Can Books Help Overcome Hate?

/ posted in: Current EventsReading

I had already planned to write a post recommending books for Pride month to post today before I heard the news yesterday about the shooting in Orlando.  Unfortunately, this is even more topical now.

Mish wrote a great post recently about why LGBT representation is important from the perspective of someone from Southeast Asia. Her point is that the culture in Sri Lanka is hostile to LGBT people so learning about it from a young age can help overcome that hatred.

We have the same issue in the U.S.  I grew up before a lot of the openness of the movement in the last 10-15 years.  I was a teenager when AIDS became prominent.  It was a very different time.  I don’t remember ever learning anything about homosexuality or ever having it discussed.  The closest thing was the sex ed teacher saying, “Don’t ever let anyone touch you there” when discussing anal sex.  That was the whole discussion.  I don’t remember anyone ever being taunted for being perceived to be homosexual.  It was like it didn’t exist at all.

I was also raised as a conservative Christian.  Again, I don’t ever remember homosexuality being discussed but I know somewhere along the way I learned that it was wrong.

I was in my early 20s before I met my first openly gay person and she had just come out.  It was a different world and it wasn’t that long ago.

I’m not sure what led me to get this book from the library but somewhere in 1997-1998 I read:

Serving in SilenceServing in Silence by Margarethe Cammermeyer

“The distinguished nurse, mother, war hero–and highest ranking officer to challenge the military’s anti-gay policy–speaks out about her life in the armed forces and her search for self. Colonel Cammermeyer’s dismissal from the U.S. Army has stirred debate all the way to the Presidency; now she writes of her decision to challenge official policy on homosexuality.”

This is the book that I credit for opening my mind.

Another influential book was:

And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS EpidemicAnd the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“By the time Rock Hudson’s death in 1985 alerted all America to the danger of the AIDS epidemic, the disease had spread across the nation, killing thousands of people and emerging as the greatest health crisis of the 20th century. America faced a troubling question: What happened? How was this epidemic allowed to spread so far before it was taken seriously? In answering these questions, Shilts weaves weaves the disparate threads into a coherent story, pinning down every evasion and contradiction at the highest levels of the medical, political, and media establishments.”

I read this after seeing the miniseries, which you can watch on HBO To Go, that tells the story of discovering HIV and the public health disaster of AIDS in the U.S.

Both of these books are old now but still so relevant.

What books would you want people who are anti-LGBT to read now?