Levithan, David and Billy Merrill (editors). “The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and other Identities”, Embers, 2006, reprint 2016.
Looking at Who our Young Folk Are
Today teenagers are very aware of their sexuality and identity than we ever were and they begin looking for answers and insights, as well as a community of others. In order to help create that sense of community, Young Adult authors David Levithan and Billy Merrell have collected original poems, essays, and stories by young adults in their teens and early 20s. “The Full Spectrum” is an anthology that includes a variety of writers (gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transitioning, and questioning) who have written on a variety of subjects including coming out, family, friendship, religion/faith, first kisses, break-ups, and many others.
I do not know how I missed this when it was originally published ten years ago but I was happy to see it at my neighborhood bookstore (yes we still have those in Boston) and so I bought a copy and brought it home and spent the rest of the enjoying it. It certainly stands by its purpose of helping “all readers see themselves and the world around them in ways they might never have imagined”. It is designed for readers in grade 8 and up and consists of works that were submitted anonymously through the book’s website that the editors created in conjunction with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Levithan and Merrell then selected 40 essays, mini-autobiographies, poems, and photographs that chronicle the lives of 21st-century young people, between the ages of 13 and 23.
We have “real-life stories about coming out, falling in and out of love, mistaken identities, families and friends, misplaced affection, confronting homophobia, and more”. A selection by a female-to-male transsexual teen describes his first trip into the men’s restroom and we read about the relationship of a young man and his “trash-talking, pot-smoking, horror-movie-loving burnout” that shows us the borders between romance and friendship. There are stories of young gay men, lesbians, and transgender youth.
As could be expected, there are many stories about isolation but there are also those that are about becoming aware of and involved in a LGBT community. The anthology is made up of forty non fiction selections of which all are written by people who are under the age of twenty-three. The diversity that we see here is a reflection of the diversity of the LGBT community. By sharing the truths that we read here (the writers use their real names) change can indeed occur. This is who we are and the young writers bring hope and heartache together and show us the commonalities of the desire to feel accepted and loved and definite hope comes through. Ten years ago this book would probably never have been possible.