Fast forward to my first year of college. I left home and came to Tallahassee, admittedly not a bustling metropolis, but still the largest city in which I'd ever lived. There was a gay community center and, wonder of all wonders, a gay bookstore! (Oh, Rubyfruit Books, how I miss thee!) The first time I went in that store, I felt this knot in my chest release. Staring at me from all angles were gay and lesbian fiction, nonfiction, tshirts, buttons, sex books...I wanted to turn in circles and toss my hat like Mary Tyler Moore. It was one of the most wondrous experiences I have ever had--discovering that not only were we legion, we were freaking prolific writers! The first book I bought was Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle. I devoured that book, and then I read anything that had the woman's name on it. By the gods, if she had written copy for Kellogg's boxes, I would've been on an all-cereal diet. I was then handed Winterson's Written on the Body for a Women in Literature class. I was engrossed in the book and remember having to do a group project on it. I was so nervous, because I felt like I had to represent my people well and honor her. Really, it was a crap project, but that book. Oh my god. That book. Perusing my beloved Rubyfruit, I found out that she wrote others and fell in mad love with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. One afternoon, I was in the campus bookstore and found "Lesbian and Gay Studies" section. Albeit, it really was a small section, but the implication! This was a regular bookstore. And they had books about us! Like it was normal! I felt another knot release. I know I picked up every book on those few shelves and stared at the covers and back jackets. The first one I bought was Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, and after I got over the shock of not really needing to try to be covert about my purchase, I proceeded to buy one every single time I had money. There was erotica and nonfiction and so many blessed other things. And if I had only been able to locate these in my own library, senior year might have been a very different place for me, at least, internally.
Remembering all this makes me want to order a million LGBT books and stuff shelves full in libraries everywhere. Because everyone deserves to be able to see themselves reflected.