Friday, December 31, 2010

GLBT Challenge 2011

Welcome to the GLBT Challenge 2011!
The Challenge that Dare Not Speak its Name...


The basic idea of this challenge is to read books about GLBT topics and/or by GLBT authors.

The challenge runs year-round as usual, but instead of requiring a certain number of books, this year I'm handling this challenge in a more do-it-yourself sort of fashion. You set your own goal. It doesn't matter if that goal is 1 book, 10 books, a percentage of your books, or to read from various age groups/genres. Your goal is completely up to you. Design this the way you want. Make it work for you. The important thing here is simply to get us reading GLBT lit.

You don't need to choose your books right away, and they can change at any time. Overlaps with other challenges are fine.

In January, I will put up a review linky. Those links help serve as a reference for others. They are also how I will track participants for the end of year prize drawing. For each book you review and link up, the greater your chance will be at winning. At the end of 2011, I will use to select one participant - from the review linky - to win a book of their choice (up to $20) from the Book Depository.

If you're interested in participating in this challenge, sign in to the Linky below. You may sign up at any time of the year!

*****PLEASE NOTE: This linky is to sign up for the challenge only, not to post reviews. Please post your reviews (with direct URL) on the Review Linky. Links to reviews on the sign up page will be deleted.*****

*****SECOND NOTE: The original Linky is now closed and a new one will be added soon. If you would like to sign up in the meantime, please leave your link in comments.******

Feel free to use either of the buttons above!

Background image on the second button thanks to Mind on Fire, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December Mini-Challenge

The December mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name is all about poetry. We would like you to read some poetry that is either GLBT-themed or by a GLBT author. This can be anything from a single poem to a book of poetry to an epic poem. We would love to see your links about poetry in the Mr. Linky below.

If anyone would like to volunteer to do a guest post on GLBT-related poetry, please contact us - our emails are in the sidebar!

PS - Sorry to be posting this so late!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guest Post & Giveaway: What makes a movie gay?

Today's guest post and giveaway comes from Nikola at Nikola's Book Blog. Thanks for being with us Nikola!

To label a motion picture as a gay movie seems like an easy thing to do. However, if one thinks about it, it gets much harder deciding on a gay (or, for that part, lesbian or transgender) movie. What parameters should one take into account? Sure, there are a lot of romantic comedies where there's a gay best friend featured. However, does this make a movie gay? Since mainstream comedies (as well as other genres) rarely deal with the issues their gay characters face, they shouldn't be regarded as gay movies.

So, for the debate's sake, I'd like to propose that we divide what we would label gay movies – movies where gay characters/issues are central to the story – into two groups: "straight gay" movies and "gay gay" movies.

This might seem silly, but go along with my theory and then judge for yourself. I’m sure you've seen Brokeback Mountain. The whole world has seen Brokeback Mountain and cried over the faiths of the two protagonists. However, when the Academy Awards rolled around, guess what movie won? Crash. Obviously, there was a strong public response, many people accusing the Academy of being homophobic. But here's the thing: Brokeback Mountain is a straight man's gay movie. Why do you think almost everyone embraced it? The gay sex in the movie is almost implied and apart from some kissing, the two cowboys barely seem intimate. Furthermore, as the movie is set in the early 1960's, it is further dislocated from us, tackling few contemporary problems. Crash, on the other hand, with its explicit depictions of racism in L.A. is a much bigger challenge to the movie-goer.

On the other hand, there are movies aimed squarely at the GLBT community, which are usually much more upfront about the issues they explore. A great example would be the Showtime TV series Queer as Folk, a personal favorite of mine. Often called a gay man's Sex and the City, it was one of the few really queer productions to be embraced in the mainstream. Other such titles include The L Word, A Single Man and A Home at the End of the World.

Other than these popular flicks, there's a great number of low-budget, arthouse and indie productions that are honest and made with passion. A good place to look would be TLAVideo, an online retailer that specializes in gay cinema – everything from porn to high culture (don’t worry, it's work safe and you don't have to browse porn if you don't want to). It is like a goldmine for lesser-known gay movies. And why should you, for example, see Were the World Mine, a gay musical retelling of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream? Or Eating Out, a hilarious comedy of mistaken identity? Because they are honest and unafraid to tackle issues not usually touched by big studio movies. Try and watch one of these and I'm sure your perception of the gay community and art will change drastically.

What was your movie pick for the month of November? Visit my blog for a TLA video DVD giveaway.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest Post: The Benefits of Segregation

Today's guest post comes from author L.E. Harvey, who blogs at The Writings and Ramblings of a Philadelphian. Thanks for being with us!

As an LGBT author, and an LGBT person, I often find myself contemplating the separation of LGBT writing from the mainstream. Why is it that we have our own category? Our own book stores? Is my writing, or that of any other GLBT author, that different that it must be separated?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t like segregation. I don’t believe that I, or my work, need(s) to be separated from everyone else. Why is it that my colleague, Collin Kelley, an incredible poet, must be considered an incredible LGBT poet?

Yet, the American society tells us that we must wear this label, just like homosexuals had to wear the up-side-down triangle during the Holocaust.

If LGBT writers must be separated from their straight counterparts, we must look to see if there are any advantages to this segregation. Can it benefit any LGBT writer to be branded as such?

I’m normally not an advocate for labeling people or dividing literature into categories based on social labels. However, since I must be labeled as such, I will find a way that it may actually behoove me to label my work as LGBT fiction.

One positive factor in labeling my work as LGBT, is that it bears the same power as coming out of the closet held. I am boldly stating to readers everywhere that this is who I am, and this is what I write about. Separation of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, cinema, and the like tells the world that we are not going to shy away or run back into the closet with our writing. Instead, we are standing out, holding our work for all the world to see, and to truly know (and understand) the subject matter. It says, “this is who I am. I am not ashamed of it. Instead, I am putting my heart and my writing on the line for you to discover.” As a writer, I’m acting boldly to bear my soul to you in my writing. As an LGBT writer, I am acting even more boldly.

Labeling LGBT writing for what it is also helps to draw in an audience that not every writer is able to acquire: a sympathetic audience. The LGBT community and our straight allies will know that my work (or that of any other LGBT author) will reach them. It will be the kind of writing they can genuinely understand and appreciate. It will speak to them because it is written about them and it is written for them. I can market and sell my work to such readers and watch it spread like wildfire throughout the community. LGBT readers (and our straight allies) will specifically seek out LGBT writing of all genres. Knowing that their work is being selected because of what it is, rather than some great marketing ploy, is one of the greatest feelings a writer can experience. Because then, the sale is genuine. It’s not because the media tells them it’s a must read, it’s because the reader wants to read that particular book, article, poem, editorial, etc.

Genuine readership also creates a great word of mouth. If a person loves a book, they will recommend it to their friends. And each of those friends will recommend it to more friends and so the wild fire will spread. What writer doesn’t want to see their work spread like that? At that point, it doesn’t matter that it’s LGBT literature. It’s just good literature.

So, if the world I live in tells me that I must place LGBT Fiction on my books, I will. I will use that label as a bold statement of who I am as a person and a writer. And I will know that my work will be sought after by the type of readers I want. And those readers will place my books in more readers’ hands. Perhaps segregation of LGBT literature can actually behoove LGBT writers.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Guest Post: Independent Literature Awards

Today's guest post comes from Amy at Amy Reads - thanks for being with us, Amy!

Hello all GLBTQ challenge participants!

We want to tell you about another blogger initiative which, like the GLBT Challenge, is helping to promote GLBTQ literature: the Independent Literature Awards was started by Wallace of Unputdownables to fill the void of a book blogger-nominated, book blogger-awarded honors by genre, including adult and YA fiction and non-fiction. Any book blogger can nominate one book in each of the five categories: literary fiction, mystery, non-fiction, speculative fiction, and GLBTQ books. The only other rule is that the book had to have been published in 2010.

