It’s an experience that I, as a straight person, hadn’t really faced before but one that has since become familiar.
It’s that moment when you look at the person making friendly conversation, asking you about your life, and you stop and size her up. How do you imagine she is going to react? Do you know her to be a conservative Christian? Will she think of you differently after you respond? If you work with her, might her feelings about your response affect how she views you as a client?
My book is about a Christian minister who falls in love with another man. It’s about how his faith and relationship with his congregation evolve as a result.
Do I say this directly or do I speak around it? “It’s a bout a minister and his relationship with his congregation.” “It was inspired by a trip I took to the mountains.”
No, I can’t claim to know what it is like to have this come up about everything: your weekend plans, your family situation, “Who is that person who brought you lunch?” But writing LGBT literature, that is to say, writing one book about gay and bisexual characters, has given me a small taste.
Before I wrote the book, I had the luxury of holding but not voicing my opinion when it was not convenient, of keeping quiet and letting people assume I agreed with whatever they believed. Like most luxuries, it came at a high price: fear and inauthenticity.
I have friends who have reacted with— let’s call it surprise at the topic of my book. They love me anyway. My worries were unfounded. That realization spills over into many areas of my life. Trying to avoid offending anyone is a great way to avoid saying anything worth expressing.
I have a theory that social change happens not when the first trail blazers take a stand— as important as they are. The change really happens when average people stop nodding in agreement to things they don’t believe. I do think we’ve reached a point in history where a lot of people have stopped nodding.
I read a poem once with the title “Unlearning Not to Speak.” That is what writing lgbt literature has been for me, a process of unlearning not to speak.