I started selectively coming out about eleven years ago. I pretty much always knew I wasn’t ‘straight’, but I didn’t know what to call myself, largely because I grew up in a time when calling someone ‘gay’ was considered the funniest/best insult by a lot of people, and I didn’t really know any labels beyond gay and lesbian. For a long time, I figured it would be a part of me I kept mostly to myself, but when I started dating a girl, I knew I needed the people closest to me to know about this side of my life and this important person I loved.
The first person I came out to was my friend Meghan. I don’t remember how I told her. I can’t remember the exact words. I honestly don’t even remember if I did it in person or on MSN Messenger (showing my age here, haha). What I do remember is one of the next times I saw her, she gave me a book: Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall. Meghan was always lending me books – books that often ended up being favourites, like The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. When she gave me Bottle Rocket Hearts, a book about 18-year-old Eve, a French-Canadian lesbian, I was grateful, but I don’t think I got her true intentions. I was excited because the book is set in Canada and there are so few books set in my beloved homeland.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, as I found the LGBTQ+ community on Twitter and heard about people’s experiences with coming out that the significance of Meghan’s gift really hit me. It wasn’t just that she was giving me a book she thought I would like. It was her way of saying ‘I love you, I support you, I’m here for you’. I cried when I realized, and I still get teary at times when I think about it. She was the perfect first person to come out to; I couldn’t have asked for a better experience, or a better friend.
Meghan’s thoughtful gift got me thinking about what book I would give a friend who came out to me, or was newly out. I’ve read a lot of LGBTQ+ books, but there are a specific few that come to mind.
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli ~ This book is just all-around amazing and I recommend it to pretty much everyone. In this case, I’d give it to a friend who was coming out because it shows a regular teen struggling with coming out, falling in love, and dealing with life in general. I love that we get to see Simon’s life before and after coming out, and that his story is funny, touching, and relatable.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown ~ I’d recommend this one because the main character, Jo, is already out. Coming out stories will always be important and necessary, but it’s also nice to see gay characters who are out, happy, and living a normal life. The book also has important discussions about faith, feeling the need to go back into the closet to please people, and living in an area where it might not be safe to be openly out.
Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee ~ This book is such a gem. When I first heard about it and realized it was a Middle Grade LGBTQ+ book, I was over the moon. Eighth-grader Mattie is confused when she realizes she has a crush on a girl, even though she was crushing on a boy just the week before. I loved this story’s sweetness and honesty, and I’m so happy there’s a book for kids who might not be quite ready for YA but who may be questioning their sexuality. This is a book I could have used as a tween or teen when I realized I liked both boys and girls.
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson ~ Megan writes fantastic m/m fiction, but Trust the Focus has a special place in my heart. It’s such a beautiful, honest book with authentic characters. I connected with both main characters, but especially Justin and his fears of coming out, what it would like being out, and dealing with possible backlash from family and friends.
Take Them by Storm by Marie Landry ~ Okay, a bit of shameless self-promo here! I had so much fun writing this story, even though the idea of publishing a book with a lesbian main character terrified me in a lot of ways. As I said before, coming out books will always be necessary, but I love books where characters are out and proud. People who are unsure or scared about coming out need to see it’s possible to be happy, fall in love, and live the life they want. That’s what I tried to do with Take Them by Storm.