Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The TrevorSpace Book Club's LIVE WEBCHAT with David Levithan Answering YOUR Questions Is Today!

Co-Author of "Will Grayson, Will Grayson," David Levithan is going to answer your reader questions!

So click in between 5pm and 6pm East Coast time (2pm to 3pm West Coast time) to have a shot at getting YOUR question answered!

Once the live chat is over, you can watch the archived show by clicking above.

Get those questions ready, and enjoy!

My thanks to the Trevor Project Youth Advisory Council members, everyone at The Trevor Project and Advocate.com for making this cool finale of "Will Grayson, Will Grayson" as a TrevorSpace book club selection a reality!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Let's Talk About "Will Grayson, Will Grayson!"

So tomorrow is our big finale of the TrevorSpace book club's selection of WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON by David Levithan and John Green - the live chat Q&A with David Levithan from 5-6pm East Coast time (2-3pm West Coast Time) - and I wanted to make sure we all got a chance to join in the discussion about this great book. Even if you're outside the TrevorSpace age range (13-24), you can join in the book club discussion here!

Here's five of my favorite discussion thread questions (a mix of my own and questions from Trevor Project Youth Advisory council members Megan (21) from California, Blair (21) from Illinois, Shannon (21) from Florida, and Nathaniel (19) from Nevada) to help get us going:

And careful - questions 3-5 are spoilers!

In the first chapter of the book Will Grayson introduces the two rules he guides his life by, "1) Don't care too much and 2.) Shut up." In your opinion, do you think these rules are good advice? Do you have rules for your own life? What are they?

One of the Will Graysons gets a fake I.D. Do you think the laws that prevent minors from drinking until they're 21 are justified?

spoiler: After what Maura did, should the other Will Grayson have stayed friends with her?

spoiler: Why do you think it was so important for both Will Graysons to say they love and appreciate Tiny? What does Tiny represent throughout the novel? Do you have a person in your life that is kind of like Tiny?

spoiler: What do you think the future holds for the other Will Grayson and Gideon and for Jane and Will Grayson?

Okay, let's talk "Will Grayson, Will Grayson!"


ps - you can check out my book club selection launch interview with David Levithan here!

Friday, May 27, 2011

June Pride Month Challenge: 30 Days Of Gay T-Shirts!

So I've blogged before about wearing my "Legalize Gay" T-shirt, and I've been thinking about this for a while.

Four things have led me to this idea:

1) My discussions with Benji about the concept of "passing privilege,"

2) My discussions with a new African American and Gay friend who takes issue with comparisons of the Gay Rights struggle to the Civil Rights Movement.

3) My watching the recent Aimee Mullins Opportunity of Adversity TED Talk video where I didn't know what her disability was for the first few minutes of watching it and how I was struggling with that, my desire to "categorize" her feeling like a betrayal...


4) My habitual moment of hesitation when I grab my "Legalize Gay" t-shirt from it's spot in the drawer. A moment when I think about where I'm going and what I'll be doing... and if wearing the shirt is going to be challenging or difficult, or not.

It's all coalesced to make me realize that I'm not even aware of how often I'm 'passing' as straight. 'Passing' as a member of the majority.

If your skin is dark, or if you're a member of a minority where you can't 'pass' as white, your experience of going through our world must be very different than mine. So I decided I want to do something to gain more insight into being a visible minority and be more real and upfront about my being gay.

So here's the challenge I'm going to undertake:

For the month of June, every day I'll wear a T-shirt that explicitly supports gay rights and/or says that I'm gay.

I'll be wearing my blog T-shirts that proclaim: "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

I'll be wearing my "Legalize Gay" T-shirt.

I'll be wearing my "It Gets Better" T-shirt.

I'll be wearing my "It's Okay To Be Takei" T-shirt.

I'll be wearing my "Smile If You're Gay" T-shirt.

...and I'll be looking for others to wear, too!

I'm excited to take this challenge, and wanted to share it with you. And please, if anyone wants to join me, I'll be happy to hear about (and share on this blog) your experience, too!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

NBA Player Joakim Noah Fined $50,000 for his Anti-Gay Slur: How The NBA is trying to do the right thing, one teachable moment (and fine) at a time

Okay, here's the scoop: after Kobe Bryan's anti-gay slur at an official during a game (and resulting $100,000 fine), the coming out as gay of NBA team president Rick Welts, and the new PSAs by the NBA about how anti-gay slurs aren't cool (the last video below), Chicago Bulls player Joakim Noah called a fan a 'f-bomb f-word.'

The NBA's response? A $50,000 fine.

Which I think is great. While his 2011 salary is listed as $3,128,536, the price of a 'nice' car seems like it's at least an acknowledgement that anti-gay words will NOT be tolerated.

I keep wondering what if schools had a similar policy - and while the currency of school isn't money, but grades, what if your grades in every subject across the board dropped one letter if you used an anti-gay slur? Call someone an 'f-bomb f-word' and your B average becomes a C average for that entire semester. If the offenders are jocks who have to keep a certain GPA to play their sport, it might make them realize that there are consequences they care about. Not to stereotype jocks, if participating in extra-curriculars are the currency (from yearbook to debate) figure out what that person's currency is and make it cost.

In fact, making people who spew anti-gay hate speech accountable is a huge part of turning the tide on prejudice of all kinds, and really is a Homophobia Smack-Down.

I'm glad Joakim apologized, but I'm even more glad he was fined. Because with all this negative publicity, and with the penalty, I bet you the next time he gets pissed off at someone, he'll hesitate before those words come out of his mouth again.

Anti-Gay Slurs are NOT acceptable. And I'm so glad the NBA has finally recognized their responsibility to stand up against this, and to change the sport, and our world, for the better!

