Friday, May 30, 2008

...And The Winner of the 2008 LAMMY For BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL with GLBTQ Content, Published in 2007, Is...

I just got home from the Lammy's, and it was an amazing event, full of GLBTQ literary luminaries, pioneers, and lots of generous baton-passing from one generation to another.

In addition to how exciting it was to have Perry's amazing book "Hero" win for best YA novel, it was very cool that two other books featured here on this blogsite won in their categories.

"Split Screen" by Brent Hartinger won the Bisexual Lammy Award!

And "Call Me By Your Name" by Andre Aciman won the Men's Fiction Lammy Award!
(I'll post on this book next week - I promise!)

The Lambda Literary Foundation truly lived up to their mission with last night's event - to celebrate, promote and encourage great GLBTQ literature... And now we have three winners to cheer!

Congratulations to Perry, Brent, and Andre!

Have a great weekend everyone,



Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tonight Is The LAMMYS! The Lambda Literary Foundation's AWARDS for the BEST GLBTQ Books published in 2007!

And in the category I'm most excited about, CHILDRENS/YOUNG ADULT books with LGBT content that were published in 2007, here are the finalists:

Ellen Wittlinger

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You
Peter Cameron

Freak Show
James St. James

Saints of Augustine
P. E. Ryan

Perry Moore

You can click on any of the book images above to link to my post on each of these five amazing books.

I'll be at the Lambda Literary Awards show tonight in West Hollywood, and first thing tomorrow I'll post on the winner.

But no matter which book is singled out as the winner, it's important to remember that the REAL winner is each of us - because we get to read all 5 of these!

Good Luck to all the authors...


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Saints Of Augustine

By P. E. Ryan

Charlie and Sam are both 16. They used to be best friends, until one day Sam ended their friendship - no explanations.

Now it's summer in Florida, and they're both struggling.

Charlie's not dealing with the death of his Mom, instead he's smoking a lot of pot and is in serious debt with his dealer.

Sam's freaked out about his Dad being gay - and trying to figure out whether he might be gay as well.

When their solo struggles hit full crisis mode, the guys come back to each other, needing their friendship more than ever.

Check out this great interview with the author here!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Icarus In Flight

By Hayden Thorne

I'm super excited about this new release - Hayden's written a gay Victorian Historical Romance for Teens!

James is wealthy and hates school.

Daniel is penniless and ambitious - alone in the world but for a brother.

James and Daniel meet at school and become friends. Their friendship soon grows to something more. But it's the mid 1800s in England, and there's not much future in loving another guy.

Then James' father dies, leaving young James wealthy and beset with responsibilities. Daniel's brother also dies in a freak accident, and now he is truly alone in the world. Or is he?

Both young men struggle with their losses, how to live their lives, and how to deal with their love for each other.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

While "Icarus in Flight" isn't officially out until September 2008, it is already available at some booksellers, including Amazon and Lambda Rising.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Masked Destiny

By Mark Roeder

Skye is going to be the Alpha male in his high school, no matter what. So he doesn't intervene to save another boy when all it would have taken was a single word. It changes his life forever.

Oliver is coming out, dreaming of Clay but approached by Ken. But both boys have secrets, and Oliver has to figure out who to choose.

"Masked Destiny" is a work of passion that Mark published himself. It's the ninth book in his THE GAY YOUTH CHRONICLES series.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Friday, May 23, 2008

Transgender Children - Survey Results!

So how old DO you have to be to know who you are, gender-wise?

(If you need to go back to know what I'm talking about, check out the original post from last Friday that brought up the questions in context here.)

So the results are in from our latest survey, and here's what YOU all think:

What really was amazing this past week was how many of you shared truly heartfelt and personal comments with your responses.

And just because I can, I'm adding my responses to some of the comments in italics. That way it's a bit more like a conversation...

For the "How old do you have to be to know who you are, gender-wise?" question, the comments included those below.

The age you are when you know the difference.

It's complicated, because the question inherently ties together gender and biological sex (that is, if the boy wants to live a gendered girl life, he is also assumed to want to be biologically female), and I find that assumption very troubling.
Good point - really good point. It IS an assumption.

I think it's different for everyone.

For the question about "if it were YOUR decision, how would you let a 6 year old boy who was absolutely certain they were a girl on the inside, live his life?" Your comments were even more thought-provoking.

