It’s PRIDE Month and no, I’m not grumpy about that, far from it!

I am grumpy that over the last few days I have read about:

  • Ongoing protests in Birmingham over discussing LGBT relationships in Primary Schools
  • Bishop Thomas Tobin ‘reminding’ Roman Catholics not to attend PRIDE events because they are ‘harmful’ to children.
  • Young people committing suicide and attempting suicide due to homophobic bullying.
  • A gay sportsman being denied asylum in the UK and being forced to return to Kenya, where being himself is illegal.
  • Anne Widdecombe becoming a spokesperson on how science will hopefully be able to ‘produce an answer’ to explain me.
  • Elton John’s film, Rocketman, being censored in Russia.

I could go on and this is just a snippet of the last few days in the UK news. Venturing into the global news is terrifying.

How can books make a difference and start to change the narrative around LGBT people?

That was a question I asked myself when I was writing the Dani Moore Trilogy. Now, the book’s purpose was to offer a message of hope to young survivors, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t introduce some of the other subjects that I feel strongly about.

I didn’t have any LGBT role models when I was growing up. That’s not to say they didn’t exist, they just didn’t feature in my world. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and while I don’t remember any overtly anti-LGBT rhetoric that influenced my thinking, I knew enough to be 100% sure that telling people that I’m gay was absolutely not acceptable. So, there were messages that had infiltrated my brain, I just don’t remember how they got there.

For me, there was additional confusion that comes with being a survivor. So the sub-group within the LGBT/survivor world that have questions around whether the impact of abuse affects thinking around sexuality is a taboo within a taboo. Of course, it doesn’t, but nobody tells you this; both subjects are deemed unacceptable to discuss and that cycle of confusion can lead to very, very dark places.

Reading was my escape as a child, a teenager and it still is as an adult. If I had been able to read a story that articulated my fears, been able to ‘meet’ characters who were like me and learn from them that I’m not alone and not losing my mind, it would have been a game changer.

Dani articulates those fears and she talks about them in a way that teenagers can relate to. There’s more than that in the books though, one of the main adult characters is a lesbian. It makes no difference to the story and her character isn’t defined by it. It simply allows us to bring a positive LGBT role model into the mix so young people are challenging stereotypes as part of the narrative.

As an adult, I still get ‘wow, I’m not alone’ moments and they are as powerful now as they would have been when I was a struggling teenager. I recently read Diana Nyad’s book and if you don’t know who she is, you can check out her Ted Talk below. She is a shero of mine and I picked up her book because I love swimming and I’m in awe of her achievements. What I read was one of the most powerful stories that not only made me feel safe in the knowledge that the way I think isn’t that unusual, after all. Being a survivor, a lesbian survivor, a lesbian survivor who loves swimming (!) can be a recipe for success. It’s not unusual to read an inspiring story about one of those elements of someone’s life, but all three?!

By thinking about all of the things you would like to change in the world, the overwhelming things that feel too big for one person to challenge, you can start to identify ways of bringing them into your book(s).

I know that Dani’s story has made a difference for young people. I can say with certainty that I’m not the only person who cried, ‘wow, I’m not alone,’ when reading Diana’s book and I know that by showing up as our whole selves and writing from a place of authenticity, we will make more of a difference than we ever thought possible.