Friday, September 28, 2012

Check In With Our 2011 Intern Soraya: The Facebook Status Debate

I heard recently from our amazing 2011 summer intern Soraya (she did a great job with establishing this blog's GLBTQ Biography and Memoir Bookshelf)

Soraya's off at college now, and told me about The Facebook Status Debate...

Here's what happened, in her words:

I don’t usually engage in political or religious arguments on Facebook. I prefer looking at pictures of puppies or talking to my friends about new music we’ve discovered. A few days ago, however, I was saddened to have seen a status update from a younger friend of mine in San Diego who is openly gay. His status read, “I'm not going to apologize for this. This is just a warning: If you feel the need to chastise me for my beliefs, don't do it on the Internet. Do it in person. Where you're actually responsible for the repercussions. Calling my beliefs false is not very ‘Christian’ of you. I put up with your b******t, the least you can do is ignore me if you don't like me. Thank you very much.” I asked him what exactly had transpired, and he told me that it centered on his church’s gay pride day. He held up a sign that asked, “what if Jesus was gay?” and he received a lot of flack for it. But the judgment of his sign soon led to judgment of his sexual orientation and how his sexuality affected his religion.

This was an issue for which I could no longer stand idly by. I had to get involved, and I had to do it in the nicest, most honest way possible. My first comment questioned why this whole ordeal was going on. Christianity, I continued, and all religions were based around a group of people coming together, with love and acceptance, to find hope in a bleak situation. I always thought the point of a lot of religions were to support one another and the people within it. Even though I am an atheist, I’ve never had a problem with other peoples’ religions. The problems only arise when people try to use religion to ostracize others.

The “Facebook Status Debate” went on for about an hour. Quite a lot transpired in that hour, and I saw a lot of maddening ignorance. However, I’m extremely proud of myself. I never once offended the other side’s religious beliefs. I only forced them to question their own. And honestly, this would not have gone so well if I did not have a great education and a love for knowledge. I’ve read a lot of the Bible and know a lot about the parts I haven’t read, so I knew what to expect from the opposition. I also used a lot of science that I learned in my physics, chemistry, and biology classes to point out why certain inferences were incorrect. And thanks to the debate classes I took long ago in middle school, I made connections between all the things the opposition said to point out how contradictory their own statements were.

By the end of the night, I received many texts from friends and Facebook messages from people I didn’t know, all of whom thanked me and congratulated me for sticking to my beliefs and standing up for a friend, without worrying about how I would be judged by others. I’ll also point out that I was pretty excited to see that most of my comments had received on average, 25 likes. That’s a lot of support. I just felt really good after the whole thing. I was really happy to have defended such a good friend of mine and to have silenced the harsh words of others, even if the silence is only temporary. At the risk of sounding dogmatic, I really hope that many others continue to do the same. The effect may seem small, but if more people do it, it will feel bigger and bigger. It is truly an amazing feeling to know that you have made people feel loved while at the same time getting their attackers to question themselves. It is definitely good to pick and choose one’s battles, but the less bystanders we have in this world, the better.
"The less bystanders we have in this world, the better."


Thanks Soraya!  I'm proud of you!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Somethin' Else - A 1960 Rock And Roll Coming Out and Coming Of Age

Somethin' Else by E.S. Parkinson

In 1960, riding the Rock and Roll dream into the future meant giving up everything you thought you knew in the past.

Set on the cusp of the 60s, when everything seemed grey and staying put felt as scary as getting out, SOMETHIN' ELSE is Jim’s story – a working class lad grimly determined to get to university, but dreaming of nights on the town and the promise of rock and roll. Jim feels trapped in the post-war housing development, the routine of work and school, and with the girlfriend he can’t quite manage to fall in love with.

Until he meets Edward – full of passion and possibility - and in an instant, Jim’s world is turned upside down and nothing is the same. Edward doesn’t seem to notice rules or barriers and helps Jim to see the world through fresh eyes. Jim and Edward long for escape, but in the end, escape means different things to each of them and brings with it as many questions as solutions.

