Tag: childhood

A Gay, Black Boy Finds a Liberated Childhood

A Gay, Black Boy Finds a Liberated Childhood

Life can be scary for a young, gay, Black boy growing up in a society full of fear and intolerance. The star of a new graphic novel, however, has the love of family, friends, and educators to help him navigate the challenges as he finds his empowered voice.

What You Don't Know

In What You Don’t Know: A Story of Liberated Childhood (Dottir Press) Anastasia Higginbotham uses her signature collage artwork to give us the first-person story of a young boy named Demetrius. Demetrius begins by observing that “What you don’t know is that life was great before kindergarten…. Then school happened.” He asks, “What are we even learning here besides all the things we have to be afraid of and all of the things we can’t do?” Despite the scariness of school, however, he has friends and protectors who include another queer student, a “radical librarian,” a loving teacher, and a queer counselor. “But even they are a little bit scared,” he notes observantly.

He is also grateful that he doesn’t have to hide his true self from his dad, a Black man who “loves me completely.” His mom, too, has “her own sense of justice and her own ideas about God.” We see her reading something on her phone, getting angry at those who are “endangering the lives of trans kids.” She stresses to Demetrius that he matters and is not the problem. (The mom could be read as a light-skinned Black woman or Latina, although Higginbotham says on the credits page that the mom is White, and modeled after herself, her mother, and others.)

Despite the support he has, however, Demetrius feels that “the world’s ugliness toward gay people lands right ON me,” and asks, “And what about the ones who aren’t loved at home? What about the kids whose own families reject them?” (Here’s what we know about that.) He sits in church with his mother and notes that all he feels there is shame—“But the shame isn’t mine and it’s not coming from ‘God.’” He imagines his spirit floating up to Jesus, depicted as a Black man, and asking, “Does it hurt your feelings if I don’t believe in you?” Jesus replies, “It’s my job to believe in you, and I do.”

Demetrius asks Jesus if there are other gods. Jesus replies, “Divinity is everywhere, in everyone and everything,” and says he loves everyone, from Billy Porter in a dress (who floats by in several images) to those who are homophobic. When another churchgoer confronts Demetrius’ mom and tells her to stop dressing him in flowers because he’s a boy, however, the mother apologizes to Demetrius for bringing him there and says she will immediately stop going to that church. Higginbotham deftly shows how Demetrius can be “cool” with Jesus while also rejecting an institution that perpetuates homophobia.

We will rewrite the rules we live by and love the world into balance.

A secondary plotline that we see play out is that Demetrius and his friends are recording a podcast, one that further affirms everyone’s right to be themselves and reinforces young people’s power to create change. “We will rewrite the rules we live by and love the world into balance,” they narrate. At the end of the book, Demetrius’ parents continue to encourage his own style and voice as he and his friends celebrate the launch of the podcast. “What you don’t know is I’m always gonna love myself and find others who do, too,” he asserts, dancing into his future.

Higginbotham manages to acknowledge the bias that Demetrius faces, put the emphasis on the love he receives, and make him an empowered and confident protagonist who is grateful for help but not a passive victim. He knows the world can be harsh, and acknowledges that some things scare him, but also knows where to find the support he needs to be the person he knows he is. It’s a tricky balance, but Higginbotham nails it.

I should note, too, that while the format at first looks like a picture book, Demetrius is in middle school and the vocabulary level, length (140+ pages), and nuances place the book for me in the middle grade category as a graphic novel. (Obviously, some older elementary school students are ready for middle grade books; this is just a guide.)

Much as I have long waved the flag for more LGBTQ kids’ books that aren’t “about” being LGBTQ, there’s still a place for some that thoughtfully and directly address being queer in today’s society. This is one of them, which presents an inspiring vision of what queer kids can be with the love and support of family, friends, and educators.

Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds donates childhood home to LGBT charity

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons holds a gay pride flag

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons. (Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Dan Reynolds, professional tall man and Imagine Dragons singer, has donated his childhood home worth $1 million for it to become an LGBT+ youth centre.

As part of LGBT+ advocacy group Encircle’s ‘$8 Million, Eight Houses’ campaign, the 34-year-old reflected on the difficulties queer youth face.

Reynolds, an outspoken LGBT+ ally, and his wife Aja Volkman are to donate the Las Vegas, Nevada, property to be converted into one of Encircle’s new facilities, which will offer vulnerable queer youth a crucial lifeline.

Both Reynolds and Volkman will serve as honorary co-chairs of Encircle’s new campaign, according to NME.

Dan Reynolds: ‘I’ve watched throughout my life the difficult path that LGBT+ youth have’

“Encircle is about bringing young LGBTQ+ people and their families together, by including the community and strengthening the bonds that connect us,” Reynolds and Volkman said in a joint statement.

“Being a part of this organization means so much to both of us and we know the house Dan grew up in will be a loving and supportive home to every young LGBTQ+ person who crosses the threshold.”

Appearing on daytime talk show Good Morning America Thursday (25 February), Reynolds, alongside fellow donators Apple CEO Tim Cook and Utah Jazz basketball team owner Ryan Smith, discussed the campaign.

“I’ve watched throughout my life the difficult path that LGBT+ youth have, especially coming from homes of faith,” he said.

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images for LOVELOUD Festival)

“Now to know, with my mum and dad’s blessing, I was able to purchase the home for them and it’s going to be the first Encircle home in Las Vegas – that’s powerful for me.”

Encircle operate various safe houses in Utah in Salt Lake City, Provo and St George, and a fourth in Heber on the way. The campaign being part of an effort to expand to Arizona, Idaho and Nevada.

“Studies repeatedly have shown that LGBT+ youth across the country struggle with depression and suicidality far more than their heterosexual peers, and the pandemic has made that sense of isolation so many feel harder than ever before,” Encircle CEO Stephanie Larsen said in a statement to the press.

“We strive to give these kids a positive and loving environment that builds support within their communities where they can realize their full potential, and it works — we have not lost a single youth to suicide.”