New York Bound

Confession: I’ve never been to the Big Apple. But now I’m heading there in June because…

-BECAUSE!-

GRAVITY is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and I could not be more excited/humbled/grateful/shocked/awed. Because…

-BECAUSE!-

LOOK AT THESE AMAZING AUTHORS AND TITLES IN THE CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT FINALIST CATEGORY!

What. An. Honor.

I know, I know. Everyone says, “It’s an honor just to be nominated” and inwardly we think, “Yeah, well, ya sorta gotta say that otherwise you sound like the most entitled jerk on the planet!”

But here’s the thing: It IS an honor. Look, I am a straight, cis, white author, writing affirmative fiction for young adults because my heart is called to ADD my voice to the beautiful chorus of voices out there, telling hard truths and trying to create a kinder more equitable world. And if I know ONE thing to be true it is this: The community for which I write does not NEED my voice. #OwnVoices is something I support 100%.

But, for some remarkable reason, this community has made space for me and welcomed me and bestowed on me the title of Ally (gulp – still chokes me up) and even held my work up as worthy of recognition.

So, thank you. Thank every single one of you from the queer writing community to my publishing house at Bold Strokes Books to Lambda Literary Society – THANK YOU. This work I do is a labor of love and I gotta say, I’m feeling the love right back, and what a beautiful feeling that is.

Thank you.

Peace,

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It’s PARTY TIME!

GRAVITY LAUNCHES Saturday, November 19th at 7 p.m at The Norway House at 913 E Franklin Ave. Minneapolis, MN 55404! You should TOTALLY BE THERE! Know why?

There’s going to be K-90 hot chocolate (delivers exactly the kick needed to really take off!) and bunny hill cocoa (for all those still holding onto the T-bar)…and a ski jumping cake. For real. A ski jumping cake.

I’ll read a little. We’ll all laugh a lot. There will be Olympic medals. Maybe even a personal greeting from an Olympian!

Yep. It’s a JULIANN RICH Party and YOU ALL KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. We’re going to break all the rules of GRAVITY and LET OURSELVES GET CARRIED AWAY!

So pencil it in your planner. Put it in your iPhone calendar. Do whatever ya gotta do, but be there. I promise you won’t regret it. You may even go home with a gold medal. We’ll see.

In the meantime  – kick back and enjoy the play list that captures the spirit of GRAVITY.

Peace,

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The Big 50

I woke up to greet a new decade this morning and to bid farewell to my 40’s. Mostly, I’m ecstatic. Partly, I’m devastated. Let me explain.

I’m devastated because life taught me some excruciating lessons in the last year.

  1. cow,tornado,weather-e80725c8fa395e651e33a19fb0ea0c01_hPeople who love us can/do/and will hurt us. Their love for us or our love for them does not make them immune to acts of absolute assholery. Quite the contrary. Their close proximity pulls us in like a flying cow caught in a tornado when the chaos of their life erupts.
  2. It’s not about me. Crimany, was that a hard lesson to learn. Other people’s emotional baggage belongs to them, and it is their job to carry it. Their job to unpack it. Their job to haul all the ugliness into the light and examine it. Their job to decide what still serves them and what they should chuck into the giant dumpster of life.
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Yeah, this was me for a long, long time.

But here’s the thing:

  • I don’t get a say in whether they do that work or not.
  • I don’t get a say in when or how they do that work.
  • I don’t get a say in what they hold onto and what they throw away.

Which is really pretty awesome because it means:

I don’t have to try to control the tornado. Or the matching set of emotional baggage someone else carries around. And I don’t need to be the flying cow! I can choose to step foward if I opt to be a calming force in the storm. Or…I can choose to stay right where I am, holding my line against the raging winds. Or…I can retreat to a safe enough distance where I can observe the tornado, like a storm watcher, while continuing to live my life peacefully.

img-thingSo, yeah. I’m 50 today. I’m a bit devastated because life served up a bunch of storms I didn’t see coming. But I’m also ecstatic because those same storms forced me to short-circuit my biggest muscle (my brain) and discover strength through muscles I’d previously neglected. I’ve been weight-lifting for most of my life—using actual barbells for the past year or so.