Actually, it wasn't an option but I would have chosen, "let him live his life the way he wants to." :-)
Good point - I'll consider my questions more carefully for the next survey.

I would let my child wear whatever clothes zie want it and play with whatever toys zie chose, and choose pronouns and names and haircuts as a zie desired. Of COURSE I would be worried about the kid in school, and if the child decided to live a transgendered life I would probably work very closely with the school and the other parents to make sure there was a safe environment. But as for biological changes? I'd be a lot more wary about that. I might consider allowing drugs or exercises or somesuch which delayed puberty, as long as they had no dangerous side effects if the child changed zir mind, but I would not want my child to do anything irrevocable biologically until zir 17th or 18th birthday. But then, I'm not particularly tied to biological sex as any form of identifier, so I find it difficult to understand anyone who does. Not that I disapprove, I just let it difficult to understand.

I liked the use of "zie" instead of "he" or "she" - I hadn't seen that before!
I don't believe you can ultimately dictate the inside of a person. There may be mighty struggles for that young person, but at the end of the day the truth of who they are will take hold. We, as a society, hold fast to the visual, the acceptable and all too often forget to rejoice in the differences. I hope we can stand aside from judgment and come forth with a little extra love -- it isn't that hard to do. It really isn't.
I could marry the guy who answered that last one!

Tough decision, Lee. I was a young sissy-boy who played with dolls and while my mother didn't have the heart to forbid the girlie toys, I was still instructed to act less feminine. Now I'm a masculine homosexual, but had my parents provided no check to my behavior, I wonder if I might have ended up transgender. I honestly don't think I would have been happier than I am now. Am I prejudiced? Maybe so.

Wow. Fascinating. Thank you for sharing so openly!

ALL POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES must be considered, not only those of transition BUT ALSO THOSE OF REFRAINING FROM TRANSITION. A child may not know what career he or she will choose later in life and may not understand whether he or she is liberal or conservative until perhaps high school or college age, but gender identification is known to a child early in life.

People know innately who they are. This cannot be changed. Why should a person have to struggle through life hiding who they are.

Why should we force them to conform to our ideas?

This was really interesting. It brings up the whole inter-sex debate, about those who don't choose to identify as either male or female, but as a third gender. Hmmm... There will be lots more to discuss about that in the future!

I can't decide. I'd be perfectly happy to let him do "girly" things - play with Barbies, wear pink - hell, he can wear a tutu if he wants, but I don't know if I'd be able to call him my daughter. I think I'd figure it was a phase. My brother wore pretty girly stuff when he was little and we'd play games where we were both girls, but he didn't grow up to be transgender. I have no problem with transgendered adults (or teens), but it seems like 6 is too young to be making life-long decisions. I'd let him live how he was happy, play how and with what he wanted, (I'd probably be willing to call him Cindy for a while, but pray that it was like another kid wanting me to call him Fireman Bob) and let the big decisions like calling him my daughter and doing official name-changes and deciding about hormone therapy wait until he was a pre-teen or teenager. I think the most important thing I could do was let him know that I supported him and loved him regardless who he grew up to be.

What a difficult thing to have to decide! But ultimately, you have to think about the overall well-being of your child. With teen suicide rates what they are, especially with GLBTQ teens, I would rather help my child deal with the repercussions of being who s/he is (like bullying, etc) than make him/her try to deny something that essential.
Essential. Well said. Identity is Essential.

This is a fascinating Issue. And a fascinating Discussion. And I have to say that YOU, my blog readers - my blogsite community - are a truly thoughtful (as in full-of-thought) and wonderful folk.

Thank you all so much for sharing, and for being part of the survey! And thank you for being part of this journey!

Have a great long holiday weekend (at least it's a holiday here in the U.S.)



Thursday, May 22, 2008

Donating Gay (&LBTQ) books to a Junior High School Library? How to Honor the Memory of Larry (Lawrence) King. A Negotiated Solution...

I Can't Even GIVE Them Away...

Or Can I?

Okay, this is a follow up to the post back in February on what we can do in reaction to the killing of 15 year old Lawrence (Larry) King, a gay student who was murdered in his Junior High school class by a 14 year old fellow student after Larry shared that he had a crush on that boy.