Add your review of "Somethin' Else" in comments!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Red Pen - an Underground High School Paper that covered GLBTQ issues after they were censored by the school, wins Courage in Student Journalism Award

“We would like to express our sincerest thanks to our Principal and assistant principals,” Elsie Blake, the editor of her school’s newspaper The Crier, said in a brief address. “Their continual suppression of our writings about issues such as gay rights, sexual misconduct, and bullying have taught us what journalism will be like in the real world, thus preparing us for what is to come.”  - from an article on page three of The Red Pen, an underground high school student newspaper

This story is awesome!

The annual Courage in Student Journalism Award was given to students of duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky. and to James Yoakley, former yearbook and newspaper advisor at Lenoir City High School in Tennessee, for their valor in overcoming administrative censorship.
The Kentucky students formed The Red Pen newspaper after facing continuous restrictions from their principal and administration against publishing controversial stories in the school-sanctioned publication, including stories about atheism and LGBT people. Similarly, Yoakley was reassigned to teach 7th grade English after defending a student for publishing an article about his personal experience of coming out as gay.
More about the award going to the students (from the Student Press Law Center):

The Red Pen was the brainstorm of student staffers at duPont Manual’s official student publication, The Redeye, who became frustrated with edicts from their principal to refrain from mentioning topics that might cause controversy, including homosexuality. The students even were forbidden from publishing a news story about the arrest and firing of a teacher whose removal was already well-publicized in the local media.
The students – Zoe Schaver, Patrick Hartel, Emily McConville, Kelsey McKim, Dakota Sherek and Virginia Johnson – used their own off-campus time to build a website,, and raised the money to distribute a print version."

You can go to The Red Pen to download a copy and read the students' underground newspaper yourself.

I love their exposing the history of censorship at their school (including the Principal ordering a two-page spread on gay students at the school cut out of every issue of the 2009-2010 yearbook.)  And this section from their editorial statement on page 2 was inspiring:

Whereas, in the interest of democracy and honest expression, responsible students ought to have a voice unrestricted by external control,
Whereas this voice must be protected, expanded and well-communicated,
Whereas systems of prior review and administrative regulation of student press do unjustifiably restrict this voice,
Whereas we, students of Kentucky, wish to create an organization which supports all true journalistic endeavors,
Whereas good journalism can and will lead to a more just and open society,
We hereby establish, as an extension of the free student press of Kentucky,
The Red Pen.

Congratulations to the students, and to us all - I'm glad they'll be the journalists of tomorrow!


Thanks to my husband for the heads-up on these students winning this award for their courage!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

October Mourning: A Song For Matthew Shepard

OCTOBER MOURNING: A Song For Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman
On the night of October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay, twenty-one-year-old college student was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. The Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered and remained haunted by Matthew's murder.

October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard's life.

I had the opportunity at the 2012 SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City to sit down with Jane Yolen (award-winning author of over 300 books for young people!) to hear the scoop about the latest book coming out from a member of Jane's writing group, the incredible and ground-breaking author Lesléa Newman.)

Lesléa and her publisher gave me permission to share two of the poems from the book here:

from the Prologue, pg. xv


Out and alone
on the endless empty prairie

the moon bathes me
the stars bless me

the sun warms me
the wind soothes me

still still still
I wonder

will I always be out here
exposed and alone?

will I ever know why
I was put on this earth?

will somebody someday
stumble upon me?

will anyone remember me
after I'm gone?

and, from page 16

(that night)

I held him all night long
He was heavy as a broken heart
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing

He was heavy as a broken heart
His own heart wouldn't stop beating
He was dead weight yet he kept breathing
His face streaked with moonlight and blood

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

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

We were out on the prairie alone
Their truck was the last thing he saw
I saw what was done to this child
I cradled him just like a mother

Their truck was the last thing he saw
Tears fell from his unblinking eyes
I cradled him just like a mother
I held him all night long

Jane's right.  The poems are stunning, and so powerful.

"OCTOBER MOURNING: A Song For Matthew Shepard" is out today.  Add your review in comments!

Monday, September 24, 2012

GLSEN, The Anti-Defamation League and Story Corps' Unheard Voices Project - an incredible resource!

Over the last four Mondays, I've shared a few of the stories that are part of the GLSEN Unheard Voices project.

And there are more interviews and teacher guides to explore!