And I have grown strong.

In the sacred space of my CrossFit gym, I record “I can frickin’ do this” over the old recordings of “No way I can handle this” by:

  • Running 400 meters; rowing 500.
  • Walking a bunch of Frankensteins.
  • Squatting until I’m certain I can’t squat one more time and then digging out one, five, ten more because my body has a tougher point of failure than my mind.
  • Throwing wallballs until the wall is my enemy and the ball is my rage and both have seeped out of my spirit and will be left, lying on the floor, when the work-out is over.
  • Thrusting, dead-lifting, clean and jerking, and overhead pressing until I’ve succeeded at shutting off my chattering mind and allowed my body to run the show.

tumblr_ml24iqmuca1rwis3ko1_500So I guess I’m thankful (thankful?!), yes, thankful for the storms—those horrible awful storms—because by coping with them I gained more than muscle definition. I gained life definition.

And that’s not a bad way to greet 50.

Peace,

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Paying homage to Prince

Paying homage to Prince
Paying homage to Prince in the color and city he loved

I know, I know…I’m late to be writing about the impact of Prince’s death on me; but in truth, it’s taken me a while to process it all. Prince was the first musician I saw perform in person. In fact, I got to see him at First Ave way back in the day – long before he was big. I saw him before his movie and records and fame. He was then who he was after – an incredibly talented and self-assured person who didn’t let doubt stop him or even slow him down. I’ve always admired that quality in a person – the absolute self-assuredness that asks for no praise or permission TO TAKE UP SPACE on this planet.

I’ll never forget that concert. I was 15. I wore a red beret and penny loafers I had attempted to make cooler by putting German Pfennigs in the little slots. I was auditioning my European self and trying to decide if it would chart an easier course through the social hell that is being 15. (It did not.)

A few years older than I, Price was dressed in purple from head to toe, steady in his high heels, and already cool as fuck.

I never wore the beret again after that night. Instead, I began the search for my real self. I find myself now, in the aftermath of his death, wondering if I’d be the person I am if I hadn’t gone to that concert. I highly doubt it.

princepurplerain-e1421722807908Prince gave me the gift all true artists give their fans – an intoxicating glimpse into an authenticity so powerful we are compelled to question, if not drop, the many masks we wear.

So, thank you, Prince, for showing me the way to becoming an artist myself. I will miss your contribution to the world, but I will also imagine you splashing in all the purple puddles in the hereafter and doing it in your high heels. Heaven just got waaaaaaay cooler, but back here on earth, the doves are crying.

Peace,

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Why Gravity Always Wins

I did it. I finished Gravity, my 4th young adult novel. It is currently in the trusted hands of my editors at Bold Strokes Books.

I planned to finish it by December 31st, 2015, in time to pop a bottle of champagne, but I didn’t make that goal. I finished it on January 1st, 2016, and the champagne tasted just as good, if not better, for having chilled overnight in my fridge.

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I think I finally figured something out about writing a book, even if it did take me writing four to see it clearly. I only believe I’m in charge of the creative process. The truth is I am, at best, in collaboration with the creative process. Gravity, better than any of my previous books, taught me that. You see, I intended to write a light romance, set in Northern Minnesota, featuring two girls who were drawn together because of their shared love for the sport of ski jumping only to find themselves pitted against each other as competitors.

Sounds great, right? I certainly thought so.

Then I began writing Gravity and while it is a romance and it does feature two girls, both ski jumpers, and it is set in Northern Minnesota, there is nothing light about Gravity though there is plenty of darkness and shadow. I was even concerned enough to send the first 14,000 words to my editor with the question, “Is this okay?”(The Gulp was implied)

Her answer was affirmative. Very affirmative.

Which was lovely because I had the green light to allow Gravity to take over.