The background
So I decided that the most positive thing I could do was to help the kids in that school understand that GLBTQ Teens are just like every other Teenager - with hopes, fears, insecurities, and dreams.

If someone tells you they have a crush on you, it's a compliment. Even if you're not interested, you should realize the intent was not to shame you. And really, how horribly are we failing as a culture if for that 14 year old boy, being perceived by others as being gay (I suppose the worst outcome of his being approached by a gay guy) would be so terrible and life-changing that he'd rather KILL someone than be embarrassed?

He'd rather KILL someone than be embarrassed. Wow. That speaks volumes about the environment kids are growing up in, doesn't it?

I believe one of the best ways to achieve a culture of understanding, acceptance and kindness is to have ALL Teens read some of the amazing books featured on this site.

So, on my own dime, I purchased 15 great books to donate to the E.O. Green Junior High School Library.

The Offer
The very earnest Librarian at the school explained that she wasn't authorized to accept the donation, and that I had to go through the district office.

Once I found the right person, I left messages every week, and after a month of that I got a call back from the woman in charge of curriculum (and the decision-maker.)

This school official was very nice, and she also seemed to appreciate what I was trying to do.

However, she felt that they could NOT accept the donation of the books due to their concern about offending parents of students.

Evidently, parent protests (even a single parent) about all sorts of things (having textbooks that expose their kids to different religions than theirs, for example) are something the school district seems to want to avoid at all costs if they can - and they will only risk possibly offending someone IF the subject matter is part of the official curriculum. (They seem to feel that's their only argument that trumps parents' desires.) Since including gay and lesbian teen representations in fiction isn't part of the official State curriculum, the school district doesn't see any way they could justify including these books in the Junior High Library IF any parents objected (and they seemed sure that some would.)

She DID offer to make a copy of the bibliography (a brief listing of the 15 books) available in the library.

No, there were no similar bibliographies available for the students on any other subjects.

The Negotiated Solution.

I asked, what if I donated the books to the local branch of the PUBLIC library, could the bibliography in the school library mention the books were there?

Yes. The school district official agreed it could. She even offered that the bibliography could be available in the other school libraries in their district.

So I called up the South Oxnard Branch Library (which is only a couple of blocks from E.O. Green Junior High) and spoke with the amazing YA librarian there.

She was delighted to have the books donated to her collection.

So I contacted the librarian at the junior high school again. She loved the solution, but asked that the bibliography be not quite so up-front with the use of "those words."

Perhaps I could call it books for teens with "alternative lifestyles," she suggested. Her concern was that having it say GAY or LESBIAN or QUEER (words she couldn't even say OUT LOUD when talking to me on the phone) would be an instant turn-off for junior high school students.
Perhaps they'd be afraid of anyone seeing them looking at the list, and I wonder as well if she saw it as a possible source of unwanted controversy in her library, even having a piece of paper with those words on it.

So, another compromise. Another negotiated solution. This one was painful to make.

I came up with a different title for the list:

Young Adult Books Exploring Different Identities

Oh, I hate that.

But I wanted to at least use "identities" to show that it's not this superficial, "Oh, I think I'll have a PEACH yogurt today, and hey, maybe tomorrow, I'll have a STRAWBERRY yogurt." That's what "alternative lifestyle" says to me. That it's "hey, I think I'll try to be GAY today. And then maybe tomorrow I'll try being STRAIGHT." Being GLBTQ - especially when you are in the QUESTIONING part of our community, is ALL ABOUT IDENTITY.

The choice is whether to be honest about how you feel inside.

But how you feel inside is your Identity.

But I still feel awful about the "sanitized for your protection" version of the bibliography.

Compromise. Compromise.

I keep telling myself the important thing is to get these kids ACCESS to these books.

But does a bibliography list that doesn't even have the words


in the title, when it is about just that - Holy CRAP! Am I modeling SHAME???

Am I teaching them to hide who they truly are?????


I've gone back and forth on this. What to do? Would it be better to stick to my lexiconic guns and insist on the original version of the bibliography

A Brief Bibliography of Young Adult Books
with Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning
Teen Characters and Themes.

But then what if the bibliography wasn't USED at all in the school library? What if it simply wasn't made available because it was too uncomfortable for the adults in charge? What if it WAS made available, and the kids couldn't handle it and it just ended up getting trashed, and no one felt brave enough to hold the "scarlet list?"

