Friday, December 15, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 15

In Chapter Fourteen, Wyatt talks to Martin, the son of the civil rights lawyer he contacted, and finds out Martin helped spread the word online about Wyatt's blog posts outing Lincoln. And the word spreads, with Wyatt watching the numbers grow past 10,000, and then grow past 42,000... and then the story gets picked up by seven more media outlets.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them as comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, or instagram.)

Okay community, here's Chapter Fifteen!

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Chapter 15
Monday January 19
On the way into History, Wyatt nearly stopped in the doorway. For some reason, Mr. Clifton was sitting at their teacher’s desk, absorbed in paperwork.
Where’s Mr. Guzman?
Wary, Wyatt made his way to his own desk and pulled out his notebook.
            Jonathon was standing over by Mackenzie, talking to her. They caught Wyatt looking at them and Jonathon raised his voice. “So, Mackenzie, you wanna go out sometime? Maybe catch a movie?”
            His ex-girlfriend smiled at the guy who’d tormented Wyatt for the past six years. “Sure. Sounds fun.”
            Pretending to read his notes, Wyatt shut his eyes, trying to ignore the whispers and laughter at his expense. The bell rang, and Wyatt heard Jonathon high-five Charlie on the way back to his seat.
            Mr. Clifton’s chair scraped as he stood up, finally acknowledging they were there. Wyatt raised his head as their town’s librarian spoke. “What you see is self-evident: Mr. Guzman is not here, and I have been assigned to be your substitute.” Murmurs of surprise bounced around the room. Mackenzie whipped around and glared at Wyatt, like it was his fault.
The worst part of it was that he knew it was.
“Consequently, there will be new temporary hours at the library; some early, some late.”
New hours? How temporary is this going to be?
Mr. Clifton laid stacks of flyers on the five front desks and had people pass them back. Wyatt gave it a quick glance and then shoved it in his backback, passing the stack behind him.
Their new teacher walked towards Wyatt’s desk, “And Mr. Yarrow, before I forget, Principal Jackson asked me to make sure you understand that you are expected after school in detention, starting today, for three weeks.”
            “Oooh!”s of he’s-in-trouble-now swirled the air.
            Wyatt fought the heat in his face.
            Heading back to the front of the classroom, Mr. Clifton continued, “The more observant among you may have noticed that your ill-fated school blogs are no longer on the World Wide Web.” He made a face like it was distasteful to refer to technology. After all, the one computer in the library was practically an antique. “But this does not mean your President Lincoln book reports are no longer due. On the contrary, you will complete them the traditional way and hand in your 3,000 word papers on paper.”
            The class exploded at that, everyone trying to figure out how many pages that was.
            Holding up a book from his desk, Mr. Clifton said, “Once again, Mr. Yarrow, I have your new book on President Lincoln here, which you can pick up at the end of class. Really, we’ve all made enough exceptions for you already.”
            Wyatt stared at the wall, telling himself to keep it together while Mr. Clifton bragged about how he used to be a teacher so he knew all about proper formatting. Wait. He noticed the walls were bare. All those motivational posters Mr. Guzman had put up. Gone.
            One person can’t make a difference.
Grabbing his stuff, Wyatt shot out of his chair for the classroom door. As he raced past, Jonathon sniggered with a hissing noise and whispered loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘fag!’
            “Where do you think you’re going?” Mr. Clifton challenged Wyatt.
            “I’m-gonna-barf!” Wyatt flung the door open and tore into the hallway.
            Mr. Clifton shouted after him. ‘I expect a note from the nurse!”
Panting, Wyatt stopped at his locker. He put his forehead against the cool metal, trying to figure things out. I should have played sick and not come to school at all. If he cut out again, the nurse would never buy it. And it would just give Principal Jackson more ammunition for his ‘serious consequences.’
            Stalling for time, Wyatt spun the combination. When he opened his locker, sitting on top of his bunched-up orange and black Oregon State Beavers sweatshirt was a large yellow envelope. “Where did that come from?”
            Floating fake-breast woman wasn’t going to tell him, so he picked it up.
            There was nothing written on either side, but it was sealed shut. Feeling like he was living in a Bond movie, Wyatt snuck it into his backpack and didn’t open it until he was locked in a bathroom stall.
            No note. Just photocopies. Four thin stapled packets.
            He looked through the first one, past the image of a book cover. A. Lincoln, Speeches and Writings: 1832-1858. On the second page was a highlighted circle around a date. It was a reprint of a letter:
                        Springfield, Illinois, February 13, 1842
            Dear Speed:
            Yours of the 1st…”
It was his letter! The one Wyatt had written about on the blog.
He checked the next packet. Another letter circled with yellow highlighter, from Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works.
            February 13, 1842”
And the third, from Herndon’s Life Of Lincoln, circled in the same neon yellow,
            February 13, 1842”
They were all copies of the letter. The same letter, in three different books.
Who would…? Mr. Guzman! He proved I’m not making it up!
There was one more packet. The cover was The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English, followed by a copy of the dictionary’s page 607. Highlighted at the bottom was a word with its definition:
            lavender adjective
effiminate, homosexual US, 1929”
What’s that about?
The next page was another book cover, Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years – I. Volume 1. By Carl Sandburg. 1926.  And after that, a copy of the book’s page 266. This time a few sentences were highlighted:
‘Their births, the loins and tissues of their fathers and mothers, accident, fate, providence, had given these two men streaks of lavender, spots soft as May violets. “It is out of this that the painful difference between you and the mass of the world springs.” And Lincoln was writing in part a personal confession in telling Speed: “I know what the painful point with you is at all times when you are unhappy; it is an apprehension that you do not love her as you should.”’

