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Publisher Good As You
eBook Kindle Edition
Jeremy Hooper leads readers through his own life story, revealing positive and unnecessarily encumbered aspects of growing up gay in contemporary society. The noted author & activist writes in a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, always sharply informed style, opening a window into the realities of family rejection and acceptance. Whether offering direct guidance for would-be straight allies or sharing the inner monologue of a boy who knew who he was long before early adulthood would allow him to own it, Hooper adds a wealth of insight and argument to the equality conversation
Oh hey, what’s up? I’m Jeremy, and this is my book, which I’m totally psyched that you’re reading. Or skimming. Or sacrificing to the gods of antiquity. Whatever. But before I send you off into the sometimes wild, occasionally blue, always determined yonder that I’ve managed to peck out onto paper before the publishing industry collapses in on itself, let me first give you an idea of what this here literary endeavor thingamadoodle is all about.
First thing to know is that this is not so much a gay book. Not in the traditional sense, at least. Sure, the tales are those of a same-sex–loving person learning and living within America’s most recent decades. And yes, the narrative is designed to advance understanding about the unnecessary trials and tribulations that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people still face every day. But the goal here is not limited to “gay rights,” and the victims are not just those who are directly maligned. This mission is more human than the scope some have placed on the struggle for equality and more humane than the limits others have put on the same.
As a gay man, I know what it’s like to feel alone, as if nobody could possibly understand what you’re going through. I’ve experienced firsthand the confusion and the fear. I’ve seen how a lack of role models and negligently recited urban legends can lead scared youth to accept society’s often demonized picture of those who are placed in the “other” box. I’ve walked in these shoes and now look back as a slightly older, hopefully wiser brother who wants to use his place of self-acceptance to provide hope for those who may be struggling. I also aim to repudiate the insanely insensitive claims that far-right social conservatives have affixed onto LGBT life, ultimately leading us all out of this overwrought age of decrial and into one of unending enlightenment. Ya know, simple goals.
The main reason I don’t want to write a typical gay rights book is because even though I’m as out and proud as they come, I know that being gay, in and of itself, is one of the least interesting things about me (or anyone else). That’s a potentially damning admission, considering I’m asking you to read twenty-five chapters all focused on themes with homosexual tendencies. It also happens to be true. If I had my way, I’d likely never utter the words gay, homosexual, queer, LGBT, or any of the assorted and sundry names that have been applied to my life and love. In fact, I don’t use the labels, most of the time. When not fighting the good fight, you’ll rarely hear me putting my sexuality front and center. I lead with my mind, not with my crotch. That mind is human, not just homosexual human.
But I also like to think that my mind is peaceful and decent, which is why I see a need to step up and fight the wanton bias that’s made so many generations of LGBT people wretch. There came a point in my mid-twenties when taking on an activist role no longer felt like a choice. With a president on national TV telling millions of my compatriots that families like mine are “lesser than” (at best), how could I not give back a big Dubya.T.F? With state after state going to the polls to cast harsh votes against my ring finger, how could I not raise an eyebrow? With firsthand knowledge of the unnecessary familial strife that well-meaning but shortsighted parents are imposing on their kids for supposedly making a “lifestyle choice,” how could I stay quiet? How could I choose to sit this one out?
It wasn’t only, or even primarily, because I was gay that I felt this need—it was because I didn’t want to suck at being a conscious being! Apathy no longer made me feel benignly guilty, the way that extra scoop of ice cream, the three-hundred-dollar sweater, or reality shows about child beauty pageants did/do. At some point, passivity began to seem both negligent and dangerous. I started envisioning future generations asking me what I had done to beat back bias and “rooted for the lesbian contestant on America’s Next Top Model” no longer felt like a suitable answer.
So all of a sudden I became a professional activist, something I never expected to be. Hell, something I had probably even mocked in my younger days—though something that suddenly felt like duty-bound kismet. For many of my predecessors in inactivity, the light bulb moment came through the unimaginably devastating plague of AIDS. For me, it was the closed mindsets that once turned a disease into a pandemic and that continue to reduce a rich, vibrant population of human beings down to a disposable band of “militants” with an “agenda-driven” “lifestyle.” Once my fog was lifted, there was no turning back. One question: how to move forward?
