In partnership with Hope in a Box and in commemoration of Pride, we held an LGBTQ+ Lit Contest that asked high schoolers to share how LGBTQ+ representation in books inspired them and impacted their lives. The following is an award-winning contest story.
To the me-who-fell-asleep-curled-up-around-a-book,
This is to the me who picked and stared at himself in the mirror. To the me who pulled at his long bleached hair and fumbled with eyeliner and skirts and lipstick. To the young kid who scrubbed his skin until it was raw and drowned it in flower-drunk perfumes.
I want you to read “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller. I know how you’re obsessed with mythology; it’s one of the few things about you that you don’t immediately bury. I know that you’re constantly searching for something that can help you ignore the guilt rising in your chest every time you change in the locker room. I know how you’ve danced around your problems and are finally running out of stamina. Most of all I know how much you read to escape. You say it’s academic, to keep your grades up and impress people around you, but you’ve hidden from everyone you can- including yourself.
“The Song of Achilles” is something that I think would help you immensely. The guilt you feel right now is debilitating. I want you to know, from me or through the book, that it won’t last forever. If you give yourself the chance to explore media you’ve been avoiding, it could help ease how your stomach flips whenever you think about your identity.
Patroclus and Achilles were in love and their story is forever molded into Greek mythology. Through this story, I’ve come to realize a couple of things that I’d love to share with you. You aren’t forced to be alone forever. You aren’t gut-wrenchingly disgusting. You aren’t unnatural or abnormal the way you fear you are. This book doesn’t highlight queer issues since I know you’re not ready for that. It’s a book that follows a love story, sure, but you’d enjoy it regardless of who it focused on. It ‘just so happens to be gay,’ as you’d say.
I want you to know, if nothing else, that I understand you’re trying. Coming from a you who has seen, heard, and experienced more, I’m grateful for everything you’ve endured. But just know that the one part of you that you think is the worst isn’t. I can’t sing hope into your ears. I can’t tell you everything gets better and life will be absolutely amazing after you come out. The one thing I am sure of is it doesn’t get worse. Being in denial and locking everything away completely was destructive and painful. Open up a little bit. Try reading something you’ll enjoy that isn’t strictly straight. I promise, with every bone in my body, you won’t regret it.
Your future self