An arrow was drawn from “two men” to the circled names ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Speed.’
He knew! The rush of being believed was heady. And Wyatt wasn’t the first person to see that Abe loved Joshua. This guy Sandburg wrote about it – even if it was sort of in code – in 1926! And Mr. Guzman wanted Wyatt to know he knew about it!
But as fast as the rush had come on, it deflated. It didn’t matter anymore if Mr. Guzman believed him – he was gone.
Now, it seemed like it was all for nothing. They’d gotten rid of his blog, along with everyone else’s. The whole idea of Lincoln being gay would probably disappear, again, into history – just like no one cared that some guy hinted at it back in 1926.
He’d have to write a whole new book report – there was no way Mr. Clifton would accept one on Abraham Lincoln maybe being gay. Mr. Clifton and Principal Jackson and Mayor Rails had won.
He had no idea what to do. But he couldn’t go back to that classroom. Jonathon knew about him. Everyone knew. And now Mackenzie was going to start dating Jonathon? Some best friend.
Maybe he could transfer to another school.
He needed to call Martin.
He needed to get out of there.
            Wyatt snuck away and made it to the stream. Fifteen minutes past the ford he dialed.
            “Hey! We hit 68,000 before they pulled the plug.” Martin said before Wyatt could say anything.
            They only had 5,818 people in all of Lincolnville. Wyatt held the phone in the crook of his neck and picked up a big rock, half the size of a basketball. He heaved it into the stream. It splashed huge, making some damn good ripples that traveled the whole twelve feet to the other bank. For a couple of seconds it was all churned up and some water even went backwards, but then the stream kept flowing and the ripples faded out. Almost all of them, except he could see his rock, just under the surface, still creating little white-water eddies of current around it.
            The splash had gotten him, too. His jeans from the knees down, and his sneakers, were soaked.
            “Wyatt?” Martin’s voice on the phone.
            “It sounded like you jumped in a pool or something.”
            With the blog gone, Wyatt thought maybe his life could get back to normal now. Like none of it had happened. Do his three weeks of detention, and then go back to no one knowing about him. Let it all die down, and try to get over Mackenzie betraying him. He swallowed hard. “At least it’s over.”
            “Over?” Martin scoffed. “They don’t own the internet. I told you I cloned the site, right?”
            “What’s that mean?” Wyatt asked.
            Martin couldn’t seem to get the words out fast enough, “It means Lincoln’s still out, and all your posts are up, just at a different url: I’ve been re-linking to it all morning. I left comments disabled, like on your school blog, because we don’t want to get hit with a wave of stupid. We’re already up to 13,000 page loads! And if I can get the two aggregators that picked us up to re-direct their traffic, we’ll be golden. It’s our, your, First Amendment Right of Free Speech in action. The fact that your school tried to kill it is a story itself, and I submitted that to six more aggregators, plus the two that carried us in the first place. We’ll be blowing up again by this afternoon at the latest. You should feel great!”
            Wyatt didn’t feel great. He thought about Mr. Guzman. What happened to him? Had Wyatt gotten him fired?
            His phone buzzed with a text coming through.

                        Mom                           8:23 a.m.
                        Where are you? School called.
                        Get home now!

            ‘Get home?’ Not ‘get back to school?’ He was in so much trouble.
            Should I tell Dad and Mom about me? They’re probably going to hear it from someone at school. But, if I come out, what if they don’t… What if they stop loving me? What if they suddenly hate me, just for being me?
            The familiar dread felt like someone trying to hold him underwater, and Wyatt had to thrash to the surface of his fear just to breathe.
            “Hey, did I lose you?” Martin asked.
            Wyatt’s voice came out a squeak, “I gotta go.” He pressed ‘end call’ and headed for home, socks squishing every step.
Ripples, it turned out, could get you soaked.

