In 2000, Eric Marcus wrote, "What If Someone I Know is Gay?" Now, a revised and updated edition is being published. This version includes personal reflections by the author on being a gay teen and adult. There is also a new chapter just for parents.
I had the chance to ask Eric a few questions about his book, and life for gay teens today.
In the introduction, you mention that this book is intended for anyone who knows someone gay. How do you envision most teens will get their hands on a copy?
Based on my experience with the original edition of this book, I'm guessing that most teens will find this book in their school library. Or it will be given to them by a school counselor, a parent, or a gay aunt or uncle. Some teens will also find this book through web searches. I'd be willing to bet that very few teens will buy this book for themselves.
What do you think has changed for teens since you published the first edition in 2000?
Teens in 2007 are more aware than ever about gay people and gay issues. For teens who are gay, this means that they're coming out at younger and younger ages, so this is something their friends are having to deal with. Also, there are many more high school and middle school GSAs now than seven years ago. So teens have more available resources right in their own schools.
What areas of the book did you find needed the most updating? Why?Updating was less the issue than re-writing and personalizing. I worked with a wonderful writer, Bronwen Pardes, who recently published a book about teen sexuality called Doing It Right. Bronwen told me that I needed to make the book a lot more personal and that I had to relax. And she was right. I was nervous writing the original edition because this is an issue that a lot of people don't think kids and teens should know about--especially if the person teaching them about it is a gay man. So with this new edition I've included a lot more personal stories and the writing is less formal.
The chapter specifically for parents is a new addition. Why did you feel the need to include information for parents this time around?
Over the past few years I've been hearing from more and more parents who think their kids and teens might be gay and want advice on how to raise a great gay kid. And I've also heard from parents who don't know how to answer the questions their kids and teens are asking about gay people. So I felt it was important to include that information in a new chapter. I also think it's useful for teens to know the kinds of things parents are asking.
A lot of the questions you address are based on common stereotypes and misinformation. Where do you think most young people learn about what it means to be GLBT?
Television. School. Their parents. Their friends. Definitely not in a classroom setting. And not from an expert like me. Most teenagers aren't even getting adequate sex education, so I'm not surprised that they're learning virtually nothing about gay people. I really think we've made a terrible mistake not teaching young people about sexuality in general. We tell them how not to get pregnant, how not to get infected with AIDS, and that they should wait until they're married to have sex. That obviously leaves a lot out.
In your chapter on religion, you provide a lot of GLBT friendly resources and point out how easily Biblical arguments against homosexuality can be dismantled. Yet many GLBT teens still have to attend homophobic religious groups with their families. Do you have any advice for them on getting through it?
I think this is just about the toughest issue for gay teens. How do you keep yourself whole if you find yourself attending a church every week where you're told that being gay is going to get you sent straight to hell. The important thing is to reach out to people who don't believe that. And for gay teens who have strong religious beliefs, the best people to reach out to are those who are gay and religious themselves, which is why I list so many GLBT friendly religious resources.
So often we hear about all the challenges of being gay. What do you think is one of the best things about being GLBT?
I often joke with my straight couple friends that I don't know how they do it. It's challenging enough living with another human being, but by comparison it's so much easier to be with someone of the same gender because on so many levels you have a basic understanding of your same-gender partner.
Kidding aside, this is really a good question. And I can only answer it from my own experience. I wouldn't have become an author if I hadn't been gay. Because of the injustices I saw and the lack of basic resources, I felt compelled to write my various books. I would never have had the opportunity to write Greg Louganis's autobiography if I hadn't been gay. And I wouldn't be married to my wonderful husband. A lot of people think of being gay as a limitation, that it closes doors on opportunities. I've had the opposite experience and I think that that's the case for a lot of gay people.To find out more about Eric and What If Someone I Know is Gay make sure to chek out his website.