In the next few weeks, I am planning on reaching out to some local groups (gay-straight alliances, PFLAG, etc.) about my book.
The people I contacted in November and December said to try back in the new year.
In this in-between time, I am worrying that my story isn’t relevant in this day and age.
Mine is a story about growing up feeling different. It is a story about being a tomboy and not understanding why that me — the one who wore boys’ clothes and could throw a baseball farther than anyone on our block — was so offensive. It is a story about having feelings for other girls and then squashing them out of fear of what other people would think. It is a story about marrying a man, because isn’t that what I was supposed to do and wouldn’t that make my parents proud. And then coming out in my late 30’s, radically altering the trajectory of my life plans.Things are so much different today. Kids are out at school. Same-sex marriage is legal in this country. Ellen is no longer in the closet and she has her own daytime talk show on a major network.
So, does anyone need to hear my story? Will anyone care? Will it make a difference?
I was reading Curve magazine the other day and Editor-in-Chief Merryn Johns had this to say:
“We lesbians, especially older lesbians, must record our histories so that the younger generations have a point of reference for their own lives, and have something to build upon.”
That’s what I’m trying to remember. That my story is a Lego block. And that others — this generation of young people who have so many more freedoms than I did — will use it to build upon, brick after brick after brick.
Until it forms a tower so tall it pokes into the clouds.
* * *
What do you think? Are our old-timey stories still relevant?
The world is still youth-centric; the queer community is no different. I, for one, think you should share as much as you can. We can only grow by understanding our roots. Keep on keepin’ on!
Thanks for that. Guess I just needed some encouragement. Keep on keepin’ on yourself!
Very well said! I love it! 😄🌺
Thanks for reading, Lynn. 👍
You know, I think your experience isn’t nearly as outdated as you think it is. It sometimes seems like all/most LGBT kids are comfortably and safely out (since those are the ones who are most visible), but that isn’t always the case, especially in more conservative parts of the country.
And personally, though my teenage experience was a lot different than yours, later coming out stories really resonated with me in certain ways. During high school, when I was far from comfortable with my sexuality, I moved to a school where several students were openly gay, and felt like all queer people must be out and proud by age 15 (since all the ones I knew about seemed to be). And if I was *legitimately* queer, then I should have already been out, unless I was a self-hating, cowardly liar. (This logic made sense in my head.)
Reading stories about people coming out at various ages helped me accept that there are more valid timelines for accepting sexuality than the one narrative I could see in my peer group, and that my identity could be valid regardless of when I claimed it.
Thanks, Nadia. I really needed to hear this. I’m pretty secure with myself these days and surround myself with like-minded people. I guess I forgot what it’s like to be questioning and insecure.
Your story is very relevant!
Thanks for the vote of confidence!
Your story definitely still matters! I run a peer group for women struggling with coming out and even in this day they still have a hard time with it. Think how many years after the civil rights movement and black stories about inequality still happen and matter. By the way, I ordered your book awhile ago and am patiently waiting for it to arrive — looking forward to reading it!
You’re right. Thanks for reminding me.
The title story Leaving Normal is about what is what like to be in one of those groups. That seems like a lifetime ago.
I’m not sure where you ordered the book, but it should only take a few days to arrive. If you’re having problems, email me privately and I’ll try to help you out.
It matters in the long run, to document what it was like to come out in a particular time and place.
People who are 25 now may feel it is irrelevant, but may feel differently when they are 45, and want to know what is whas like back then – the same way we may read Stone Butch Blues, or Boots of Leather, or A Restricted Country.
There are not a lot of true-voice memoirs out there – and I think Leaving Normal will have an “after-life” because of that.
Thanks, Jamie. I certainly appreciate your vote of confidence.
Absolutely still relevant. I echo “outcoaching.” It is essential for each generation to know the battles of previous generations and be familiar with the shoulders on which they stand.
Thanks, Patty. Guess if you have the battle scars, you might as well show them off with pride.
All of our stories make up the matrix of LGBT history. Your story is important, and you should be publishing it! Those youngsters now will age and they will have their own stories to tell, they will be far different than ours at our ages now, but they will be just as important I believe. I hope your book gets published soon, I for one will be a reader for sure! ~MB
Hey, MB, the book has been published and is available for sale. You can get all the details on The Flannel Files or look for “Leaving Normal” on Amazon.
I say this as a 26-year-old queer kid who, even growing up in a progressive city, struggled with their orientation growing up – your story is absolutely still important. I have found so much strength and understanding of myself by reading the stories of my elder queers; and besides, for every kid who is able to be out nowadays, there are still kids who are closeted, who are bullied for dressing differently from how people think their gender “should” dress, who are isolated and follow the path they are socialized to think is normal because they are afraid to be themselves. Those kids need your story.
Thanks, Raye. I really needed to hear that. Great name, by the way. I appreciate your point of view as a young person. I’ve forgotten about those kids who aren’t out and proud. The ones who need to hear again and again and again that it’s ok for them to be themselves.
I honestly wish I had stories like yours to read when I was younger. I knew what lesbians were, but I had no idea that being bisexual was a real thing. I didn’t come out until I was 46, and had been married for 20 years.