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Endnotes for Chapter 15
Just as my fictional character Mr. Guzman reveals to Wyatt, that exact same February 13, 1842 letter from Abe to Joshua (the one Wyatt annotates on his blog) is found in numerous other historical sources, including: pages 79-80 of A. Lincoln, Speeches and Writings: 1832-1858, compilation and notes by Don E. Fehrenbacher, Literary Classics of the United States, Inc. New York, 1989; pages 56-57 of Abraham Lincoln, Complete WorksComprising his Speeches, Letters, State Papers, and Miscellaneous Writings, Edited by John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Volume One, The Century Company, New York, 1894; and the letter is excerpted on page 175 of Herndon’s Life of Lincoln: The History and Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, as originally written by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, Albert & Charles Boni, New York, 1930. The old slang definition of “lavender” is from page 607 of The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang, Edited by Tom Dalzell, Routledge, 2008. And the quote about Abe and Joshua having “streaks of lavender, spots soft as May violets” is from page 266 of Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years – I. Volume I by Carl Sandburg, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1945.

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Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here

Ready for Chapter Sixteen? It will be posted on December 22, 2017. 

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram. 

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Our Own Private Universe - A Bi Teen Girl wants an interesting life - and a summer in Mexico (and a girl named Christa) may be how she gets it

Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley

Fifteen-year-old Aki Simon has a theory. And it’s mostly about sex.

No, it isn’t that kind of theory. Aki already knows she’s bisexual—even if, until now, it’s mostly been in the hypothetical sense. Aki has dated only guys so far, and her best friend, Lori, is the only person who knows she likes girls, too.

Actually, Aki’s theory is that she’s got only one shot at living an interesting life—and that means she’s got to stop sitting around and thinking so much. It’s time for her to actually do something. Or at least try.

So when Aki and Lori set off on a church youth-group trip to a small Mexican town for the summer and Aki meets Christa—slightly older, far more experienced—it seems her theory is prime for the testing.

But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, how exactly do two girls have sex, anyway? And more important, how can you tell if you’re in love? It’s going to be a summer of testing theories—and the result may just be love.

Add your review of "Our Own Private Universe" in comments!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek and Girl at the Bottom of the Sea - Magical Realism YA with a lesbian, gender non-conforming mentor

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea, illustrated by Jason Polan

Everyone in the broken-down town of Chelsea, Massachusetts, has a story too worn to repeat--from the girls who play the pass-out game just to feel like they're somewhere else, to the packs of aimless teenage boys, to the old women from far away who left everything behind. But there's one story they all still tell: the oldest and saddest but most hopeful story, the one about the girl who will be able to take their twisted world and straighten it out. The girl who will bring the magic.

Could Sophie Swankowski be that girl? With her tangled hair and grubby clothes, her weird habits and her visions of a filthy, swearing mermaid who comes to her when she's unconscious, Sophie could be the one to uncover the power flowing beneath Chelsea's potholed streets and sludge-filled rivers, and the one to fight the evil that flows there, too. Sophie might discover her destiny, and maybe even in time to save them all.

Girl at the Bottom of the Sea by Michelle Tea, illustrated by Amanda Verwey

Sophie Swankowski is the hero from the stories she's been hearing all her life: she's the girl who will save the world. Or so she's been told. Now she and her unlikely guardian–the gruff, filthy mermaid Syrena–must travel the pitch-black seas from broken-down Chelsea, Massachusetts, to Syrena's homeland in Poland. Along the way, Syrena will reveal the terrible truth about her past, and teach Sophie about the ages-old source of her newly discovered power.
But left behind in Chelsea, without Sophie to protect them from the dark magic she's awakened, what will become of Sophie's friends and family?

There's a great review of these first two books in the author's planned trilogy here at Hidden Gems of Queer Lit. Add your review of "Mermaid in Chelsea Creek" and/or "Girl at the Bottom of the Sea" in comments!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 14

In Chapter Thirteen, Wyatt and Mackenzie go to their high school's purple and gold pep rally... Where Mackenzie breaks up with Wyatt in the most public and humiliating way he can imagine. As he walks home alone, the Q Satellite Radio story featuring his outing Lincoln gets picked up by four more media outlets.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them as comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, or instagram.)

Okay community, here's Chapter Fourteen!

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Chapter 14
Sunday January 18

