Go read Lee Wind’s post about his experience attempting to donate GLBTQ books to a junior high library, and then come back. I’ll wait.
Lee’s post got me thinking about the stigmas I fear, and the one I fear the most is the stigma on mental illness. It was this part of his post that really spoke to me:
The choice is whether to be honest about how you feel inside.
But how you feel inside is your Identity.
How you feel inside, of course, includes if you are happy or sad, drained or energetic, hopeless, etc. I don’t mean to diminish Lee’s point by pointing to these emotions; but mental illness – depression, bipolar disorder, and others – this is a part of your identity, I think. And it can be scary to talk to people about it, because what will they say? Will they call you crazy? Will they be scared of you? And then, what about any changes that may come from you trying to FIX the mental illness? What if your meds make you gain weight? And then people are calling you crazy AND fat. Or if you used to be creative, and then when you got on meds maybe you didn’t want to kill yourself anymore, but you also couldn’t create anything? Then people might think you’re dull, slow, stupid.
Talking about mental illness is not, I imagine, nearly as difficult as talking about sexuality. (I don’t know for sure because I’ve never really had to talk about sexuality.) And I would guess that donating books with main characters who have a mental illness – books like The Phoenix Dance, for example – would not present a problem at all like Lee found when he tried to donate the GLBTQ books.
But basically, Lee’s post made me think about how important it is for readers to see themselves in books, to know they are not alone. Because what is a better moment than when you are reading a book and you say, “YES! Someone understands me!”
And every reader, every child, teenager, and adult, should be able to have that experience – readily available.