I grew up with shame of being gay, so I wrote a kid’s book so others don’t

Author Yohann Devezy

From the age of six and right up until my late teens, other kids bullied me because of who I am.

Like many members of the LGBTI community, my non-conformity with heteronormativity meant that I was regularly the subject of scorn and ridicule at school.

Despite many years passing since I left school, I have still hidden this part of my life from my parents – particularly my mother.

Clearly concerned for my mental health, my parents took me to see psychologists for more than a decade throughout my childhood and adolescence.

I knew – at least to some extent – why I felt the way I did, but never uttered a word about it.

Yohann Devezy

Yohann Devezy. | Photo: supplied

Despite weekly visits for years on end, not once did I mention the bullying, the homophobia or my sexuality with my clinician or family. When you think you’re not ‘normal’, you don’t want anyone to know you’re different.

I was extremely conscious of this as a young boy and I also felt an overwhelming obligation to not upset my parents. So I maintained my silence.

The birth of Hugo: The Boy with the Curious Mark

Out of these experiences came my book Hugo: The Boy with the Curious Mark.

It tells the story of a young child who is ashamed of his rainbow coloured birthmark. Feeling alone and marginalized, he goes on an adventure to find someone just like him. But just as he’s about to give up, something wonderful happens.

Hugo, the protagonist in my story, is named after my eight-year-old nephew.

Book cover of Hugo: The Boy with the Curious Mark

Hugo: The Boy with the Curious Mark. | Photo: supplied

A couple of years ago, my sister mentioned kids in his class were teasing him. I think it brought back all of the memories of kids bullying me in school.

Living on the other side of the world, I felt helpless. I didn’t want to see him go through the same kinds of experiences I had.

So, I decided to write a children’s story that would encourage children, their families and teachers to discuss and embrace difference at home and within the classroom. I set out to write the kind of story I wanted to read when I was younger.

While the story of Hugo deals with difference in a subtle way, my publisher Red Paper Kite Publishing, has worked with me to create comprehensive teaching notes that enable educators to support LGBTI inclusion in their classrooms.

For me, this was critical in making a difference.

While many education systems throughout the world remain reluctant to include LGBTI representation and visibility, I wanted to support those who were courageous enough to teach love, empathy and acceptance.

I was also very grateful to work with Manuela Adreani who came up with the beautiful imagery that helps to tell the story. In and of themselves, the illustrations are mini pieces of art.

Reception to the book

Since the release of the book, I have received many beautiful notes from readers about how the story touched them.

A man my age came across Hugo and was in tears by the end of it. Another mother thanked me for writing the story, having had kids in her son’s primary school bullying him.

The book was launched at Rabble Books and Games, a local store in Perth, Western Australia during one of their regular Drag Queen Story Hour. I was so excited to see members of the local community embrace the story and its message.

Drag Queen Story Time

Drag Queen Story Time. | Photo: Rabble Books and Games / supplied

Ever since this small idea became a reality, I have said that if this book helps just one person to be proud of who they are, I’ll call it a success.

I really hope that we continue to see the emergence of new diverse stories that accurately reflect the world we live in. I want to spread the message that all people can be fearlessly proud of who they are.

Even though I am happily married, as well as an out and proud member of the LGBTI community, I kept my sexuality from my parents throughout my whole childhood. It shows just how deep bullying and homophobia can impact someone.

In this regard, if my book makes even the slightest difference, I will be one happy author.

Hugo is available in Australia and New Zealand and hopefully will be published in many others countries soon.

 

Yohann Devezy is a Perth-based author. You can find more information on his author Facebook page

See also

I couldn’t see LGBTI families normalized in children’s books so I made one

Wife Swap features first ever episode with black gay dads

Gay Muslim single dad: ‘It’s time we challenge stereotypes’

Author: Yohann Devezy

The post I grew up with shame of being gay, so I wrote a kid’s book so others don’t appeared first on Gay Star News.

Trans fairy tale becomes most funded LGBTI children’s book on Kickstarter

Raven Wild, a new trans children's book

A transgender illustrated fairy tale is officially the most funded LGBTI children’s book in Kickstarter history.

Raven Wild is the latest book in the Promised Land series — a collection of illustrated and LGBTI-inclusive children’s books.

The team’s latest story focuses on Raven, a young transgender woman on an important mission. When she rescues an injured bird, Raven comes upon a poacher’s plan to steal a gem. This gem has the power to control all creatures.

Accompanying Raven on her mission is her childhood friend, Finn, and their journey together creates a love between them.

The two previous stories in the series are Promised Land, a gay romance between a farmer and a prince, and Maiden Voyage, a lesbian romance on the high seas.

The book’s funding started out well, earning over $15k in mere days.

Now Raven Wild has officially made over $34,000 (€30,000) on the website. This is several thousand more than what the first two books earned on the crowdfunding website.

Telling your own story

The Promised Land team, including co-founders Chaz Harris and Adam Reynolds, as well as illustrators Bo and Christine, worked with trans author Caitlin Spice on this book.