            The buzzing vibration of Wyatt’s cell woke him. He fumbled for it in the pocket of his pants on the floor and squinted at the time. 8:00 am. But it was Sunday! He’d wanted to sleep in. Forever.
            It vibrated again, and he peered closer at the screen in his hand. “Lgl Adv Or”
            He pressed talk, panicking. “Hello?”
            “Hey, Wyatt! It’s… Martin.”
            Wyatt sat up and his room was a freezer. He shivered. “Is everything okay? Am I in trouble?”
            “No, nothing’s happened about your case! I’m sorry to bother you. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for kind of making you think I was a lawyer – I didn’t mean to! I want to be one, a lawyer, I think, if the singing and songwriting don’t work out. Anyway, I’ve been up, all night actually, and I was thinking…”
            Martin kind of trailed off, and didn’t say anything more. Wyatt didn’t know what to say. They were both silent, for twenty seconds.
            “This was a bad idea. I’m sorry.” Martin said. “Go back to sleep. I mean, you weren’t asleep, but…”
            “Well, I was, but it’s okay. I’m not. I’m awake.” Wyatt let himself yawn. “What’s up?” He settled under the comforters where it was warm.
            Martin took a deep breath and let it out. “I just wanted to tell you I think you’re really brave. To buck the system and all. I mean, we help a lot of adults, but not guys our age. You’re standing and fighting… You’re… kind of a role model.”
            Grateful Martin couldn’t see him turn red, Wyatt said, “I liked your Von Steuben Yankee Doodle song.”
            “Thanks! I liked your new blog post about Lincoln and Joshua.”
            There was another pause, but this one was almost cozy. And Wyatt didn’t really want to go back to sleep. He wanted to keep talking. “What school do you go to?”
            “I don’t. Home-schooled. I’m just going to skip the whole high school thing and go to college early. I mean, high school’s just a factory. College is, too, but at least it’s a factory where you can be yourself. And music school, if my mom will let me, should be better than a regular college.”
            Wyatt wondered if ‘being yourself’ was code for being gay – Martin had seemed so out in the video. He wanted to ask, but had no idea how. Martin saved the moment with his own question, “So, what’s new?”
Wyatt wasn’t going to say anything about breaking up with his girlfriend, that was for sure. “Nothing much. You?”
 “I’ve actually been doing some stuff about your blog… You had some traffic, but you deserved more.”
            Wyatt could hear Martin click at a keyboard. “I’ve been linking and posting it in comments all over the web since yesterday. And the radio show, their archive’s linkable, so getting that out there, too. It’s just starting to get some traction in the queer blogosphere, and a few local outlets. There’s some traffic from the Civil War buff sites, too. And I cloned it, just in case. With luck we’ll get you picked up by an aggregator.”
            Wyatt stumbled downstairs to the reception computer to see for himself. He loaded the stat counter page.
            4,920. People!
“You did this?” He asked Martin.
“You’re the one who’s saying what they’re excited about. I’m just trying to help make sure people hear it.”
“It’s um… I… I gotta go.” Wyatt hung up, and for the rest of the day, he felt like he was sleep-walking. He tried to not think about Mackenzie, and how everyone at school would know she’d broken up with him at the Pep Rally, and why.
Mackenzie didn’t come over for their Sunday ‘homework club,’ not that Wyatt had thought she would. When his mom asked where Mackenzie was, he didn’t want to get into it, so he made up some extra-credit project Mackenzie was doing with Jenny.
Wyatt dodged his parents’ questions about the Pep Rally, and stayed busy catching up on algebra worksheets, doing a load of laundry, and taking a trip to the lumber yard with his dad to get the two-by-fours for a new display case. And the two times he allowed himself to check, his numbers grew.
It was like some magic beanstalk.

* *

After the James Bond movie that night – without Mackenzie – Wyatt checked his stats one more time.
It was exciting. And scary. That was a lot of people. He went to bed that night with the same nervous anticipation he used to have with a tooth under his pillow, wrapped in a tissue and zipped inside the little embroidered red-and-gold Chinese change purse. What was the Tooth Fairy going to bring him? Only this time, it was the Truth Fairy.
First thing Monday morning, Wyatt raced downstairs. And it felt like Christmas-and-Tooth-Fairy-and-New-Year’s-and-First-Day-of-School all rolled into one. He got to the stat page and hit ‘refresh’:
Oh. My. Gosh. Part of him wanted to tell Mackenzie, but he knew he couldn’t. She wouldn’t want to hear it. He didn’t even know if they’d ever talk again.
But he had to tell someone!
And then he thought of it – he could text Martin.

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7 More Outlets That Picked Up The Q Satellite Radio Story That Sunday
1.     New York Re-Enactment Society LGBT Forum
2.     Kansas City Queers newsletter
3.     Los Angeles Lesbian Times
4.     Vermont Teen Power
5.     Austin LGBT History Club
6.     Shout! National Newsmagazine
7.     Rocky Mountain Newswire

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Want to know why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free right here on this blog? Click here. Ready for Chapter Fifteen? It will be posted on December 15, 2017. Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them in comments here, or on facebook, twitter, or instagram. Don't miss a chapter - you can sign up to follow this blog and get emailed every post! Just enter your email at the top of the left column. Thanks for being part of my community, and for being one of my READERS!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pins - A gay teen wrestler in 1993 New Jersey struggles with homophobia and the death of a teammate

Pins by Jim Provenzano

Set in Little Falls, New Jersey in 1993, PINS weaves the classic story of a Catholic saint into a compelling modern life -and near-death- account of Joey Nicci, a fifteen-year-old Italian-American wrestler.

After befriending Donald "Dink" Kohrs, Joey and his new posse get involved in pranks and partying that eventually get out of control, resulting in the death of a maligned fellow teammate.

The ensuing legal battle and media frenzy alter Joey's life and his self- perception as a gay teenager while shattering his fragile love for fellow teammate Dink. Like his patron saint, his battle against his own teammates forces him to suffer for his beliefs.

Add your review of "Pins" in comments!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Six Impossible Things - A teen guy's life is falling apart (and his just-out gay dad is just one of the impossible reasons why)

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

1. Kiss Estelle.
2. Get a job.
3. Cheer my mother up.
4. Try not to be a complete nerd/loser.
5. Talk to my father when he calls.
6. Figure out how to be good.

Nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a whole heap of problems, including a reversal of family fortune, moving, new-school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and a massive crush on Estelle, the girl next door. His life is a mess, but for now he's narrowed it down to just six impossible things...

Add your review of "Six Impossible Things" in comments!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 13

In Chapter twelve, Wyatt posts an annotated letter on his blog -- a letter he's sure proves that Abraham Lincoln was in love with Joshua Fry Speed.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

To read about why I'm serializing my entire YA novel for free on this blog, click here.

Thoughts? Reactions? #queerasafivedollarbill / #qaafdb fan art? Share them as comments here or on social media (facebook, twitter, or instagram.)

Okay community, here's Chapter Thirteen!

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Chapter 13
Saturday January 17

“Okay, you two, let’s try it again. And smile this time!” His mom used Wyatt’s new video camera to record Wyatt and Mackenzie, arm-in-arm, coming down the stairs to the B&B’s entryway. Like their own private paparazzi, Mackenzie’s dad joined in, snapping photos with his cellphone camera.
Mackenzie hadn’t mentioned anything about his blog all day, and Wyatt sure wasn’t going to bring it up. But she hadn’t called him ‘Honeybear,’ either. He figured she was either giving him another chance, or she hadn’t seen it yet – maybe she’d been too busy with karate and shopping with Wyatt’s mom. Whichever it was, Wyatt felt like he was juggling sticks of dynamite around her, and it all might explode any second.
This time, he remembered to stop on the last step. Mackenzie stepped down to the ground floor and swiveled so they were eye-to-eye. She smiled, but Wyatt couldn’t tell if it was for the cameras, their parents, or for him.
 “Gregory! You don’t want to miss this!” Wyatt’s mom called to his dad, who was still working on the ‘full and complete’ inventory of their store for the bank. Wyatt’s dad came over, clipboard and plastic bag of rifle pens in his hands. He gave Wyatt a proud that’s-my-son wink, which made Wyatt feel even worse.
Mackenzie’s dad said “It’s funny how teens date at night, and old people like us meet for ‘coffee’ on Sunday.”
“Dad… now?” Mackenzie criticized.
Wyatt’s dad asked, “Hey, you got a date?”
“It’s just coffee.” Mr. Miller put up his hands defensively to Mackenzie. “We’re only as sick as our secrets, and I’m not going to have any new ones. We’re all like family, anyway.”
“It’s perfect, their dating, isn’t it?” Wyatt’s mom asked Mackenzie’s dad, then turned back to her directing, “Now, Wyatt, slip the corsage on her wrist…Slowly!”
            “You do know it’s recording sound?” Wyatt asked. His mom was totally over-reacting, treating the Pep Rally where everyone had to wear some purple and some gold like it was Junior Prom or something. She’d gone dress-shopping with Mackenzie that morning in Corvallis. They’d found Mackenzie’s sparkly gold dress at a thrift shop, and Wyatt’s mom had even arranged for the purple-orchid corsage he was putting on his girlfriend like a bracelet.
Wyatt, for his part, was in his nice black jeans and an also-new-from-the-thrift-shop purple button-down shirt. But instead of the horrible gold-sparkle-cummerbund his mom insisted was ‘perfect’ but that he knew he’d never live down, that afternoon he’d used some of the gold-colored nailpolish they had to touch up frames in the exhibits to make his shirt buttons gold. He thought it came off pretty slick.
            His mom moved her head out from behind the camera. “Have some faith. Your dad and I had a wedding video.”
            “I’ve never seen it.” Wyatt wondered why.
            “Your father didn’t want to transfer it to DVD, or even video.”
            His dad made a note of the number of pens. “Eight millimeter film should be seen on an eight-millimeter projector.”
“Which we don’t have,” his mom cut in. “I don’t even know if we could track the film canister down after all these years.”
“It was beautiful.” His dad recalled. “They even sepia-toned the whole thing.”
            “What I remember,” Wyatt’s mom said, “is that they shot the picture, and replaced all the chit-chat with our song. As soon as you two tell me what your song is, we’ll do the same.”
            Wyatt knew his parents’ song – At Last by Etta James. They slow-danced to it in the kitchen every anniversary. And he’d bet that Mackenzie’s parents had had a song, too, but with that pained expression on Mr. Miller’s face, he wasn’t about to ask.
            Wyatt looked at Mackenzie. “Our song?”
            She shrugged. “I guess that’s one of the fun things couples get to figure out.”
            Couples. Like us.
Maybe they were okay, after all.

