Like many other LGBT people, I grew up thinking that I was all alone in the world. I knew of no other gay folks, either in or out of the closet, and this absence of role models likely contributed to my then sense of solitude. It didn’t help that within my own dysfunctional family, I had secrets to keep about who I was, which created a wall between me and them. In those pre-internet days, I would scour every book and newspaper in hopes of finding the slightest reference that someone else might be gay like me.
At Christmas time, I have fond memories of watching The King Family TV holiday specials in the 1960s and 70s, where a large family of varied talents would gather together in a faux-living room to sing and spread holiday cheer. There was something so nurturing about the bonds the family seemed to share, which gave me not only comfort, but an idea of what family could actually be. Still, while I wanted to be a part of that family–to be loved and valued as one of its own–I didn’t see myself reflected in the faces staring back. Would it have made a difference to have known that one of the King Family was actually gay?
King Family member Cam Clarke was then only a child himself, but would go on to be a sought after voice-over artist and out gay man later in life. Indeed, as we celebrate the holiday season, it is difficult to separate the season from the LGBT individuals who helped contribute to it through their creations of song and craft.
You can’t get through the holidays without catching a refrain from one of renowned vocalist Johnny Mathis‘ countless Christmas classics, yet how many will know that Mathis is an out gay man? Think of the dazzling (if over-priced) ornaments created by famed designer Christopher Radko, also a gay man. Indeed, in towns all across America, audiences will flock to see ballet performances of The Nutcracker, unaware that its composer, Tchaikovsky, was gay. Writers as distinctive as Truman Capote and David Sedaris have shared Christmas memories through their books. Victorian poet Christina Georgina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Love Came Down at Christmas” were both turned into popular Christmas carols, but most people do not know that her brother later burned the love poems that she’d written to women. Even as we shop through the malls, buying gifts for one another as Wham!’s “Last Christmas” plays in the background, most are likely not aware that the founders of Stonewall Kitchen, makers of tasty gourmet food items, are gay, or that Tim Cook, president of the ever-popular Apple company, creators of iTunes, iPads, and iPhones, is also gay.
Yet how much more powerful would it be if LGBT people proudly claimed our history, calling it out, and coming out ourselves in the process? We each have certain gifts to contribute to the world, both large and small, but key to giving is to give authentically, as out and proud LGBT men and women.
The most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa, was painted by a gay man, Leonardo da Vinci. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was conceived and crafted by another, Michelangelo. One of history’s most successful commanders, Alexander the Great, was gay. Gertrude Stein, of “a rose is a rose is a rose” fame, was lesbian, as are tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. One of the most popular plays in America, the quintessential Our Town, was written by a gay man, Thornton Wilder, and one has to wonder how being gay shaped his views on small town life.
In my new fiction collection, Gifts Not Yet Given, the characters (particularly those who are LGBT) are each facing a moment in which their choices and actions will define them, for better or for worse. It is that way for each of us; the way in which we choose to operate in the world makes a difference. Do you have a moment to spare to help someone in need? Do you have stories which might assist others lead better lives? Are you living your life in truth and sharing your gifts with others? What do you have to contribute to society?
Regardless of what your gift is, the more important aspect is that you be honest in sharing it. Tell people who you are, as LGBT individuals, and show them that your contributions to the world matter. Without us, there would be no “Send in the Clowns,” “Come to My Window,” or Glee.
This New Years, revelers will celebrate the passing of one year and the dawn of another, and as they do, they may be listening to a popular song being sung by one of the top music superstars of his day. And while many may infer that he is gay, as the singer has yet to come out publicly, his is one gift that we can’t yet count.
Tell your story. Live authentically. And make the Yuletide gay…
Kergan Edwards-Stout’s new collection of holiday-themed short stories, Gifts Not Yet Given, was recently named a “Perfect book to give everyone this holiday season” by the nationally syndicated column, The Bookworm Sez. It is available now in paperback and e-book at Indie Bound (Independent Book Stores), Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or at your favorite book sellers.
Perfectly timed for the season, Gifts Not Yet Given (Circumspect Press, $15.99) by Kergan Edwards-Stout is a collection of 14 tales of the holidays. Among the stories, you will find a few set at Christmas, including “The Nutcracker,” “The Fourth Christmas,” “The Cape” and “A Doris Day Christmas.”
A special thanks to Dana Miller for including mention of Gifts Not Yet Given in his entertaining “Out & About” column in Los Angeles’ Frontiers Magazine. In it, he writes:
“Also on my must list is… Kergan Edwards-Stout’s new collection of tales of holidays, Gifts Not Yet Given. I loved Kergan’s first novel, Songs for the New Depression, and once again he delivers compassion, sincerity and a warm honesty in his writing that I just treasure. Plus, hell, one excellent piece is called ‘Festive Beaver.’ Kergan was honored as one of HRC’s Dads of the Year in 2011. He and his partner Russ are raising two beautiful boys. Gifts is a stunning compilation from a smart and skilled author.”
Thank you, Dana, for the kind words!
Hi everyone! I’m happy to be invited to back on GSH Radio’s Rainbow Hour this Wednesday November 6th around 3:10PM EST. I’ll be chatting with Victor and Greg about my new book, Gifts Not Yet Given, and tackling any crazy question they throw my way! Listen live at GSHRadio.com.
I’m grateful for the review of my new book, Gifts Not Yet Given, by Kirkus Reviews (“The World’s Toughest Book Critics).
“In 14 stories, Edwards-Stout assumes an impressive range of voices… This willingness to step inside the minds of such disparate, often nonmainstream characters hints at Edwards-Stout’s confidence as a writer and his broad life experiences. Edwards-Stout’s stories are original and important… provocative stories with a clear, vital message.” Kirkus Reviews
I so appreciated the time author Lichen Craig took to chat with me about both my new book, Gifts Not Yet Given, and Songs for the New Depression as well. She had some great questions ready for me and the conversation flew by!
We barely got through a fraction of what she’d prepared and it sounds like I’ll be back for other chats with her in the future. You can listen to the interview here and I look forward to our next exchange. Lichen Craig can be found via her website, Twitter, and Facebook, and her debut novel, Gentlemen’s Game, can be found on Amazon and online booksellers everywhere! Thanks, Lichen!
My sincere thanks to Stephen Bottum and his Band of Thebes website for giving my new book such a lovely mention. His is the “go to” blog for folks interested in literary fiction, particularly with an LGBT focus. His annual year-end survey of LGBT authors’ favorite reads of the year helps inform my book selection and his support of the literary field is to be admired.
You can read his mention here! Thank you, Stephen!