We hope that you will take a look at the books that you’ve read this year for the challenge and nominate one of them. Some examples of books that count:
  • Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman
  • Missed Her by Ivan Coyote
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  • Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
  • Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
  • Rhythm and Blues by Jill Murray
  • Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • London Triptych by Jonathan Kemp
  • The Right to Be Out by Stuart Biegel
  • Queer Questions, Straight Talk by Abby Dees
This of course is only a partial list containing some of the most nominated books and some of our favorites. ANY book with GLBTQ characters (or, if non-fiction, about GLBTQ issues) published in 2010 is eligible for the category and we would LOVE to see more titles nominated! To nominate, simply go to the Independent Literary Awards website and leave a comment on the individual genre page.

Thank you for reading and thank you for nominating! We look forward to reading your submissions.

- GLBTQ Judge Cass of Bonjour, Cass and GLBTQ panelist Amy of Amy Reads

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Mini-Challenge

The November mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name asks you to watch a GLBT-related movie and post about it. This can be fiction or nonfiction. We welcome all links on GLBT movies in the Mr. Linky below.

If anyone would like to volunteer to do a guest post on GLBT-related movies, please contact us - our emails are in the sidebar!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

October Mini-Challenge

The October mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name challenges you to read a classic. Many of the classics were written by GLBT authors, or suspected GLBT authors, and any of these would be great for the challenge. There are also some classics with GLBT themes. We would love to see links to the classic you pick in the Mr. Linky below.

If anyone would like to volunteer to do a guest post on GLBT-related classics, please contact us - our emails are in the sidebar!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Reviews - 4th Quarter

Thanks to everyone who participated in the GLBT Challenge this past quarter. We appreciate your links and your support.

Below, you can link to your reviews in October, November, and December. We're looking forward to hearing about your reads!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest Post: Bisexual, Gender-bending, Romance is Still Romance by Cecilia Tan

Today's guest post is by Cecilia Tan, writer, editor, and sexuality activist. Learn more at


Romance is a genre where heterosexuality is widely celebrated, but in recent years gay male partnerships have also been emerging as the defining feature of a significant sub-genre. Lesbian publishers, meanwhile, have always had their share of lesbian romances, from the days of New Victoria Press to the current successes of Bold Strokes Books.

But if true love truly is for everyone, where are the bisexual and transgender romances? We use the acronym "GLBT" as a catch-all, but the B and the T are easily marginalized by the mainstream. A friend pointed out to me recently that the only transgender character to be a romantic lead in a relatively mainstream book is Chris Parker in Laura Antoniou's "Marketplace" books (which, by the way, are coming back into print via Circlet Press's new alt-sexuality erotica imprint, Luster Editions). And bisexual characters are usually secondary characters, as well, rarely seen in the leading role.

I'm trying to change that, though. I started writing paranormal romance in 2008. My first one was het, just to get my feet wet, but I couldn't stand to see the book be completely straight, so in MIND GAMES I gave our heroine a gay best friend. My editor kept telling me that in paranormal romance, it's completely normal for a main character to actually have more than one partner, even a threesome, and that this was the one of two places I'd see bisexuality making a niche in romance. ("Menage" is the other.)

I had been reading Laurell K. Hamilton, Anne Bishop, and various other paranormal "crossover" authors for years, and decided if they could go into that territory, then a bisexuality activist like myself ought to also, even while writing in the strict format of romance. I started work on a series of books called Magic University.

The premise of the books is a bit like what if we had a Harry-Potter-like scenario, where our hero suddenly discovers he magical, except he's going to college rather than grade school? My imaginary magic school isn't much like Hogwarts; it's Harvard, or more specifically the hidden magical university hidden in plain sight, called Veritas.

In book one (THE SIREN AND THE SWORD) our hero Kyle has his first serious girlfriend, falls in love the first time, loses his virginity--all that good stuff you'd expect for a young man living away from home for the first time. The story is rather heterosexual, but I figured it would be believable to start out that way, and in the meantime the secondary characters are well populated with both gay, lesbian, and transgendered characters.

However, by Kyle's sophomore year (THE TOWER AND THE TEARS), he decides to study sex magic, and is told that to be a practitioner of the Esoteric Arts, bisexuality is pretty much a requirement. (Not to mention multiple-partner rituals, some of which are downright kinky...) Kyle isn't sure what to make of that, but he's open to experimentation and finding out if he really can be attracted to another man.

I worry a little that some readers who enjoyed the first book will be put off as the subsequent books stray further from the heterosexual norm with each passing chapter. One of Kyle's mentors is revealed to have undergone a gender change earlier in life, and then even later, Kyle find himself attracted to a character whose gender isn't even simple to define. But there is no doubt that these books are Romance with a Capital R, as Kyle's ultimate quest is not to defeat evil like Harry Potter, but to find true love. By book three (THE INCUBUS AND THE ANGEL) he is coming to realize that he may only find it in places he didn't expect to look.

Ultimately, if there is a "lesson" to be learned at the Magic University, for Kyle or the reader, it is that true love knows no bounds of gender or socially constructed norms. And that may be the most romantic idea I can imagine.

About the Author: Cecilia Tan is a writer, editor, and sexuality activist. She is the author of Mind Games, The Hot Streak, White Flames, Edge Plays, Black Feathers, The Velderet, and Telepaths Don't Need Safewords, as well as the Magic University series of paranormal erotic romances, and the currently ongoing gay web serials The
Prince's Boy and Daron's Guitar Chronicles. She has the distinction of being perhaps the only writer to have erotic fiction published in both Penthouse and Ms. magazines, as well as in scores of other magazines and anthologies including Asimov’s, Best American Erotica, and Nerve. She is the founder and editor of Circlet Press, publishers of erotic science fiction and fantasy. She is also the Media Relations Director for the New England Leather Alliance (NELA). Learn more at

Related Links:
The Magic University Series - Info page

Print Book buy links:
The Marketplace
Mind Games
The Siren and the Sword
The Tower and the Tears

Ebook buy links:
Mind Games
The Siren and the Sword
The Tower and the Tears
The Incubus and the Angel

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Mini-Challenge

The September mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name is all about picture books. There are quite a few GLBT-related picture books, and the goal is to take a moment to read one of those. We welcome all links about picture books in the Mr. Linky below.

If anyone would like to volunteer to do a guest post on GLBT-related picture books, please contact us - our emails are in the sidebar!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August Mini-Challenge

The August mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name is all about GLBT speculative fiction. Fantasy, science fiction, dystopia, and all the rest. Your challenge is to read a GLBT speculative book or short story. We welcome all links on this topic in the Mr. Linky below.

Also, keep an eye on the blog - we hope to have some guest posts about GLBT speculative fiction! If you've like to volunteer to write something on the topic, we welcome that too!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Giveaway Winners

It's time to announce the winners of our GLBT Reading 5-book giveaway. They are:

1) Raven Summer by David Almond - Ari from Reading in Color

2) Delilah by India Edghill - Heather from Book Addiction

3) The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran - Michelle from The True Book Addict

4) Give a Little by Wendy Smith - Travis from Inked Books

5) Mirrorscape by Mike Wilkes - Adam from Roof Beam Reader

Congratulations everyone! I'll be in contact with you soon to get your mailing addresses. Thanks again for entering and for everyone's patience with the changes we're making here at GLBT Reading.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Post: The Hip Hop Façade

Today's guest post comes from Bea at The Hardknock Radio. Thanks for being with us, Bea!!

The Hip Hop we know of nowadays has strayed far beyond its origins. Back in the day, it was all about getting people amped for parties as well as providing a forum for expression. Forty years after, what we see on TV, hear on the radio and read in magazines has become a distorted version of the fundamentals that had given voice to the urban youth.

The present image portrayed by Hip Hop is undeniably masculine. The majority of music videos depict men surrounded by a bevy of beautiful women, sipping champagne while sporting some of the most expensive cars available. The lyrics, too, emphasize how “gangster” the performers are, re-counting the many bullet wounds they received.

In reality, it has been said by insiders that some rappers, both male and female, actually lead a secret gay life. They hide it with their persona, often using their lyrics to discriminate against gays in order to divert attention from their “true selves”. Sad as it is, this situation with sexuality has become a major issue in the entertainment industry where there is massive homophobia.

