Monday, June 02, 2014

LGBT Pride: A Roundtable Discussion

This week on my blog, we're trying something a little different. In honor of LGBT Pride month, I am among a great group of panelists who will be hosting a month long discussion about Pride, LGBT Youth, Allies, and more.

Our panelists are a diverse group of readers, writers, and supporters of gay fiction, including Larry Benjamin, Rick Bettencourt, Brandilyn Carpenter, Rob Colton, Andrew Q Gordon, Lane Hayes, Debbie McGowan, and Brandon Shire. Each week, two people will answer two questions related LGBT pride, rights, and related topics.

We will also be giveaway free copies of eBooks by our participating authors and a Amazon gift card. You can enter on the RC below. There are special entries for each week of June, so don't miss out on those.

Please join in the discussion in the comments. You can gain entries into the giveaway, but more importantly, you can be part of a important and fun discussion. Though only 2 panelists will be posting each week, we will all be joining the discussion. 

This Week's Discussion

As the LGBT community gains more rights and acceptance, how has this affected LGBT youth?

It's a very emotional time for me to answer this question, and not necessarily for reasons directly associated with the topic of this roundtable discussion. Back in 2000, I started work in a high school - not my planned career, I must admit, but the job came up, and, well...we all know that story, and it's one for another time.

I was employed to teach in the sixth form, housed separately from the school's main building that I tended to enter and exit via the staff-room door, which meant for the first couple of months of working there, I didn't come into contact with the main body of students. This particular day, however, I decided (for reasons I do not recall) to step into the foyer in the middle of break (recess).

Bam! Wall of sound! The best analogy I can give you is the clacking of a multitude of seagulls - the school's located near Liverpool, which has a very guttural dialect and accent (much more so than any of The Beatles - have a listen to footballer Steven Gerrard, and you'll get the idea).

So, I'm standing there, utterly stunned by the noise and the sheer volume of teenagers. Bewildered, I look to my right, where there is a long corridor, with windows running all down one side. Children are scurrying everywhere, racing to get to the canteen for their break-time goodies, and teachers are yelling, "Stop running! Keep to the left!" And through the midst of this commotion strides a young man, flanked by two young women. He has big blonde hair, spiked and drawn forward. His thumbs are hooked in the pockets of his black, skinny jeans (sooooo not school uniform), and he's swaggering, right down the middle of the corridor, all not-give-a-f**k, king of the school, yet he was only in year nine (14-15 years old), so not yet a senior pupil.

Out. Loud. Proud.

It was just the most incredible thing, and he made so much difference in that school - I don't know if he's aware of that, but he, and other students who took that first brave step, paved the future for others. It's an amazing school for that reason, if nothing else. For there, sexuality is no more of an issue than any other aspect of growing up, and it's...wonderful.

To answer the question, therefore, rights and acceptance mean young people can concentrate on the million other things that are going on - learning, exams, going out with friends, choosing uni places, playing football, having romantic relationships - without worrying about a "difference" that doesn't matter, because it's just one of many things that make them a unique individual. It's not other. It's just...different. Growing up is tough enough already.

As for that swaggering young superstar: these days he runs a theatrical production company. He's an incredibly talented writer, actor and director. He has every right to be as out, loud and proud as he damn-well likes.

What does "gay pride" mean to you?

My answer to this question is really the flipside of my answer to the question above. First and foremost, I'm going to make a point of calling it "Pride" rather than "gay pride", because it's not about being gay. It's not even about being bi, or trans, or straight, or asexual, or any combination therein.

See, for every swaggering superstar in the world, there is at least one shrinking violet, who is simply too shy, too introvert and too self-conscious to be out and loud, however proud (or not) of themselves they might be. For those of us who fit this mould (yes, I am an introvert, contrary to what people might think), drawing attention to ourselves is not something we welcome, and being non-heterosexual, or not fitting the binary male/female gender categories does precisely that. We don't want that. We just want to get on with thinking, and creating, and philosophising, because that's what we do. But it's like having an enormous spot on the end of your nose. However great a conversationalist you are, you just know that the person you're talking to is thinking, "Look at that spot!" and even if they're not, you're thinking, "They're looking at my spot."

The point I'm making is that pride is an inner state of being, whereas Pride is a political endeavour.