Here's some video for you:

The Slur: This video shows Jokaim yelling the slur, and his mouth isn't blurred out - be aware you can read his lips and figure out exactly what he said:

The Punishment:

The Apology: Interesting, this one afterwards during the analysis talks about how Noah ended up having a terrible game. I wonder, since the slur happened in the first quarter, if Noah was concerned about what the consequences of his anti-gay moment would be. If he was thinking about Kobe being fined $100,000. If that contributed to his head not being 'in the game.' It's nice to see that there was a cost beyond financial and PR-wise... it cost him focus and resulted in a really low-scoring game for him. Oh, and Noah's team, the Chicago bulls, ended up losing that game to the Miami Heat, 96-85. With Noah scoring 11 points less than in a regular season game, he may very well have COST his team the game. 11 points would have tied them up.

Did the slur cost his team the game? Could it cost them the championship? We'll see...

Overall, it's a teachable moment for everyone in the sport.

And here's the NBA's new public service announcement:

I'm going to be making that buzzer sound the next time I hear anti-gay language! EAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gender 101, Episode Eight: Gender Queer Advice & Resources

This week's discussion includes Benji's advice to other gender non-conforming people and a sampling of Gender Queer resources.

Here are direct links to the resources Benji mentions in the video:




And I love Benji's message to other gender non-conforming people:

"You're not alone."

Thank you, Benji!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

George Takei Responds To The Tennessee "Don't Say Gay" Law

The bill, SB 49, just passed in the Tennesse Senate and while it's future prospects of becoming the law of that state are unclear, George Takei (Gay Rights Activist and Sulu from the original Star Trek) has made this brilliant video:

I'm pretty excited about getting one of those T-shirts.

Bravo, George!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Newt Gingrich Glitter Bombed... Does This Help or Hinder Our Movement Towards Equality? (A GSA Monday Discussion)

So last week, Republican Presidential Candidate (and no friend to the Gay Community) Newt Gingrich was appearing at an anti-gay "family values" event - The Minnesota Family Council, an anti-gay group pushing the gay marriage ban in Minnesota - when he was glitter-bombed:

Well, first of all, in answer to the security guard's question, "Have you ever seen us attend one of your events?" YES, you do come to our events (like our Gay pride celebrations) and spread anti-gay hate.

Now in your GSAs, and here, let's discuss the Pros and Cons of this kind of activism. Here are my lists, and feel free to add your own points!


It's newsworthy and gets people talking about Newt Gingrich's anti-gay agenda

It's non-violent (glitter doesn't really hurt anyone)

It's confrontational - and the anti-gay movement needs to be confronted.


It's confrontational - and that might turn some people off.

Is showering the table with glitter going to change any minds at that event or just further polarize those people against Gay equality?

Now if you've ever done an art project with glitter, you know it's pretty hard to get rid of afterwards - it sticks to your skin, your clothes. A speck of silver shows up on your cheek two days later...

Newt was brushing some off his shoulder, and I imagine that some of that glitter stayed on him for the rest of that event. And personally, I kinda like the idea that the it would be hard for him to get rid of the sparkly reminder that his anti-gay politics are not universally appreciated.

I'm also very happy/relieved that the protest was video recorded, and it seems like the gay activists were able to leave safely.

What do you think?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Today Is Harvey Milk Day!

Here's the official website for Harvey Milk Day:

Let's celebrate Harvey's legacy by fighting for the equality of all of us, and giving others hope!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Aimee Mullins: The Opportunity Of Adversity

I adore these TED talks, and this one was really eye-opening and thought-provoking.


So much about Aimee's talk resonated for me,


"All you really need is one person to show you the epiphany of your own power and you're off!"

to her explanation of the remarkable and heartbreaking "Streaming Trials" study,

to the line that still echoes in my mind:

"The only true disability is a crushed spirit"

this is well worth the time to watch.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coming Out In Sports, TV Journalism, and Fighting Homophobia: Rick Welts, Don Lemon and Ben Cohen's Triple Play!

Three really cool things happened in the last week:

The first is that Pheonix Suns (a team in the National Basketball Association) president Rick Welts came out as a gay man,

Mr. Welts explained that he wants to pierce the silence that envelops the subject of homosexuality in men’s team sports. He wants to be a mentor to gay people who harbor doubts about a sports career, whether on the court or in the front office. Most of all, he wants to feel whole, authentic.

“...This is one of the last industries where the subject is off limits,” said Mr. Welts, who stands now as a true rarity, a man prominently employed in professional men’s team sports, willing to declare his homosexuality. “Nobody’s comfortable in engaging in a conversation.”

But Rick is talking now, and he's being backed up by big names in the NBA. Read more here, and you can also watch this video interview:

The second really cool thing to happen was that Don Lemon, a CNN news anchor, also came out as a gay man. This is remarkable not just for the scarcity of openly gay news pundits, but for Don's being African American and willing to stand up and out - that's breaking double ground.

In the article about his new book, Transparent," and his coming out in the New York Times, Don is quoted:

“It’s quite different for an African-American male,” he said. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.” He said he believed the negative reaction to male homosexuality had to do with the history of discrimination that still affects many black Americans, as well as the attitudes of some black women.

“You’re afraid that black women will say the same things they do about how black men should be dating black women.” He added, “I guess this makes me a double minority now.”

I think the line that got me the most was when Don said:

“I think if I had seen more people like me who are out and proud, it wouldn’t have taken me 45 years to say it,” Mr. Lemon said, “to walk in the truth.”

And the third cool thing to happen is that straight ally and English Rugby star Ben Cohen has retired from playing professionally to start a foundation aimed at ending homophobia in sports.

This week Cohen, who won 57 caps and scored 31 tries for his country, sets out on a tour of the US on behalf of a new foundation set up in his name, devoted to fighting homophobia in sport.

Although not gay himself, Cohen has become a gay icon in recent years and has decided to use his high profile to support gay and lesbian sportspeople struggling to come to terms with their sexuality in an unforgiving environment.

Some great things are happening, and I wanted to share them with you!



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gender 101, Episode Seven: Gender Neutral Bathrooms - and why they're important

Lucy brought it up in last week's video, the issue of gender neutral bathrooms. Here we discuss why that's an important safety issue for anyone who's not gender conforming.

I learned about the term 'passing privilege' and frankly was stunned to learn about this issue - one that I've never really considered before.

