APL Storyteller - Nick
When I was twelve or thirteen, I was struggling with feelings I couldn’t really understand or explain. I felt different from my peers and even the adults around me. The other boys my age were becoming “girl crazy,” and I just couldn’t relate.
One day at the library I was browsing the Young Adult section when I randomly came across Am I Blue: Coming Out from the Silence, a collection of fictionalized “coming out” stories. I began to read the first few pages and almost immediately felt a rush of recognition and relief - “this is about me.” I checked out the book, brought it home, and read it Harry Potter style – cover-to-cover in one sitting.
Thankfully the library had many other LGBT-themed young adult books, and I’m pretty sure I checked out and read all of them. Through all these different stories, I was able to find the language for my own experience, and to feel less ashamed and alone. Even if I didn’t yet have the courage or self-awareness to talk openly about being gay, I had the library as a safe space to learn about myself and the wide range of diverse LGBT experiences out there. Tucked away in a quiet corner with a book, I felt part of a larger, more accepting community.
Following this, came one of my happiest memories from my life so far. The movement to start the region’s first Gay/Straight Alliance in Neenah High School in 2002. Through public awareness and education, and working with adult community leaders and the ACLU we were able to successfully lobby the school board into allowing us to form the club, which sparked a chain reaction throughout the Fox Valley.
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