* *
Lincolnville High School Electric Sign:

Purple and Gold Pep Rally

* *

Wyatt’s mom pulled into the school driveway, right behind a jacked-up pickup Wyatt couldn’t help but recognize. Jonathon’s. Dangling from the undercarriage was an eight-inch long polished chrome scrotum.
“Classy.” Mackenzie said.
Wyatt could feel the heat starting at his neck. Was that about him, and the mosquito ball joke? Jonathon had to prove he had the biggest balls… or that his truck did?
            “Mom, just drop us off here, okay?” Wyatt asked. That way they could avoid Jonathon, who’d have to park.
            “You sure?” His mom said.
            “Yeah.” Wyatt looked at Mackenzie and offered her his hand. “Ready?”

* *

Amid a stream of decked-out students, Wyatt and Mackenzie walked into the crepe-papered gym. Cheerleaders chanted:
“Gold and Purple!
Purple and Gold!
Fighting Soldiers,
Never Grow Old!”
 There was scattered applause, and Coach Rail’s band struck up “Sweet Home, Alabama.”
“Mr. Yarrow, Miss Miller!” Spiffy in a 1950’s tuxedo, Mr. Guzman walked up to Wyatt and Mackenzie as they entered. The woman on Mr. Guzman’s arm had neon pink hair, and otherwise was dressed for the same 1950’s sock hop he was. He clicked his tongue and then told her, “Nikki, these are two of my best students!”
Nods all around.
Mr. Guzman said to them, “I’ve been thinking of starting a debate program, and I wanted to sound you out about it. The State Speech Championships are in April, which, of course, isn’t a lot of time. But next year you’ll be Sophomores, and we can grow the program. You have to start somewhere, right?”
Wyatt had to ask about his blog post. “Mr. Guzman, did you get a chance…?”
Mr. Guzman nodded. “I read your blog, Mr. Yarrow. I’ll be heading to U of O’s library tomorrow to do some research of my own. Nikki lives in Eugene, so that will work out.”
Nikki mocked offense. “How easy a woman do you think I am?”
Mr. Guzman made a clicking sound, “Not easy. Delightful.” He kissed her hand like she was royalty. “Delightful enough to join me chaperoning a high school pep rally on a Saturday night.” He turned back to Wyatt and Mackenzie. “I must attend to my Lady Fair... We’ll talk more on Monday. Tonight, you two enjoy!” Leading Nikki away, he suggested, “Let’s get some punch, shall we?”
            “That was crazy,” Wyatt said, to make conversation. Jonathon and Charlie walked by with the Freshman basketball team, all in uniform. Jonathon slowed down to scan Mackenzie top to bottom and back again.
            “Classy.” Wyatt joked under his breath, but Mackenzie just stared at Wyatt.
“You can’t let the Lincoln-being-gay thing drop, can you? Not even for one day.”
            “What? I just–”
            “I saw your blog, too, Wyatt.” Mackenzie’s voice amped louder. “You’re choosing that stupid idea of gay Lincoln over me!”
            It’s not stupid, he thought, but he didn’t dare say it. It was like Mackenzie had lit the dynamite, and he couldn’t juggle fast enough.
            “Did you ever really care about me in the first place?”
            In judgment but not in feeling…
            How could he explain? Wyatt was keenly aware Jonathon had stopped to listen. People were starting to look their way.
            Mackenzie’s words bit the air. “Do you know what a beard is?”
            Wyatt tried to keep it light. “You mean like Coach Rails is growing out?”
            “No. I mean like your ridiculous blog is saying Mary was to Lincoln. And Fanny was to Joshua. Everyone’s thinking that’s what I am to you!”
            Play stupid. “What?”
            The song ended with a drum roll and cymbal crash. In the moment of quiet that followed, Mackenzie’s words were practically a shout, “I don’t want to be the girl with the gay boyfriend!
“You’re not – I’m not!” Wyatt protested, then lowered his voice, “Can we talk about this later?”
            “No!” She lunged forward, lips puckered, and Wyatt pulled back.
            Mackenzie gave a short laugh but it sounded bitter. “You don’t even want to kiss me now, do you?”
            Wyatt looked everywhere but at her. “Well, you really set the tone there.”
            Her nostrils flared in anger. “A real guy doesn’t need tone! He always wants to kiss a hot girl. And I’m hot, Wyatt. Whether you appreciate it or not, I’m hot.” She swung her arm to include everyone in the gym. “Which guy do you want to kiss, Wyatt? Because it’s never been me!”
            Alarms screamed in his head as every skin cell burned with heat. Did she know? Was it a guess? Or was it just the worst thing she could come up with to hurt him?
            “That’s his girlfriend asking!” Jonathon crowed, and laughter pealed around them.
The burning fuses on the dynamite were nearly gone, and the only thing Wyatt could think to do was to get angry back at Mackenzie. “You know what? I don’t want to date someone who’s so intolerant.”
            “NO!” Mackenzie reared back, eyelids pulling tight as her eyes went wide. “I’m breaking up with you! You have no idea… You don’t even care what I’m losing here. Again! You want to say Lincoln was gay? Fine. Then why don’t you date him? Because you and I are done!”
The dynamite blew up as Mackenzie stomped away in Wyatt’s mom’s purple pumps – the ones that reminded him of butterfly wings.
            No more juggling.
Wyatt stood there, alone, in a sea of people.
            Mayor Rails’ voice carried in the post-detonation-quiet. “I like that girl.”
            “All right, enough soap opera!” Coach Rails said into the microphone from the stage. “How about some good ole’ country rock and roll to get this party started, before we present our Fighting Soldier teams?”
            The crowd roared its approval.
Wyatt noticed Coach Rails was clean-shaven – how was he going to be Lincoln in the parade now?
“This one made the top one-hundred country songs!” Coach Rails adjusted the mic stand. “I’m sure you know it. It’s called That Dog Don’t Hunt…”
As Coach Rails’ band launched into the song, Wyatt walked as fast as he could to the exit. His eyes took a last, wild spin around the gym. He didn’t see Mr. Guzman or his date. There was Mayor Rails, frowning at her husband, singing up on stage. And over by the punch table, Jonathon was talking to Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s friend Jennie was with them, and caught Wyatt looking their way. She scowled at him.
Not a single friendly face.
Outside, the night air slapped the heat in his skin. And it hit Wyatt that he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore. Or a best friend. And now, everyone at school was going to think he was gay. Know he was gay.
What was he going to do?
It was a long walk home.

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4 Outlets That Picked Up The Q Satellite Radio Story That Night
1.     San Francisco GLBT Times
2.     Pacific Northwest Queer Consortium
3.     Weird News of Western Washington
4.     Gay Guide ATL: Atlanta’s Rainbow-Hued News

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Ready for Chapter Fourteen? It will be posted on December 8, 2017.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Golden Boy - A secretly intersex teen deals with family pressures and their own coming of age

Golden Boy
by Abigail Tarttelin

Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he's the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He's even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max's mother, is determined to maintain the facade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years, but now that the boys are getting older, she worries that the facade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband Steve has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.

The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won't his parents talk about it? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he's starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him--desire him--once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?

Winner of numerous awards, including the 2014 Alex Award, being a 2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, a Booklist top 10 First Novel of 2013, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2013.
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Under Threat - A Lesbian Teen Has To Navigate The Hate Directed at Her Parents, Who Provide Abortions... And it May Cost Her Her Girlfriend

Under Threat by Robin Stevenson

Franny is close to her parents, adores her horse and is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Leah. But Franny's parents are abortion providers at the local hospital, and an anonymous stranger is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them. A stranger who phones at all hours. Who knows where they live. Who knows Franny's name. When Leah's older brother, Jake, refers to her parents as baby killers, Franny starts to wonder if perhaps the threats aren't coming from a stranger at all. If she tells the police about her suspicions, she could lose her girlfriend. But if she doesn't--and if she's right--she could lose her parents.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill: Chapter 12

In Chapter Eleven, Wyatt is told by Principal Jackson that he has to stop saying that Lincoln was gay or he'll be suspended, and gets a letter from the librarian Mr. Clifton threatening a lawsuit, too. Wyatt reaches out to a civil rights organization for help, and speaks with Martin, the civil rights attorney's son. Wyatt learns that he has the right to say what he wants... And then he discovers that the librarian wants the book back to destroy it, to hide the history of Lincoln loving Joshua Fry Speed forever. Wyatt know he can't let that happen.

Want to start reading from the beginning? Click here for chapters One and Two.

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Okay community, here's Chapter Twelve!

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Chapter 12

Wyatt Yarrow’s Book Report Blog for Mr. Guzman’s 9th Grade History Class.
Lincolnville High School.
Book: Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend by Robert Kincaid.


Blog Post: Friday, January 16, 11:18 p.m.
More Proof President Abraham Lincoln Was Gay: An Annotated Letter!

Okay, Mr. Guzman. Here’s the letter Abraham Lincoln sent to Joshua Fry Speed on February 13, 1842 (from pages 47-48 in my book.) I’ve added my own comments along-side Abe’s lines. And the post after this is photos of my whole book, where you can see the letter yourself.