Here are links to three articles referencing the stories Lucy and I mention in the video:

The Trans Student attacked in a university bathroom in Long Beach, California Transgender Student Attacked on CSULB Campus Speaks Out

The Trans Woman arrested for using the woman's bathroom in Houston, Texas Trans Woman Speaks About Restroom Arrest


The story of the butch woman who during gay pride in New York City was thrown out of a restaurant for using the women's restroom is in the article, Restrooms Become Gender-Identity Battleground

Ever since this conversation, I think about the challenges Gender Queer people face each time I have to use a public restroom.

I'm so grateful to Lucy for sharing this with me... and with us.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Boy Princess, Vol. 1 - A Gay And Cross-Dressing Graphic Novel For Teens

By author and artist Seyoung Kim

When a Prince's soon-to-be-bride elopes with the stable keeper two days before their wedding, her desperate family dresses up their youngest son, Prince Nicole, and sends him to get married in her place to secure the alliance between the two kingdoms.

With Prince Nicole's pretty blue eyes, cascading blonde hair, and strategically placed apples, nobody bats an eye at the pretty 'girl' standing before them.

Prince Nicole marries Prince Jed, but how long can he keep up the charade?

Despite odds against them, the two princes share adventures and intimacies in this mesmeric offbeat romance.

This is the first in a series of nine volumes of swords, sorcery and adventures for Prince Nicole and Prince Jed! It was also published under the alternate title, "Kiss Me Princess."

My thanks to Robin Fosdick, Reference Librarian, Youth Services at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library in Oregon, for letting me know about her library's excellent list of GLBTQ Graphic Novels For Teens!


Monday, May 16, 2011

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide For Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens

By Kelly Huegel

This book should be in every school and public library in America. Scratch that. In the world.

From the dedication (so sweet!)
“…And for queer kids everywhere. You are my heroes.”
to the final lines that tell every reader to "enjoy yourself and your life. You deserve it."

Kelly gets the tone just right: informative, clear, helpful, encouraging, patient and warm.

I read this guide cover to cover, and while that's certainly not the only way to read it, it was packed with great information and advice.

Pheonix Schneider (The Trevor Project's Program Director) wrote a beautiful foreword – stirring and honest, about how the journey to be authentic is really what it’s all about. Sexual orientation, gender identity, whether you fall into an easily identifiable category or not – each of us are on the adventure to “feel most comfortable being who you were born to be: your unique, beautiful self.”

As Kelly writes, “The journey from being a confused, scared teen to the out and proud person I am today was a road traveled not by big leaps, but instead by many small steps.”

And this guide walks us through our own steps.

“The purpose of this book is not to make you choose a label, but to help you get to know yourself and be more comfortable with who you are.”

Love that!

The Chapters are:



Coming Out

Life at School

GLBTQ Friends

Dating and Relationships

Sex and Sexuality

Staying Healthy

Religion and Culture

Transgender Teens

Work, College and Beyond

(and there's a glossary, resources, selected bibliography and index at the end.)

In 11 chapters there's so much Kelly covers, and all of it with common (or perhaps we need to acknowledge that it's uncommon) sense!

Moments in the guide I have to tell you about:

"Reparative therapy and transformational ministries can be very destructive to queer people’s self-esteem because the goal is to convince those who are GLBTQ that their thoughts and feelings are wrong and unnatural. If you need help coming to terms with being GLBTQ, or if you just want someone to talk to, seeking therapy or counseling to discuss these issues is a good idea. But talk to someone who won’t try to make you feel like it’s wrong to be who you are. You don’t need to try to fix who you are, because nothing is wrong with you in the first place." (pg. 14)


And from the section, "Your Personal Geography: Exploring Who You Are

"What it all boils down to is that it doesn’t really matter what the “experts” say. The only person who is a true expert when it comes to you is you, so what matters is what you say. You’re the only person who can make a definitive statement about who you are — or you can decide not to make a definitive statement. While you can’t control whether you’re GLBTQ, you can shape how you feel about yourself. You have the power to improve your self-esteem." (pg. 15)


There are amazing statistics, like this one:

In his book The New Gay Teenager, Savin-Williams asserts that, based on his own study of teens, “it is safe to conclude that at least 15 percent and maybe as high as 20 percent of all adolescents have some degree of a same-sex orientation.” (pg. 15)

WOW - 15 to 20%?


According to GLSEN’s “2009 National School Climate Survey,” 53 percent of students reported having been victims of cyberbullying.


And the changes in one generation:

A Gallup poll conducted in May of each year asks Americans about their attitudes toward homosexuality. In 2008, 57 percent of all Americans surveyed said they found homosexuality to be an acceptable lifestyle, compared with only 34 percent in 1982. Acceptance of GLBTQ people is even higher among younger generations—75 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 surveyed said they feel homosexuality is acceptable.


According to the “2009 National School Climate Survey” conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), nearly 60 percent of students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third felt unsafe because of their gender identity or gender expression. In addition, 40 percent of GLBTQ students surveyed reported experiencing physical harassment (such as being blocked from walking down the hall), and nearly 19 percent reported being physically assaulted (punched, kicked, etc.) at school in the last year because of their sexual orientation.

One of the great things about this guide is that throughout there are quotes from teens and youth about the topics being discussed. "Been There" quotes hit not just "that was my experience" but also "here's what I did." One of my favorites:

Been There
“I was just doing my thing at my locker when one of a group of girls looked at me and said, ‘You’re a dyke.’ I looked back at her and smiled and said, ‘You say that like it’s a bad thing.’ She was stunned. She just looked at me for a minute, then turned and walked away.” Anna, 17 — pg. 38

love that!

And while sharing some of the challenges of being queer (like haters existing in the world) the guide never lets us lose sight of hope... like this moment, talking about one response to anti-gay protestors, from pg. 38

The protestors later went to Montgomery Blair High School to demonstrate against the school's gay-straight alliance (GSA). A local open congregation launched a fundraiser in response, encouraging churchgoers to donate money for every minute the Kansas group protested the school. The church donated the money to a local gay rights organization.