I grew up skiing, but I’ve never ski jumped. I have watched hundreds of tapes of jumps, read countless articles, researched every aspect of the sport, and even had the privilege of corresponding with Olympian ski jumper, Sarah Hendrickson, but I do not personally know the rush down the inrun, the moment of launching into the air, the feeling of flying the distance of a football field at 60 miles per hour or the delicate balance of finding safe footing back on the ground again.

However, I do know the tug of Gravity.

I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to let my main characters, Ellie and Kate, soar effortlessly toward each other only to have Gravity pull me back toward solid ground where love is complicated, occasionally marred by betrayal, and trust is easier to break than to restore.

See? That’s the thing about Gravity. It guarantees a landing. It doesn’t make one damn promise about a soft landing.

Over the year or so that I wrote with Gravity leading the way, my light romance changed. The book deepened. I deepened. The book raised the stakes while I dove into the raw wounds hurting people cause those closest to them. The book unmasked the distortions and lies and rationalizations invented to silence the voice of an inner moral compass. And it revealed to me the strength and courage it takes someone to face down their ugliest truths in order to become different. Better.

The more I wrote, the more Gravity taught me and the more I came to understand an aerodynamic fact about ski jumping.

It’s all about resistance. Until it’s not.

I have a feeling I’ll be mulling that dynamic truth over in my mind for many months and years to come. Heck, I’ll probably still be thinking about the moment of surrendering when I do finish that sweet romance on December 31st, 20-something, and toast it with a glass of champagne.

In the meantime, I’ll be flying high with Gravity. It’s coming out on November 15th, 2016, which feels ages and ages away, but I know from experience that the publication day will arrive, catch me off-guard, and surprise me once again that I have the privilege of introducing another creation to the world.

What a ride. What an honor.

Peace,

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The Great Fall

One extra hour of sleep.

Waking up to the chore of resetting all the clocks in the house.

Daylight’s saving time, you say?

Not at 5 pm, when the world has gone pitch black, you don’t.

But the transition between Fall and Winter isn’t what I want to write about today. It’s another kind of Fall.

I’m writing a new novel. It’s called GRAVITY and it’s all about the falls my main character, Ellie Engebretsen, takes. Ellie and I are quite different. She experiences the world through her body. I live in my mind. She takes her pain to the slopes. I take mine to my writing. But like me, Ellie is the kind of person who reaches too high, stretches too far, gives too much, trusts too soon, loves too blindly.

And so she falls.

In love.

On her ass.

And even on the ski slope.

This little novel of mine was conceptualized as a sweet romance set against the back drop of the ski jumping world. And then…well, I met Ellie and she demanded truths I would gladly have withheld. She pushed me to, as her father and coach would say, “lean into your death.” What a freaking terrifying thought that is, especially when this is your view:

IMG_1040 med

But life is just like a ski jump. It hits us fast and we do our damnedest to survive it and sometimes, more often than we know, we’re flying on not much more than guts and the tug of gravity to keep us tethered to the world.

I’m going share a little secret Ellie taught me. Well, really it’s a secret Kate, her hook-up/rebound/girl of her dreams taught Ellie and, through Ellie, me. Coach Engebretsen’s advice to lean into our death is a pile of steaming dog crap. No good jumper leans away from the jump. She flies toward the sky.

Which is something we all should do. Even me. Especially me.

Yes, sometimes we fall on our behinds, hard, and all we can do lie there, checking to see if all our moving pieces still work. And that’s perfectly fine.

For awhile.

Just not forever.

Because the day is coming (for Ellie, for me, for all of us) when we will be able to spring forward. When we’ll be able to set down the heavy ass baggage we’ve been lugging around…and fly free.

PS. You can read more about GRAVITY here.

Peace,

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Details about my fourth book!