When thinking of the skills that I could bring to a fight, I knew that personality was going to be key. I have a theatrical background, both by nature and by training, which means that I sacrifice few opportunities to punctuate even the most depressing of life moments with a touch of flair. I was convinced that the LGBT world could use a little bit of this style. Why should clenching my fist out of frustration mean that I had to remove the tongue from my cheek? The anti-gay side calls us “angry” because we take to the street in protest? Okay, so what will they say when I instead take to the written word with heart and wit?
I also knew I wanted to directly challenge the lies. Conservative groups write gay people off as “sex-crazed” because our movement is bound in part by sexuality? Alright, well then I’m going to show them that our far bigger hard-on is directed towards love, with our most toe-curling orgasm coming from their side’s theoretical cease fire. Or if they say that we who fight for basic fairness are anti-family and anti-values? Fine, then I’ll force them to answer why they are the ones whose “values” leave empty chairs at countless family holidays. Wherever the misrepresentation, I was determined to serve as the accountability agent.
My first step was to launch a website called Good As You (www.GoodAsYou.org), where I could take on the daily slate of anti-gay, anti-equality nonsense. My “agenda” was a simple one: to demand respect; teach peace; make a few jokes; hold any and everyone accountable if and when they create unsafe space for LGBT people or their S(traight) allies; do it all in the most firm but fair way possible.
I continue this journey with the book that you’re about to read. Through both the site and these physically- (or digitally-) bound pages you hold in your hand, I’m using my own life travels as a vehicle for the larger LGBT rights fight because I really do see my trek from scared, Southern gay boy to out, legally married, big-city activist as a fitting parallel for the larger rights picture. But navel gazing is not the goal. By sharing my story, I hope to:
Clue potential allies in to how much homophobia/heterosexism can hurt, thereby cultivating a broad coalition of fair-minded LGBT and S individuals
Inspire this fair-minded bloc to curb apathy and take charge of the conversation, reducing and ultimately extinguishing the arrogant “culture war” mentality that has hijacked American politics for the past several decades
Get us past the point where anyone’s basic civil rights or human worth are up for debate
Drain and replace the organized anti-LGBT movement’s snake oil, as if they are the out-of-town parents, and I the seventeen-year-old who discovered the keys to the liquor cabinet
Hopefully you, the reader, will be entertained. Maybe you’ll laugh, maybe you’ll cry, and maybe you’ll do that laughter-thru-tears combo—emotions are a lovely thing. Most of all, I want you to get active, the same way that I did just a few years back. Regardless of your race, age, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or ear lobe status (free hanger here), I want you to see the crucial need to step up and give a damn. I want you to want to make a difference in this, one of the major (if not most major) civil rights battles of our time. Even if just in your own mind, I want you to engage in this important conversation. Even if you only rally Judy from Accounting, then that’s one more Judy than we had before (and you know how fickle that one can be).
Because the thing is, not only can we tolerate and respect all of this world’s inhabitants—we need to co-exist for society’s sake. We must bridge the gaps that separate the LGBTSQ consonants, co-mingling between and within the clumsily constructed communities the false “culture war” script has demanded of us. Just as with any civil rights struggle, the fight for LGBT equality is one to which more than just the members of the community can and should relate. In a population where humanity is quickly being replaced with technology and discourse limited to that of liberal think tank versus conservative interest group, we must boil LGBT issues down to the far simpler principles of love, respect, and right versus wrong. We must start talking like human beings, not robotic talking point machines. We must be better as a people.
In some cases, I’ve changed the names. In all cases, I hope to change hearts and minds. Maybe even yours?
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Since founding Good As You (www.GoodAsYou.org) in 2005, Jeremy Hooper has garnered a reputation as a fresh voice in the worlds of Internet publishing and activism. With a background geared both towards entertainment and advocacy, he approaches LGBT issues with a showman’s spirit, pointing out perceived wrongdoings and follies with the clever exuberance of a seasoned jester. Both Hooper and his website have been profiled in the gay and lesbian newsmagazine The Advocate, featured on the PBS program In the Life, on the Logo network, on Sirius radio, and across every corner of the web. As a sought-after consultant, strategist, and speaker, he has worked with leading national organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD. Originally from Nashville, TN, the author now lives on the West Side of Manhattan with his husband, Andrew, and the couple’s unbelievably adorable dog, Bosley.