The guide tackles myths, something that's so important to address:

Myth #2: Gay men are attracted to all men, lesbians are attracted to all women, and bisexuals are attracted to just plain everyone. The truth: Just like straight people, queer people have personal tastes in what they like, whether it’s food, cars, or people they’re attracted to. Because the stereotype is so common, some people may be uncomfortable when they first meet a GLBTQ person. (“Oh, he’s gay. . . . He must be checking me out.”) But coming out to someone is not the same thing as coming on to the person. The more people are exposed to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, the more they come to understand that. (pg. 19)

So important to talk about!

Myth #9: Queer people recruit. The truth: This myth is rooted in a misunderstanding that GLBTQ people choose to be who they are, and so therefore they can talk or turn someone else into being queer. An especially vicious aspect of this myth is the accusation that GLBTQ people “recruit” young people. In fact, this book has been banned from a few libraries because some people allege that the information in it is designed to “turn” young people GLBTQ. Being gay isn’t like buying a car — a skilled salesperson can’t just talk you into it. Personal identity and attraction are highly individual and can’t be dictated by someone else. (pg. 22-23)

Perfectly said!

The guide is full of great resources, like:

ACLU Youth & Schools
The American Civil Liberties Union advocates for equality for all people, and this site offers tools that can be helpful for promoting tolerance in schools, including those in rural areas.

Centerlink serves as an online directory for GLBTQ centers.

The National Youth Advocacy Coalition, through a partnership with The Trevor Project, also provides info on state and local organizations working with GLBTQ teens.

A great offering were some ideas of how to respond to homophobic remarks, (pg. 40) like:

“What’s with the hate?”


The chapter GLBTQ Friends, ‘We Are Family,’ shares the message that the GLBTQ community has room for you just as you are – and that’s so important and so true.

And of course, I appreciated the shout out on pg. 87:

Speaking of Books . . . Finding Yourself in Literature
Just as it's important to connect with other GLBTQ people in real life, it's also great to see yourself represented in books. Being able to read about people (real or fictional) who are like you or who have had similar experiences is important to feeling "normal." Writer and blogger Lee Wind operates an award-winning site (www.leewind.org) for which he reviews and catalogs many books with GLBTQ character and themes.

Thanks, Kelly!

Making Connections: The section on GLBTQ Online Communities included a discussion on internet safety which was good stuff!

On dating:
“The key is to be true to yourself and honest with the person you’re spending time with.”

Such good advice!

I really appreciated this guide's very real take "On dating and pda" (public displays of affection)

Assessing the Situation
Homophobes aren’t lurking in every shadow, but they are out there—including some who are dangerous. Unless you’re on extremely familiar or otherwise safe turf, like a GLBTQ establishment or event, before leaning in for a peck, do a quick check of your surroundings.
• Are a lot of people close by?
• What’s the feeling you get from them by looking at them?
• What are your instincts telling you?
• Are people minding their own business, or do they seem a little too interested in yours?
• Are you in a place that’s open or easily accessible, or are you in a confined space where it would be tough to leave quickly?

Good stuff to consider.

There's also

Tips from recovering from a breakup – recognizing that love lost can be more difficult for GLBTQ teens because they might not have the support for being themselves that straight teens have by default.

Very thoughtful.

Another thing I love about this guide (as on page 101, in the advice for dealing with breakups section) are the examples of insensitive comments others might make with suggestions of what your responses might be:

“Good – you can go back to dating girls now.”

“If you and Dad split up, would you start dating women?


“It’s not like it was a real relationship anyway.”

“It hurts when you belittle how I feel. Whether you approved of the relationship isn’t the issue. This isn’t about you, it’s about me.”


Dating violence – something rarely if ever mentioned in the straight community, is addressed, with measured advice:

Dating violence for GLBTQ young people is very similar to abuse and violence in straight teen relationships, but queer teens may face additional challenges. They may have to deal with homophobia and ignorance about GLBTQ relationships. Abusive partners also might threaten to out the person being abused.
GLBTQ teens might struggle with ideas of what relationships should be like because relatively few positive queer role models are available. This can make abuse harder to recognize because victims don’t expect it or see it addressed in GLBTQ relationships. No matter who you’re dating, you have the right to be treated with respect by your partner.

• Abuse is about control and power, not love.

Wise words.

And then, beautifully, Kelly flips the lens and in a sidebar asks:

What If It’s You?
What if you're worried that you are the one treating your partner disrespectfully or abusively? Recognizing this is a very important step. Consider these questions:
Is this the type of person you want to be?
Is this the kind of relationship you want to have, instead of one built on mutual respect and trust?
There can be a lot of reasons why you're treating your partner abusively. Maybe this is the kind of relationship your parents or other family members have. You might need to get support for emotional issues you're dealing with. It's not too late to get help. You, too, can call any of the resources listed in this chapter to talk to a trusted adult. Do it not just for your partner, but also for yourself.

Such important words to share.

In the chapter on Sex and Sexuality, there was a great section on tools to make choices about sex

According to the CDC’s “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, 2009,” 46 percent of high school students had engaged in sexual intercourse. So although it might seem like it, not everyone is having sex. If you decide you’re not ready or you’re not interested, you’ll have a lot of company (54 percent of your peers, to be precise).
Researchers have also found that some teens who tell their peers they’ve had sex are stretching the truth. With all the pressure to have sex, it’s understandable that some teens feel the need to lie about their experiences. Some tell stories to get attention, to feel more mature, or to get people to quit asking if they’re having sex. Knowing that they could be lying gives you another reason not to base your decisions on what your friends might or might not be doing.

(that was from page 114) and this awesome “been there” quote:

“Don’t straight people know they’re heterosexual before they’ve had sex?”

There were great resources on sex info (pg 123) and solid, conservative advice on safer (as opposed to “safe” sex.)

The Staying Healthy chapter included more surprising stats - on depression, and a section talking about five great ways to beat the blues. It was wonderful advice, and I was so happy to see the journaling suggestion. Works for me…

And the "A deal for life" contract (pg. 139) was poignant. I'm so glad the Trevor Project lifeline (866-4-U-TREVOR, 866-488-7386) is there for teens who don’t have someone to take that pledge with, because by calling, everyone one of them has someone to talk to. You – we - are all important. Every one of us. That means you, too.