‘I wanted to tell this story because there was absolutely no literature around when I was a child to let me know that there was a name for how I felt; that I was transgender,’ Spice said.

‘I thought I was alone and that nobody else was like me, and I didn’t know how to handle my trans feelings, since there was no information available. I want trans kids to know that there are other people like them.’

Spice grew up reading the likes of Ursula K Le Guin and Tolkien. She thinks it’s incredibly important for LGBTI children to see themselves in media and stories.

‘Feeling alone is one of the most difficult things for any child. Feeling different is very hard, and seeing that there are other people like you goes a long way towards alleviating that loneliness and isolation,’ she explained.

‘Giving children and young adults great examples of people similar to themselves enables them to be more confident about who they are, and who they can be when they grow up – that their identities are valid, and that they won’t always be alone.’

The Promised Land has long been committed to LGBTI inclusion in their work, as well as challenging discriminatory institutions of power.

In January, they sent copies of their previous books to the anti-LGBTI school Karen Pence works at.

You can donate to the Kickstarter here, which lasts for three more days.

See also

A kid’s story about gay bunnies was the second most complained US book

Forgotten LGBTI heroes remembered in this author’s powerful book

What The Times newspaper got so wrong about trans kids and why it’s dangerous

Author: Anya Crittenton

The post Trans fairy tale becomes most funded LGBTI children’s book on Kickstarter appeared first on Gay Star News.

Meet the author who is saving LBGTI history, one voice at a time

Gay author Mason Funk

Five years ago, author Mason Funk was, well, in a funk. He couldn’t sleep.

Back in his youth, he was as ordinary as ordinary gets.

Los Angeles, California of the 70s was his home. The beaten Californian sun splashed the windshields of Sturz Blackhawk cars and Gulf petrol stands. Los Angeles Dodgers games dominated TV tubes.

A typical 70s good kid – part of a youth church group, straight As at school, always shouldering a smile – but Mason was gay. ‘What the hell was I going to do?’ Mason thought.

He was a gay teen flummoxed by his feelings. He had no clue how to express these feelings, but knew how to put on a pair of platform shoes and tight white pants to Dodger games.

‘Fast forward to five years ago, and I’m lying in bed with my husband,’ he told me over a trans-Atlantic call, ‘and I couldn’t stop thinking how my life got from there to here.

‘From the past to the present.’

Mason is the founder and executive director of OUTWORDS, a historical project that aims to preserve the voices of the LGBTI community. A taped, digitized archive of people’s lives, passions, and activism.

People of the past and present

People were the reason Mason has the life he has now. But history books – yellowing in public libraries – often have amnesia when it comes to queer histories.

‘But my favorite thing in the world is to find people – the more random location the better – and interview them. I thought, I just want to do this for the LGBTQ community.

‘To track down the LGBTQA pioneers and elders off the beaten road. Find them. Record them. Preserve their legacies and energies.’

Set to drop 21 May, The Book of Pride: LGBTQ Heroes Who Changed the World, is Masons’s move to preserve the present.

From the thrown bricks of the 60s to dot com poets today, Mason hit the road and spoke to these pioneers.

Moreover, he worked out of WeWork offices across the dusty states, who handed Mason the Community Giver Award and the funding needed to do pull this queer Jack Kerouac move.

Marriage pioneer Evan Wolfson, trans icon Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Stonewall-era rabblerouser Mark Segal, and legendary anti-DADT activist Grethe Cammermeyer, are just some of the names featured.

The story of Donna Burkett

In Milwaukee, Mason and his team dug and dug. Who could they interview in the city of beer, baseball, and bowling?

‘I heard about this woman Donna Burkett, who, in 1971, with her then girlfriend, marched into the country courthouse in Milwaukee and applied for a marriage license.

‘This was decades before marriage equality was on anyone’s radar. The ensuing publicity caused Diana and her family to suffer. Losing friends, family, and money.

‘Today, she lives in an assisted living facility wit the elderly. She felt forgotten by time. She gets around in a wheelchair.

‘When we called her and explained what we were doing, she was so moved. The whole experience made a huge difference. She felt remembered.’

Remembering queer icons

The experience of remembering is more intense today than it ever has been. Facebook ‘on this day’ notifications and TV streaming serves act as constant reminders of the past. Contained and archived. We constantly remember our own lives.

However, those not part of these archives – those in the margins of what’s written, in the silence of the spoken, and the invisible of the videoed – can struggle.

‘It meant so much for her to be remembered,’ Mason said, ‘the need to feel part of something bigger than us. It energizes any individual.

‘Young people today may or may not understand they are part of something so bigger than themselves,’ Mason’s voice rattles, ‘an incredible history that spans centuries.

‘I hope one of the messages I can convey is that young people are part of something,’ Mason said, ‘they are part of history, and soon they will create stories to pass onto next generations.

‘To the future.’

See also

Sex and the City is getting a follow-up TV series based on a new book

First LGBT-inclusive textbooks for elementary schools in Japan

United is first of US airlines to offer non-binary booking options

Author: Josh Milton

The post Meet the author who is saving LBGTI history, one voice at a time appeared first on Gay Star News.