“Springfield, Illinois, February 13, 1842 Abe is 33, and it’s just over a year since he broke his engagement to Mary Todd by being a no-show on their wedding day. Dear Speed: Yours of the 1st instant came to hand three or four days ago. When this shall reach you, you will have been Fanny’s husband several days. You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting; that I will never cease while I know how to do anything. In the letters before this one, Abe has been trying to convince Joshua that they should both marry women, even though they’re in love with each other. Now, Joshua has just married Fanny. “My desire to befriend you is everlasting” is Abe saying he still loves Joshua. But you will always hereafter be on ground that I have never occupied, and consequently, if advice were needed, I might advise wrong. I do fondly hope, however, that you will never again need any comfort from abroad. Abe’s hoping marrying a woman will satisfy Joshua so he won’t need Abe’s love in the same way any more. Abe is hoping this is true for him, too. He’s hoping he can live in the closet. But should I be mistaken in this, should excessive pleasure still be accompanied with a painful counterpart at times, still let me urge you, as I have ever done, to remember, in the depth and even the agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again. The pleasure is their getting married to women and living ‘acceptable’ lives. The pain – the depths, “even the agony of despondency” – that Abe and Joshua have to be apart even though they love each other because society won’t accept them as they really are: gay and in love. I am now fully convinced that you love her as ardently as you are capable of loving. Your ever being happy in her presence, and your intense anxiety about her health, if there were nothing else, would place this beyond all dispute in my mind. Abe is trying to convince Joshua that Joshua loves Fanny. At least as much as Joshua is “capable of loving” a woman. I incline to think it probable that your nerves will fail you occasionally for a while; but once you get them fairly graded now, that trouble is over forever. Joshua’s “nerves” failing him is that he doesn’t really love Fanny, he loves Abe, but he went through with marrying Fanny because that’s what society expected him to do. Abe is giving him a pep talk, saying he can do it, he can pretend, and that the longer he does it, the easier it will get. And now that he’s married a woman, everyone will think Joshua is straight and “that trouble is over forever.” I think, if I were you, in case my mind were not exactly right, I would avoid being idle. I would immediately engage in some business, or go to making preparations for it, which would be the same thing. Or maybe Joshua just shouldn’t think about it too much, and should distract himself with something else – anything else. If you went through the ceremony calmly, or even with sufficient composure not to excite alarm in any present, you are safe beyond question, and in two or three months, to say the most, will be the happiest of men. This is the smoking gun: Abe is reassuring Joshua that if he was able to get through the marriage ceremony without anyone becoming alarmed – if he stayed calm, if he kept his composure – then he is now “safe beyond question.” How much more obvious do we need Abe’s words to be? What else could Joshua have been so panicked about, in marrying Fanny? What else about Joshua would Abe have been concerned would alarm the people who were at the wedding? They’re talking about Joshua being gay, about Abe and Joshua being in love, and about no one being the wiser about it at the wedding. It was no accident that Abe wasn’t at his best friend’s wedding! If he had been there, would Joshua have been able to go through with it? Would they, together, have excited “alarm” in everyone present? You bet. I would desire you to give my particular respects to Fanny; but perhaps you will not wish her to know you have received this, lest she should desire to see it. Make her write me an answer to my last letter to her at any rate. I would set great value upon another letter from her. Write me whenever you have leisure. Abe knows Joshua will want to keep this letter secret from Fanny. Neither of them want Fanny to know the truth, that this letter pretty much spills! Yours forever,                                          A. Lincoln He signed it “Yours forever” – he loves the guy! It’s pretty interesting that the letters Abe wrote Mary once they got married (like the one he wrote her on June 12, 1848) were signed “Affectionately,” which sounds a lot less affectionate! P.S. I have been quite a man since you left.” Check out the p.s.! This is like some secret code between Abe and Joshua, where being ‘a man’ is acting straight, or dating women. “I have been quite a man since you left” is all about Abe letting Joshua know that since Joshua left Springfield – since Joshua left Abe and the bed they shared for those four years – Abe has been doing the same thing Joshua has: covering up the truth about his being gay, and going out with ladies. Maybe he’s even hinting here that he might get back together with Mary. Which Abe does, marrying her on November 4th of this same year! By marrying Fanny, Joshua is now “safe,” and Abe won’t be “safe” until he gets married to a woman, too.

You wanted proof that Lincoln was gay? That he was in love with Joshua Fry Speed?
There you have it – in his own words!
Oh, and one more thing: February 13, the day Abraham Lincoln wrote this letter? That’s the day after Abe’s birthday. The day before Valentine’s Day.

And it’s one heck of a love letter.
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Endnotes for Chapter 12 -->
Wyatt annotates the letter Abe sent Joshua on February 13, 1842. It is indeed found on pages 47-48 of Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend. Contrasting the “Yours forever” sign-off to Joshua, Wyatt references a letter Lincoln wrote his wife Mary where the sign-off was “Affectionately.” That June 12, 1848 letter to Mary is on pages 21-22 of The Words of Abraham Lincoln, Selected and with an introduction by Larry Shapiro, Newmarket Press, 2009. That same letter to Mary is also found on pages 70-71 of Lincoln at Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Family Life. Lincoln at Home also includes four additional letters from Abe to Mary that are all signed in the same way, found on pages 69, 71-73, 74-76 and 88-89. One letter, on pages 61-65, is signed “Most Affectionately.” There are also 30 letters Abe wrote to Mary in that same book with no sign-off, just the “A. Lincoln” signature, and you can find them on pgs. 83-112.
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