BRENT: The Gay Teen Kentucky Blogger & Book Reviewer

gay teen writer and book reviewer says that GLBT-themed books for young adults are important for self-esteem and to prevent a sense of isolation. Fifteen-year old Brent, who co-created the book review website The Naughty Kitties, guest blogged at Pinched Brent, who lives in Kentucky, related how his school library offered no GLBT-themed books. When he approached the school’s librarian about the lack of GLBT-themed titles, he was told to go to the city library if he wished to read “inappropriate” books. The city library was similarly devoid of LGBT-themed books although, noted Brent, “they had the latest Sharon M. Draper novel! You know, because drugs and gangs are acceptable, but inspirational LGBT novels are just downright ’inappropriate.’ ” Brent then lobbied the city library to acquire books with GLBT themes. Such books have a tough time in the United States. The book And Tango Makes Three, about a pair of male penguins in a zoo who hatch and rear a chick as their own, has topped the American Library Association’s list of “challenged” books for several years running. Other titles, such as Heather Has Two Mommies, have become synonymous among anti-gay activists who claim that the inclusion of books depicting “non-traditional” families constitutes an attempt by gays to “recruit” schoolchildren into a “homosexual lifestyle.” Anti-gay groups have also attempted to force libraries to put books that condemn gays on the shelves, as well as books that view homosexuality as a form of pathology that can be “cured,” even through mental health experts warn that so-called “reparative therapy” has not been proven to “convert” gays and may do more harm to GLBT individuals who are already traumatized by societal or religious stigmatization. In his guest blog, Brent addressed the damaging messages that young GLBTs are subjected to, writing that the necessary response was for gays to excel. “Everything we do, it has to be extraordinary and above,” wrote Brent, going on to add, “With the world directing all this ugliness toward us, the gays, we have to find beauty in other things. And the easiest place to find beauty? Words. Literature.” Brent described how he had been taunted as being gay before he knew what the word meant. Eventually, he discovered the meaning of the word, and knew that it did apply to him. But through a friendship with a lesbian classmate, and through books, Brent came to understand that being gay did not have to be something negative. “People really write about this stuff?” wrote the teen. “It felt… great” to read about characters who reflected his own thoughts and feelings, the youth wrote. “Imagine that you are an alien on your own planet. And imagine you find out that there are more aliens, just like you, on your planet. And imagine what it would be like–to know that someone knows what it’s like. What you’re going through.” But what young GLBTs need is not books that address their feelings through stories set in a hermetically sealed alternative gay world. According to Brent, what he needed were books that depicted GLBTs as they are in reality: part of the human community. “I wanted to read Romeo and Julio instead of Romeo and Juliet,” Brent wrote. “I didn’t want to read the usual coming-out story (there’s an abundance of those!). I was ready to see gay characters trickling into the mainstream genres. And I was so excited when I did.” Added the young reviewer, “With gay characters moving over into a variety of genres, it shows that people, writers, are seeing gays as normal. Whose stories can be enjoyed by ’regular’ (straight) people.” Eventually, the young man’s efforts paid off and the city library added two GLBT-themed titles by young adult (YA) author David Levithan, one of them Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-written with John Green. “The world needs more librarians who serve the purpose of finding the right book to put in the right person’s lap,” wrote Brent. “Not librarians who think that they can decide what’s ’inappropriate’ and what’s not, based on their personal prejudices.” Added the young writer, “LGBT YA lit helps us find out that no, we aren’t alone and no, we aren’t worthless or disgusting. It helps us discover that we are part of a group.”