Part of the 2015 Gay Romance Northwest Meet-Up Keynote, “Read with Pride”.
I grew up in a very religious home. When I say this, I mean Pentecostal, hands-in-the-air, “holy spirit come”, type church. I’m finding that this is not in and of itself an original story. But what was a bit different for me was where the church hurt a lot of people by telling them what they could and could not do or be…my experience was being the one pointing the finger, heading up the lynchmob-exoricism-prayer meeting. I was preaching by the time I was 16 and a missionary by the time I was 20. I hated anything “of the world”…and everything that wasn’t considered holy was leading you, yes you (whoever my finger point could reach), to hell.
But deep down, I hated myself the most. I lived in constant judgment of myself. I was a sinner when I masturbated. I was a sinner when I thought of any romance/relationships outside of marriage. And I was a sinner because I was not saving enough people.
My journey led me to San Francisco…for a job that I couldn’t refuse. I didn’t know a single soul. But, I was giddy…because SF was a den of sinners, gay sinners, and I had all this opportunity to save them. And then one night on a prayer walk in the Castro district with my new church, I witnessed two of our church members, one a pastor, physically beating up a gay couple they were trying to preach to. There was blood everywhere, there were cries for help, and I turned tail and ran.
I got back to my apartment, completely in shock, fell to my knees and for the first time, had no idea what to say…what to pray. And I had one of those epiphanies…one of those life-altering moments. It was clear as day, something settled in my heart. God is not about judgment. God is not about doing right. God is love. Period. I’m not here to preach, but I wanted to share that in that moment, this message changed my life…saved my life even.
I started opening myself up to people. Talking to anyone and everyone about stuff not bible-related. I started experimenting with living. I started forgiving myself. And I started reading romance novels. Well, chick lit at first, then romance, then full-on erotica. And at some point, I stumbled upon a Black Dagger Brotherhood fanfic which opened up my world of reading to m/m romance, and then more.
What has reading done for me? I’m learning every day…with each new book, with each new conversation within the community, with each new interaction with someone I would have completely shunned years ago. I used to think drag/cross-dressing/and trans were all the same thing. The concept of asexuality I would have declared “a blessing from god” to avoid temptation. I cringe at my small-mindedness in the past. But the fervor with which I hated so many years ago, I use to try and learn, to grow, to experience, to do better, to be better.
Romance opened up my world. LGBTQ romance broadened my horizons. Reading was my portal to exposure and learning. I read with pride because reading is who I am.
Quick story: I recently interviewed for a new job. In every interview, the question is asked: “What are you reading?” Here I am, interviewing for the VP of Human Resources role. I should say something important. I should say something meaningful. I should say something that would show exactly the kind of HR executive I could be for them. So I did. I replied, “I am a voracious reader of romance books. I particularly read mostly LGBTQ romance.” The CEO looked at me, smiled, and said “Unexpected, but I love the honesty”. I got the job.
GRNW 2015 Keynote
Listen to Read with Pride
Susan is a Human Resources executive by day and a voracious romance reader by night (and any other free minute she can get to read!) Having made the journey from “chick-lit” to erotica to m/m and finally getting more and more exposure to ANY book about LOVE, her life has literally and quite drastically been changed through reading. She loves to talk about books, may become a little too attached to characters, and wants every book she reads to have a happy ending. Susan is a member of the Boys in our Books blog team, where she was able to publish last year’s anthology, ”Another Place in Time” which raised over $10k for charity, and this year’s upcoming charity anthology “Wish Come True”, releasing December 1, 2015.