Terrance Dean, an executive producer that used to work for MTV and BET, released a book 2 years ago entitled Hiding in Hip-Hop: On the Down Low. In it, he attempted to shed light on the fact that there actually were rappers hiding in the closet out of fear of what the industry might do to them if they ever came out. A pity because hip hop shouldn’t be that way.

From the looks of it, it seems like hip hop has become a facade of machismo when, in fact, one of its best features used to be self expression. For the male rappers, it does not come as a surprise that there isn’t a famous one who is openly gay. Men find it harder to deal with a gay public image, so they bury their real self in public denial. Aside from Man Parrish, who was among the few that set the path for Hip Hop, I don’t know anyone as big as Jay Z or lil Wayne who’ll admit they are gay.

In the meantime, people like Deadlee, Cazwell, Katastrophe and a lot more are here to stay. Although they are less famous, they are definitely realer than most and offer a voice to the minority, the GLBT.

Bea loves to write about hip hop and the history of rap music. Check her newest entry on the top 100 rap songs.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Guest Post: Tegan and Sara

Today's guest post comes from Colleen from Lavender Lines. Thanks for being with us, Colleen!!

My New Muse

As a book lover and a writer, there is nothing like discovering a song that wows me. For me it’s all about the lyrics. How they make me feel, what they make me feel. How they hit me.

“Build a wall of books/Between us in our bed.”

The first time I heard that lyric is froze. I mean, a song opening with a line about books? Never mind that the voice singing the words was perhaps one of the most wonderfully unique voices I had heard in a long time. I listened to the rest of Back In Your Head by Tegan and Sara and heaved a sigh of contentment.

That was my first introduction to the Canadian artists. And while I was blown away by their lyrics and musicality for some reason I didn’t run out and buy their CD The Con.

Flash forward a few years.

Writing ruts are not exactly a fun thing to be in. I was officially calling myself a writer, but I wasn’t actually writing anything new. None of my regular CDs were helping to get me into the writing groove and a bit of a panic was starting to set in. Cue Alligator.

O.M.G. The lyrics. The word play. I felt like I was floating the first time I heard it. Never has the phrase “over you” held so many different meanings. I figuratively slapped myself in the forehead and went out and picked up The Con and their latest CD Sainthood. Both CDs are constantly in play. Constantly. I never get tired of the songs and each time I listen I feel that I am discovering new things about the music and myself.

Please, please don’t ask me to pick a favorite Tegan and Sara song, because I think my head would explode. Whatever song of theirs I am currently listening to is my favorite. But I do have my favorite lines. Here are a few:

I felt you in my legs before I even met you
– Nineteen

SOS to my mother/ Take the hinges off the door – Like Oh, like H

I’m not unfaithful but I’ll stray/When I get a little scared – Back in Your Head

Everything I love/Get back from me now/Everyone I love/I need you now – Dark Come Soon

Maybe I would have been something you’d be good at
– Call It Off

Besides their music, the duo just seem like really neat people. (Yes, I used the word neat.) While the two are completely open about their sexuality (both are lesbian) they strive to achieve a balance of living their life and not having their whole music careers center around the fact that they are lesbian twins. Unfortunately the media sometimes stresses this, instead of the fact that the two are amazing musicians and writers. I think it’s a shame that their sexuality even factors into the equation for some. When I read that they were lesbians I kind of went “Huh, okay. Big deal.” But I guess it is for some and that’s just sad. And stupid.

Tegan and Sara are now my go-to writing music. Their songs help me keep centered and also to strive to be as brilliant as I can be. No matter what my frame of mind or mood, I can find a Tegan and Sara song to lift me up or calm me down.

If you are looking for inspiration, a new muse or simply amazing music by two ridiculously talented Canadian gals, do yourself a favor and take a listen to Tegan and Sara. I dare you not to like them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Scaling back

As I mentioned last week, Jen and I both have had things come up in our lives to make them busier than they already were. The GLBT Challenge is a huge time commitment between coordinating guest posts, mini-challenges, links, prizes, and more. While we don't want to take away from the challenge, which we love, we need to simplify going forward. We have decided to make two major changes.

First, we will be doing away with prizes from here on out. In the last six months, we've given away 12 books and have tons more prize items still in the bucket. Most of them are sitting on my shelf at home and I can't continue to house them going forward. I didn't want to just take them off the list and leave the burden of prizes to people who have offered up donations, so instead there will simply be no more prizes going forward. I wish we could continue to offer them, but the sacrifice is necessary at this time.

That will, of course, change the way mini-challenges work. There will no longer be a prize motivation for participating in the mini-challenges, but we hope people will continue to participate in them anyway. We originally put the mini-challenges out there as a way of expanding our thinking and giving different options to people who weren't sure where they could look for GLBT resources, and we do plan to continue posting them monthly through 2010.

The other big change we're making involves guest posts, which is a huge time investment for us. We have guest posts planned through August, but after that we have nothing definite set up. Instead of going out trying to look for people to post for us, though, we're just going to have a call for volunteers on the mini-posts. If someone wants to post, great! If not, there will simply be no guest posts. We're okay with that. Guest posts are wonderful things, but they aren't necessary to continue the challenge.

That will be the bulk of the changes to the GLBT Challenge moving forward. As an apology of sorts, we'd like to offer up a few of the books from the prize bucket in a giveaway. You can fill out the form below to enter to win one of these books (links to Amazon for book description):
  1. Raven Summer by David Almond - YA contemporary fiction
  2. Delilah by India Edghill - historical fiction
  3. The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran - historical fiction
  4. Give a Little by Wendy Smith (signed) - nonfiction
  5. Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks - YA fantasy
You may sign up to win as many of these are you're interested in. Just fill out this form:

Giveaway will end on 7/15 and we will announce the winners then. Thanks for all your patience and understanding! Once again, we really appreciate your participation here at the GLBT Challenge.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July Mini-Challenge

First, I need to announce the winner of the June mini-challenge. There were only three participants in June's mini-challenge (yikes) but has chosen......

#2 - Amy from Amy Reads!

Congratulations, Amy! Take a look at the prize bucket and send me an email (address is in the sidebar) with your choice and address.

The July mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name actually has nothing to do with books. We're taking a little break here.

Throughout the month, we're going to have some guest posts about music and art that is related to GLBT issues (GLBT musicians or artists, GLBT-themed art, etc). You may listen to some of this music, listen to other music related to GLBT issues, read a book about GLBT-related art or artists, look through some GLBT-related's pretty much up to you. We're just expanding our boundaries here. Whatever you decide to do, post about your reaction or your finds (make sure to include why they are GLBT-related), and link to it in the Linky below.

Prior to July, we've been drawing a winner for each mini-challenge, but going forward, I'm afraid Jen and I both need to scale back the challenge a little bit. I will post more information about this in the next few days, but the gist is that there will no longer be prizes for the mini-challenges. These mini-challenges instead are just meant to expand our horizons, reading and otherwise, in the GLBT Challenge. I hope you all will continue to participate!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Reviews - 3rd Quarter

First things first, thanks to everyone participating in the GLBT Challenge. We are drawing a 2nd quarter winner from all active participants. has chosen......

#39 - Christina from Reading Through the Night!

Congratulations, Christina! Take a look at the prize bucket and send me an email (address is in the sidebar) with your choice and address.


Below, you can link to your reviews in July, August, and September. Can't wait to see what you all read!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guest Post: Mystery Will Out

Today's guest post comes from Gregory Gerard, the author of IN JUPITER'S SHADOW, a memoir/mystery chronicling a religious teen's struggle with forbidden attraction. More information about the IN JUPITER'S SHADOW can be found at the end of this post.


I was recently listening to an episode of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater on my mp3 player and a phrase from the script, ‘murder and love will out,’ got me thinking.

I know, I know, such shows should be listened to on an AM car radio driving down a foggy highway, not on an mp3 player. For those of you born after 1989, The CBS Radio Mystery Theater was a radio program created in the ‘70s and ‘80s to capture the spirit of those great old radio shows from the 1930s…pre-Internet…pre-TV. Being a kid in the early ‘80s who loved mystery, I would hole up in my teenage fort (Headquarters) at 10 p.m. each night, alone with my Emerson AM radio, listening to the one-hour broadcast, complete with creaky doors and murderous plots. Loved it.

