Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up was released last week from Bold Stroke Books. It’s an anthology of stories about young queer kids dealing with and overcoming homophobia and transphobia. And I wrote one of the stories in it.
“Subtle Poison” is about alcohol abuse, what friendship really means, and the subtler but far more deadly sides of societal homo- and transphobia.
I was really scared to write that story. Alex, the subject of the story though not the narrator, is a transboy, and I had never written a transgender character before. I was extremely worried I’d be inadvertently offensive, frankly. I was worried I wouldn’t do it justice. I was also dealing with a lot of other issues in the story, like severe alcohol abuse, that I didn’t have personal experience with. I didn’t know how it would all work out.
I did draw a bit from my own life — there’s always some of me in every character I write. And I specifically chose to have the narrator be a gay male, so I could write from a place I was more comfortable.
But everything in there, I think, is drawn from something in my life. I know transgender people, and have heard of some of the hell they’ve gone through, and the bullshit they continue to go through every day. I know people who have dealt with teenage alcoholism. A few of the conversations in the story are conversations that happened to me or my friends.
So as much as this is a fictional story, and one that addressed a lot of territory I’d never explored before, “Subtle Poison” comes from a very real place. And it’s perhaps the story I’ve written that I’m most proud of.
One reviewer wrote,
This is the most powerful story in this collection and one that had me grabbing tissues.
I’m touched by that. I’m touched by the fact that I’ve had a few people tell me they cried when reading it. I think it’s a huge compliment to my writing. But it also makes me think about the people who have gone through some version of what I wrote about.
Cry for them.