Pride is the celebration of progress, affirmation, solidarity. It is about a safe space, raising awareness, and it is about drawing attention, so in some respects, the measure of its success will be its demise, inasmuch as it's characterised by garish carnivals, partying and entertainment. And who says you can't have fun whilst being political?

On the other hand, pride is self-affirmation, being comfortable in one's skin. It's about being true to oneself, and it's political on a deeply personal level.

To return to the question of what "gay pride" means to me, I get that it's politically important, I really do. But I worry about the separatism. I've heard and seen too many times the questioning by gay people of the motivations of straight people to join the fight for gay equality - why should they care? There's an implicit assumption that straight people only care if they have seen for themselves the damage that "phobia" has caused to a loved one, and I don't believe that's the case. So for me, it's not "gay pride". It's just pride: standing up for what is right, regardless of who or what we are.

Andrew Q Gordon is also hosting this week. You can read his most excellent roundtable blog post here: http://andrewqgordon.com/2014/06/02/gay-pride-month-virtual-roundtable

 

About our Panelists

Larry Benjamin: Bronx-born wordsmith Larry Benjamin, is the author of the gay novels, Unbroken, and What Binds Us and the short story collection Damaged Angels.
Larry will be hosting the discussion starting 9 June 2014
 Twitter: @WriterLarry
Website: http://www.larrybenjamin.com 

Rick Bettencourt: Rick Bettencourt is the author of Not Sure Boys, Painting With Wine and Tim On Broadway. Rick hates to cook, and can often be seen eating out. He lives in the Tampa Bay area, with his husband and their dog, Bandit.
Rick will be hosting the discussion starting 23 June 2014
 Twitter: @rbettenc
Website: http://rickbettencourt.wordpress.com 

Brandilyn Carpenter: Brandilyn is the odd duck in this group. She owns an LGBTQ fiction focused review blog, Prism Book Alliance, and is the married mother of 3 young children. She is an advocate for equal rights and tirelessly promotes the gay fiction genre.
Brandilyn will be hosting the discussion starting 16 June 2014
 Twitter: @BrandilynRC
Website: http://www.prismbookalliance.com 

Rob Colton: Rob Colton is a software developer by day, and avid reader of romance novels at night. A romantic at heart, he loves stories that feature big, burly men who find true love and happy endings.
Rob will be hosting the discussion starting 16 June 2014
Twitter: @robcub32
Website: http://robcolton.com

Andrew Q Gordon:
Andrew Q. Gordon lives in the DC Metro area with his husband and 2 year old daughter. While he enjoys most types of fiction, his current works include MM Fantasy, Paranormal and Contemporary Fiction.
Andrew will be hosting the discussion starting 2 June 2014
Twitter: @AndrewQGordon
Website: http://andrewqgordon.com

Lane Hayes:
Lane Hayes is a M/M author, 2013 Rainbow Award finalist for her first release Better Than Good, designer, reader, lover of chocolate, red wine and clever people.
Lane will be hosting the discussion starting 23 June 2014
Twitter: @LaneHayes3
Website: http://lanehayes.wordpress.com

Debbie McGowan: Debbie McGowan is based in Lancashire, England. She writes character-driven fiction, runs an independent publishing company, and lectures in social science. Sometimes she sleeps, too!
Debbie will be hosting the discussion starting 2 June 2014
Twitter: @writerdebmcg
Website: http://www.debbiemcgowan.co.uk 

Brandon Shire: Brandon Shire writes fiction about human intimacy and interactions. He loves chocolate and is a staunch advocate for homeless LGBT youth.
Brandon will be hosting the discussion starting 9 June 2014
Twitter: @thebrandonshire
Website: http://brandonshire.com

Giveaway

Prizes (4 winners):
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook Listening to Dust by Brandon Shire, and eBook Not Sure Boys by Rick Bettencourt
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook Painting with Wine by Rick Bettencourt, and eBook from Andrew Q Gordon's backlist
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook Unbroken by Larry Benjamin, and eBook Champagne by Debbie McGowen
  • $ 10 Amazon GC, eBook from Rob Colton's backlist, and eBook from Lane Hayes' backlist
a Rafflecopter giveaway

31 comments:

  1. I really liked this. The world - not just our community (however we define it) - needs more out loud and proud folks to show us that we can be who we are. And as you said, hopefully for those who follow, the young can worry about the million other things that come with being young and have their sexual orientation be something that gets no more notice than their hair color or height.

