Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why write about sexuality if you're not gay? (Lauren Bjorkman)


My debut YA, My Invented Life, centers around big SECRET that drives a wedge between sisters that used to be close. The secret has to do with sexual identity. When the book hit the stores, interviewers often asked me what inspired me to write it.

This question always made me squirm. The easy answer would’ve been, “I wish that funny, uplifting stories with lesbian an bi girls existed back when I was a teen.” Unfortunately that would've been a lie. I am not lesbian or bi. I don't have any LGBT family members. Nor LGBT friends in HS. The challenges of growing up gay did not occur to me until much later. I’m that lame.

In fact, my biggest post-pub fear went something like this: LGBT readers and authors would scoff at my lack of “credentials,” laugh in my face, call me a fraud, or much worse. (False alarm, btw. I learned later that people like me are called allies. I felt very appreciated by the LGBT community.)

Luckily, the interviews were written, so I had time to develop cogent answers.

Reason A: I was inspired by events around my high school reunion. A number of my classmates came out around then. I asked a few about their experience in HS, and was somewhat horrified by their answers.

True.

Reason B: I wanted to write an uplifting story that focused on a friendship between sisters, and how a secret can ruin a friendship. I didn’t want the “coming out” itself to be traumatic.

Also true.

However, the biggest reason didn’t occur to me until after the book got published. Here it is:

I can identify with the pain of LGBT teens that hide their true selves from friends because I grew up in the same situation.

Only different.

My mom died when I was five. She didn’t die in a car wreck, of cancer, or in any tragic, yet socially acceptable way. She killed herself. My Dad insisted that my sister and I keep it a secret. I mostly did. But the secret made me feel ashamed. Dark. Dishonest. Disconnected. Fringe.

And that is why I believe in telling the truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Some day, I hope to live in a world where we aren't afraid that others might judge us for who we really are.




17 comments:

  1. Great post. And I learned that I'm an ally, too. Things have changed so much since I was in school, but there's still room for improvement. I like this angle on our fringe topic.

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  2. Beautiful post. I'm glad you're speaking your truth...And I know exactly what you mean about explaining the "inspiration" behind projects. My first book was about mental illness--even though I have no personal experience with any mental disorder.

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    1. Thank you, Holly. I've kind of been hiding out since I posted this. Now you've got me curious about why you chose to write about mental illness!

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  3. I am struggling with a plot line now in which a secondary character is struggling with 'coming out'. I didn't start out writing a gay character, but that's what evolved from the story, so I'm going with it.

    It's a direct result of all the political BS being slung around this year (apologies if I insult anybody) with Chic-Fil-A etc. It must have been percolating in the back of my brain and Poof! It fits this story so I'm rolling with it, even though I have no personal experience.

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    1. Yay to giving voice to characters percolating in the back of your brain!

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  4. It's so sad that your dad felt the need for secrecy, that your mom's death wasn't seen as "socially acceptable." Tragic and painful, yes, but it shouldn't have been shameful. But you're right that the world often makes us feel judged guilty for things we can't even control.
    Hugs.

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    1. It is sad, Jenn. I've been trying to convince him to write a memoir so he can get it out of his system. (Hug accepted)

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  5. What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing, and looking forward to reading your book!

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    1. Likewise. Thin Space sounds totally up my alley!

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  6. Thank you for sharing this, Lauren. You are brave and beautiful <3

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    1. Thank you, Cheryl. Publishing this post was a little scary for me. It's wonderful to get a warm response back.

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  7. Take all the love you can and then some. I want to write about something that has a stigma but am afraid to. It's not gay but about something I keep hidden from my friends. Post like this inspire me to be brave and come out.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

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