This section also included more stunning statistics, like this, from page 138:

While overall use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco has declined somewhat for teens in the last several years, overall substance abuse rates are still much higher for GLBTQ teens than for their straight peers. A 2008 article published in the journal Addiction, which analyzed data from 18 different studies conducted between 1994 and 2006, reported that GLBTQ teens are 190 percent more likely than heterosexual teens to use drugs or alcohol. The numbers are even higher among subgroups. For example, bisexual teens are 340 percent more likely to use drugs or alcohol than straight peers, and lesbians are 400 percent more likely.
Why are these numbers so high? Dr. Michael Marshal, a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh and the main author of the study, said, “Homophobia, discrimination, and victimization are largely responsible for these substance use disparities in young gay people.” Still, he noted, “It is important to remember that the vast majority of gay youth are happy and healthy, despite the stressors of living in a...homophobic society.”

The guide covers alcohol, cigarettes, and drug use, drawing the connections between those behaviors and stress and depressed feelings.

Some of the quotes from teens in this chapter made me tear up, like this one:

“I started doing drugs when I was nine. I tried to fit in with that crowd and hide my ‘secret identity.’ By the time I was 13, I was put in drug rehab… My rehab counselor told me I wasn’t going to be able to stop using unless I was true to myself. I went home and thought about what he said. The next day I started coming out to friends.” - Sam, 15 (pr. 145)

Kelly says:

No matter what anyone tells you or how badly you might sometimes feel, you have the potential to make anything you want of your life. You can do amazing things. If you need help getting through a rough spot, reach out for it. It’s there and it’s never too late.

It's a topic that is so nicely handled.

Issues like homophobia and ignorance about gender identity are things that you sometimes have little or no control over. Focusing on things you can control, such as adopting positive and healthy behaviors, goes a long way toward creating a happier and more fulfilling life for yourself.
(pg. 149)

I loved Chapter 9 – on religion and culture - as well. The discussion of the influences of different religions and cultures and how they intersect with being GLBTQ was an excellent beginning to dealing with and exploring the issues.

I also loved learning about these resources for LGBTQ Teens of Color (pg. 164):

Ambiente Joven (www.ambientejoven.org).
This Spanish-language site for queer Latino teens includes information on religion, sexuality and safe sex, as well as resources throughout the United States and South America and links to other sites of interest.

AQU25A (www.apiwellness.org/youth.html).
AQU25A, a program of the Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center, is for GLBTQ young adults ages 25 and under. Their site includes information and referrals, as well as activities in the San Francisco area.

Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride (www.apifamilypride.org).
Their mission is to foster acceptance of sexual and gender diversity among API families. The site includes links to API-specific resources, including books and videos.

Trikone (www.trikone.org).
Trikone is a nonprofit organization for GLBTQ people of South Asian descent (including people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet.) Its goals are to bring people of South Asian heritage together, help people affirm South Asian identity as well as their sexual orientation and gender identity, and fight discrimination.

Zuna Institute (www.zunainstitute.org).
Zuna Institute explores issues related to being a black lesbian in today's society and advocates for civil rights. Their website includes information and resources, advocacy opportunities, and links to many other organizations and sites for black lesbians.

Really, this guide is a goldmine!

I really enjoyed the wrap up of this chapter:

Being a Whole Person: Integrating All Parts of Yourself
If you’re having a hard time reconciling your culture, religion, disability, and so on with being GLBTQ, you could be feeling alone, confused, or rejected. Figuring out where you fit in your culture as a queer person and how you can integrate your culture into your life can be a long process. It can help to remember that there are GLBTQ members of every race, religion, ethnicity, and cultural group. No matter who you are, you’re not alone. (pg. 166)

The Transgender Teens chapter starts with these words: “Sex is what’s between your legs. Gender is what’s between your ears.” (pg. 167)

This chapter continued the ride of great information, and even included these Historical gems as a sidebar:

You GO Girls Challenging Gender Roles in History:

In early 18th-century Germany, a woman named Catharina Margaretha Linck dressed as a man, served in the army, and then went to work as a cotton dyer. Catharina even married a woman (although the bond technically wouldn't have been legal.)

During the Revolutionary War, Deborah Sampson dressed as a man and joined the Continental Army. Deborah was also known to have had romantic relationships with other women.

Kelly gives the guide's readers clarity and a reassuring tone that it’s a journey, and that even if you don’t have all the answers right now, “as long as you understand that whoever you are is okay at any stage of your life, that’s a good thing.” (pg. 176)

The Transgender Teen chapter also had resources, like Gender Spectrum, and Camp Aranu’tiq (a weeklong, tuition-free overnight summer camp held in Southern New England for transgender and gender variant young people ages 8-15.)

Transgender people can face difficult issues, but many live very meaningful, fulfilled, and happy lives. The most important thing you can do is accept yourself for the wonderful person you are. (pg. 188)

The guide also includes information on finding a GLBTQ friendly college, with resources like “the online Campus Climate Index (www.campusclimateindex.org). This site is operated by Campus Pride, a national non-profit group for student leaders and campus groups that works to create more GLBTQ-friendly environments at colleges and universities. The Campus Climate Index includes reviews and ratings of colleges, ranking how GLBTQ-friendly they are. It also includes information on size, degree offerings, tuition, and financial aid resources for GLBTQ students.” (pg. 195-196 .)

It's good advice for any student, really… but especially for GLBTQ queer students.

And I was so happy to learn about:

The Lambda 10 Project is a group for GLBTQ Greek organizations and addresses a variety of issues that can be part of being Greek and queer. Its website (www.lambda10.org) also features news and resources and hosts a bulletin board and chat room for GLBTQ Greeks.

Most of all, in every chapter, "GLBTQ: The Survival Guide For Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens" offers smart and sage advice.

Okay, I can't say it enough. Every school and public library should have a copy of this guide. And if I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd help them buy it.