Flash-forward to 2010. I got mp3 files of the complete series and listen to them regularly. (If you'd like to hear for yourself, I stream free downloads of my favorite episodes at In Jupiter's Shadow, my book's website store).

Recently listening to an episode titled "Murder Will Out," (it's about a detective who solves the mystery of who murdered his dad – and discovers love along the journey), I started thinking about this topic of mystery and sexuality and out-ness.

In my teenage years, sexuality was a great mystery (that's why I wrote a coming out memoir as a 'memoir/mystery'). By age 13, I'd learned (from family, movies, church, school) that boys were supposed to be attracted to girls. And visa versa. The mystery in my life was that I didn’t think about Wonder Woman when I was in the bathtub ... I thought about Superman.

That mystery bred research, and the research bred a struggle. (Being a religious kid, you can guess at the 'clues' I uncovered!). I went through a long, painful, private battle that I don’t wish on anyone.

For those who haven't been there, I invite you to think about your first crush. Maybe back in seventh or eighth grade grammar school. Maybe somebody named Greg or Marsha (yes, I'm from the Brady Bunch generation!).

Remember the fuzzy, gushy feelings of warmth and excitement you had in your room alone at night, thinking about seeing that person at school? Talking to them at their locker? Sitting next to them in gym? Now - here's the challenge - try to imagine, at that age, someone pulling you aside: your mom and dad, or your cousins, or your teacher, or your pastor, or Hollywood, and told you that your fuzzy, gushy feelings were wrong. In fact, they were an abomination to God and you should never, ever act on them. Feeling any angst yet? I sure did.

But here's humanity's saving grace - mysteries fascinate us. We encounter them and we’re curious and we hang on, working for a solution. There were times when I thought about giving up – marrying a girl, living the life that everybody else expected of me – but the curiosity kept me going. The gnawing certainty that something was lurking unexpressed inside my heart.

Ultimately, I figured it out (I was a guy attracted to guys because I was gay. Oh, now I get it!). A wonderful thing to realize about yourself.

Today, I work with GLBT youth and I hear that the struggle continues. Kids may be solving this mystery of sexuality at an earlier age than I did – but that doesn’t exempt them from other mysteries – how will I find a partner in a homophobic world? How do I cope with the awful things people sometimes say and do when they figure out I don’t fit their idea of what love should be? Where in this beautiful life do I belong?

Adding to this struggle are prejudices that continue to come from mainstream religion. As an example, the U.S. Catholic bishops recently decried the rise of same-sex marriage as 'one of the most troubling developments in contemporary culture.' In their words, same-gender unions 'redefine the nature of marriage and the family and, as a result harm both the intrinsic dignity of every human person and the common good of society'."

When the Church, or elected officials, or teachers, or anybody suggest that that gay people are 'less' in some ways; when bigotry or misinformation rob faithful gay kids of the hope of a committed, blessed relationship – to me, THAT is one of the most troubling developments in contemporary culture." (Read this author's response to the U.S. Bishops: Memoir Author Urges Bishops to Consider GLBT Testimony).

For what it’s worth: my advice to those who struggle today – keep searching for the answers to life’s mysteries. It's the search itself that has merit; it’s the search itself that can define us. As an individual, as a GLBT community, as a people. When we don’t give up – when we tenaciously seek the truth like a detective on a case with minds and hearts open – that’s when answers come.

And, just like love, mystery will out.


IN JUPITER'S SHADOW (a memoir/mystery)

Hiding from others is easy.
Hiding from yourself is trickier.

Born in 1966 in rural Western New York – the last of six children in a
devout Catholic family – Greg Gerard dreams of escape and adventure. He's
different from his older siblings; he is "The Caboose." When mom makes
fudge, he's the one who gets to scrape the bowl. While his older brothers
and sisters go to public school, he attends Saint Michael's – where a
friendly nun with sturdy shoes and a ubiquitous guitar remind him of his
favorite movie, The Sound of Music. At night, he sleeps with boards under
his sheets – so he, too, can be as holy as the Saints he reads about.

Mystery surrounds Greg. At church, the priest dips his head, whispering
indistinguishable prayers. At home, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and his
favorite detective, Jupiter Jones from The Three Investigators, provide an
endless supply of adventure and intrigue. He devours their stories, mimics
their behaviors, and dreams of the day when he too can solve a real-life

At thirteen, Greg's own mystery presents itself in the most unlikely place –
the steamy bathtub on the second floor. He discovers sexuality – and senses
that it's unusual for a boy to think about Superman while doing so.

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guest Post: Memoir, Truth, and Activism

Today's guest post comes from Audrey Beth Stein, the author of the memoir Map. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College and is a two-time national prizewinner in the David Dornstein Memorial Short Story Contest. She teaches memoir and novel development at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Direct links to order Map can be found at


I stumbled into writing memoir accidentally. Back in 1996 as a senior in college, I unexpectedly fell in love with another woman over the internet, via an Indigo Girls email list. Although I hadn't really come out before it happened, telling people "I have a girlfriend" was relatively easy (and in some ways thrilling). It was the follow-up questions, beginning with "where did you meet?" that continued to make me feel insecure even months after the relationship had ended. This was a whole new kind of coming out. I needed words.

Nine-and-a-half years and sixteen drafts later, those initial words had become my memoir Map, a coming-of-age story that was named a finalist for the 2010 Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Nonfiction.

To write a memoir and do it well means that you have to dig deep and be willing to dissect, understand, and share that which most people shy away from, ignore, or gloss over. If it hurts, you have to go into the hurt, or the reader feels cheated. If something was good, you have to let the reader in to share the joy. You try your best to be truthful, both factually and emotionally, and to be straightforward with the reader about where you might be deviating from fact, whether due to the fallacies of memory or a respect for someone's privacy.

None of this is easy, and often it helps to let the manuscript sit for a time while you gain some distance and with it new insight. For me, every couple of months of furious writing was followed by six months or a year of fallow time.

I discovered the expanse of the memoir genre during this fallow time. I had read a handful of memoirs before, but suddenly I was seeking it out, devouring other people's stories. Memoir provided a kind of wisdom and guidance for my twenties and early thirties that was different from fiction, more direct. In sharing their stories, memoir authors helped teach me how to tell my own, and also how to live. They helped me understand difference in new ways and find unexpected commonalities. They named truths. For instance, from Harlyn Aizley in Buying Dad: One Woman's Search For the Perfect Sperm Donor:

"The major lesson from long-term relationships, from pregnancy, from illness, is that nothing ever goes as planned. Our worst fears are never as terrible as we have anticipated, our most glorious accomplishments never as life-altering and unequivocal. What looks like a great day coming down the road can turn out to suck to high noon. A day with all of the earmarks of hell on earth can, in fact, be filled with splendor and light."

I'm not very articulate in explaining what I loved about a particular book, and what resonates with me might not resonate with you, but here are a few other queer memoirs that along with Buying Dad particularly stand out in my mind: Name All the Animals by Alison Smith; The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage; and The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl In America by Michelle Tea. I hope through this month's GLBT reading challenge, you'll introduce me to others.

I encourage you to use the comments section here to share your favorite titles and a noteworthy quote or two. I'd love it if you would also tell us why YOU read memoir, and how it differs for you from reading fiction. What do you think queer memoir offers that is unique, and what does it share with all good stories about people's lives?

Nine-and-a-half years is a long time to spend writing about eight months of your life, but when I felt like quitting, I thought about how helpful it had been for me to read other people's stories, and I thought about all the queer and questioning teens who needed to hear stories like mine, needed to read about others sorting out sexuality and relationships and identity.

By the time Map was published, same-sex marriage had been legal in Massachusetts for over five years, teens were regularly coming out in high school and even middle school, and a friend of mine got huge laughs out of a dating cartoon with the punchline, "We met offline." Map had managed to capture a unique time in history, a time when it was easier to admit that you were in love with another girl than that you'd met someone on the internet. And in all of its specificity, it was speaking to many different people, sixteen-year-olds and sixty-year-olds, straight and queer, boys, girls, and in between.