I decided to send the "santized for your protection" version to her.

Ugh. But I'm trying to do a good thing, here. I keep telling myself that.

So yesterday, after having worked on this for 3 MONTHS, I mailed this mini-collection of GLBTQ YA books to the South Oxnard Branch Library:

They should get them next week.

I've arranged with the YA librarian at the public library to have a donation card in each book that will read:

This book has been donated in Memory of Lawrence (Larry) King,
in the hope of fostering a world
of greater understanding, acceptance, and kindness.

For more great GLBTQ Teen Reads, check out
“I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell do I Read?”

And I received an e-mail yesterday as well from the junior high school librarian saying that

I will have copies of the bibliography you sent for the students that request the books. I will let them know they can check them out at the public library.

And I guess that is the best that can be done, for now.

I hope the bibliography IS available for kids in that school. I hope it's useful. I hope the books are checked out from the public library, and that they help, a little bit, to make a difference.

That the books let some kid, like Larry, know that they are not alone, and that their journey is unique to them, but also that it will take them into a whole community of similar adventurers.

And that the books let some other kid, some other potential straight kid who is approached by a gay kid and told they have a crush on him - that that kid could think back to the funny book they read that had that gay superhero in it, and realize that Gay kids are pretty much like him.

And just like he'd say if a girl he wasn't interested in approached him to tell him she liked him, he'd simply say. "Hey, thanks, but Nahhh. I don't feel that way for you, bro." And while the gay kid might be disappointed, and maybe a little embarrassed for putting himself out there, he'd be alive.

So I donated these wonderful books.

In memory of Larry, and all the others who have paid for our culture's fear and intolerance of difference with their lives.

Let's make things better.

Let's start reading!



ps- What do you think? Did I do the right thing with the bibliography?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Year of Ice

by Brian Malloy

It's a tough Senior Year for Kevin. He discovers that his mother's death two years earlier (her car went off the road into the icy Mississippi river) may have been a suicide. The reason? His Dad had told his Mom that he was leaving them for another woman.

And if that weren't enough to deal with, Kevin is secretly Gay, has a huge crush on his friend, and yet he can't bring himself to do anything about it.

So Kevin struggles to figure out his life, deal with his father's dramas, and not be destroyed by the secrets that keep revealing themselves during "The Year of Ice."

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Keeper Of Secrets

By Mark Roeder

16 year old Avery is on the run, full of hate. He comes to Graymoor mansion and there, seeing visions through the eyes of a boy murdered over 100 years ago, he realizes he has to confront who he is and who he wants to be.

Meanwhile, Sean is deliriously in love with his boyfriend Nick. Only, he can't believe that Nick (who's so beautiful) could love someone as plain as himself. So Sean sets out to change himself to be the guy he thinks his boyfriend must want.

"Keeper Of Secrets" is a work of passion that Mark published himself. It's the eighth book he suggests reading in his THE GAY YOUTH CHRONICLES series.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Babylon Boyz - A Gay Teen Book

By Jess Mowry

Three African American best friends are growing up in the inner city ghetto of Babylon.

Pook is 14, Gay and out. Wyatt, 13, is seriously overweight. Dante, also 13, was born to a drug-addicted mother, and needs a heart operation or he'll die.

The boyz find some illegal drugs. Lots of drugs. Worth a hell of a lot of money.

Pook and Wyatt want to help their friend. All three of them want to get out of Babylon.

But if they sell the drugs to get the money they need, they know they'll be feeding the destruction of their community. They see the costs of it - they know the costs, because it's the same drugs that destroyed Dante's Mother's life and injured Dante's heart in the first place.

Now they have to figure out what to do.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Transgender Children - How old do you have to be to know who you are?


Okay, have you heard these amazing reports on NPR's "All Things Considered" that aired May 7th and 8th, on the three families with young boys who identify as girls?

Here's the low-down:

Two families with sons the same age, on different coasts, were both faced with the same issue: their two year old boys were obsessed with girly things - toys (dolls and Barbie), clothes (dresses and pretend long hair), the color pink, etc...

By the time both boys were 5, they wanted to be referred to as girls, as "daughters" and both believed STRONGLY that they were actually girls, despite their bodies' external biology.

