be defended and represented as a fact.
To use another part of my identity as an example: if someone said to me, “I’m sorry, but we can’t carry that book because it’s so Jewish and some people in my school don’t agree with Jewish culture,” I would protest until I reached my last gasp. Prohibiting gay books is just as abhorrent…
Discrimination is not a legitimate point of view. Silencing books silences the readers who need them most. And silencing these readers can have dire, tragic consequences. Never forget who these readers are. They are just as curious and anxious about life as any other teenager.
Can you predict the winners of this year’s Lambda Literary Awards?
The ballot with the most points will win bragging rights and these cool prizes:
—1 copy of every book published by Topside Press for the 12 months
—a $25 gift certificate to BGSQD, a queer bookstore in NYC.
click through for details
In Celebration of Harvey Milk offers educators materials to teach about Harvey Milk in a way that honors his memory and his important contributions to our society while providing support and instructional materials that cultivate compassion and understanding for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in our communities.
The book you recently showed where the boy describes his father and his partner is called Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael WillHoite. It was originally written in English I think. Either way, the book is still available, in English, from Amazon.com
We have it at the library I work at.
Here are a few initial thoughts about Smith’s Just Kids. Today’s selection covers up to page 51. Add your thoughts.
There is something contradictory when Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe meet for the third time. She’s on a date with a writer who might require more than she’s willing to give. Robert, as Smith insists on calling him, is strolling alone tripping on acid.
Smith, the innocent Jersey girl trying to navigate the metropolis, and Mapplethorpe, the Long Island kid already indulging in all it has to offer.
She asks him to play pretend as her boyfriend, and they run away from her suitor.
“Out of breath, we collapsed on someone’s stoop. ‘Thank you, you saved my life,’ I said. He accepted this news with a bemused expression.”
They were a pair from that moment on, and decided to move in together. It would be unfair to romanticize this. Both were technically homeless and needed a place to lay their heads. But they were also “just kids” (as a tourist tagged them), looking to be engaged as artists.
Why not share an apartment with someone you can share your dreams with?
For some time now, the LGBTQ community has been involved in various internal disputes and conversations about its relationship to law and order. WithLawrence v. Texas in 2003 and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, it’s easy to assume - and many do - that queers as a group are no longer criminalized and, in fact, receive a measure of protection under the law that could not have been envisioned even, say, 30 years ago. Gay marriage is now legal in five states and DADT has been repealed; both facts encourage LGBTS to assume that they have come far in their quest for “full equality.”
But are queers free from criminalization? That depends on whom you count as queers. As a searing new book, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States puts it so well, “The specter of criminality moves ceaselessly through the lives of LGBT people in the United States.”
The criminalization of HIV-positive people is increasing and, shockingly, gay commentators like John Aravosis encourage this by calling for their hanging.
In Chicago, where I live, the opening of the Center on Halsted (the gaycenter) in 2004 brought to light the always detectable racism and phobia against poor people and people of colour that have been common knowledge in the Lakeview/Boystown area. When queer youth of colour from the south and west sides of the city began to converge upon the Center in the hope of finding community and resources, businesses began to complain of “gang activity” and of youth “loitering” in the area and driving away clients.
In 2008, Duanna Johnson, a Memphis Black transgender woman was picked up by police despite no evidence of solicitation. At the police station, she refused to answer to an officer who called her a “she-he.” She was beaten so hard that her skull split open. Johnson filed a suit against the police but, before the matter could go to trial, was found shot execution style under mysterious circumstances.
In 1999, Bernina Mata, a Latina lesbian in Illinois, was sentenced to the death penalty in a case where Assistant State’s Attorney Troy Owen declared that she had “a motive to commit this crime in that she is a hard core lesbian … .”
Co-written by long-time activists Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock, Queer (In)Justice details cases like these and many others where queers lacking the economic wherewithal or the support of the mainstream gay community have been targeted and brutalised by the criminal legal system. These are the queers “we” would rather not know about as we continue in the quest for the only kind of “equality” that straight allies and mainstream gays think is worth pursuing, the sort that pushes a neoliberal agenda of the intense privatisation of rights in the form of marriage. We are also encouraged to think that a hate crimes law that does nothing to address the systemic problems with violence but assures specific groups that they are, indeed, more worthy of protection is somehow a corrective to years of injustice.
In the process, we’re encouraged to portray ourselves as exemplary and law-abiding citizens or, as law professor Ruthann Robinson puts it, “LGBT rights” presume that “distance from criminality is a necessary condition of equality.” The book shows that, in fact, queers - the wrong kind of queers - are continually targeted by the criminal legal system and that this targeting is not merely accidental or due to a “few bad apples” among law enforcement but part of a larger, systemic issue for which conventional law and order is not the answer but the problem.