For a while, I was struggling to have her pose for me. Recently however, she asks me to take pictures of her. This is one of those. I had my camera and she requested that I take a picture of her. She made faces like this and asked me to show it to her right after. I won't complain when it's that easy ;)

I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed a contract for my next novel, GRAVITY, a standalone book that will take readers (and me) beyond the world of the Crossfire Trilogy. It is a coming of age story that leaves coming out in the dust. Ellie Engebretsen, my main character, is tough, fearless, and at peace with her sexuality. Which does not mean life is smooth sailing, especially when she’s 150 meters above the ground—hurtling off a ski jump and in love with her biggest competition…

Here’s the blurb:

A shot at the gold in ski jumping. It’s been a dream that was the exclusive property of male Olympic athletes. 

Until now. 

For seventeen-year-old Ellie Engebretsen, the 2011 decision to include women’s ski jumping in the Olympics is a game changer. She’d love to bring home the gold for her father, a former Olympic hopeful whose dreams were blown along with his knee on an ill-timed landing. But can she defy the pull of gravity that draws her to Kate Moreau, her biggest competition and the girl of her dreams?

How can Ellie soar through the air when all she feels like doing is falling hard?

And here’s the awesome cover!

I’ve been having the best time writing this book and can’t wait to share it with you! There will be loads of more details to come, including the exact date of release, but for now let me leave you with a tiny snippet from the book:

 The run splits. To the right a steep drop tempts me, but I need air, high and fresh and full of freedom. I shift my weight to the left and aim straight for the quarter-pipe jump. My repertoire plays through my mind as I cut through the swarm of snowboarders. A flatspin, an ally oop, a twister? As usual, my body makes the decision for me. A Lincoln loop it is. 

Ahead of me a girl in a powder blue jacket and skis that were antiques ten years ago moves toward the jump, and I yield the right of way. She’s out of place on Freefall where the best of the best, as far as the Midwest ski scene goes (such as it is), can be found. But every now and then a newbie in second hand equipment gets lost and stumbles onto a black diamond slope. It never ends well. 

“Oh shit,” I say, my boots biting into my calves as I slow to a near stop. She takes the jump, full speed, and I cringe, but then she is somersaulting through the air like she exists beyond the rules of gravity. She sticks a perfect landing, and I forget how to breathe.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” The girl fist pumps the air and whoops for joy, and then I am moving, burying my poles in my arm pits and crouching low for maximum speed. The quarter-pipe rushes me and I feel it, the moment when my muscles take over. Wind slaps me across the face. My stomach presses against my spine. The sky tilts and then—

I hear the call to surrender. 

It sounds easy, but it’s the scariest fucking thing in the world, giving into the empty space between earth and sky where outcomes can be sabotaged by the slightest passing breeze. 

The quarter-pipe jump falls away as I soar into the unknown, tucking and grabbing my knees as the momentum I’ve created raises my legs while my head plunges toward the ice-packed earth below. And yeah, it’s a total high.

From GRAVITY, forthcoming with Bold Strokes Books in 2016!

(Excerpt is the intellectual property of Juliann Rich. All rights reserved)

Peace,

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On Angry Squirrels and Saviors at Home Depot

angry-squirrelYou would think the worst thing that has happened to me lately was being bitten by an angry squirrel lounging in the garbage dumpster behind my apartment as I opened the lid and threw away my cardboard Pizza Luce box containing yummy albeit dehydrated leftovers. (The ungrateful rodent!)

But you would be wrong.

It’s not even close to the worst thing that has happened to me in days. Or weeks. Or months. In fact, it wasn’t even the worst thing that happened to me on that particular day, though it wasn’t until after I’d cleaned and dressed my wounded hand that I noticed the picture above my media center had vanished from my wall.

What the heck?

I looked behind the media center and sure enough—there it was, sandwiched between the wall and the TV stand—my picture. Somehow, during the brief minutes it took for the squirrel to sink his fangs into my hand, the wire on the backside of the frame had snapped, sending it crashing to the floor.

I dug the picture out and looked it over. No broken glass. No broken frame. I winced from my still-throbbing hand but counted myself lucky…until I noticed the bits of plastic lying on the floor under my media center.