Thank you, Kelly, for writing this. Finding a guide like this would have changed my entire life as a teenager - and for the better. And I know that it will change lives now.


Friday, May 13, 2011

A Podcast and Virtual Lunch with Katie Davis, Me, and YOU!

Children's books author/illustrator Katie Davis has the number one children’s publishing podcast on itunes, and recently we sat down for an actual meal together, during which she recorded our conversation. And that conversation is now Katie’s Brain Burps About Books Podcast Episode #43, rather flatteringly titled: “Lee Wind, Blogger Extraordinaire.”

Katie and I chat about a whole bunch of great stuff, including:

This blog - and how I’ve just passed half a million visits!

The ALA’s list of the top ten most challenged books of 2010 (with shout-outs about “And Tango Makes Three,” “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” and “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins.)

Our mutual love of SCBWI

And during our lunch (and this podcast) I even did my SCBWI Team Blog video interview of Katie, who is going to be on faculty at this summer’s 40th annual SCBWI international conference in Los Angeles! My team blog interview of Katie (the video) will be posted on this blog in the next couple of weeks...

We also spoke about my amazing experience being mentored by Emma Dryden as part of the SCBWI Nevada Mentor Program, with shout outs to Suzy Williams and Ellen Hopkins for creating the program!

We got into the ideas of innovation and how failing fast gets you to success faster, and one great example of innovation we mentioned was Greg Pincus’ Poetry Spread The Word Kickstarter project – which was just successfully funded!

...and we even managed to bring up Jane Yolen in a pirate hat - and there's a picture!

So give it a listen while you’re having lunch (or riding your stationary bike, or doing something else for 40-some delicious minutes) and enjoy the discussion!


ps: Blogger was out of commission there for a while, which is why this post is coming online so late. Thanks for your understanding!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Emma Dryden: The Exclusive SCBWI Team Blog Pre-Conference #LA11SCBWI Interview

I got to sit down with Emma Dryden, drydenbks founder and SCBWI Board Member, and have her share more details with us about her keynote at the upcoming 40th Anniversary SCBWI Summer Conference!

In addition to her Friday Keynote, Emma will also be leading a Saturday morning workshop, "Independent Editors and new Models for Publishing Our Stories," and a Sunday afternoon pro-track workshop with Harold Underdown, "Social Media for Authors and Illustrators."

The conference will have Emma, over 20 leading editors, art directors and agents, and many of the great children’s book authors and illustrators of our time, including Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray, Bruce Coville, John Green, Norton Juster, Donna Jo Napoli, Mary Pope Osborne, Gary Paulsen, Jerry Pinkney, Jon Scieszka and David Small.

So go check out all the faculty and conference offerings, register, and I hope to see you there!

And remember, you can stay on top of all the pre-conference interviews and news by checking in on our Official SCBWI Conference blog and on Team Blog Captain Alice Pope's indispensable SCBWI Children's Market Blog - bookmark them both!


Gender 101, Episode Six: Being Gender Queer In Our World

So here Benji and I continue the conversation, delving into what's the experience of being gender non-conforming in our world.

And then, what are the things we can all do to make it better?

And like Benji mentioned, here's some teen fiction with gender non-conforming characters and transgender characters!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Blog Challenge: Let's Watch Our Words. Instead of "You Guys," let's say...

So I recently attended a conference session on empowering youth activists to fight homophobia and transphobia put on by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

I was really impressed.

Daniel Solis (their Southern California Program Coordinator) and two amazing teen facilitators, Claudia and Emily, went around the room and asked as we all introduced ourselves for our preferred gender pronouns - that sparked some great conversations. (Like we've been exploring with Lucy in our Gender 101 series, there are more than two genders, and you can't always tell by the way someone looks how they identify. So there would be ZE/HIR/HIRS (pronounced "Zee", "Here" and "Here's"), SHE/HER/HERS, HE/HIM/HIS, and another gender-neutral option, THEY/THEM/THEIRS.)

One of the things that came up in the discussion was the gender bias behind using
"you guys"
when talking to a group of people who maybe aren't all guys.

And for those who aren't guys, the expression is a not-so-subtle reminder of male privilege and the patriarchal power structure of our culture.

I know I say "you guys" all the time.

But now that the problem with the phrase has been pointed out to me, I know I can do better. We all can.

So here are some options. Instead of
"You guys"
how about

"You folks"

"You all"



"Hey everyone"

... and I'm open to your suggestions, too.

What are some other good options to "you guys?"

So let's all take the challenge to make our world a less gender-biased place, and let's all watch our words! What do you say, you all?


Monday, May 9, 2011

The Witch Hunt Against An English Teacher Who Writes Erotica, and How It Backfired!

So here's the scoop: A High School English Teacher, Judy Buranich, writes erotica under the pseudonym Judy Mays, and has had her books published.

But some parents found out that Judy's books were erotica and tried to get her canned.

The good news? In Judy's words:

"...the entire fiasco backfired on the parents who complained. The support I have received from around the world has been unbelievable. Two complete strangers started a support page for me; and, the last time I checked, it had over 9000 “like” hits. However, it’s been the support from my current students, many, many former students, and their parents that has humbled me and warmed my heart. I was always pretty sure I was respected, but the outpouring of support from “my kids” has brought tears to my eyes more than once. They have rocked my world.

Also, the support of the romance community, both authors and readers, has been overwhelming. So, I want to thank everyone who has joined me on this wild ride from the bottom of my heart. You are all truly wonderful people.

And, not to worry. I am not going to lose my teaching job over this.

Oh, my books sales will probably go up too.

Again, thank you all very, very much."

Check out this video, made by a former student of Judy's, that says it brilliantly:

I'm so glad to see that the vast majority of reaction to this has been in the teacher's defense. We ARE moving our world in the right direction - we just have to make sure we keep pushing and standing up and having our voices of reason heard!

Oh, and here's the link to the support Judy Mays facebook page - they were at 9,153, but then I just liked it - so they're at 9,154! If you're over 18, you can like it, too.

If you're under 18, I'm curious: Would it matter to you at all if one of your teachers - in their spare time - wrote erotica?