Perhaps Map will also speak to you, but even if it doesn't, I encourage you to join me in this books-as-activism quest by asking your library to order copies of Map and other queer memoirs. And I thank all of you participating in the GLBT Reading Challenge for helping to bring visibility to GLBT books and introduce them to new readers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June Mini-Challenge

First, I need to announce last month's winners (3). First, for May's Mini-Challenge, has chosen......

Ali (Vorvolaka)!

Then, the winner of The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, chosen by from among all the quarterly participants, is.......

Lawral from Lucy was Robbed!

Lastly, the winner of Sex Changes by Patrick Califia (thanks to Cass for this giveaway), chosen by from among all the quarterly participants, is.......

Ryan from Wordsmithonia!

Congratulations Ali, Lawral, and Ryan! Ali, you can choose your prize from the prize bucket. Then if each of you could send me an email (address is in the sidebar) with your choice (if applicable) and address, that would be wonderful!

June is Pride Month! And for Pride Month here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name, we are concentrating on GLBT history, memoirs, and other nonfiction. Your mini-challenge: read a nonfiction book or essay on GLBT issues. Any sort of GLBT nonfiction will do.

Once you read a book or essay, leave a link to your post in the Mr. Linky. I will draw a winner of all participants at the beginning of next month. Winner will be able to pick from the prize bucket.

Mini-challenges are, of course, totally optional. :)

**Note: While you do not need to do the mini-challenge if you are a GLBT Challenge participant, you must be a participant if you would like to enter here. Thanks!

If you would like to write a guest post on GLBT Nonfiction this month, please contact Jen at jensfgeek[at]gmail[dot]com

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guest Post: The unique community system followed by transwomen in Tamil Nadu, Southern India

Today's guest post comes from Susan Deborah of Meanderings and Reflections. Thank you so much for being here at our blog, Susan!

The unique community system followed by transwomen in Tamil Nadu, Southern India

The transgenders in India most of the times live as a community which has a family set-up. One transgender adopts the other and becomes the mother. A sum of Rs. 5. 50/- is paid to the jamath to adopt him. The word ‘jamath’ comes from the Urdu word which means ‘community.’ The transgender community follow certain systems of the Muslim community as years ago they imbibed the customs and patterns of the ruling Muslims in the Mogul period. The older transgender who adopts another is called the guru, which in Hindi translates as teacher. The adopted children are known as chelas which is translated as disciples. Once an individual is adopted by a transgender there is a certain obligation on the part of the ‘child’ towards her ‘mother’ or guru. Part of the earnings through dance performances or any other means like begging goes to the mother. Apart from monetary aspects there are other things that also operate in the ‘mother-child’ relationship. The mother is responsible for taking care of the welfare of the child, taking on the role of a biological mother whenever required. In a way, the guru or the ‘mother’ performs the ‘mother-role’ by arranging money for the sex-change operation and taking care of the post-operative needs of the child. The mother also advises the ‘child’ on the vile ways of the world and against forming any deep bonds with their ‘husbands’ who is referred to as the panthi in the transgender community.

Despite the fact that many ‘children’ do not stay permanently with their ‘mothers,’ they will always be known as the children of X transgender in X village or place. The children migrate to bigger cities in search of better economic prospects or they like to discover new places instead of remaining in a small village. Even though they live in a different pace, they visit their guru once in six months often bringing presents and money.

If you are interested in knowing more about the kinship, family, customs and traditions of transwomen in India, these two books contain a vault of research and information.

Books (Non-Fiction):

1. Reddy, Gayathri. With Respect to Sex: Negotiating Hijra Identity in South India. New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2006.

This book by Gayathri Reddy talks about transwomen (known as hijras in Hindi and Urdu) in Hyderabad, a city in Southern India. A group of hijras living near the railway station are extensively researched by Gayathri Reddy, an anthropologist from University of Illinois, California. A detailed description of the community life of the hijras is provided by the writer.

2. Nanda, Serena. Neither Man nor Woman. 2nd Ed. Canada: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999.

This book by Serena Nanda, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is also quite similar to Reddy’s book but it talks about hijras from different parts of north India. An anthropological monograph, this book is an easy read which depicts the religion, rituals, biology and stories of hijras in India.


K. P. Jayasankar and Anjali Monteiro: Our Family, a 56-minute Tamil (with English subtitles) documantary elucidates what it means to free oneself of the social construct of being male and explores life beyond a hetero-normative family.

Santhosh Sivan: Navarasa (Nine emotions) is a 2005 film. For more details you can visit:

Susan Deborah: Pandiammal’s Illam (Pandiammal’s home) is a 29-minute 2010 documentary made by the researcher during the course of her research in T. Kallupatti, a village in Southern India. If interested you can email the writer for copies. The documentary is the partial story of two transwomen Pandiammal and Mahalakshmi who talk about their life and times as a transwoman.

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Interview with David Ebershoff

David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl, has kindly taken some time out to answer a few questions about his book for me. The Danish Girl is about a transgendered painter, the first person to undergo a successful sex change operation. You can read my full review of The Danish Girl at The Zen Leaf. Thank you very much, David, for the interview!


1) In writing about a historical figure, what prompted you to change/fictionalize many of the details around Einar, especially with regards to his various friendships and relationships?

We know a lot about Lili Elbe, but there is much, much more we don’t know. I wanted to use fiction to write about her because I wanted to focus on her heart. Not her biological heart, of course, but the center of her emotions. We have many clues about her emotional life – her diary entries, her public statements, even Einar Wegener’s art – but they are only clues, not a complete mapping of what she felt across the years. And thus I turned to my imagination to fill in, especially with her relationships – for what better way to understand a person’s heart than to understand his or her relationships? Her most important relationship was her marriage to Gerda, whom I call Greta in the book. Every marriage or intimate relationship has what I think of as a black cave of privacy – a space known to only the two people in that relationship. I wanted to take the reader into that cave, to give the reader access to this extraordinary marriage. Yet the historical record simply does not provide enough details to show the reader what that space was really like and how these two remarkable people experienced it. In my view, this is the role of historical fiction: to fill in the holes of history. To imagine what might have been, or could be.

2) Why did you choose to represent Einar and Lili as dissociative personalities, rather than as two facets of one personality?

This is something we know about Lili: she thought of herself and Einar as two distinct people. She made this clear to everyone around her, at times even expressing disdain for him. In fact, after her surgeries, she proclaimed him to be dead. Einar was a successful and productive artist; for years he was always painting and showing his work. But Lili never painted. She claimed to have no interest in it nor any skill. This strikes me as both peculiar and telling: it’s a detail about her story that helps me understand her and how she viewed herself. This of course is different from how most transgender people today view themselves. Yet it is authentic to her story. In writing The Danish Girl I never intended to (nor did I think I ever could) represent the experience of all trans people. I only wanted to represent the emotional experience of one person.

3) One of the themes that comes up often in your book is the danger of knowledge. Einar's mental and physical health deteriorate as he learns more about the feminine side of himself, and even the advances in science that make his surgery possible eventually place his life in danger. What does this say about knowledge in general? Would Einar have been happier had he never tried on those stockings and opened up that part of himself?

When I write fiction I try not to answer questions like these, I simply try to raise them. I want my stories to highlight ambiguity and uncertainty, for what is life if not ambiguous and uncertain. Lili sought out medical help in order to save herself. On the other hand, the doctor whom she considered her savior also led her to her ultimate fate. Was he right to do so? Did Lili err in placing so much trust in him? I can’t answer those questions. I can simply ask them and let the reader ponder them.

4) You mention in an interview in the back of The Danish Girl that "there is a universality to Einar's question of identity." We all can be unsatisfied with who we are. Do you think that transgendered issues are a more extreme example of that dissatisfaction, or just a less accepted one?