WHAT THE HECK?

I retrieved the plastic pieces and spent a few confused minutes trying to figure out what they were. They looked familiar, but where had they come from? I reached behind the media center and groped for the toggle switch to turn on the lamp that sits on the shelf next to my media center. The better to see what was broken, and all that…except there was no toggle switch.

Ah ha! It was a lightbulb sort of moment in the most ironic sense. In a flash I saw what must have happened inside my apartment while the evil squirrel had been sampling me instead of the leftover Pizza Luce I’d so generously offered him. The picture, its wires snapping, had plunged from the wall and shattered the toggle switch on the lamp cord that hung innocently behind my media center with a precision that could never be reproduced.

Now that was a problem because I love that lamp.

I’ve had it for years though I can no longer remember where I bought it. It wasn’t particularly expensive, but it spoke to me with its antique bronze base and gold lamp shade with beads and bits of glass that make it just the right combination of funk and function to fill me with delight. I tried to imagine the darkness that would consume my living room in its absence and I was overwhelmed with sadness.

Now I am not one to give into defeat easily. I’ll replace the base, I thought. And this time I’ll buy one that has an on-off switch right by the bulb so I won’t have to reach behind the media center all the time. Heck, this is an opportunity for improvement! Determined, I headed to Walmart. Then Target. Then Kohl’s. With zero success. My lamp base, I discovered, was unique. It was smaller than the others. The shape was different. In fact, I couldn’t find one lamp base anywhere that could pair with my lamp shade.

WHAT THE HECK?

I returned home and puzzled the plastic pieces of the broken switch together until I had a rough idea what it looked like before it was smashed by the plunging picture and then I hit the internet. Sure enough. Home Depot sold a switch just like it for about two bucks.

Great! I bundled up and headed off to Home Depot, a woman on a mission. All I needed to be back in my cozy living room, sitting by the light of my favorite lamp, was a functional on-off switch and a screwdriver. The path ahead was perfectly clear, perfectly simple in my problem-solving mind.

Except I was wrong.

Yes, there were on-off switches. But the cord to my lamp had been shaped by the previous and now broken switch. The electric wire that ran through the cord had been damaged and even with a brand new switch in place, or so the specialist named Tim in the lighting department explained, my lamp would not function. Or it might for a while, but certainly not well or with any reliability.

My heart sank. I looked at the lamp shade in my hand. Tim read my face.

“Have you considered buying a new lamp?” he asked. “You could glue some dingles onto a new lamp shade. Might be worth considering.”

I smiled at his use of the word “dingles” to describe the beads and bits of glass I loved and decided dingles was the best word I’d heard in ages. “I suppose I could do that,” I conceded, though I was unable to keep the disappointment from my voice.

Tim stared off into the distance, but not in a dismissive “Look, lady, I’m busy” sort of way. Rather it was a “hmm, I wonder. Maybe we could…” sort of look I know well. I grew up seeing the same look on the face of my father, an avid fixer of all things broken and inventor of things only previously dreamed, and for a moment I was filled with grief not just for my broken lamp but for my life that has been forever dimmed since my father’s death.

“I s’pose you could rewire it,” Tim interrupted my grief. “If it means that much to you.”

I tried to picture that—me, rewiring a lamp—and laughed. “I wouldn’t know where to begin,” I said.

Tim nodded and darted from shelf to shelf in the lighting department, eventually returning with a small treasure trove of wires and switches and do’hickeys and things I would call dingles.

“Come with me,” he said and so I followed him to his work bench where he held out his hands and into which I entrusted my lamp. Tim began by prying off the felt on the base. Then he started snipping and tugging at things, gutting the lamp with a fervor reserved for surgeons and handymen. It was painful to watch, but I knew intuitively that I could trust Tim.

My poor lamp! In a matter of minutes it was lying on Tim’s bench in pieces, but he didn’t leave it in that condition long.