Friday, May 6, 2011

The Exclusive David Levithan Interview To Kick Off The TrevorSpace Book Club Selection: WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON

David Levithan is the author of "Boy Meets Boy" and "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist," among other great titles.

John Green is the author of "Looking for Alaska" and "Paper Towns," and he's also a vlogging sensation.

Together they've written "Will Grayson, Will Grayson," the
"story of two boys with the same name whose lives intertwine. Featuring Tiny Cooper, whose life needs to be a musical."

I'm very excited to interview David Levithan as the kick-off to our featuring his and John Green’s amazing book as the official launch of the Trevor Project book club!

Here’s how this works:

The kick off interview with David is here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

it will be going up on Advocate.com

and will be live at TrevorSpace today!

For the next 21 days we’ll have daily discussion threads over at TrevorSpace.

Each day we’ll choose at random one participant in the conversation to win a signed copy of “Will Grayson, Will Grayson!” (And hey, if you win and already own a copy, keep the signed one and share the other one!)

And as our finale, we’ll have a live webchat hosted by Advocate.com on Thursday May 26, 2011 at 6pm Eastern, 3pm Pacific, where I’ll moderate a real-time Q&A between David and the book’s readers - you guys!

My thanks to these Trevor Project Youth Advisory Council (YAC) members for their awesome interview questions and discussion thread topics; Megan (21) from California, Blair (21) from Illinois, Shannon (21) from Florida, and Nathaniel (19) from Nevada.

Now let’s jump into our interview!

Lee: Hi David. Thanks so much for being part of this! Here’s the first question: “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” was the first teen book with a gay main character to hit the New York Times bestseller list. What was that experience like?

David: Well, it was about time, wasn’t it? I was thrilled that we could bust that particular barrier, and I know John was thrilled as well. But equally thrilling is that nobody really cared. Ten years ago, someone might have used that as Exhibit #1 of the world falling apart. Now people just see it as a story.

Lee: You’ve spoken in other interviews about how you and John Green each wrote one of the Will Graysons in alternating chapters – John the straight Will Grayson, and you the gay “other will grayson.” Can you share a bit about how you and John orchestrated the two plotlines and characters converging?

David: I came up with the general idea, based on the fact that one of my best friends is named David Leventhal, and I have thus been interested in the things you can learn about yourself by having a twin (or near twin) name-wise. John and I figured out the name together (I chose “Will”; he chose “Grayson”) and where and when the two Wills would meet. Then we wrote our first chapters independent of each other – because our Wills were in separate places, it made sense to write them separately. When we were finished, we came together and read the chapters out loud. This became our ritual – writing separate chapters, then reading them out loud to each other. Obviously, when we got to the part where both Wills were in the same place at the same time, we had to coordinate more … but that was it.

Lee: Wow, that's fascinating. Okay, a perfect character is boring, but a flawed queer character opens you up to criticism that you’ve created a character that reflects poorly on gay people or feeds into stereotypes. How do you deal with that as an author?

David: There’s no such thing as a perfect person, so it makes no sense to write a perfect person. I don’t know any author who’d try. And we write characters, not representations of groups. I can honestly say I’ve never thought for a second about whether a character reflects poorly on any group. All that matters to me is that the character is true to my belief in who he or she is.

Lee: Case in point, here’s a question from the Trevor Project YAC readers: “I was drawn more to the romance of Will Grayson and Jane than anything Tiny Cooper or the other will grayson had going on, and I very much enjoyed reading as their relationship developed. Why choose to display a very functioning hetero-relationship and very dysfunctional gay relationships in a novel mainly geared towards LGBTQ youth?

David: I’d say that this says more about you as a reader than it does about the characters – we all gravitate towards different things, and that’s one of the coolest things about reading. And the novel was never meant to be mainly geared towards LGBTQ youth – it’s geared towards everyone. (Personally, I think Will and Jane’s relationship is just as messed up as anyone else’s – but, again, that’s in the eye of the beholder. I don’t think any of the relationships in the book is perfect … which is the point. They never are perfect, straight or queer. But that doesn’t make them any less meaningful. If anything, it makes them more so.)

Lee: And now for some additional questions from the Trevor Project Youth Advisory Council readers:

Trevor Project YAC: You make many references in the book to will grayson being suicidal and/or homicidal as well as depressed. Though it is flippant, what was the purpose of highlighting his depression?

David: That’s just will talking – everything is exaggerated to him when it comes to articulating his thoughts and feelings. But the underlying depression is very real. I wanted to show someone who is dealing with depression on an everyday basis. It’s not the main story of his life, but it’s always there. I feel that most novels that grapple with depression make it the main story, and focus on the discovery phase. I wanted to show someone who lives with it, and is fine.

Trevor Project YAC: Did you draw inspiration for the characters and storyline from your own personality or life experience? Which character is most like you?

David: I’d never even thought about it, but the character I’m probably most like is … Jane. How weird is that? Because, of course, I didn’t write her character at all. But I guess that answers your question – while there are pieces of me in all of my characters, rarely are any of them close in personality and/or experience to me. There are rare exceptions to this … but none in this book. (I probably aspire to be most like Gideon.)

Trevor Project YAC: In the book, will grayson meets Gideon, who becomes a pretty great support system and voice of reason for him. Who was your Gideon growing up?

David: Great question. I was lucky to have the support of a large group of friends – most of them girls. So I’ve never really relied on just one person – I think life is better that way. As for a voice of reason – well, I don’t think anyone was too consistently a voice of reason. If anything, that’s my role. But I think even the best voice of reason has to be ridiculous every now and then.

Trevor Project YAC: What advice would you give LGBTQ youth struggling in today’s society?

David: Who was it who said “Don’t let the bastards get you down?” Shaw? Anyway – that’s good advice for most things.

Lee: Thanks, David. That is great advice. We're all so delighted to have you be part of this!

And remember, if you’re 13 to 24 years old, sign up over at TrevorSpace to be part of their safe and moderated social network and jump into the conversation! And for everyone – no matter what your age – know that we’ll also have a discussion day all about the book here at this blog.

