Specifically, I've put together a book that is a series of conversations in which people tell stories about themselves. In other words it's a book in which human beings share their life experiences. My hope is that by sharing stories about ourselves, we may create the possibility for understanding and empathy, where perhaps previously there was little or no understanding or empathy. My hope is that these stories may help to counteract the voices of ignorance and hate. Perhaps straight and cisgender readers with open minds and hearts who do not currently understand or embrace LGBTQI people will think to themselves, "You know, I've felt that way myself" or "Actually I see now that you have the same goals in life that I do." In fact, I'm hoping that everyone who reads the book will experience similar epiphanies. Ultimately my hope is that my readers will find common ground with the amazing people who tell their stories in the book and with me as well and that from the standpoint of that common ground, we will all recognize and celebrate our shared humanity.
What inspired the title of the book?
The title, "The Human Agenda," is an ironic commentary on the old hate speech phrase, "the homosexual agenda," which was coined by anti-gay bigots in the early 1990s to communicate the idea that there is a vast homosexual conspiracy that is dedicated to undermining our fundamental cultural and religious values. The phrase, "the human agenda" is saying that there is no homosexual agenda. There is only the human agenda. We
are all human beings, and we all have the same goals, namely life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In other words, we human beings are all essentially the same. We all want to be free, equal and respected for who we are. On Twitter I've been tweeting the statement that "the homosexual agenda is the human agenda: life liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I've also been tweeting the complementary statement that "the transgender agenda is the human agenda: life liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I've made those two tweets the epigraphs of the book since they really get to the essence of what the book is about.
What are some of the issues The Human Agenda focuses on regarding gender and sexual orientation, and does the book bring up any new issues that perhaps the public isn't aware of?
The book discusses a lot of issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and unfortunately many of these issues are not well understood - for example coming out, i.e., telling your parents, siblings, friends and colleagues that you are gay or transgender. Straight people don't have to come out. If you're a straight boy, you don't have to say to your mom and dad, just so you know, Mom and Dad, I like girls. Coming out is frightening because you do not know how the people you love will respond, and you may very well fear that they will reject you.
In the book, we discuss coming out from both the kids' and the parents' perspectives, and we
relate to the challenge of coming out by thinking of a time when you had something very personal that you felt you needed to share with a loved one and you were concerned that sharing that secret might jeopardize the relationship.
Gender identity is one of the core issues addressed in the book, and it's not very well understood at all. I'm surprised at how many apparently educated and progressive people have no idea of what it means to be transgender. Even fewer understand what it means to be intersex, which is why I am extremely pleased that Hida Viloria, a leading intersex activist, is one of the participants in the project.
Some of the other issues that the book addresses include marriage equality, same-sex parenting and adoption, the marginalization and victimization of transgender people, bullying, homelessness, the religious justification for bigotry, as well as how the medical community has pathologized transgender and intersex people.
How did you choose the participants for the book?
My goal was to include a really diverse group of extraordinary people from the LGBTQI community, and I'm pleased at how the humanity, generosity and authenticity of all of the participants really does come through. I think if readers engage with the people who participated in the book and open up to their stories, it will prove to be an extremely
enlightening and perhaps even a life changing experience.
What are your future projects?
I am planning to do another Human Agenda book focused on the issues that divide us, not just sexual orientation and gender identity but also race, color and ethnicity; immigration and cultural diversity; religion and the culture wars; gun violence and the right to bear arms; and economic polarization.
I'll also be publishing two more books of poetry over the next several months, one called Dirty Pool and another one called In Transit, which includes a number of poems on LGBTQ issues.