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    1. Thanks, Andy. I feel quite strongly about this, and I've been so lucky to see what it can be like, although I think that also makes me a little naive when it comes to appreciating just how much still needs to be achieved.

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  2. First, let me comment on how beautifully you wrote that introduction. I really got the sense of being out in the schoolyard, being smacked with a cacophony of British dialect, and, ultimately, witnessing the out-and-proud student swagger about with his friends. Nicely done!

    You’re right. Pride isn’t just about being gay. In my experience, I’ve found the best supporters to be those who identify as being straight—unabashed in putting their face out there, in support of a just cause, and doing what is right just because it is. When I ran the LGBT group for a major US company, we started out by asking our straight colleagues to be the face of support. We quickly had more straight members than gay, but shouldn’t that be the case? There are more straight folk than there are gay, and a group of proud individuals should reflect the same.

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    1. Thanks, Rick, for your kind words. You raise a very good point there, too, about the numbers game, although I also have a feeling the ratios would be far less skewed in social spaces where it doesn't matter.

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  3. It makes me feel so good when I read things like this. It was not like that for kids who were bullied for any reason when I was in school. Seeing that that is changing, slowly, oh so slowly, but changing gives me hope that we can be better, that we will be better.

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    1. Thanks, Allison - it does inspire hope, most definitely.

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  4. Loved the post. Inspires hope, change and acceptance as it should be.

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  5. Great post! I love your story about the out and proud teenage boy. Kids like that don't know the power they possess and it can be a magical thing to witness.

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    1. Thanks, Lane. It was definitely magical - I think these days the young man in question probably knows he's a shaker and changer, but when you're fourteen it's a much more personal statement than that.

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  6. Great post. I'm always surprised when I hear the question, "You're not gay, why do you care?" My answer is always "Why wouldn't I?" I could argue that as an African American, I know that the freedoms I now take for granted where not won by my people alone. Or I could also say that I have friends and family that are part of the LGBT community. But the simple truth is that I care because I'm human.

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    1. Thanks, Lynnette, and well said!

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  7. great post!
    thanks for the giveaway

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    1. Thanks, Lee. You're very welcome! :)

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  8. Great post! I'm not sure I have ever labeled myself. Have had both lesbian relationships, and have now been married to a man for 10 years. However, this has always mattered to me, even more so now that my younger, previously sister, now transitioning to brother has come out. I worry every day that he accepts who he is, but really still doesn't step outside the house much. Our family is accepting, but the world is not. We need to remember that when we leave this earth, we want to be proud of who we were. I'm proud of him for making that decision to be what he feels he is.

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    1. Thank you, Denise, for your kind words, and for your wonderful, inspiring comment. Much love to you and your brother - how lucky he is that you are his sister.

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  9. Great post Deb. I find your distinction between "pride" & "Pride" intriguing.

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  10. Great post! The imagery at the beginning was amazing and the post was inspiring.

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  11. Debbie, I'm so glad you're part of this roundtable. This is my first introduction to you and your writing. I love the story you shared about the student at your school. As you said, people like him pave the way for others. I'm always grateful there are people comfortable and confident enough to not care. I don't know why we do care about the opinions of others so much sometimes, but it's human nature. I'm just glad there are others for whom that is not true. Your answer to the second question is why I'm glad there are Pride events. No matter who we are, what labels we wear, we have our humanity in common. We don't know who we touch when we have pride in ourselves, who will see us and emulate that spirit or think of things in a different way. That's the way change happens.

    Carolyn

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    1. Thank you Carolyn. After I wrote this, I sent the student the link - he said it wasn't easy to come out, but he did it with such style and confidence no one would ever have known to look it him. What a privilege it is to know him - as I write these words I'm discovering a whole new meaning of 'pride'.

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  12. I enjoyed your post Debbie. Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone could have pride in themselves and tolerance and acceptance for the beautiful diversity of people.

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    1. Yes indeed! We will get there, and it will be a wonderful day. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  13. Heh. I'm probably late commenting but, oh well. Great post Deb :)

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    1. Not at all! We've all been a bit busy, huh! And thanks. :) There's the new posts from Larry and Brandon this week too! (links above)

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  14. Awesome post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for that story about the out, loud and proud young man.

    ~H.B.

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  15. Wonderful post, Debbie! I have to say I agree with ardent.ereader's earlier comment and your response. It would be nice for everyone to be accepting of others and themselves.

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