Sunday, September 23, 2012

When I Knew edited by Robert Trachtenberg

I got this book as a nice little surprise from my dear friend Debi. It arrived in a box of other books that she had sent me and I started reading it literally as soon as I took it out of the box. It's a quick book to read, but it's one of those books that's very touching at times, hilarious at times, sad at times, and for me, so very relateable at times.

This book is a collection of very short real life stories by men and women talking about when they first knew that they were gay. The stories range from a single sentence to a few paragraphs in length and none are longer than 2 pages. Each story is accompanied by a photograph or a drawing that is meaningful to the story being told. The format is perfect for this book. It works perfectly....for what it is. And what it is is mostly a humorous type book of a very complicated process in life. Which is fine. I think it does a great job of giving little vignettes of journeys along the way of self discovery.

If I were to have a problem with the book though, it would be that you can't sum up "when you knew" in a sentence or even two pages. I think I'd have to write a novel sized book to write about my own process of "knowing I was gay." Was there a part of me that knew when I was five years old? Sure. I knew I was different from other five year old boys. I knew I liked to play house with my sister while other boys liked to play football. That doesn't mean I was gay of course just because I liked typically "female" activities, but it was a clue.

I knew when I started to hit puberty and found myself more attracted to the boys in my class than I was to the girls. I knew when I was in relationships with girls and things just weren't right. I KNEW so many times throughout my life. But knowing and accepting are two different things. I don't think there was ever a time really that I didn't know. And I guess that was the question that bugged me throughout the book....are there people who actually don't realize they're gay until a certain point in their life?

The human experience is an amazing thing, isn't it? And that's one thing that I loved about this book while it bugged me at the same time. It made me think. We can never know what other people truly experience. We only know our own experiences. And this book gave me a tad bit of insight into the experiences of others. And I'm grateful for having that opportunity :) AND for having wonderful friends like Debi who send me books like this one :)


Becky said...

What a great point Chris and thanks for sharing that. One of my good friends has also talked about how it took her years to really realize where she stood. Her own story has always stuck with me and made me realize how different this self discovery is for each person. This sounds like an interesting book, and one that I hope would help people understand and respect one another.

Thanks for sharing, as always! :)

Debi said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, Chris! I thought it was a great little collection of stories. I loved how there were all these short little humorous snippets, and then you'd run across a story that just touched your heart at its deepest recesses. Like the story of the man coming out to his grandma. Oh how I loved that story.

Beth F said...

Your thoughts are really interesting. And I agree, how many things about ourselves can be summed in two pages or were revelations that can be easily told? At the same time, I think the book sounds fascinating -- a little bit like eavesdropping.