Writing Out of the Closet: LGBTQ Voices from High School is a multi-genre anthology of poems, personal essays, short stories, and visual art. It's also a book I would have wanted to read as a high school student and a book I would have wanted to share with my own students when I was a high school teacher. In many ways, this compilation of voices is dedicated "to everyone who's held on in an unaccepting world" (from Ethan Katz's "A Poem of Gratitude") and serves as a deep affirmation of queer identities. What makes the project all the more vital and necessary, though, is its potential to help build a more accepting world by making allies of its straight readers.
--Julie Marie Wade, author of When I Was Straight, Same-Sexy Marriage: A Novella in Poems, and P*R*I*D*E
Despite some schools offering creative writing classes and literary magazines, LGBTQ youth may not be supported in their efforts to express themselves through writing. For instance, LGBTQ youth may face issues of censorship from teachers and administration, and they may even engage in self-censorship by not submitting their writing to such publications out of fear of rejection or out of a desire to maintain anonymity. As readers, too, these students do not see themselves reflected in books available in their school libraries, as “Four of the top ten books on the American Library Association’s Most Challenged List are included due to having LGBTQ characters” (Perez, 2019). The dearth of LGBTQ young adult literature is also found in public libraries (Chapman & Birdi, 2016). The message, then, becomes very clear: LGBTQ youth and their stories should remain in the closet. In response to these realities, this collection showcases the works of adolescent LGBTQ writers as they explore ideas of gender, sexuality, and youth through poetry, fiction, and personal narratives. Their work is a poignant reminder for LGBTQ students that there are others like them across the country and around the globe, and that their voices and stories have meaning and value. This collection can also serve as a resource for readers and teachers in high school classrooms and libraries to university courses that examine issues of LGBTQ youth. The pieces presented here demonstrate the power of writing as a both a tool of self-expression and of social advocacy.
Kyle O’Daniel is an English teacher at Mahomet-Seymour High School. He teaches English I and Honors College Preparatory Writing. In addition to teaching, Kyle is the co-founder and co-advisor of the school’s literary magazine, Sonder, and the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance.
Erin Mikulec is Professor of Secondary Education at Illinois State University, where she teaches general secondary methods, critical pedagogy, and methods for working with English learners. Her research interests include teacher education and working with LGBTQ youth.