Kendall Bailey speaking about the impact of Don't Ask, Don't Tell

David Barr talking about The Early Days of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

Terry Boggis on LGBT Family Rights and on being a queer parent

Charles Silverstein on his role and view of the Declassification of Homosexuality as a Mental Illness


David Wilson on the Struggle for Marriage Equality

With California's passage of the FAIR Education Act, GLSEN's Unheard Voices is an important resource for middle and high schools to tell (and discuss and learn about) our untold LGBTQ history.

Unheard Voices is a joint project of GLSEN, The Anti-Defamation League, and StoryCorps.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Google Un-Bans "Bisexual" as a search term

Reported at Kevinism and Advocate (among other sites),

Google has taken "bisexual" off it's list of words it marked as only used to find pornography.

At the urging of bisexual advocacy organization BiNet USA, Google unblocked the term “bisexual,” and phrases such as “bisexual quotes,” “bisexual rights,” and “bisexual parenting” are now automatically suggested to Google users as of this month.

“It’s not every day one of the biggest companies in the world changes its mind, but we are thankful that Google now sees bisexual people just like everyone else,” said BiNet USA president Faith Cheltenham. “It will take time for bisexual search terms to be ranked as they were before the ban, but now bisexual people and their allies have a fighting chance to be seen, heard, and understood.”

It's a big step for Bi visibility, and it once again makes it clear that having the word "SEX" within terms like homoSEXual and biSEXual are, in our puritanical culture, making it seem like sex is all we're about.  Hence the idea that maybe we should be talking about love instead. 

HomoLOVEuals.  BiLOVEuals.

For now, Bisexual is still the accepted term - and how great that people can use it in their Google searches!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Unwelcome - Book 2 in the Archangel Academy (Gay Vampires!) Series

Unwelcome by Michael Griffo

At Archangel Academy, Michael Howard has found new friends, new love, and a place that feels more like home than Nebraska ever did. But the most unexpected gift the school has given him is immortality.

Life as a newly-made vampire is challenging for Michael, even with the experienced Ronan to guide him. Michael’s abilities are still raw and unpredictable. The ancient feud between rival vampire species is sending ripples of discord through the school, and the new headmaster’s charismatic front hides a powerful and very personal tragedy. As Brania’s father and the leader of his race of vampires, the headmaster finds Michael and Ronan an unwelcome intrusion and wishes to rid the world of their rival race.

Yet everything Michael discovers about the Academy pales in comparison to what he’s learning about himself. The fact that he has to take a human life in order to sustain his existence is taking its toll, as is the truth about his mother’s death (which was believed to be a suicide). Choosing the wrong person to trust—or to love—could lead to an eternity of regret.

Add your review of "Unwelcome" in comments!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Glamazonia the Uncanny Super-Tranny - Trans Comic Power!

Glamazonia the Uncanny Super-Tranny, Created by Justin Hall, with art by Hall, Diego Gómez, and more than a dozen special guests.

Glamazonia the Uncanny Super-Tranny is busting heads and breaking hearts! Watch as our heroine gains her powers from the bite of a radioactive drag queen, has a three-way with Fidel and Che, and tussles with that witch, Power Princess. Comics have never been so fabulous!

A finalist for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction, you can add your review of "Glamazonia the Uncanny Super-Tranny" in comments!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Silhouette of a Sparrow - A Teen Comes of Age (and Falls in love with Another Girl) in 1926

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin

Sent to spend the summer with distant relatives at a resort hotel in Excelsior, Minnesota, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson—budding ornithologist; reluctant troublemaker; adventurous spirit—quickly compiles a list of all the things she wants to do: sneak into the new amusement park, wander the countryside looking for new birds, and somehow convince her mother to let her attend college. It’s 1926 and Garnet is well aware of the world’s expectations of her: after this summer with her relatives, she is to marry, settle down, and become a housewife. But what no one expects—least of all Garnet—is that she’ll fall in love with the beautiful and daring Isabella, a flapper at the local dance hall. It is she who will give Garnet the courage to take control of her own life and pursue her dreams.

This is the author's debut novel.  Add your review of "Silhouette of a Sparrow" in comments!