You can even win a signed copy by commenting here! Today's discussion thread:

What would you tell a friend about "Will Grayson, Will Grayson?" Would you recommend it? If so, what would you tell them to convince them to read it?

I'll pick one commenter at random Sunday night at 6pm Pacific time.

So go get yourself a copy of David Levithan and John Green’s “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” read it, and join in the fun!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Donovan's Big Day - A Two Mom Wedding Picture Book That I Wish Had Been Read To Me When I Was A Little Kid

By Leslea Newman, illustrated by Mike Dutton

Donovan got up, and remembered that it was a Big Day.

He had a lot to do: eat breakfast, get clean, get dressed, and then Donovan was given a very important small box.

At the right moment in the ceremony (an Aunt tells him it's time)...

He opened the box very carefully.
He handed one shiny gold ring to Mommy.
He handed one shiny gold ring to Mama.
He stood next to both of them
without saying a word
while they slid the shiny gold rings
onto each other's fingers,
looked into each other's eyes,
said mushy things to each other,
and smiled and laughed and cried.

Check out the interior illustration of that moment:

This is a beautiful picture book. The text is spare and heartfelt, and the illustrations are luminous and so appealing.

Leslea did something so interesting in creating this "same-sex marriage celebration seen through the eyes of a child" - in that a child having this read to them wouldn't know Donovan has two moms until that moment in the wedding ceremony, four pages from the end. Everything up till then is universal, for any child, for any wedding.

And I love the point that this story makes - our queer love is just the same: something to celebrate!

Leslea Newman keeps breaking new ground and writing important, beautiful books that I love. And I'll keep telling you about them!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gender 101, Episode Five: "Bisexual" & "Pansexual" - what's the difference?

Today I ask our gender queer friend Lucy more about language. I heard some people use the term "pansexual" recently, and I wasn't exactly sure what it meant - and how (or if) - it was different from "bisexual."

And now Lucy explains the distinction between those attractions and sexual orientations for me, and for you!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Guys Lit Wire Puts On A Book Fair For A High School in Washington, D.C. With More Students Than Books!

The still image above is from a video school librarian Melissa Jackson made of her library at Ballou Senior High School in Washington D.C. That section above is their fiction section. Seriously, I have more books that that on my shelves at home! They had 1,150 books in total on the shelves when they made this video, and over 1,200 students.

Well, we can all help. Guys Lit Wire is putting on a book fair to get specific books the students and librarians want into the Ballou Senior High School library.

Guys Lit Wire is a wonderful blog and community that I'm proud to be part of, with the goal of bringing "the attention of good books to [Teen] guys who might have missed them." Colleen Mondor (who's been the volunteer engine putting this whole thing together!) is much more eloquent than I about this annual book fair for a needy school library, so I urge you to head on over and read all about it. And then go to Powells and buy the Teens at Ballou Senior High School a good book. Maybe buy them two.

And hey, consider buying them one (or more) of the great GLBTQ Teen titles included on their wish list of 900 books.

Scrolling through just the first hundred, I already saw:

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

The Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr

After Tupac & D Foster
by Jacqueline Woodson

And you can always include YOUR favorite GLBTQ Teen title as an extra donation!

So be part of the Guys Lit Wire book fair to fill the shelves at Ballou Senior High School library. It's a really concrete way to make a difference for the better.

Now I just have to figure out what books I'm going to buy them...



Monday, May 2, 2011

Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" Bill and The Mistake State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R) and Other Homophobic Politicians Are Making

So legislators in Tennessee have decided to create and move forward through their Senate committee a bill that would

"prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in the classroom before the ninth grade...

The bill requires that “no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality."

This is so messed up, I need to tackle it from a few sides:

1. Being attracted to members of the same (or opposite) sex is not "catching." Discussing men falling in love with men, or women falling in love with women, won't make a straight child gay any more than my growing up surrounded by images and stories and movies and a whole world of men falling in love with women made me straight - it didn't, I'm gay, and it just made it harder to figure things out as there were NO gay role models or even examples I could find to say, "Oh, that's who I am."

2. Discussing someone's being gay (or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, or questioning, or queer) is not the same as discussing sex. There are age-appropriate ways to discuss sexuality and gender identity without being graphic or inappropriate. I, like many other gay parents, have a child, and we talk about a prince falling in love with another prince (as opposed to a princess) and it's an easy and natural discussion. Talking about my family (my husband, myself and our child) is no more a discussion of sex than talking about any straight person's family. Think about someone straight you know. When you talk about their family, are you talking about sex? Probably not. Well, it's the same thing.

3. Given that this is the same Tennessee lawmaker who has proposed issuing death certificates for aborted fetuses and permitting guns on college campuses, it makes me wonder if it's all a cynical publicity stunt - say inflammatory things against an unpopular minority, and mobilize the conservative base that put you in office in the first place. Get those donations up. Make some headlines.

But the tragedy of this is that a gay kid growing up, afraid of coming out, is going to hear about this and perhaps think, Oh, God. The authentic me is such a terrible person - the people in charge don't even want it mentioned to kids that people like me exist! And then we wonder why we have a culture where GLBTQ kids feel so alienated. Why parents still throw their children out of the house when they come out. Why we have such a higher rate of gay teen suicides.

This kind of prejudice, ignorance and hatred-of-those-different-from-you does not belong in our world, let alone in any of our laws.

This bill makes Tennessee and our world a worse place, and we need to be heading in the other direction.

My hope is that Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield (pictured above in the Huffington Post article on the 'Don't Say Gay' Bill) and his colleagues who voted with him might come across this post. And learn where they are so, so wrong.

Because we all need to be moving our world towards letting every gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender and questioning and queer kid growing up know that it's okay to be the REAL people they are. That they are perfect just as they are, flaws and passions and in-process journey to become themselves, and that we'll be here, cheering them on as they undertake their adventures to adulthood.

That's the real job of being an adult.

Perhaps Tennessee's lawmakers might consider that as this bill continues it's journey to hopefully not become law.