“Sooner or later, though, no matter where in the world we live, we must join the diaspora, venturing beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us.”

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The LGBTQ Book club met on January 29 to discuss Logical Family , Armistead Maupin’s memoir contrasting his conservative upbringing in South Carolina  (working at Jesse Helm’s television station, meeting Nixon as a Vietnam veteran) to his life in San Francisco (writing a long-running serial in the Chronicle, hobnobbing with stars). Indeed, the title is a play on words, between one’s biological family and the people you gather around you as your logical family.

Two thirds of us had read Maupin’s Tales of the City series are were excited to glimpse behind the curtain. The memoir is an appealing, easy read. On the one hand, Maupin honestly reveals the difficulties he had with his strict, conservative father, whose love he craved, and he is not afraid to drop the names of celebrities in his life. We were surprised to learn he was the last sailor out of Cambodia and he defends his choice to out Rock Hudson. However, we wondered if Maupin is a reliable narrator because we were left with questions like, how did he actually meet these famous people and who are the actual members in his logical family? In the end, the book, a surface look at Maupin’s life with a good throughline, was a nice visit with an old friend.

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Next meetings:

“We must never be a country that says there’s only one way to love, only one way to look, and only one way to live.”

tomorrowThe LGBTQ Book club met on August 28 to discuss Tomorrow Will Be Different, Sarah McBride’s memoir about coming out trans in college, advocating for trans rights in Delaware, speaking at the Democratic National convention, finding love and losing it to cancer and advocating for trans rights on a national scale. It’s a lot to pack in to 25  years of living and a bit too much to pack into a book of this size.

About half of the group were familiar with trans people and rights before this meeting, although none of us knew much about McBride herself. One reader said that although he hadn’t been familiar, McBride’s authenticity elicited his empathy and that he has a better understanding of trans lives. Another reader had the opposite reaction, wanting more of McBride’s life story and less of the minutiae of her political life. We all agreed that while she does acknowledge her privilege (race, class, parental support), she doesn’t fully explore that but she is taking full advantage of the slide that has been greased for her.  

We explored the ways in which terms such as trans, bigot, and gay have evolved and the intersectionality of identities. One reader spoke of the conflict of including  lesbians and bisexuals in the now-LGBT community. We also touched on the work of trans women in the Stonewall riots.

Ultimately we agreed that the 28-year-old author has already led a remarkable life that is well documented in this book but we were left wanting to know more about the person and less about the potential political candidate.

More Information:
About the author
Interview with the author
About the book
TED Talk

Other Trans Authors of Memoirs:
Arin Andrews
Cris Beam
Chaz Bono
Jennifer Finney Boylan
Katie Rain Hill
Skylar Kergil
Janet Mock
Jan Morris
Amy Ellis Nutt

Recommendation:
As One opera

Next meeting:
The LGBTQ Book Club is going on hiatus this fall. Look for more information on jmrl.org in the spring.

“The only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit the mold.”

simon coverThe LGBTQ Book club met at Central on July 31 to discuss the young adult novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Everyone liked the warm coming-of-age story of Simon’s email flirtation with an unknown classmate, his forced outing, and the revelation of the surprise identity of his online crush. The novel is populated with Simon’s family and many, many friends, which are hard to keep track of but all have clearly drawn personalities. The book is lauded for its diverse cast of characters, but this seemed very subtle to us.  We were pleasantly surprised with the support Simon received from his family, friends and teachers, something that would have been unusual in a young adult novel ten years ago. While some of us who grew up in the area thought it rang true, a few of us thought that Simon’s classmates could have be crueler in real life and that Simon was free from any religious shaming.

Simon notices small, physical details about his friends such as the shape of their fingers. However, his primary relationship with Blue is conducted all online, with no physicality. Getting to know each other through email allows each boy to craft what they are saying, making their relationship less awkward and more intimate than it would have been face-to-face. This is mirrored the first time they are intimate, which is hilariously cringe-worthy.

The quotation “straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold,”  resonated with us. One participant read an interview with the author who explained that the title was a play on the phrase “homosexual agenda.” While we didn’t think that would resonate with today’s teens (and none of us realized it while reading the book), it does position the coming out story as part of the human condition. This is a deeply human story and everyone must struggle with identity, ideally without wounding others along the way.

More Information:
About the author
Interview with the author
About the book
Other works
Movie adaptation

Recommendations:
Alex Stranglove (film)
Rise (TV series)

Next meeting: