On Saturday morning, W and I were up early packing her SUV and getting ready to head to our local Pride festival.
“Why do we do this?” I asked as I rubbed sleep from my eyes and loaded another heavy object into the car.
It rained during set up but then the sun came out. We all started looking for rainbows.
My best friend came and spent the day with me. And there we sat on a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching waves of people clad in whatever makes them happy–high heels, rainbow flags worn as capes, trans colors, combat boots, preferred pronoun stickers. I started remembering why we do this year after year.
One miscue: I wore my “I Love My Awesome Wife” tee. “Is this your wife?” everyone asked, looking at my friend. Everything does come full circle. When I came out, everyone thought my friend and I were a couple because we were so close. (In case you were wondering, W, my awesome wife, was manning a different table.)
I was promoting a local book group that I head, as well as my big butch memoir, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. We handed out lists of recommended LGBT books and rainbow bookmarks with affirming statements like “Believe in Yourself” and “Be Unique.” We asked people to share a book that inspired them or made them feel not so alone by writing the title on faux library cards.
We talked about books. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear young people chat excitedly about their favorite reads.
Here are some of my memorable moments from the day:
A 13-year girl so excited about books that she jumped up and down. She told me her favorite book is Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On. “About the worst chosen one ever and how he finds out he’s gay,” she wrote on her library card. I don’t know about you, but that’s a book I want to read. When I told her I was a writer, she jumped up and down some more. “Me, too!” she said.
A woman who recommended the book Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner. She told me that she discovered the book when she was a kid at her local library. She checked it out and took it home. When her mother found it, she burned it in the backyard. She couldn’t go back to the library because she was unable to return the book. My heart broke for that little girl.
Everyone who picked a “You Are Amazing” bookmark and said, yes, I am amazing and will take this one.
The fact that one of our son’s friend who identifies as trans was forbidden by his parents to go to the Pride festival with us. I saw so many parents walking around with their kids. But it’s important to remember all of the kids who have parents who are not accepting or supportive.
Here are the book recommendations we received from young and old, in no particular order:
- Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
- Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer — I’m not the only one who wants to live in a bus in the wilderness.
- When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson — Gay ladies who are bad ass warriors.
- Kase-san and … by Canno — Manga series with two cute lesbians.
- My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger — When I was trying to find myself in 8th and 9th grade.
- Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
- The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
- She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
- Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
- Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
- Shark School by Davy Ocean
- Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
- The Plucker and The Child Thief by Brom
- Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner
- Steven Universe comic books by Jeremy Sorese
- More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
- The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
- Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
- Echo of the Boom by Maxwell Neely-Cohen
- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
- The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell
- Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
- Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl by Satoru Akahori
- Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamilo
- The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Susan Stevens Crummel
- The Longest Mile by Christine Meyer
What about you? What book made you feel not so alone?