Earlier this week at Desert Nights Rising Stars conference, we had the pleasure of meeting Bill Konigsberg, a YA author who has won the Lambda Literary Award for his debut novel, Out of the Pocket. In a panel discussion, he explained his writing as the exploration of labels. More specifically, what labels mean for an already out teenager. Often times the word gay becomes the headline to someone’s life.
In an interview regarding Out of the Pocket and coming out as a gay teenager, he explains it as this:
“I wanted to look at a character who had already done that, one for whom homophobia and coming out were not the main struggles, and I wanted to imagine what his life was like. Was it perfect? It turns out that beyond coming out, there’s this pesky business of labels, of feeling forever labeled in a way that doesn’t always feel … apt. If a boy is openly gay and plays on the soccer team, does that make him a gay soccer player? How does a person deal with the disparity between what people see (his gayness) and what he is (a person)?”
We couldn’t agree more with Konigsberg. How often do we hear labels like, a gay soccer player, a gay basketball player, a gay cheerleader, a gay stand up comedian, a gay writer. The word gay becomes the headline of our identities and Konigsberg is right to question how this label defines us. How often do we hear a straight soccer player, a straight basketball player, a straight cheerleader and so fourth? Why are people fixated on our sexual identities and not what comes after them? We are soccer players, basketball players, cheerleaders, comedians, and writers. We are people who affiliate with other identities, too. We are Muslims, Christians, Catholics, and atheists. We are Black, Asian, Irish, French, Native American and White. Each of us have different backgrounds, perspectives, cultures, and traditions. We are not our headlines. We are people with aspirations and dreams that are unique to us.
In Openly Straight, Seamus Rafael Goldberg, aka Rafe, is tired. Tired of being “The gay kid” who plays soccer. “The gay kid” who hangs with Claire Olivia. So he decides to reinvent himself without the label. Because he’s more than just that. He goes to a new school, where he finds himself among the jock crowd, and he loves it. But what happens when he falls in love with Ben, who doesn’t know about Rafe’s past? Can he give up a part of who he is, and still be himself?
We can’t wait to read Openly Straight in June. If you would like to know more about Bill Konigsberg, you can follow him on twitter, like him on facebook, and follow him on tumblr. Otherwise, take a look at his website, you never know when he’ll be in your town for a visit!