One family took their son to a clinic where the psychologist's approach is to view it as similar to a black child who insists he's white. The treatment: so far 8 months of intense deprivation for the boy of everything that is girly. No playing with girls. No girl toys. Not even "girly" colors when he's drawing.

The other family took their son to a psychologist who views the situation as parallel to homosexuality. This psychologist told them that their son was most likely going to grow up to be transgender, and that if he wasn't depressed or unhappy about identifying as a girl, that he didn't need therapy, and they should allow him to bloom as the person he is inside.

A side note: Psychiatry only relatively recently (in 1973) took homosexuality off their list of "disorders" and "diseases." And homosexuality used to be treated (by mental health "professionals") with punative measures (like electro-shock therapy - i.e., expose the gay person to images of gay sexuality, and when they got aroused, shock them.) The idea being they would associate pain with the images they liked, and thus become straight. It didn't work.

So where are these two kids now?

The first boy, deprived of anything girly, is struggling. He asks his Mom to cover his eyes when they pass anything the color pink, afraid he won't be able to control himself. He's learned the answers his parents want to hear - he tells them he doesn't want to be a girl anymore. But he screams it - angry, intense, afraid. He plays with girl toys whenever he can (they find him behind closed doors in relatives' houses, playing with dolls...) The parents aren't convinced all the therapy has truly helped their kid be more comfortable with who he is outside. They don't know what to do... And so the therapy (and the deprivation) continue.

The second boy, functioning as a girl and now in school, is thriving. Joyous. Popular.

(You can listen to this first news story here, "Two Families Grapple With Sons' Gender Preferences")

In part two of the series, they introduce us to a 10 year old who, while born a boy, identified so strongly with being a girl inside that the parents were afraid their child would kill themselves if he was not allowed to be who he felt he truly was - a she.

After years of struggling with this, the family finally allowed their son to change his name and "he" now lives as a girl. They are planning to have her take medicine to prevent her from going into male puberty, thinking that at 16 she'll be older and better able to decide for "good" if she wants to take female hormones to then go into female puberty.

(Interestingly, preventing her from going through male puberty will make her physically much closer to a biological female if and when she transitions. That way her body (think hips, hands, height) will grow to be a woman's size, rather than a man's size.)

You can listen to part two here, "Parents Consider Treatment to Delay Son's Puberty"

Another interesting wrinkle in this is that our culture is SO uncomfortable with boys acting feminine - but we're much more comfortable with girls acting masculine. Nobody blinks at a girl taking Karate, but it's still a fuss to see a boy taking Ballet.

Girls can wear pants, but boys can't wear dresses. Or can they?

My heart goes out to the three families featured, and to these kids. I'm not Transgender, so I can't completely understand what these kids are going through, but the whole issue of DENIAL OF SELF hits me very powerfully.

I know that the family (and even the therapist) who are trying to force that little boy to deny anything girly he identifies with and likes are trying to help him, but I also know how painful it is to deny a huge chunk of who you are.

I think that family (and that therapist) are mainly motivated by a world that on the whole isn't kind to those who are different. The Mother even cited an incident when her son was playing with a Barbie Doll at the local park and two ten year old boys took him and threw him off a jungle gym because he was acting like a girl. He was hurt, and she feared for his future safety if he didn't learn "to get along."

If he didn't conform to what everyone expected a little boy to be like.

If he didn't HIDE who he was inside.


That's so painful.

And yet, in a world where Gay 15 year old Lawrence King is murdered by a classmate for being himself, for being honest and true to who he was, is the mother of this child so wrong? Every parent wants to protect their kid, right?

But will our world ever change if everyone hides who they truly believe themselves to be?

And how old to you have to be to truly know who you are?

What do you think?

Take this survey (super-quick, I promise) and cast your vote!

Click Here to take survey

Results next Friday...

Also, you can go ahead and weigh in with your thoughts right here, in "comments!"



Thursday, May 15, 2008

Country Girl, City Girl

By Lisa Jahn-Clough

Phoebe is a shy country girl, 13 years old and living on a farm in Maine.

Melita is a glamorous Manhattan city girl, exiled there for the summer.

They're both lonely, and become unlikely friends, bonding over their plans for a feminist fashion show.

After the Summer, when Phoebe visits Melita in the Big Apple, she discovers her friend has a crush on a boy.

