“Your joy, like a dog, wants to go for a walk.” ~Eileen Myles
I don’t say this often about a book: The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves (Aruthur A. Levine Books, 2012) is important. When I travel back to a particular time in my life and recall the fear I felt and the self-loathing inside me, I wish a person might have known and handed me this book. It might have made a huge difference for me and, indeed, will end up saving someone’s life, someone driven to recklessness or suicide by the shame or pressure that so many of us can identify with. As Sarah Moon, the editor of the book, says in her contribution to this compilation of writers’ letters, “At the end of the day, you are strong and brave through this, and those are not such bad things to be.” Quite true, for those who make it to the end of the day.
In 1994, James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski, and Randy Stone created an Academy Award-winning short film, Trevor, about an adolescent rejected by friends because of his sexuality. When the creators of the film realized that there were few lifelines out there for young people, they founded The Trevor Project, a 24-hour crisis and suicide prevention service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Find out more about The Trevor Project here: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/.
Like Awake (Cheyenne Publishing, 2011), The Letter Q, was written for young adults and also to benefit The Trevor Project. In order to create the book, Sarah Moon reached out to 64 queer authors, myself included, asking, “If you received a letter from your older self, what do you think it would say? What do you wish it would say?” The result is an amazing, poignant, sometimes funny collection of letters and a few comics whose themes recur throughout the pages like they do in my memory of my struggles and triumphs as I came out to myself, then to my family and friends (not in that order), and learned to find others like me and someone to love.
I can hardly imagine a single LGBTQ person who can’t identify in so many ways to the unifying experiences that come out as boldly as the rainbow flag itself. Here are just a few nuggets amongst a plethora:
“There is so much more about you to be proud of besides being gay, but somehow sexuality posed the Mount Everest of life’s obstacles—once you conquered it, you could conquer anything else.” ~Erik Orrantia
“One day what seems too heavy will weigh so little you feel you might fly…the very thing you are hiding, the very pain that throbs in your breast turns out to be your finest fiercest teacher.” ~Martin Moran
“Don’t merely accept the fact that you were born gay; treasure it.” ~Doug Wright
“Feeling like you belong is never going to be easy.” ~Tony Valenzuela
“Open your eyes and you will see that you’re already in the company of others just like you” ~LaShonda Katrice Barnett
“Yes, there are more of you. Yes, you’ll find each other.” ~Diane DiMassa
“The world is larger and far different than anything you can yet imagine.” ~Richard McCann
Fear, Your and Theirs
“People you don’t know will hate you for who you are.” ~Linda Villarosa
“You are mostly afraid that your family will stop loving you….But they won’t.” ~Linda Villarosa
“You could never have guessed then that the thing you feared most in yourself would one day be the source of your greatest joy, the inspiration for your greatest work.” ~Armistead Maupin
Struggle and Triumph
“We are all struggling to release our souls from stone, like those sculptures of Michelangelo…” ~Gregory Maguire
“On Hurting Yourself: Please stop.” ~Sarah Moon
“Even mistakes can bring great gifts.” ~Marion Dane Bauer
“All the tears wasted on your high school crushes would pale in comparison to the jolt you felt in your body when she told you she loved you for the first time.” ~Jasika Nicole
“Each great love will lead you to a deeper understanding of what love can and cannot do.” ~James Lecesne
“Your capacity to love is your greatest strength and the greatest gift you have to bring to the world. Live it. Rejoice in it.” ~Marion Dane Bauer
“Your heart is big and kind and holds lots of people.” ~Sarah Moon
The Letter Q is not a book you have to read from start to finish, but one to savor piece by piece, in any order, when you’re sad or nostalgic or joyful…or when someone you know is in need.