Note: A similar version of this post originally appeared on my other blog, Scattered Thoughts. Since it’s about my love for LGBT YA, I decided to share it here as well.
I’ve read many books, and I believe that many of them have changed my life. For example, if you were to ask me which books have had the greatest influence on me, I’d tell you it was the Harry Potter series without thinking twice. I grew up on those books. I learned from them, lessons of friendship and the importance of doing good, lessons of embracing and welcoming everyone despite their differences.
However, it was only within the last few years that another genre of books has started to change my life as well, and it all started with David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. Until that point, I can’t recall reading any other books where the storyline focused on two boys falling in love. Sure, I’d read books with gay characters, but not like this. Not where the gay characters were the central part of the book, where there story was about them and their lives and their love. Mostly I’d just read books where gay characters were secondary, or even less––the best friend of the main character, or just a casually mentioned character whose story is never discussed.
Now, I’m not saying that those were bad books. I’ve loved, and still love, many books whose characters aren’t gay, lesbian, bi, trans, etc. But David Levithan changed things for me. Boy Meets Boyfilled a void in my life that I didn’t know was there. Books like this one are the kind that I wish I had had when I was a teen.
When I was twelve-years-old and first started to question my sexuality, I think that reading a book about two boys falling in love would have helped me immensely. But I didn’t know these books existed. I’m sure there were some of them out there (probably not as many as there are now, but some nonetheless), but I didn’t know about them, didn’t know where to find them.
So instead I spent the better-part of five years trying to convince myself that being attracted to boys was wrong, that if I kept those feelings buried deep inside that they would eventually go away. They didn’t.
When I was seventeen, I finally told someone I liked boys. But I still said I liked girls too. After all, I was dating a girl at the time. And, while I really did love her, I think she may have been an exception to the rule. I think the biggest reason why I told everyone I was bisexual was because I wasn’t willing to let go of the option of liking girls too, because even then when I was opening myself up and admitting that I liked boys, I think part of me still believed that it wasn’t right, so I wanted to leave the option to take it back and stick with girls.
I continued telling people I was bi for another five years. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties, after I had started reading books like Boy Meets Boy and other young adult novels along the same lines that I finally fully accepted myself and started identifying as gay.
Part of me often wonders, if I’d had books like these when I was a teen, would I have accepted myself sooner? Maybe, but I also know that I can’t go back and change the past. What matters most is that I finally got to that point where I am not ashamed of who I am, where I am proud to call myself a gay man. And I like to think that it all started with David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy, and other books like it.
I’m currently in the process of putting together a proposal for my major research essay for my Master of Arts where I will focus on researching identity formation in Young Adult novels with LGBT themes. I think these books are so important that I want to study more on them and look at them, not just from a personal and emotional viewpoint, but from an academic one as well.
Looking back, I can’t help but think about how much I’ve changed, how far I’ve grown since the first time that I read Boy Meets Boy. Books like this have changed my life, and I’m sure they’ve changed the lives of others who have enjoyed them just as much. That’s why I love LGBT YA so much, why I love to talk about it and tell others about it. I think spreading the word about these amazing books is so important since I truly believe they can be influential on someone’s identity.