Over the last four years, Dannielle Owens Reid and Kristin Russo have used their platform Everyone is Gay to answer pressing questions asked by members of the LGBTQ community and their families. As their charm and wisdom has granted honest hope and numerous smiles around the globe, a devout audience has grown, allowing the duo to pursue many other beneficial projects in the queer community—including The Parents Project, a place for concerned parents to learn about their LGBTQ children. The two have long used their smarts and likability for the benefit of others, and their latest project takes that to a new medium: print.
"This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids," Owens Reid and Russo's book (published by Chronicle and available for preorder now) is slated for release 9 September 2014—and it's not a moment too soon. The book strives to be a resource for parents (and other loved ones) hoping to better understand and support LGBTQ children. Owens Reid and Russo have been answering the questions that fall within its pages for some time, and yet there's never been as insightful a compendium in print form. The book incorporates real life experiences—including their own—and addresses both emotional and practical topics. And, while it can be read from front to back, its Q&A layout allows immediate and direct access to specific information. The two authors spoke with CH about how this work came to be, its value for parents and children alike, and their early origins as entertaining activists.
How did you two begin working together?
Dannielle Owens Reid: We started talking around the time I started Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber because we have a bunch of mutual friends. We started talking and I was telling her about the negative feedback I was getting: lesbians saying I was stereotyping and giving them a bad name. Kristin was well on her way to getting her Masters degree in Gender Studies—she started offering me smart, academic reasons. I wanted to talk to all these people giving me feedback, but all I wanted to do was answer in a sassy way. We started answering sassy questions with sassy answers, and then they started to ask us serious questions.
What's the origin of the name Everyone is Gay?
Kristin Russo: the first part, the real origin, is that Dannielle and I were talking about creating a funny, sassy site. We didn't know exactly what we were creating, though. We were on GChat at our day jobs—having only known each other for a couple of weeks—and we were throwing out joke names for this Tumblr. At the same time I sent over "Everyone is Gay" she sent over "No One is Straight." I left my desk and got on the subway and when I came above ground, Dannielle had texted me that she created Everyone is Gay. We maybe would have thought up a different name for an organization if we knew we were starting an organization.
The second part, is that we found a valid application of the name. So many of the advice questions we get are about coming out to parents and what they'll think. Or telling friends and being worried about being misunderstood. Now to explain it: let's just say everyone is gay. If you take that out of the equation, all of these questions boil down to the approval and acceptance from parents and friends. That's something that can be universally understood.
Where did this book project arise from?
DOR: We've been answering questions for four years. We get kind of the same grouping of questions, surrounding coming out and religion and gender—and a big part of all of those questions is communicating. We even get people who ask if we will come out to their parents for them with a video.
We've had a literary agent since before we even had the idea. We talked to her about the idea of a funny book. Maybe one titled "I'm Gay" that only says inside: leave this book on the dining room table. That led to us asking: what if we just do a book for parents and kids about coming out and it was filled with a bunch of conversations that parents and kids could both read about based on conversations that parents and kids both had? As this became a book for parents of gay kids and advice for gay kids, we realized that was the most beneficial.
And how did you come up with this title?
KR: The title was really hard for us because parents are a totally different audience than who we usually write for. We've had some parents ask us questions, but this is a book specifically for parents. We didn't know if our normal tongue-in-cheek joking nature was quite right. We knew we needed to reach parents who were struggling. We wanted to keep out too much personality, but it had to be very clear what the book was for.
I came across a cook book titled "This is a Cook Book." It gets the cheekiness, but it's also direct. Our publisher was super into it. It's simple and clear. Even the cover design is different. Most guides that exist like this are over a decade old and look like books addressing, "This horrible thing that has happened." Our book cover is more like, "Your cool kid came out and this is going to be cool."
If parents are wondering about it, then we need to address it.
How is this book a resource?
DOR: One thing we noticed was a lack of resource guides. Altogether, there aren't a ton of resources. There's PFLAG, which is totally wonderful, but that's more of an in-person thing. Some people are hesitant to claim their identity as a parent of a gay kid, some people aren't comfortable with it. It isn't a tangible thing you can open and flip to—to the problem you are having at that moment. That's something parents need. We started The Parents Project because we couldn't find anything online like that, but there needs to be one tangible thing that parents can go to, even family members and people in the community. There are people who have no idea what gender queer even means.
KR: Dannielle and I went through a lot of processes to develop the book, and the first was the table of contents. We knew that it was going to be a large chunk of time and how this would be fleshed out. We sent out to our own parents and readers a sample table of contents based on questions already there by our personal experiences with them. But then, in response, there were all of these other. We were struck by the response to, "Does this mean my kid will be more promiscuous?" When we realized that, we thought, "Well, we should address this!" If parents are wondering about it, then we need to address it. It led to an entire chapter on sex. There's a 101 on safe sex. It's there if parents want to talk to their kids, or even hand the book over and say, "Check out these pages." We knew that this book might as well have all the things parents want to know right inside of it.
Pre-order "This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids" at Amazon for $15.
Images courtesy of Everyone is Gay