I live a sheltered life.
I have a husband and two dogs. We're a tight unit and spend most of our time together. Despite living in a state that isn't exactly a bastion of gay rights -- Arizona -- I feel safe in my home. I have great friends, a nice place to work (I'm a writer, and I write at a comfortable, little coffee shop most days), a community that loves me as I am.
It wasn't always this way. I grew up in a world that was far less kind to me as a young gay person. But I have to admit that even though I write about LGBTQ kids and the troubles they face, I no longer really experience too many day-to-day difficulties because of my sexual orientation.
It occurred to me recently that one of the great things about growing up is that we get to choose our families, and we get to choose -- for the most part -- our surroundings. When you're 16 years old, you have absolutely no control over where you live and where you go to school. And if you're LGBTQ, that lack of control is multiplied by a zillion.
What if your parents are homophobic?
What if there's a particularly nasty culture of bullying at your school?
As much as I pretend to understand what it's like to be gay and a teenager by writing books like Openly Straight and The Porcupine of Truth with LGBTQ teen protagonists, I really have to look back a long ways to approach that tenuous place that caused me so much pain.
I think more than anything else, it's this safety that has made me want to do what I'm about to do.
On Sept. 4, I'll fly from Phoenix to Wichita, Kansas. I'll rent a car, and I'll start my 5,000-mile jaunt around the South and Midwest. Over the course of the next month, I'll be visiting 21 venues in 13 states, where I'll meet with LGBTQ youth with the hope of connecting on a bunch of levels:
- I want to share my coming out story, with the hope that hearing it will make them feel less alone.
- I want to hear their stories. I want to know what it's really like for kids today. It's 2015, which is a far better time to be a teen than 1986, when I was one. And yet I grew up in New York City. I want to meet with teens who live in places that are most certainly NOT New York City. Hence, I'm traveling to places like Little Rock, Arkansas and Saline, Michigan.
- I want to share with them all the current information about the resources offered by The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.
I'm hopeful that this journey will help me understand what's really going on in the heartland of this country of ours. I want to know, as I continue to write these books, more than what I imagine it's like today; I want to know the truth.
I will be blogging every week about this journey. I'll share pictures and stories from the road. I hope you'll enjoy the journey along with me! You can find my itinerary here.
This journey is also a fundraiser for The Trevor Project. I am accepting pledges online, and all the money donated will go directly to The Trevor Project. My travel expenses will not come out of this money. This one is purely a labor of love. My goal is to raise $25,000.
Click here for more information.