That was part of my motivation in writing the book. I wrote the stories I would have liked to read when I was a kid. The ones that would have let me know that I wasn’t alone in the way that I felt. But I was a kid 30-some years ago, so there’s where my uncertainty comes in.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Yes! They are relevant! You have helped me so much!
Thanks! So good to know.
yes very much so, I think us “old timers” have a lot to share with the world , not just with the younger generations also for people our age and even older who may be struggling with their own sexual identities , your story is very important as are you , something for you to ponder as well, you probably wrote your book with the LGBT community in mind or as your target audience, but what I have discovered through the years, many heterosexual folks are very keenly interested in knowing what it is like growing up gay/bi/trans/queer/etc , for instance, my son who is 14 and as far as he and I both know, he is straight ….. but he does read stories and articles that are LGBT based so he can get a better understanding , he says that a good number of students in his high school also read much the same on the down low ( keep it from their peers and family ) , so your story may also reach an audience that you never expected and may be what opens people’s minds and educates them .
That’s a good point, Butch Country. I wrote the book in a way that anyone reading would be able to stand in my shoes and see the world through my eyes. To feel what it’s like to be called sir. To kiss a boy and not feel anything at all. To wonder what’s wrong with me. I have a friend who wants her kids to read it. Not so much to learn about the LGBT experience but about the importance of being yourself.
Good to hear from you, friend.
Yes, your story is definitely still relevant. I don’t think there can be too many honest and courageous stories of ways to be in the world. And while we may write our individual stories for our younger selves, or for people “like us”, they can often resonate with others in ways we don’t expect or ever intend; for instance, with a 52-year-old genderqueer femme man living across the ocean in England (me).
Thanks, Jonathan. These are all things I needed to hear. To remember about the power of story and how it can heal and transform. During this period of down time, my insecurities have grown and have gotten in the way of my message.
Yes! Your story matters!!! Although times have changed, the need to know others share our own experiences remains the same.
Thanks, Lisa. I don’t know what I’d do or where I’d be without all of my cheerleaders.
Yes to all of this (pointing to comments above). The courage to tell the truth matters to everyone. You never know who is going to be changed by hearing your story.
From one storyteller to another, thanks. I feel recharged and ready to go back out into the world and tell my truth.
I don’t think we can afford let the current narrative in ‘mainstream’ and ‘queer’ media fool us into thinking the battles are won, or nearly so. It’s only for a privileged few that this is anywhere near a reality.
Your story is achingly needed. All our stories are.
Thanks, Widds. Guess I’ve been living in my little rainbow bubble. I’ve forgotten how hard things are for others.
We need your story. I am an LGBT ally and teacher and I know we need your story. My students need to know that it is alright to be themselves and that it isn’t always easy to do so. They need more authentic voice and like Widdershins said they need to know that the fight isn’t over and there isn’t just one way to LGBT.
I know the battle isn’t over because I see it in my classroom when one of my students referred to another student as “you people”. The girl isn’t the only LGBT student we have, but she is the most comfortable in her own skin. I was proud of her for standing up for herself, but she still had to do it in 2016.
So, yes, we need your story.
Thanks, Rose. And here I was thinking we are all so evolved in 2016. Good thing those kids have you looking out for them.
Writing done well, regardless of subject matter, will always be relevant. Good story telling is timeless. Shared experience is a gift out of time. My personal opinion is that your book hits all three marks and takes it home with the added bonus of humor and realism. Keep telling your story…it matters.
Aw, thanks, bro. That means a ton coming from you. So, you all win. I march onward and keep telling my story. Sometimes you need others to believe in you before you believe in yourself.
Yes, your story is so relevant! It’s amazing that the world is changing and it’s comparatively less shocking for a younger person to come out, but issues of sexuality, gender and identity affect everyone, not just people in their teens and twenties.
I’ve always been fairly up front about my sexual orientation, from a quiet and please-be-ok-with-this “I’m bisexual” (when I didn’t have other words to use to explain it) to a loud and don’t-give-a-fuck “I’M QUEER”, but I’ve only recently started finding words to attach to my gender. It feels weird as hell to be talking about that for the first time in my mid 30s so reading about QILTBAGgy experiences from other not-that-young people is incredible.
Thanks, DB. I appreciate your input. Seems that what the Flannel-verse is saying is that we still need stories about coming out and dealing with things like gender and sexuality. And there I was thinking that the world was a more evolved place than it actually is.
Your story still matters. As a 23-year-old lesbian woman, I resonate with a lot of what you said. This is all to say, there are still young people out there who need to hear YOUR story, my story, because even though there are kids out there who can feel the freedom to be open, there are so many who do not feel that same freedom. Your story totally matters, and I would love to read your book 🙂
Hi Shannon. Hope you do pick up a copy of the book. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I feel reinvigorated these days to go out into the world and share my story with as many people as possible.
The young women today have forgotten what first and second wave feminists did and women’s health is seriously at risk while they think they have all the rights and freedoms. LGBT youth also need to remember.
Thanks! So true. Thanks to your post and others like it, I’m going to keep telling my story.
Everyone’s story is important Rae, whether you’re young or old, and you are certainly not old!!
Thanks for the vote of confidence. And thanks for reading!
You’re welcome Rae 🙂