Phoebe's crushed by that, and starts to realize that maybe, she wanted something more from her friendship with Melita...

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


By Chris Crutcher

When Bo loses his temper he gets kicked off the Football team and is told if he doesn't do the before school Anger Management class he'll be expelled from High School.

So instead of football, he decides to train for a triathalon (hence the title, "Ironman.") As far as the Anger Management class, he expects the other kids to be losers, future freeway sniper types, but that's where he meets Shelley, a future American Gladiator, who becomes his girlfriend.

The adults in Bo's life include his father who seems to bent on breaking his son's dreams, the Japanese Cowboy Anger Management teacher, a swimming coach, and Larry King - the talk show personality, to whom Bo writes a series of unmailed letters.

In the course of the novel, Bo has to deal with love, divorce, child abuse, mastering his anger, and (here's the Queer part) finding out someone he cares about is gay.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Someone Is Killing The Gay Boys Of Verona

By Mark Roeder

Verona, Indiana has a mystery.

And the only one who can solve it is Gay 16 year old Sean.

But Sean will have to deal with gay ghosts, a homophobic cult, and century old murder... will he be able to solve the crime before the serial killer does away with the NEXT Gay Boy Of Verona?

"Someone Is Killing The Gay Boys of Verona" is a work of passion that Mark published himself. It's the seventh book he suggests reading in his THE GAY YOUTH CHRONICLES series.

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Monday, May 12, 2008

House of the Muses: The Latter Days of Sappho of Lesbos, vol #1 - The Phokaian

By Pam Harrison

3-D graphics, lesbian romance and political intrigue all add up to make this projected six volume historical graphic novel really unique.

Volume #1 - The Phokaian introduces us to Dika, a Spartan female slave who comes to Lesbos, is adopted by an upper class family and betrothed to a man. But Dika falls for the beautiful Timas of Phokaia instead, and has plans to make the woman her own.

Check out the art!

House of the Muses is a story coming to us from across milennia about Sappho and her times, that took the author over 20 years to complete. (Sappho was the most famous Lesbian poet of antiquity. I blogged about her recently here.)

Add your review of this graphic novel in "comments!"

Friday, May 9, 2008

Miley Cyrus: Girl or Woman? Your SURVEY Results!

Miley as the Girl

Miley as the Woman

Okay, so last Friday I posted on the whole Miley Cyrus controversy (where she posed as a "woman" rather than a "girl") and it brought up so much interesting stuff about being a Teenager in our culture that I launched the first SURVEY ever here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

A lot of you participated (thanks!) and here are the results:

Pretty neat, huh?

Oh, and check out this cool website where I made the pie charts. You can make charts for anything! (Pie for everyone! Or, for those of us silly about math, perhaps I should say... "Pi for everyone!")

Keep an eye out for future surveys at this blogsite, and in the meantime, remember you can always add YOUR take in "comments!"



Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Strong and Sudden Thaw

By R. W. Day

A sci-fi gay romance!

In a post-apocalyptic world 100 years in the future, David is a 16 year old growing up on a farm in a small community. Everyone believes that immorality was the cause of the new ice age they're in, so when the new healer in their town, Callan, is caught with another man, it's not good.

It's even worse that David and Callan like each other - a lot.

And there's a dark conspiracy going on across the land, that threatens to destroy everything.

Did I mention there are dragons rampaging about, too?

Part coming out story, part sci-fi novel, part gay romance, "A Strong and Sudden Thaw" was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist in 2006!

Thanks to Hayden for letting me know about it, so I could share it with you!

Add your review of this book in "comments!"

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor... DRESS? Cross-Dressing in the Bible

Okay, THIS is great.

Insofar as the tale of Joseph plays any role in the religious imagination, it seems to have to do with Joseph's "coat of many colors" (Gen 37:3 KJV), and in some obscure relation to this, Joseph's troubled relationship with his brothers.

But what is this garment with which Joseph is "vested"? In the early part of the tale, it has a strangely prominent role. It is introduced as the token of the special favor with which Jacob, his father, regards Joseph, and it becomes the sign of Joseph's alleged death (37:31-33).