Monday, September 17, 2012

James Dale tells his story of taking on the Boy Scouts of America

Part of the incredible Unheard Voices project,

Check out this minute and half MP3 interview with James Dale, an Eagle Scout who came out as gay in college, received a letter from the Boy Scouts saying if he was gay he couldn't continue to be a Boy Scout, and he knew it was wrong.  He started a 10 year legal battle... and ultimately lost in the Supreme Court.

There's also an accompanying Teacher Guide (with an introduction to the audio interview, discussion questions, suggested activities and assignments and student handout.)

This battle with the Boy Scouts of America over including gay scouts continues today, with recent news in July 2012 that the Boy Scouts will continue to exclude Gay people.

I love this moment from the discussion questions:
James said that “seeing those words in that letter, I wasn’t going to walk away from it.” What would you have done in James’ situation? What personal qualities do you think it takes for someone to stand up for what he believes is right?

With California's passage of the FAIR Education Act, GLSEN's Unheard Voices is an important resource for middle and high schools to tell (and discuss and learn about) our untold LGBTQ history.

Unheard Voices is a joint project of GLSEN, The Anti-Defamation League, and StoryCorps.

Friday, September 14, 2012

One Term More... A Broadway-style Musical Homage To Les Miserables... and the November 2012 USA Election!

The title image from the "One Term More" Video

Don DeMesquita wrote new words to the song "One Day More!"from Les Mis to create this partisan parody, with a lot of kidding-on-the-square truth in it...

Check out the remarkable and funny One Term More video.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tell The Wolves I'm Home - 14 Year Old June Comes Of Age After Her Gay Uncle Dies of AIDS

Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

1987.  There's only one person who has ever truly understood 14 year old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss.  Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can be herself only in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend.  So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June's world is turned upside down.  But Finn's death brings a surprise acquaintance into June's life - someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn's funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd.  A few days later, she receives a package in the mail.  Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn's apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet.  As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she's not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

This is Carol's debut novel.  My thanks to my husband for letting me know about it (and encouraging me to read it!)

Add your review of "Tell The Wolves I'm Home" in comments!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy Families - Teen High School Senior Twins find out their Dad is Transgender

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis

Ysabel and Justin are twins and high school seniors.  Their parents have split and their father moves away and starts living as a woman... as Christine.

The twins spend Spring Break with the woman who used to be their father, and the three of them do therapy, take-out, and a rafting trip together with other transgender parents and their children.

And Ysabel and Justin try to figure out just what makes for Happy Families.

I found out about this title from the Saints and Spinners blog here.

Tanita won the Coretta Scott King Honor for her novel "Mare's War."  Add your review of "Happy Families" in comments!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No "Cure" For GLBTQ Youth! - Let's support CA Senate Bill 1172

Not that long ago, they used to do electroshock to try to change gay people and make them straight.

Heck, even when I came out in my twenties, the first thing my parents thought of was getting me to a therapist to "fix" me. 

There's nothing to fix (except the society that makes queer people feel less than!)

And in fact, all the legitimate research shows that the only way people are able to "change" is if they fake it.  Even the ex-gay ministries admit the gay feelings never go away.  (And there are some famous stories of ex-gay leaders who fell in love with each other - in gay love, that is!)  There's a lot of hate out there, and a lot of self-hate.  But we shouldn't let so-called "medical" and "mental-health professionals" continue to torture kids who just want to be themselves.


The California State Assembly recently made history by passing a landmark bill that will ban psychological abuse inflicted on LGBT young people by deceitful mental health professionals who falsely claim to be able to change their sexual orientation or gender expression.

Senate Bill 1172—authored by California State Senator Ted Lieu—will stop mental health professionals from harming young people with this dangerous practice, but only if Governor Brown signs the bill into law.

Family Equality Council has organized an campaign to send emails to California Governor Jerry Brown - and you can add your voice!

Let's make it clear that it is unethical and wrong to try to change who people authentically are - and that trying to change those young people should have consequences!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Jamison Green, Transgender Activist, Has His Voice Heard

Part of the incredible Unheard Voices project,

Check out this two minute MP3 interview with Jamison Green, a trans man who is honest about his life journey in a conversation with his daughter, Morgan.

There's also an accompanying Teacher Guide (with an introduction to the audio interview, discussion questions, suggested activities and assignments and student handout.)