Both. Many people look in the mirror and see what they want to change – the nose, the teeth, that little line around the mouth. Or they see what they don’t have. Last year I heard Serena Williams talk about burning calories on the tennis court because, as she said, “Every girl wants to lose five pounds.” I was stunned and fascinated – this kind of dissatisfaction from the number one tennis player in the world? From a woman with one of the most admired bodies on the planet? Yet this is how Serena sees herself and by sharing it with us we can understand her a little more. I’m not equating transgender issues to wanting to lose five pounds. Not at all. Yet I believe both come from the very human longing to be the truest version of oneself. We all want our outer selves to correlate to our inner selves so that the world can see us, and know us, for who we really are. This is universal. Of course transgender issues are less accepted and less understood than many, if not most, issues of identity. Yet this is changing (if slowly) in part because people are beginning to understand gender identity in these universal terms.

5) It's implied in the book that Einar's gender issues stem primarily from physical deformity. What if there had not been a physical deformity and Einar's gender confusion was entirely psychological/emotional? Do you think the character would have taken the same journey?

Your question points to one of the great beauties (and wonders) of reading. You find this implied in the book while others have found just the opposite. This goes back to ambiguity and uncertainty. Where did Lili come from? Was it from the fact that she was most likely intersex? Or was she the soul within Einar’s frame? Or is it a mysterious combination of both? A brew of biological, psychological, emotional, artistic, cultural, and historical circumstances that gave the world Lili Elbe? In The Danish Girl I wanted to ask these questions. I leave it to the reader to answer them – or to decide that these are the kinds of questions that will ultimately remain unanswerable.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Guest Post: Transgender Non-Fiction

Today's guest post comes from Cass at Bonjour Cass! Thank you for being with us, Cass!

Make sure to check at the bottom of this post for giveaway information!


When I was in high school, my mother and I would frequently have dinner at a local sit-down restaurant. My mom, who at the time was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for breast cancer, had taken to wearing a cap to cover her baldness and wore sweat shirts and elastic waisted pants for comfort, but still had energy enough to go out for dinner. On our last visit to this particular restaurant, our waitress, a young, pleasant woman, seemed flustered after giving us our menus. Mom, who was quite shy herself, give her an encouraging smile, assuming the waitress was having a difficult evening. After a few endlessly awkward moments involving my mom trying to get the young woman to relax and the waitress staring blank-faced at her, the waitress asked, "Can I get you anything to drink, sir?"

This was my first (although certainly not my last) encounter with misgendering and incorrect pronouns. To be clear, my mother (who has since passed) was cisgender and did not identify as transgender, but due to her disease she was not immediately identifiable as a woman, at least to the waitress. She looked at my mother, saw a person with no hair and no breasts wearing an androgynous outfit and read my mother as being a man.

Each time we see someone, we read their appearance for gender cues, such as hair style and clothing; we then use these cues--consciously or subconsciously--to make an assumption about whether that person is a man or a woman. The hurt and pain my mother felt when the waitress used an incorrect pronoun is something that many trans men and women experience on a regular basis. (Note: A trans man is a person who was assigned female at birth but who identifies as a man, just as a trans woman is a person who was assigned male at birth but identifies as being a woman.)

I am a cisgender, queer-identified trans-ally; my boyfriend, Ethan, is a trans man (hi, love!) who is wonderful. I started reading about transgender identities and gender theory as a Women and Gender Studies major in college six years ago, and over that time I've amassed quite a collection and have read dozens of excellent, good, decent, and not-so-good books on the subject.

The following is a list of non-fiction books on transgender history, gender identity, and the transgender movement, all of which I own and highly recommend. They are all written by trans-identified folk. This list is by no means comprehensive.

Transgender History
Susan Stryker

An excellent introduction to trans history with a focus on trans women.
Why I Like It: It's very readable, and it comes with bonus discussion questions! I kind of have a weakness for discussion questions.
Best If: You prefer straightforward history and want something published more recently.

Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer
Riki Wilchins

The title kind of explains it all.
Why I Like It: This book starts out all "here is some basic information about the history of the women's movement and the gay movement and the transgender movement" and then Wilchins is all HEY! HOW ABOUT SOME THEORY! And then, you know, I went "OH WOW THAT IS SOME THEORY" and my brain hurt a little but in a good way.
Best If: You prefer a little theory with your history.

Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman
Leslie Feinberg

Feinberg is best known for hir excellent novel Stone Butch Blues, which I would beg you to read if this wasn't a list of non-fiction. In the preface of Transgender Warriors, ze describes the book as being "...the heart of my life's work. When I clenched my fists and shouted back at slurs aimed to strip me of my humanity, this was the certainty behind my anger. When I sputtered in pain at well-meaning individuals who told me, 'I just don't get what you are?' - this is what I meant. Today, Transgender Warriors is my answer. This is the core of my pride."
Why I Like It: Seriously, did you read that quote?
Best If: You prefer a little narrative with THE HEART OF SOMEONE'S LIFE WORK.

Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism
Patrick Calfia

More opinion, analyzing, and criticism than plain history.
Why I Like It: Califia happens to be one of my very favorite authors and in my opinion this is his best non-fiction work. There's an excellent chapter on transphobia in the feminist community as well as a chapter comparing Stone Butch Blues by Feinberg to S/He by Minnie Bruce Pratt, who is Feinberg's partner and an amazing writer. My nerd-ar went through the roof when I read that chapter.
Best If: You enjoy excellent non-fiction. Also if you want to impress at parties.

Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rule of Gender and Conformity
edited by Matt Bernstein Sycamore

All short, first-person narratives from a variety of people with different identities and their experience with passing--not limited to gender.
Why I Like It: When discussing a topic as personal as identity, I think it's much more effective to have multiple writers discussing a variety of experiences.
Best If: You are looking for more diversity of opinion.

Genderqueer: Voices From Beyond the Sexual Binary
edited by Joan Nestle, Riki Wilchins, and Clare Howell

Why I Like It: Genderqueer is one of the few books on my shelf that has post it notes marking certain essays (fyi, they are "Loving Outside Simple Lines" by Sonya Bolus and "Fading to Pink" by Robin Maltz.
Best If: You are looking for more diversity of opinion and for a greater understanding of "genderqueer." Or if you just enjoy good writing. Or if you want to read the essays I mention and discuss them with me. Just sayin'.

(If you have any questions about gender identity or the books I've mentioned, or if you've read them and want to discuss them, or if you find something wonderful you'd like to share, please feel free to email me at bonjourcass AT gmail DOT com. Especially if you want to talk about books. :) )

Giveaway: Cass has generously agreed to donate a copy of Sex Changes by Patrick Califia (see above for description). In order to win the book, all you have to do is participate in May's Transgender mini-challenge.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Mini-Challenge

First, I need to announce the two winners of the April mini-challenge. first chose......

Lauren at I was a Teenage Book Geek!

Congratulations, Lauren! Take a look at the prize bucket and send me an email (address is in the sidebar) with your choice and address. also chose a second winner, who wins a copy of Lauren Bjorkman's My Invented Life......

Andrea of The Little Bookworm!

Congratulations, Andrea! If you would send me your address (my email's on the sidebar) I will forward the information on to Lauren!

The May mini-challenge here at the Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name involves Transgendered issues. The task: read a book, short story, or essay, or even watch a movie, that deals with transgendered issues, and then post about it.

Once you do this, leave a link to your post about it in the Mr. Linky. I will draw a winner of all participants at the beginning of next month. Winner will be able to pick from the prize bucket. Like in April, there will be a second prize of a copy of The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, generously donated by the author.

Mini-challenges are, of course, totally optional. :)

**Note: While you do not need to do the mini-challenge if you are a GLBT Challenge participant, you must be a participant if you would like to enter here. Thanks!

Also, keep an eye on the blog - we hope to have some guest posts about transgendered issues!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guest Post: Free to a Good Home: Slash Goggles

Today's guest post is from Renay of Subverting the Text. Welcome to our blog, Renay!

Greetings, book comrades! Gather round and settle in: grab some refreshment and a comfy seat. I have a story to share with you.

Totally relevant: I'm a cisgendered bisexual woman from the South.
I write stories. Most of the time they are fanfiction and we're all pals so I will be honest: I write fanfiction because I love speculative fiction sources that have really intense friendships. Lots of us love those, except heterosexual folks call them "romances". I love these really intense friendships because they won't become explicit romances. It's yet another chapter in Mainstream Culture Loves the Binary.