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He pulled out his knife and opened the package of a new lamp wire I had yet to pay for. Then he taped the ends of the wire together with a black rubbery like tape and threaded it into the base of my lamp. I watched, amazed, as the wires poked out through the neck.

Smart, I thought. I wouldn’t have thought to do that!

Tim continued working. He tied a knot in the wire that stuck out of the base and tapped the felt back in place. And then he really got to work. I wish I had the understanding or the vocabulary to describe all that Tim did. I know it involved splitting the wire, testing charges, screwing things in place, tightening and all sorts of other little steps, but even now I could not describe to you the process of rewiring a lamp. All I really know is that after an hour in Tim’s expert care, my lamp was restored. He had even added some schnazzy gizmo that magically transformed the metal itself into an on-off switch. One touch to the neck of the lamp and it not only turns on, it can shine at three different levels of light. No clunky switch. No need to reach behind a media center. Just my lovely little lamp with all its beautiful dingles, not only restored but improved.

Are you listening? The voice I have recognized throughout the years as the voice of the divine whispered in my soul.

I gulped and felt the pain of the past months swell inside me, but still I resisted. You see, I still wanted an easy solution. One that would turn back on all that is good and healthy and wonderful and that will extinguish all that is painful and destructive and life-shattering.

This is a lamp, I told the voice. For all that other stuff, I’ll take an on-off switch, thank you very much.

The voice did not laugh. It knew the pain behind my words. Has been with me throughout it all. I know you do, but switches like that don’t exist. What is required is a total rewiring. A change from within. And that will require you to surrender that which is most precious to you into the hands of those with greater knowledge.

But… I stammered, what if they get it wrong? This time the damage will be permanent.

The lighting department at Home Depot grew suddenly warm and comforting and I heard the voice once again. You don’t need to be afraid. I have already brought the right people for this job into your life.

The relief that hit my spirit was so strong I almost cried. I did hug Tim who looked grateful if not a bit surprised. And then I brought my lovely little dingle lamp back home, new and improved, and returned it to its place of honor in my living room where it shines both light and hope into my life today.

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Peace,

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GAYYA.ORG is hanging with us today!

I’m thrilled today to be hosting one of the co-founders of GAYYA.ORG, a wonderful blog dedicated to LGBTQIA+ young adult literature. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Victoria since Caught in the Crossfire released in June, and am very thankful for all her hard work to raise awareness of affirming books.

Welcome to my blog!

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Enjoying a slice of rainbow cake at Juliann Rich & Rachel Gold’s joint launch party!

I’m Vee or Victoria, depending on the day. I live in Minnesota. I’m sixteen and homeschooled, currently fascinated by mythology and biology, and doing a lot of writing. I’m a huge fan of actual representation in media. I run GayYA.org with the help of my good friend Kathleen (the first time I wrote this I misspelled that as ‘god’ which I think might be more accurate). You can find me on Twitter @rausicabklvr, and tumblr at vee-signorelli.

Growing up, I had two groups of friends. I lived in a super Christian suburb, and had a best friend there. I went to Bible Study, Awana, co-ops, and spent most of my time at my BFF’s house, where God and Jesus and the Bible were discussed regularly. The other group was made up of from the cities, from theatre and the homeschooling co-op I went to. I had really good friends there, too. Because I greatly respected the Christian faith, but also did not believe in God, I was not able to be myself in either group.

In 2010 I started questioning my own identity. At the same time, two of my closest friends in the liberal group were coming out as lesbian and the debate on marriage equality was starting up. This debate began chipping away at the polished veneer of love and acceptance the Christians claimed. I began to realize just how anti-gay they were. At the same time, in the cities, and in my Unitarian Universalist church, we talked a lot about marriage equality: we even had these huge chains of colored paper loops stretching from the vaulted ceilings, each loop representing a conversation someone had started.

I basically knew at this point that I was queer. I hadn’t come out though, because I didn’t really know what “type” of queer to come out as. I knew I wasn’t gay, and while I tossed around and basically settled on bisexuality, that never fit either. (This is something that I had to look back at my journal entries to understand. Something was about to happen that would closet me to myself for many years.)
I tended to keep quiet around my Christian friends about marriage, but I posted a lot about marriage equality on Facebook. Maybe, I thought, I could change one person’s mind.