There's a really powerful moment in the interview, when Jamison says to his daughter

"And after you were born, as I was experiencing my relationship with you, I didn't feel that I could actually be an honest, whole person in my relationship with you, or with anyone, if I didn't transition."

And then his daughter responds, "And I think that I am probably a better person for it."

With California's passage of the FAIR Education Act, GLSEN's Unheard Voices is an important resource for middle and high schools to tell (and discuss and learn about) our untold LGBTQ history.

Unheard Voices is a joint project of GLSEN, The Anti-Defamation League, and StoryCorps.

Friday, September 7, 2012

International Literacy Day is Saturday September 8, 2012

"Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, one’s income, and one’s relationship with the world.

The uses of literacy for the exchange of knowledge are constantly evolving, along with advances in technology. From the Internet to text messaging, the ever-wider availability of communication makes for greater social and political participation. A literate community is a dynamic community, one that exchanges ideas and engages in debate.

Illiteracy, however, is an obstacle to a better quality of life, and can even breed exclusion and violence.

For over 65 years UNESCO has worked to ensure that literacy remains a priority on national and international agendas. Through its formal and non-formal literacy programmes worldwide, the Organization works to realize the vision of a literate world for all."

International Literacy Day is a project of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  You can find out more here.

I love how they're talking about literacy as a means of empowerment.  I think that is so true, especially when you pair literacy with books that show people whose voices and experiences have previously been silenced.

Let's all consider how each of us can help get the world reading...

and get them reading some of the great LGBTQ teen books featured here!  (Which has a nice tie in to the Random Acts of Publicity project Darcy Pattison is running this week!)


Thursday, September 6, 2012

If I Told You So - A Gay Teen Comes Out And Comes Of Age

If I Told You So by Timothy Woodward

Sixteen-year-old Sean Jackson’s summer is off to an inauspicious start. The only place hiring in his small New Hampshire hometown is the local ice cream shop owned by the “Fabulous” Renée, who has a reputation for being tough on employees. Donning a pink t-shirt to scoop sundaes for tourists and seniors promises to be a colder, stickier version of hell.

On his first day of work, Sean meets Becky, a wickedly funny New York transplant with a sarcastic attitude and a taste for mischief. The store manager, Jay, is eighteen, effortlessly cool, and according to Becky, “likes” Sean the way Sean’s starting to like him. But before Sean can clear a path to the world that’s waiting, he will have to deal with his overprotective mother and come out to his sweet, popular girlfriend, Lisa. And just when he thinks he has it all figured out, Sean’s absentee father shows up unannounced. Over the course of one unforgettable summer, Sean must deal with the uncertainty of being gay in a small town, the excitement and danger of his first gay kiss and the difficulties of coming out to the people closest to him.

This is the author's debut novel.  Add your review of "If I Told You So" in comments!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Commerical Worth A Thousand Words...

Check out this Toyota commercial from Japan...

I love how it's not what we expect, and the volumes it says about gender.

You can read more about it here on Salon.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kiss The Morning Star - A Teen Lesbian (and maybe Bisexual) Road Trip Love Story Adventure

Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole

Even better than a standard synopsis, here's the author telling us about her book:

Add your review of "Kiss The Morning Star" in comments!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Michael Levine was at the Stonewall Bar the night the Rebellion began

Part of the incredible Unheard Voices project,

Check out this two and a half minute MP3 interview with Michael Levine, a gay man who came out in the 1960s and was at the Stonewall bar the Friday night the famous Stonewall Rebellion began.

There's also an accompanying Teacher Guide (with an introduction to the audio interview, discussion questions, suggested activities and assignments and student handout.)

“When we came back on Saturday night,” describes Michael of returning to the Stonewall Bar with his boyfriend after the first night of the Irish police and Puerto Rican Drag Queen confrontation, “we stood there on the street and held hands and kissed – something we would never have done three days earlier. It made me feel wonderful."

With California's passage of the FAIR Education Act, GLSEN's Unheard Voices is an important resource for middle and high schools to tell (and discuss and learn about) our untold LGBTQ history.

Unheard Voices is a joint project of GLSEN, The Anti-Defamation League, and StoryCorps.