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Book Review

Book Review: This Book Is Gay

This Book Is Gay
By Juno Dawson
Released: 2014

 

Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This book is for anyone who’s ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU.

There’s a long-running joke that, after “coming out,” a lesbian, gay guy, bisexual, or trans person should receive a membership card and instruction manual. THIS IS THAT INSTRUCTION MANUAL. You’re welcome.

Inside you’ll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask: from sex to politics, hooking up to stereotypes, coming out and more. This candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBT also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention hilarious illustrations.

You will be entertained. You will be informed. But most importantly, you will know that however you identify (or don’t) and whomever you love, you are exceptional. You matter. And so does this book.


I was stoked to have a self-proclaimed LGBT+ “instruction manual” in my hands!! …and then I read it. It had so much potential for greatness, yet somehow it blatantly failed to be truly inclusive of the entire community that it claimed to represent:

Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious.
This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference.
This book is for anyone who’s ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU.

Actually, it’s not. It’s shockingly binary and heavily geared toward cis gay males. (Sidebar: The choice of wording throughout requires a massive overhaul. First: It’s not a preference. It’s an orientation.) While the author did make an attempt to be inclusive, the execution was off.

Author’s note: This Book Is Gay is a collection of facts, my ideas, and my stories but also the testimonies of more than three hundred amazing LGBT* people who shared their stories. In July 2013, I conducted an international survey from which many of the quotes are taken, and also carried out more in-depth interviews with some selected participants.

My experience as a gay, white man is not representative of every gay man, let alone the thousands of gay women, bisexual men and women, and trans people who may be reading this book. Therefore, before writing this book, I searched far and wide for dozens of other LGBT* people to share their experiences with you. Individually, we can never know it all, but together we’re quite wise, like that baboon in The Lion King.

I absolutely loved the use of testimonies. However, the bulk of the book was clearly written by an individual. While that is okay, it feels like false promise for actual inclusion. This book really should have been a collaboration, or at the very least, sections should have been reviewed by a person with the specific identity addressed.

If you are going to write a section on any identity in a “manual”, please do it well. Anything less is offensive.

Sexual [orientation] and gender are fluid, meaning just because you feel one way now, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel the same way in five years’ time. Plenty of people change their sexual identity, and that’s fine.

Sweet. We have a general fluidity statement for the entire community! Now, in no way should it be addressed again with one individual identity unless it is stated under each… but alas, it appears again under Asexuality, ONLY?!!

Asexual people will often have romantic feelings toward people, and they may well have boyfriends and girlfriends and do all the lovey-dovey, holding hands and hugging parts, just without the weenies and va-jay-jays. This is—you guessed it—FINE. Some people just aren’t that sexual and, like all identities, this one might change over time. I have found that a growing number of teenagers identify as asexual while figuring out their identity.

*facepalm* WOW, I can’t even…

Now for Bi+ identities (btw, it’s strictly “bisexual” in this book, not Bi+)

Broadly speaking, a bisexual is someone who likes to have sex with both men and women. There are a plethora of misunderstandings about bisexuality, the most prevalent being the “bi now, gay later” theory that all gay men and lesbians have a brief period in Bi-Town before catching the last train to Gayville. While this is the case for some actual gay men and women, there are plenty of people who have no intention of traveling all the way to the end of the line.

THE END OF THE LINE?!!! Thanks for continuing the misunderstanding. Also, if you’re going to define the Bi+ community in broad terms, stay away from binaries and stay away from strictly sex talk. I was really looking forward to this section as there is a lot to cover under the umbrella of Bi+… but it was nowhere! Instead there’s a one-liner of pansexuality existing in Ancient Greece and Rome. Speaking of umbrellas, one is mentioned under Queer identity, but never expanded upon either. I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BOOK FOR EVERYONE?! If you’re going to claim to be a manual for the entire community, then actually be it please.

The “humor” completely missed the mark too many times (even though initially I appreciated the attempt at a light-hearted approach). There were plenty of cringe-worthy blanket statements that really got under my skin (to say the least). There’s a few that stuck out like sore thumbs:

…all people—gay or otherwise—must recognize that there is one universal truth of the universe: WE ALL WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH LOADS OF PEOPLE.

Yes, we’ve covered the bit where being Ace is an adolescent phase right? *eyeroll* …and of course after we get through that terrible time we’re all just plowing through like the Energizer bunny 24/7. I’m assuming this means that the universal truth of “Love is Love” is now antiquated?

A little slice of good news: Statistically, gay women are at a low risk of STIs as long as they make sure any toys are cleaned

Okay, but that should come with an asterisk because it’s basically sloughing off the fact that gay women can still be exposed to STIs and should still be safe. I also feel like it’s ignoring the sexuality and gender fluidity that you’ll encounter during your lifetime (especially while in that *cough* nymphomaniac phase *cough*). Instead, how about: ‘When you have sex with someone, remember that you’re sleeping with every single person they’ve ever slept with in terms of STIs, irregardless of sexual orientation.’

You can, of course, do your bit by not making fun of other people. I don’t think anyone is blameless when it comes to high school bullying. I think, on any given day, an individual can be both a bully and a victim.

OH HELL NO. IT IS NEVER OKAY TO BLAME ANY VICTIM. JUST STOP.
IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT IF YOU ARE BULLIED FOR YOUR GENDER OR SEXUAL IDENTITY.

Now, it’s probably a complete shock that I actually love some parts of this book considering the numerous rants I just had (and believe me I have more but I’m leaving it for now to preserve my sanity). There are some really great messages, I just wish that the entire book would have been as inclusive. That said, I’ll leave you with some bits I loved:

Your sexuality or gender is as natural as your eye color, and you should never be ashamed of it.

…label shop, label swap, or don’t wear one at all. Just be comfortable with YOU and let others wear whatever labels they like.

When it comes to who you fancy or who you are, IT IS HOW IT IS and you never, ever have to apologize for this. You were born this way.

Even if you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, you’re still just you. There are infinite ways of being gay, and they’re all brilliant.

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