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Graham Scott

September 1998

I am sure that somewhere there are books out there that have relevance to my life, but I'm just not finding them. Instead I seem to be finding such literary gems as "Now That You Know- A Parent's guide to understanding their gay and lesbian children"

I have seldom come across a book as shamefully outdated, irrelevant, and badly written as this piece of festering tripe. "Now That You Know" was written in 1974, by two mothers of queer children, and it shows. It is little more than horrid stories of rejection and bigotry, followed by inadequate blurbs saying, "this is the way you should NOT act," or words to that effect.

This is supposed to be life affirming? Comforting? Non-Judgmental advice? The clinical writing style (which makes too much use of the word "homosexual") and the "advice" offered to parents of a newly outed child is simply embarrassing. The implied attitude of the book in general and therefore the attitude expressed to parents is, "it's a horrible thing to be gay, but you'll learn to live with it." The book talks about being gay as if it were a chronic disease that isn't fatal, but undesirable nonetheless.

This is not a book I would want to give to my parents to read. In the New Revised Edition, which was just reissued for 1998's cosmopolitan standards, is exactly the same as when it was first written. The "revisions" consist of a new cover, on which wholesome, smiling teenagers are shown so that the hairstyles don't look out of date, and two new chapters, one of which is about 40 bonechilling pages on the horrors of AIDS, the other a chapter on PFLAG and other parent support groups. Other than that, all the chapters appear to have been simply reprinted: a different typeface is used for the chapters which were written in 1998!

There is praise right on the front cover of the book, gleaned from "The Advocate", which reads "There is a real need for this book. Buy it, read it, then send it to your folks." I would hope that the premier gay publication on Earth would be able to tell bad books from good, especially on a subject they should, by all rights, be knowledgeable about. I will sum up my argument against this book with a quotation (it's always "quotation", never "quote", there's no such thing as a "quote") from my favorite power-bitch/literary and social critic, Dorothy Parker:

"This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It must be thrown with great force."

I've taken several books out of my local library recently dealing with gay topics. The only one I've really enjoyed reading, or even gotten any useful input from, is "Free Your Mind-- The book for gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth- and their allies"

"Free Your Mind" I think presents a rather rosy picture of gay life at times, and is probably not totally realistic. But unlike "Now That You Know", it is a more contemporary writing style, it's more readable, and, dare I say it, it's a feel-good book. It takes a rather idealistic view of the world, maybe, but that's exactly why I enjoy reading it. It takes a break occasionally to tell a story with a happy ending; the people who are quoted in the book sound like real people; it's divided into manageable sections and sub-headings; it's just a pleasure to read. "Free Your Mind" is everything "Now That You Know" SHOULD be, but isn't.

I found one of the best sections in the book to be "Our Pride and Joy- for the parents of gay and lesbian children". I wish this section had been longer, as it is extremely positive, and speaks right to the parent reading it. It touches (albeit briefly) on most subjects that parents would want and need to know about. It doesn't dive into the murky waters of sex-education right away, leaving that until a time when perhaps they're ready to learn about such things with an open and unclouded mind. It doesn't enforce stereotypes, and actually takes a rather firm hand with the reader. If the tone in "Now That You Know" was "don't worry about this terrible thing your kid has done to you, it's not your fault, you're still a good person..." then the tone of "Free Your Mind" is "get over yourself, you're not the only one with problems around here, you're not the center of the universe."

I like a book that gets to the point.

I've found books which numbed my mind with rage...or was that boredom? An example:

"Becoming Gay" -- Not only was it prejudicial, condescending, and patronizing, but it was dry, clinical, and boring! I would have gone and put it straight back on the shelf if I hadn't fallen asleep reading such exciting chapters as: "Homosexuality in the adolescent male" and "Gender disputes and the psychology of homoeroticism" (well, okay, I made the last one up to illustrate the excruciatingly dull tone of the book.)

"Homosexuality- a way of Love, a way of Life" -- This one was a REAL winner. It is aimed at adolescents with emerging queer feelings, and takes on the role of sex ed, and if you thought the little pamphlets you got in grade 5 about where babies come from was bad, this is worse, only it lasts about 150 pages. It focuses on what it means to be gay, lesbian or bisexual, and provides the warm fuzzy writing style meant to put the reader at ease. It has Diagrams, for chrissake! But I guess if I was 11 and wondering why those "where babies come from" booklets didn't seem to stir anything in me, I guess this would be something I might read. But otherwise, stay away.

And I've found some that weren't bad, but not great... another example:

"The Journey Out" -- This one is of a type with "Free Your Mind", but shorter, and not nearly as detailed. It has some interesting bits, though, including a chapter on Gay History, which I have yet to find anywhere else, and a chapter called, "Coming to Terms with the Terms", which is nothing more than a dictionary of Queerness, and can be really quite entertaining. Amuse your friends by giving them the exact definition of a "Lipstick Lesbian" and the difference in the definition of "Drag Queen" and "transvestite". Good for a laugh sometimes. But don't turn to this book for the really important advice.

It seems to me, if I look at the 306 section of any library at the books on sexuality, I find that none of the books were written later than 1975. Go and see for yourself. Go to "306" on the Dewey Decimal system and look at the selection of books there. It's as if human sexuality ceased activity in 1975, so no one felt it necessary to write anything more about it.

These suggestions are my personal feelings about these books. I don't want to piss of the publishers or the authors. Just think of it as a book review.

Earth to Publishing world: Queer youth don't want to be preached to, patronized, or argued over like inanimate objects. I have an idea for a book; how about, "Straight up: It's Okay to Breed."

Alright, here's my crappy public service announcement of the month: [drumroll]

NBC's

"The More You Know"

[cymbal crash]

Boy, I hope they didn't pay too much for THAT slogan.

Graham
interiority@hotmail.com


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