Thursday, January 7, 2010

GLBT Challenge....AND the January Mini-Challenge

One of the main challenges I wanted to join in 2010 was the GLBT Challenge, or the Challenge That Dare Not Speak It's Name. For some reason, I actually didn't get around to signing up.

So...this post is not only my sign-up. My initial post. My list of books I'd love to read. But it's also my chance to the do the first Mini-Challenge!! See? I really can multitask! Which is what I will do first. The point of the mini-challenge is "to write a paragraph or two on why this challenge and/or this issue is important to you."

Goodness. Seems like it would be easy. It should be. But like everything in life, there is always a little more to it than just black and white.

I grew up in a small farming community here in Illinois. And when I say small, I mean "TINY". My hometown has a population of about 520. My high school, when it existed (it has since consolidated with other schools and was actually leveled!) never topped 80 for all 4 grades. Life was simple and everyone came from the exact cookie cutter family. Differences weren't really tolerated. In fact, they were bad. Being gay was against everything that was taught to us. Hell, the bible said it was it must have been.

Fast-forward a few years, and I went to college. Differences were not only common; they were celebrated. I now had friends from different races, nationalities, religions, and dare I say, sexual orientations. Amazingly enough, I embraced all that was different in the world around me and just accepted. I've seen first-hand what hate can do. During my years at Bradley, I had the unfortunate opportunity to take classes with a guy named Matt Hale. If you are from the area, or even Illinois, you probably will know who he is. If not, I'll explain. Mr. Hale was a local area boy that became the leader of the World Church of the Creator. A White Supremacist. A particular nasty one at time. I even had a class with Hale, and if I say he was an ignorant, redneck pig, that's being way more generous than he deserves. He led a KKK group onto MY campus, reeking all sorts of havoc. It was a really scary time, and it brought out a lot of hate, the likes of which I had never seen face to face before. And which I never want to see again.

After I graduated, I met a guy that turned out to be my best friend. To this day, I can call him that. He's the sweetest, kindest person I know. He's my children's godfather. He is mine and Mike's closest friend. He loves me and my family unconditionally. And he's gay. He has experienced the bigotry of the uninformed. I would love to shield him from that if I could. But that is the way of the world, as much as I hate it. So, in my own little way, I'm working to change it. I had a friend one time comment on a BBQ we had at our house. She said coming to our house was like going to a meeting of the Rainbow Coalition. I looked around and realized it was true. We have friends that are black, Native American, Chinese, Spanish, gay, straight, white....and just about any mixture you can imagine. I want my children to grow up in a world where THAT is normal. Where being different isn't a bad thing. Where there is no such thing as different. A world where people just are. A place where every person is free to love whoever they choose, no matter what gender. That is what I believe in, and it is what my children are going to believe.

As far as the reading challenge, I have a few books that I want to read. I'll do my best to hit the Rainbow level. But I know how well I usually do on challenges, so we'll see in the end what I can accomplish. I know that I will pick up huge amounts of titles for my TBR, as well. So this list is just a start!!

  • Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  • Normal by Amy Bloom
  • Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
  • The House you Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford
  • Sex Talks to Girls: A Memoir by Maureen Seaton
  • Sugar Rush by Julie Burchill
  • My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Hopefully, this will be a wonderfully enlightening challenge. Many thanks to Amanda for hosting!


Amanda said...

Oh that man sounds horrible Stephanie! Ugh! I love the idea of a rainbow coalition in your backyard, though. :D

Stephanie said...

Amanda - Trust me, he is. Actually, he's sitting in prison right now. He went on to law school, passed the bar, but was denied a license to practice in Illinois because of all the trouble he's caused. So, he tried to have a judge killed. Nice, hugh?

Yeah, we have an extremely ecclectic group of friends. Gotta love it!

Amanda said...

Oh wow. That's...well, I don't want to say it's awful, because it's a good thing he's in jail, but it's awful that he tried to have a judge killed.

Michelle said...

This is beautiful, Stephanie, and probably one of the best reasons why this challenge is so important to you. To have experienced both love and acceptance and hate of that magnitude has definitely caused you to be the absolutely wonderful person you are!

Debi said...

What an awesome post, Stephanie. But what a awful, ugly person you talked about...I honestly can't imagine how scary it must have been to even be around such open hate and hostility.

Looks like a great list of books you've got lined up there! I've only read two of them (Dangerous Angels and Normal), but they were both so incredibly good!

Stephanie said...

Hi! I just stumbled upon your blog, and I'm glad you're doing this challenge too. This is a beautiful post. The world really shifts between high school and college doesn't it? :-)

Anonymous said...

What an experience to have - I can only imagine how terrifying it would have been to have someone from the KKK on my campus. I bet I'd be scared beyond words. I love that the challenge means something very personal to you.

(And even though this is really mean, I'm glad he's in jail!)

Ryan G said...

Stephanie, thank you for being the wonderful and caring person that you are. I've met a person like that before, Fred Phelps. I had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting him here in Kansas and the level of hatred men like him and Matt have in their hearts is truly frightning.

Their hatred though, is my opinion, is totally negated by the love and compassion that you and others put out to the world.

By the way, Rick Astely is awesome!

Lesley said...

I think it's great that you are raising your children in that kind of environment. Hopefully the world will be a more accepting place when they are our age than it is now.

Have you read Sarah Waters before? If not, you are in for a treat! Fingersmith is my absolute favorite but I love all her books.

Eva said...

Your list looks great-especially all the Waters!

WOW...I can't imagine having a KKK group on campus. That freaks me out like no one's business.

Nymeth said...

Wow...that guy sounds SERIOUSLY scary :\

But I love that you're raising your children in such a wonderfully diverse environment :)

Kailana said...

Great post!

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I went to school at Illinois State University, and I remember hearing about all the horrific hatred and the KKK that was in Peoria. I'm so sorry that you had to deal with having someone like that on your school campus, it must have been horrible! But what great choices you are making in raising your children around such a diverse group of people! I'm loving the GLBT challenge for all the reasons you mentioned, too.

Bianca said...

Stephanie, I just found your blog and love it. I'm doing this challenge to and will post the mini-challenge sometime this week on my blog.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story :)

trish said...

I just don't understand some people. I guess I've been fortunate not to have met any Matt Hales. I can't imagine what it would be like to actually meet someone like that, to see the KKK. God, I can't believe I just typed those three letters.

I love, though, that you have such a colorful group of friends! It's people like you who give me a glimpse of how the world could/should/will hopefully become.

paulina said...

just so you know, dangerous angels isn't really a book. It's a title that represents the four books contained within this collection.

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