I "discovered" slash (male/male or female/female relationships for the purposes of this post) when I was 16. I had, of course, discovered it and daydreamed it and written it before, but I didn't know what it was called besides wrong! It wasn't in any published material that I could find — clearly a statement. That's when I started reading slash fanfiction on the same internet I am now posting this essay on. Here's a fun fact: I was ashamed of reading it, shamed to the bone, shamed to even speak aloud this new hobby. You could say my experience with slash mirrored my experience with my own sexuality. You would not be wrong in making that connection.

Here was everything I wanted from the sources I loved that the sources couldn't, and maybe wouldn't give me. There were hundreds of people writing it (later, I would learn, an entire subculture made up of thousands), but it was wrong, wasn't it? Mainstream culture said so and talk about a grab bag of emotional bemusement; I was 150% deviant for reading about Harry and Draco making out and boy, if I mentioned it out loud it was as if I had set the entire Harry Potter series on fire and also spit on it, because how could I think Harry Potter liked gentlemen. Imagine that, for one moment, please: that when heterosexual people can form a fandom about Team Sparkle and Team Fur and it's normal, but when people like me get fannish and transformative, explore texts from different angles to place people like us and relationships we want to see in them, we're just wrong, and not wrong in the "it's not canon" sense: morally wrong. So wrong, we don't even deserve to touch the source itself.

Cue rending of fabrics and long nights in front of my computer, confused but unable to stop. I read fanfiction and started to write fanfiction, for all these sources I loved where these really intense relationships were never going to become explicit in the text and I finally understood why. What's a confused teenager to do? Accept the source and put away the shameful toy? That's like telling us to shut off our minds.

That's Gay. No, Really.
Homoerotic subtext. I've made a cozy internet home on the basis that it will continue to happen. It's the flavor of the day, a sly nod that yeah, creators know we're there but they can't always acknowledge it because it hurts their bottom line. It's happening in sources that exist right now. As Aja points out in her post, i know you care for him as much as i do.:

We don't have gay main characters. Oh, we get them as sidekicks. ... But we don't get nearly enough gay heroes. We don't get nearly enough stories like Malinda Lo's Ash, where the real story is about how the heroine defeats a curse, and — oh, yeah, just happens to fall in love with a woman instead of a man. In fact, the reason Ash was so acclaimed when it debuted last year was because it was the exceptional exception to every rule. And all those rules basically boil down to: WE CAN'T HAVE MAINSTREAM STORIES ABOUT GAY PEOPLE.


But I want more. I hate that Guy Ritchie just slammed down that much ballsy homoeroticism in Sherlock Holmes, and yet the first time I mention it in casual conversation, someone will tell me that I'm crazy. Because why shouldn't I be crazy? Why shouldn't I be reading too much into things? As long as homosexuality exists only on the periphery of mainstream stories, and is only presented in "acceptable" overt ways, it will continue to reinforce the celluloid closet. It will continue to reinforce among the ignorant the idea that homosexuality isn't something that applies to them or what/who they love.

Her whole post is excellent. I highly recommend it.

We are living in the future!
These days I can go outside the main text for stories that have the type of relationship dynamics I want written by fans like me who want the same thing and I'm not shackled to a vein of literature that's rarely going to yield gold. The teen I was couldn't do that because before the internet there were only books and the books around me didn't reflect my feelings at all. There was no way Jessica Wakefield was going to suddenly decide to make out with the ladies — unless I wrote it myself. There was no way I would ever convince my sophomore English teacher that there was some hardcore homoerotic shenanigans between Gene and Finny in A Separate Peace. YA literature, literature in general, failed me, through no fault of its own — our voices were rarely considered, and when they were, it was a very long way from Rich Publishing Company to Podunk, Arkansas, Population: Homophobic.

This is what I want to share with this tl;dr post: the paradigm shift of then and now, aided by changing times and internet power — the power every book blogger now has. YA literature isn't failing teens now. No, in fact, I look at what YA literature is offering LGBT teens and I ache for my teenage self a little, even though I wouldn't give up my transformative, slashy works and community for anything. All these narratives, reaching out to teens and even adults and going, "look, here we are!". It's a little like living through those years is being validated, one YA book at a time, with characters that reflect my teenage self back at me and say, "you made it!". It's on shelves, it's being published, it's evolving as LGBT writers fill the canon with their stories. The stories pour out, they're coming, faster and faster, and getting better and better. We live in, if not perfect times, positive, hopeful times. When I compare now to then I marvel; we are lucky, so lucky, and we will only get more so.

We can have gay heroes now in literature, even if we have to be patient and watch twenty heterosexual romances pass us by — we have not yet reached the tipping point. We have pounded the metaphorical pavement of the years to reach a place where a LGBT author can be on the bestseller list, where a LGBT book can be faced out on shelves, even if we're not there yet in other types of media. If we want, we can take off the slash goggles and just have text — not subtext, not winks and nudges from creators, but honest LGBT relationships. We can live in our imaginations, but now it is no longer our only option.

It can only get better from here by LGBT lit being embraced by everyone, not just LGBT folks and allies. We've been reading heterosexual texts for years because we pine for stories, stories, always more stories. We've been asked to identify with heterosexual characters, invest ourselves in their stories, look past the fact that we were never represented and when we were it was often tragic or played for laughs. What I want is a future in which cisgendered heterosexual people can do that for us. The stories don't have to be romance. They just need to be stories that feature people like us: westerns, romances, SF/F, realistic fiction, religious fiction. To reach that, everyone has to be able to look at the stories and see, instead of a binary divide, just people — people who love in ways that do not conform to the cisgendered, heterosexual norm.

I believe in the day where LGBT characters in popular media are the norm and not tokens, characterized vividly and as thoroughly as their heterosexual counterparts. I believe in the day that these types of representations exist outside the culture of transformative works as well as inside it. I believe in that day. I believe in us.

It's an adventure and the door is wide open.
I could recommend texts here and I thought about doing so — but this isn't meant to be a recommendation post. It's a call to expand horizons and look beyond our own experiences into something wider. It's a call for more education for people whose perspective is so radically different that they can't imagine how anything in a LGBT character's life could apply to theirs. It's about reaching out to those stories and narratives. it's about empathy, it's about learning to value and learn from all human experience, not just one that reflects back what we already know and understand about the world. It's above love.

In case you do want reccommendations, well, there are three places I value above all others: Lee Wind, who has been blogging and promoting LGBT books for years as well as posting on topics relevant to YA experiences. His blog is invaluable, he's one of our greatest treasures for the work he is doing. He should be in everyone's reader: I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I read?

QueerYA posts reviews on so many interesting titles. The archives are rich and full of guidance.

Lambda Literary Awards, which not only covers YA in their lists, but has their finger on the pulse of tons of LGBT literature.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guest Post: 2010 Rainbow Bibliography Highlights LGBT Books for Kids

Today's guest post comes from Dana Rudolph founder and publisher of Mombian, a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.


The American Library Association's Rainbow Project in February published its third annual Rainbow Bibliography, a list of recommended, LGBT-inclusive books for readers under age 18. Nel Ward, head of the Rainbow Project, said that the Bibliography is designed to address one of the biggest problems librarians have with including LGBT-inclusive books in their collections: they don’t know what to buy.

LGBT book-award programs, such as the Lambda Literary Awards or the ALA’s own Stonewall Book Awards, "highlight just the very, very best," Ward explained. In contrast, the Rainbow Bibliography takes a broader view, beyond just the top two or three titles.

The Rainbow Bibliography is not a catch-all of last year's books with LGBT content, however. Ward said that she and her committee of eight ALA members looked at almost 150 books, nominated 64, and selected 46 for the final list. In order to be considered, books needed to have significant LGBT content, be accessible to readers under age 18, and be of sufficient quality.

The committee cited four works for "exceptional quality and impact": How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity, a collection for teens edited by Michael Cart; Ash, by Malinda Lo, a retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist; Into the Beautiful North, by Luis Alberto Urrea, about three young women and their gay friend seeking to protect their Mexican town; and Finlater, by Shawn Stewart Ruff, the story of two teens who fall in love and must deal with homophobia and racial tension in the 1970's.