Before looking at the relevant texts, however, it is important to ask about the garment as such. For centuries the description of the garment was translated as the "coat of many colors." More recent scholarship has corrected this to a more accurate "long robe with sleeves." Thus the "technicolor dreamcoat" - the object of lavish description in Thomas Mann's extraordinary novelistic expansion of the story and of the Broadway play that owes something to that retelling - has disappeared in favor of a "long robe with sleeves." With that in mind, we may now indicate the texts with which we must initially concern ourselves.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him (37:3-4)

...Joseph has been sent to spy on his brothers, who are out doing the work of sons by shepherding Jacob/Israel's flocks. From some distance the brothers see Joseph coming - perhaps the robe is a giveaway - and plot to kill him. The eldest son, Reuben, however, suggests that they not shed blood.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore, and they took him and threw him into a pit. (37:23-24a)

In the absence of Reuben, the brothers decide to sell the stripped Joseph to some Midianite slave traders. But now the absence of Joseph or his body must somehow be explained:

Then they took Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, "This we have found; see now whether it is your son's robe or not." he recognized it, and said, "It is my son's robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces." Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. (37:31-34)

Three times we are told that the robe is "long" and "with sleeves." The first time it signals Joseph's status as beloved of his father. The last time it signal's Joseph's death. What is this robe?

Oscar Wintermute observes that the description of the robe corresponds to the description of the garbing of the king's daughters in 2 Sam 13:18-19. As it happens, this piece of sartorial evidence is found in the story of David's son Amnon raping Tamar, David's daughter. Tamar is reported to the reader as being "beautiful," which 13:1 says is why Amnon "fell in love with her." What follows is an attempted seduction in which Tamar resists, even suggesting that Amnon apply to David for Tamar's hand. But Amnon's impatience brooks no delay, and the result is a clear case of rape. The success of the rape does not, however, endear Tamar to Amnon: "Then Amnon was seized with a very great loathing for her" (13:15) Tamar, whose virginity has been taken by force, seems willing now to remain with Amnon as "his woman," but Amnon's loathing means that she is sent away, again over her protests. As she is dragged from the scene of the rape and loathing, we are informed:

(Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves; for this is how the virgin daughters of the king were clothed in earlier times.) So his servant put her out, and bolted the door after her. But Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore the long robe that she was wearing. (13:18-19)

This is the only other reference in the Bible to the particular sort of garb that Joseph is identified as wearing. This apparently beautiful and luxurious garment that serves as a mark of distinction for the virgin daughters of the king is the same garment with which the patriarch vested his favorite son. The parallels in the garment episodes are quite striking. Both play a role in the distinguishing of the wearer; both are worn by figures to whose beauty the reader is directed, and both wearers are assaulted by their brothers. Both garments become signs of mourning and violation. These multiple resonances of the long robe with sleeves prevent us from supposing that it is simply incidental that both Joseph and Tamar are depicted as wearing the same fashion statement.

But the dress is that of daughters; it is a woman's dress, or rather a girl's dress (the virgin daughters of the king), that Joseph's father gives him to mark him as specially loved. ... Joseph is poised between adolescence and adulthood, he is singled out and vested with a maiden's garment as a sign of the special affection of his father. He is, at least to this degree, transvested and thus transgendered. The remarkably lovely adolescent male is transgendered by the affection of a more powerful male.

The rage of the brothers is thus doubly motivated. Not only is the youth their father's favorite, but he is also deeply troubling for gender roles. Indeed, readers may well expect that the one to be most troubled by Joseph's place as favorite would be Reuben, the oldest. But as the story is told, Reuben is Joseph's defender. Hence, the gender trouble, rather than Jacob's favoring the younger son, may be much more to the foreground. This is emphasized by the way in which the narrative seems to lay the stress on the feminine garment as the pivot of the story. Thus, the feminine apparel bestowed upon Joseph is the sign of the older male's doting upon him. It is the immediate provocation of the brothers' hatred. And this hatred has as its first object the stripping of Joseph; the removal of the infamous girl's robe. He is laid bare, revealed as not a girl but a boy; not different but the same. Hence he is exposed to the elements, bare and alone, in the pit and without water. Finally, it is the girlish dress that is stained in blood, the blood of the goat (the blood of rape? the blood of menstruation?) and presented, without explanation, to the doting father.

WOW. Joseph's technicolor dream coat was actually a girl's dress. He was dressed as a girl!

