No Freedom 'Til We're Equal

...Damn right I support it.

In a landmark decision (made on Monday, June 15, 2020), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. The ruling comes during Pride Month, a month in which we recognize the impact LGBTQ people have had in the world and bring awareness to their fight for equality. These legal protections are undoubtedly long overdue, but they are welcomed with wide-open arms. I'm happy to witness America taking a big step in the right direction.

Now, as a straight, white male - and, hopefully for many like me - 2020 has been a year of awakening. Until the transformative events of these past few months, I paid little attention to the world that existed outside my carefully cultivated, yet privileged bubble. I was consciously ignorant, selfish, and lazy. I cared about the things that mattered to me. Sure, I was aware of the plights of those marginalized communities; but, being that I knew I could never 'relate', I was instilled with the misinformed belief that I had no part to play in any of it. Out of this belief grew passivity and disengagement.

Although I am rather ashamed to admit it, until right about now, as recent events have unfolded, I was willfully unaware of my responsibility in the fight to alleviate today's pervasive societal issues. Yet, this moment of awareness and realization have given me newfound drive, purpose, and belief in a better future for all.

This awakening is but the first step of many, however. Now, the real work has to be done. If society is to mend its gaping wounds, we all must do our part. As a straight, white male, I believe strongly that, if I am going to stand beside those that face these injustices, I have to understand their perspective, their struggles, their life. I have to get educated on the matters at hand...

It likely comes as zero surprise that books are my go-to learning tool. It's part of the reason we started Helium...books teach and elevate our collective understanding! And, it's with them I begin my journey towards compassion, empathy, and solidarity with the people working for justice and equality. I'm going to focus the rest of this post on shining some light on highly recommended LGBTQ-related books - those that help all of us gain a better sense of this vibrant community and the obstacles they experience - many of which are on my very own reading list.

If you are looking for book recommendations to better understand recent racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter movement, please see the resource list we've put together.

🏳‍🌈 “Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality” by Sarah McBride

Tomorrow Will Be Different

A captivating memoir that will change the way we look at identity and equality in this country. Before she became the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention in 2016 at the age of twenty-six, Sarah McBride struggled with the decision to come out - not just to her family, but to the students of American University, where she was serving as student body president. She'd known she was a girl from her earliest memories, but it wasn't until the Facebook post announcing her truth went viral that she realized just how much impact her story could have on the country.

Four years later, McBride was one of the nation's most prominent transgender activists, walking the halls of the White House, advocating inclusive legislation, and addressing the country in the midst of a heated presidential election. She had also found her first love and future husband, Andy, a trans man and fellow activist, who complemented her in every way...until cancer tragically intervened. Informative, heartbreaking, and profoundly empowering, Tomorrow Will Be Different is a story of love and loss and a powerful entry point into the LGBTQ community's battle for equal rights. Order now!

🏳‍🌈 “On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual” by Merle Miller

On Being Different

Originally published in 1971, Merle Miller’s On Being Different is a pioneering and thought-provoking book about being homosexual in the United States. Just two years after the Stonewall riots, Miller wrote a poignant essay for the New York Times Magazine entitled “What It Means To Be a Homosexual” in response to a homophobic article published in Harper’s Magazine. Described as “the most widely read and discussed essay of the decade,” it carried the seed that would blossom into On Being Different—one of the earliest memoirs to affirm the importance of coming out.

“Merle Miller’s On Being Different is a searing indictment of social hypocrisy, written with a quite but burning passion…This book is not only a valuable historical document about the gay civil rights movement, but it is an American classic...through its unflinchingly honest portrayal of the raw pain of rejection.” - David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution

“Brilliant, moving, and one is obliged to add, courageous narrative of personal homosexuality.” - James A. Wechsler, columnist. Order now!

🏳‍🌈 “The Stonewall Reader" Edited by The New York Public Library

June 28, 2019 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is considered the most significant event in the gay liberation movement, and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. In honor of this event, drawing from the New York Public Library’s archives, The Stonewall Reader is a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots.

Most importantly, the anthology spotlights both iconic activists who were pivotal in the movement, such as Sylvia Rivera, co-founder of Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), as well as forgotten figures like Ernestine Eckstein, one of the few out, African American, lesbian activists in the 1960s. The anthology focuses on the events of 1969, the five years before, and the five years after.

Awarded in Harper’s Bazaar, The 20 Best LGBTQ Books of 2019 and Finalist for the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, presented by The Publishing Triangle. Order now!

🏳‍🌈 “The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out is Good Business" by John Browne

The Glass Closet

Part memoir and part social criticism, The Glass Closet addresses the issue of homophobia that still pervades corporations around the world and underscores the immense challenges faced by LGBTQ employees.

In The Glass Closet, Lord John Browne, former CEO of BP, seeks to unsettle business leaders by exposing the culture of homophobia that remains rampant in corporations around the world, and which prevents employees from showing their authentic selves.

Drawing on his own experiences, and those of prominent members of the LGBTQ community around the world, as well as insights from well-known business leaders and celebrities, Lord Browne illustrates why, despite the risks involved, self-disclosure is best for employees - and for the businesses that support them.

Above all, The Glass Closet offers inspiration and support for those who too often worry that coming out will hinder their chances of professional success. Consider this a must-read for business leaders - both of today and tomorrow. Order now!

🏳‍🌈 “None of the Above” by I.W. Gregorio

None of the Above

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between. Order now!

These books are sure to inform, inspire, and captivate. Hopefully, many of us, whether we decide to read the books above or not, at a minimum take it upon ourselves to do our own research, talk to members of affected communities, find informative articles, listen to podcasts, actively denounce injustices.

Like I (and many others) have said, we must all do our part if positive change is to happen. Let's all become allies to the cause.

Happy Pride Month!


Images and descriptions from Penguin Random House and Amazon

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