Queer (In)Justice is especially relevant for the readers of this blog and elsewhere, in both the real and virtual worlds, because of the recent and continuing interest in the notion of international solidarity around “gay” issues. All too often, such talk of gay/LGBTQ solidarity devolves into criticism of “babaric” Islamic or African or Asian countries too ready to kill gays for simply being gay. We cannot deny that the oppression of gays and queers exists everywhere, and that LGBTQs are indeed frequently the target of virulent homophobia in many places.
But the fact is that queers are routinely targeted and discriminated against in the U.S legal system precisely because they are or are identified as queer and when their queerness intersects with factors of poverty, race, and class that leave them even more vulnerable. As in the case of Bernina Mata (whose sentence was later commuted to life after Illinois’s moratorium on the death penalty) and many others, we are perceived as the embodiments of the criminal queer archetypes that this book details so well: “homicidal lesbian man hater,” “gleeful gay killer,” “sexual degraded predators,” and so on. The mainstream gay community successfully maintains the fictions that queers don’t exist in the criminal legal system or that those who do are simply aberrations. Queer (In)Justice reveals the truth behind such fictions.
Brian Katcher is garnering a lot of attention with his second novel Almost Perfect, which recently won the American Library Association’s 2011 Stonewall Award for children’s and young adult literature.The story follows the relationship between a teenage transgender girl named Sage and a straight boy named Logan who learns to be a more understanding and supportive friend to her.
After going through a difficult breakup, Logan is intrigued when Sage moves to his small hometown in Missouri and joins his biology class. Sage is cute, confident and quirky. As Logan gets to know her better, he becomes one of the few friends Sage has ever had, and she reveals to him that she is transgender. Logan’s initial reaction as well as his later attempts to understand are infiltrated with his own misconceptions and a fear of what other people would say if they found out. He is often selfish and ignorant, but learns a lot about himself as he watches Sage encounter obstacles in virtually every aspect of her life throughout the book.
Katcher writes the novel with a relaxed and entertaining flair, but also addresses important themes that both straight and LGBT teenagers may not think about enough. The language Katcher uses highlights the ways in which words can be extremely damaging and hurtful. Sage is called anti-gay slurs multiple times by Logan and others. When Logan remarks, “I guess I assumed you were a lot older when you decided you wanted to be a girl,” Sage frustratingly clarifies, “It wasn’t a decision, Logan…I realized I was a girl.” Nevertheless, Logan knows Sage is a girl and consistently refers to her and thinks of her as such, which creates a contrast with Sage’s unsupportive father later on, who talks about the shame he has in his “son.”
Katcher also educates his audience about the vast difficulties faced by transgender women and men. Sage often struggles with deciding when and whether to come out. She fights feelings of depression and suicide. She can’t always participate in casual social activities such as going to a club in the city with her friends, because they require identification that would reveal her identity without her consent. She takes hormones illegally to help her transition because they are more effective when taken before the end of puberty, which she calls a “catch-twenty-two situation” as she explains to Logan: “Hormones have to be prescribed by a psychiatrist, and most therapists won’t let you start until you’re in your midtwenties.”
Katcher’s writing is accessible and lighthearted as it discusses some very serious subjects. His use of strong supportive characters, such as Logan’s caring college sister and Sage’s unaccepting father, creates a vivid context for the plot. He also includes an author’s note at the end of the book with additional information and resources for readers to continue learning about transgender issues. “Almost Perfect is exceptional. The writing is sensitive, haunting and revelatory,” said Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Award committee chair Lisa Johnston.
Brian Katcher’s debut novel Playing With Matches was published in 2008. GLAAD congratulates him on winning the 2011 ALA Stonewall Award for this well-written and inspiring book!
An award for gay and lesbian literature will be included in the American Library Association’s annual announcement of children’s prizes, a list which features the prestigious and influential Caldecott and Newbery medals.
The library association issued a statement Monday saying that the Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award has been added to the ALA’s Youth Media Awards, watched closely by educators and librarians as they decide which books to add to their collections. The Stonewall prize honors “English-language works for children and teens of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered experience.” Stonewall awards for adult books were started nearly 40 years ago, but the children’s category only now.
Books with gay and lesbian themes often place high on the association’s yearly report of works most criticized and threatened with removal by parents and educators. “And Tango Makes Three,” Justin Richardson’s and Peter Parnell’s acclaimed picture story about two male penguins who become parents, topped the list from 2007 to 2009.
“Ours is a very inclusive profession and we represent a wide variety of viewpoints,” says association president Roberta Stevens, who noted that the decision to add the Stonewall prize was made well before the recent wave of suicides by teens believed to be victims of anti-gay bullying. “Millions of children in this country are being raised by gay or lesbian parents. There are young people who are gay and sometimes they feel very alone. This is a real opportunity for youths who may be feeling alone to read about other like themselves.”
The Youth Media awards, announced in January, already include a variety of categories, such as African-American literature, lifetime achievement and best children’s audio book.