Ward, in an interview, also highlighted two of the books with transgender characters. One is the fictional Almost Perfect, by Brian Katcher, about a boy who falls in love with a girl and finds out she’s transgender. "It's very nicely done," she said, "and it shows the difficulty on both sides of dealing with this situation."

The other is Mara Drummond's Transitions: A Guide to Transitioning for Transsexuals and Their Families. Although it is not aimed at youth per se, Ward said she thinks it will be of use to students in middle school and beyond. She relates that in Portland, Oregon, near her home, there have been newspaper articles about two ministers and a high school teacher who made gender transitions and remained in their positions. "These are people that young people will then need to know information about," she observed. "I think [Transitions] will provide them good information about why they [transition]. It's not clinical. It's just very, very straightforward material."

Ward noted that although there are also several other non-fiction works on the list, none were written specifically for children and young adults, a gap she hopes some authors and publishers will remedy.

One of the difficulties of creating the list, Ward said, is that the cataloguing headings assigned to books by the Library of Congress do not always indicate LGBT content. The lack of appropriate subject headings meant that at least one book—Alison Goodman’s Eon: Dragoneye Reborn, which has both a crossdressing character and a transgender one—was missed by the committee until after its October 2009 deadline. The good thing is, Ward noted, that a sequel is due out this fall, and should be a candidate for a future Rainbow Bibliography.

Although there is much overlap between the Rainbow Bibliography and the ALA's list of the most frequently banned and challenged books, Ward said feedback about the Bibliography has been overwhelmingly positive, both from librarians and children. Youth are posting to online social networks "about how grateful they are to get these books," she said. Gay-straight alliances and other diversity programs are also using the Bibliography as a core list for their work.

The entire Rainbow Bibliography is available online at ALA Rainbow Project

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Guest Post: Bi This Book!

Today's guest post comes from Lauren Bjorkman, author of My Invented Life. She's here to talk about the very underrepresented topic of bisexuality in YA lit, and to give suggestions on books to read. Welcome to our blog, Lauren!


Bisexual characters, especially bi protagonists are unusual in teen lit. A visit to Lee Wind’s website—I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?—makes this clear. Only eight out of 200+ GLBT titles there have bisexual characters or themes. Until recently, the in-betweens hovered on the fringe of the literary rainbow world. For instance, the Lambda Literary Award only began recognizing bisexual lit in 2006, though the award started in 1988. Here are a few of the myths bis have had to overcome--

They go for everything that moves.

They’re not as committed to the gay movement “real” gays.

They prefer to date the opposite sex so they can “pass” as straight.

They’re going through a transition on their way to becoming gay.

They’re confused and indecisive.

Here’s the cool part! Two weeks ago, I bought a stack of bi teen novels and read them all from cover to cover. They were universally excellent, deep, and heart-warming. Some made me laugh aloud. Besides that, they blasted these stereotypes and crazy ideas right out of the water. Check out my book recommendations at the end of the post.

When I started writing My Invented Life, I knew little about bisexuality. In fact, I didn’t set out to write about bisexuality at all. My theme was sisters and the secrets that come between them. But in the midst of planning my novel, I went to my high school reunion. The drama around certain classmates that came out inspired me to use sexual orientation as the wedge between my fictional sisters. When I shared my premise with my critique group, one member dropped out. Which meant I was onto something.

As part of my research, I read a number of gay and lesbian novels, and discovered David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. Some call his setting gaytopia—a world where being queer is not an issue. I loved this! I wanted to write a fun and light-hearted book, too. So I made the main conflicts in My Invented Life about competition between the two sisters.

After I started writing, friends and acquaintances asked me about my WIP. When I told them about my queer characters, they surprised me with their personal stories. Women who where married to the opposite sex—some I’d known for years, some I barely knew at all—came out to me for the first time. I’m bisexual. I had a lesbian phase in college. I had a crush on a woman once. I find women attractive but it’s easier to be with a man.

Around then, I learned about the Kinsey scale. Kinsey considered sexual orientation a continuum rather than an either/or situation. This made so much sense to me! Of course, I had to have a character bring up his research. My characters uses the dashboard of a car instead of a scale, and places herself somewhere around the glove compartment. And so my story evolved. One blogger, Shelf Elf, reviewed My Invented Life as: funny + depth = reading bliss. I hope you agree.

Here are some other bi-books for your TBR pile!

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

Three girls—Nina, Avery, and Mel—have been best friends since childhood. Nina leaves town to attend a leadership program the summer before senior year. While she’s gone, Mel and Avery have a sleep over that leads to romance between them. Mel has always known she was a lesbian, but kept it to herself. Avery learns that she can be attracted to girls for the first time. When Nina returns, things go from complicated to VERY complicated. Despite the drama, the story stays sweet and funny. Nina, Mel, and Avery are wonderfully flawed, and yet likeable. I enjoyed the tender romance, as well as the friendship story.

“Hello,” I Lied by M.E. Kerr

This one hooked me from the first sentence. Lang is a gay teen in love with a twenty year-old actor, who loves him back. The story takes place during a summer when Lang lands a job helping his mother as an assistant to a fascinating and elusive rock star. The rock star insists on throwing Lang together with a mysterious daughter of another rock star. And though Lang is securely gay, he falls for her. The gay romance and bi romance are both beautiful and believable. And talk about lyrical and poignant writing! This one differs from the others because it focuses on a bi relationship that looks allegedly heterosexual to the outside world.

Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies by Brent Hartinger

This sequel to Geography Club has a unique feature. In the first half, Hartinger tells the story from one character’s POV. When you finish, you flip the book over and read from a different POV. The feisty bisexual Min narrates the second half. She’s on a quest to find new romance, and succeeds while working as zombie extras on a movie set. But her new girlfriend won’t come out to her friends. Out-spoken Min has trouble accepting this. Hartinger’s style is funny and matter-of-fact. He creates adorable, good-hearted, and authentically teen characters.

Of All the Stupid Things by Alexandra Diaz

This debut novel has a lot going on. Like in The Bermudez Triangle, there are three friends who have been friends forever. Unlike Maureen Johnson, who writes in the third person, Diaz writes in the first person from each of their POVs. Tara, a hitherto straight girl, falls for a girl outside their triangle. The romance is sweet and wonderful. And Tara quickly accepts that she can have romantic feelings towards girls as well as boys. The other plotlines surround friendship, self-confidence, and abandonment. I especially loved how these three girls stand up for one another when the going gets tough.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan

This book came out in 2001, breaking some serious ground. It is a quintessential coming of age story. Nic has always had crushes on boys until the summer she meets Battle at a summer school for gifted children. Battle is a beautiful Southern belle and daughter of a minister. Nic dissects these new feelings with the ardor of an archeologist—the profession she hopes to pursue as an adult. But when romance blooms, she doesn’t stop dissecting. This puts a strain on her new relationship. At the end of the story, Nic still hasn’t decided whether she is lesbian or bisexual, but feels okay not labeling herself. I really loved Nic’s observant “field notes” scattered throughout the story.

Love and Lies: Marisol’s Story by Ellen Wittlinger

Marisol defers her first year of college to write a novel. She moves into a cramped apartment with a friend who brings home strays, works in a rundown café on Harvard Square, and enrolls in a novel writing class. Right away, she falls for her stunning writing instructor, Olivia Frost. Their budding relationship starts of romantic, but quickly goes down hill when Olivia’s dark-side comes through.

I included this sequel to Hard Love because Ellen Wittlinger writes amazing novels. If you haven’t read Parrotfish yet, you should! But I hesitated. Because this was the only book in my stack where the bisexual character turned out to be an unsympathetic character. Perhaps she isn’t even bisexual. But I decided to leave it in so I could ask this question. Should authors only portray GLBT characters in a positive light? Or can they be messed up, or even villainous? Why or why not?

Here are some cool websites and a non-fiction book to check out--

I’m Here. I’m Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?

Alex Sanchez’s list of GLBT books

Bi Magazine

Bi any other name: bisexual people speak out