Then the father of someone from the Christian group commented on my post about Carrie Underwood (Christian Princess extraordinaire) announcing she was in favor of gay rights. I’ll never forget that moment I read his words. I was in Bibelot, shopping with my sister. I started shaking, and even with people all around us, started crying. He’d went on a tirade, quoting bible passages and spewing hate, saying I was walking down the wrong road, and even though Carrie Underwood was going to Hell, that didn’t mean I should follow her. My sister took me to a bakery to talk through it, then decided it was time to go home. I showed my parents, and they were furious, much more so than I. They couldn’t believe a sixty year old man would say this to a twelve-year-old. I was just shaken—literally. I wish I had saved the comment, so I could look back and deconstruct everything he’d said, but I deleted the entire post.

At the same time as this, a rumor was spreading through the Christian community that my best friend and I were gay. I didn’t have any problem with that rumor, because I didn’t think it was accusing me of anything shameful, but my best friend was embarrassed and ashamed. She asked me to stop posting those things, or at least hide them from her grandma, who was apparently getting concerned as well. Things were suddenly weird between us. That was the first time it’d ever happened.

That ordeal lead to conversations with my friends and their parents about queer people. I told them why I was so passionate about it (two of my best friends from the liberal group being gay) and they said things like, “well, I don’t judge, but I just don’t think they should be deciding who they’re attracted to so young,” and “well my Uncle is gay, and we’re very close, I love him very much, so please don’t lump us in with the other Christians, BUT,” and “you know, if one of them showed up at my doorstep, I wouldn’t turn them away, because we love everyone. But it’s not my lifestyle, and I wouldn’t take part of it, the same way I wouldn’t go take part in a bar fight.” They just didn’t get it. It was hate the sin, love the sinner mentality 100% percent.

Queer people talk a lot about coming out of the closet, but never about the moment we go in. I wasn’t born ashamed and feeling wrong. Those things are taught and learned. And that was when I tucked myself into a closet, away from others, and from myself. Up until then, I didn’t think it would be any big deal if I told people that I thought I was bisexual.

I closed off from them, from everyone. That was the first experience I’d ever had like that, talking about my values and beliefs with very adverse people. It was the first time I’d even had a disagreement with my best friend. It shattered me, in ways I’m just realizing now, and even within the other community, I was tucked away.

It wasn’t until last year, 2013, that I really allowed myself to explore the possibility of queerness again. Well, “allowed” isn’t quite the right word. By an unforeseen turn of events I was basically forced into it. I became depressed and suicidal, filled with self-loathing and debilitating anxiety. But I got through it. Though I still struggle with those things, I know who I am now, know what I am. And that helps. I’m still not out to most of the people I know, particularly my family (which is amazing to me, given the amount of time I’ve put into running GayYA.org). I still feel the shame around it, the need to hide it, the fear that if I express it I will be attacked.

I think I made the right decision at that age. For the “type” of queer I am, I needed unyielding acceptance. But if I’d had Caught in the Crossfire back then, maybe I would’ve been able to look for the accepting people like Jonathan did. Maybe I could’ve cut through the shame instantaneously instead of internalizing it for so long.

I lived so long in denial and shame. Although I was involved in the queer rights movement online and read lots of stuff about people in similar situations, everybody seemed to hate the religion and the people in it. I had no way to navigate the situation that I was in. What are you supposed to do when you love the people who are against what you are? How do you even begin to approach that? When rebelling against them, leaving them behind, the way you’ve always seen done, is more painful than staying?

The work that Juliann is doing in her books is so unbelievably important. It gives voice to an experience that has been ignored for a very long time. It was too late for me as a guide through it, but it did validate something that no one had been able to understand. And I hope it reaches as many young people as possible, because I know how much it will change them.

Peace,

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