It's also pretty interesting that throughout history, many painters depicted Joseph as almost feminine in appearance. Look at the painting above (from the 1800s), especially Joseph's face.

And when we use this queer lens to analyze Joseph's story, his refusal of the advances of Potiphar's wife later on takes on a whole new meaning. Maybe it wasn't simply Joseph's loyalty to his boss that made him reject her come-on. Maybe he just wasn't interested in her... in that way!

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dress. Now that's fascinating!


If you want to read more analysis of Joseph's non-traditional gender role, pick up "Jacob's Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel" by Theodore W. Jennings Jr. The above quotes are from pages 178-182.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Skip Macalester

By J. E. Robinson

Skip's Upper Middle Class family is African American.

His elite prep school is expensive and private.

And his Junior Year is full of secrets exposed and truths uncovered about interracial relationships, the church, his best friend, and ultimately, about Skip himself.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Disastrous Dates & Dream Boys

By Mark Roeder

The guys from "A Better Place" continue their adventures in this volume.

Shawn wants a boyfriend, but fears his father's reaction to learning the truth about him.

Dane wants a soul mate, but what if approaching the guy he likes ends up in disaster?

And Brendan realizes he and Casper will never be at peace until Brendan confronts his father.

"Disastrous Dates & Dream Boys" is a work of passion that Mark published himself. It's the sixth book he suggests reading in his THE GAY YOUTH CHRONICLES series.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Can a 15 year old have SEX appeal? Miley Cyrus hits the satin sheets... and our culture's Age of Consent Issues

Okay, This (if you don't already know) is Miley Cyrus. A.K.A. Hannah Montana.

She's 15.

She's interviewed in Vanity Fair magazine, who gets the Celebrity of celebrity photographers, Annie Liebovitz, to photograph her.

She poses with no top visible. She has on red lipstick. She's partially covered by a satin sheet.

Is she a girl or is she a woman?

Disney (and many fans) scream GIRL! She should have no sex appeal. She's just a cute girl, that every girl should want to be like. She's the girl that every boy should want to (of course) platonically, date, and the girl every parent should want their child to grow up to be.

Clearly Annie Liebovitz was interested in exploring just how much of a woman is there in this teenager that has the world on a string. (There are estimates that she will be worth a billion dollars by the time she is 18 years old!)

I think it's fascinating that she first poses in a "womanly" and revealing set-up, and then reacts to her fans' supposed outrage by reverting to being "girly" and saying she's now "embarrassed" by the photos. Pure celebrity damage-control.

But the whole episode brings up a HUGE issue for our culture. We want our teens to be consumers, we sell everything to them and everyone else with SEX (have you looked at some ads lately? Abercrombie & Fitch, Guess Jeans, almost everything...), but after all that, we don't want our teens to be sexual... ever.

We see it with the blind federally mandated "abstinence-only" sex education programs. (God forbid we teach sexually active teens how to use a condom and avoid getting HIV/AIDS or pregnant!)

We see it in the different age of consents around the world for "gay" versus "straight" sexual activity.

And we see it in Miley Cyrus' doing a woman's photo shoot when everyone wants to keep her a "girl."

How come none of these adults REMEMBER being a teenager? It's precisely that awkward mix of girl/woman, of boy/man that is so confusing and so powerful. And I guess, so scary to adults that have forgotten...

So how come no one's asking Teens what they think?

Well, I am. Asking, that is.

What do YOU think? Can a 15 year old have SEX appeal? Was Miley Cyrus wrong to pose suggestively, or was she wrong to apologize?

Click Here to take the very first "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" Survey - It will take you less than a minute, I promise!

I'll post results Friday of next week...

Thanks for being part of this!


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Plain Janes, The

By Cecil Castellucci (writer) and Jim Rugg (illustrator)

In this graphic novel, after teenage Jane is injured in a terrorist attack in Metro City, her parents drag her off to live in suburban Hell. That's where she teams up with three other girls named "Jane."

Together with their Gay friend James they launch "art attacks" in their conservative community to make life more interesting. Local teens love it - the adults freak out about it, and the Plain Janes need to figure out how important being authentically different and true to yourself really is...

I was fortunate enough to talk with Cecil recently about the upcoming sequel - and she shared with me that as the story progresses, the GLBTQ content jacks up, including James' roll, his being gay, and a few other Queer surprises.

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