Although we can find difference disconcerting, there is evidence that diversity is good for the brain. It seems marvellous to me that, in the course of my admittedly long lifetime, sex between men has progressed from a shameful secret, sometimes leading to arrest, to something that can be celebrated through marriage. Not far behind, we’re learning to accept diversity in gender identity, with those estranged from their birth gender able to scratch it from their birth certificate and/or declare themselves #TransandProud. While we might be a long way from eradicating trans- and homophobia, LGBT history month is a cause for celebration for us all.
This novel also introduced me to the two-spirit identity in Cree culture, whereby a person embraces both their masculine and feminine sides. With dual-gender celebrities, like Conchita Wurst, perhaps Europeans are finally ready to accept rather such modes of self-expression. Something that might have suited Diana, the narrator of my debut novel, Sugar and Snails, who discovers as a teenager in the early 1970s how pathological this was considered to be (p235):
I envisioned a super-race ruling through logic, physical strength and love. But the book made it clear this vision was romantic tomfoolery. Hermaphroditism was a personal and social disaster. Without medical treatment, such people were trapped in a psychological no man’s land, unable to take part in society, driven mad by being neither one thing nor the other. No one could live a satisfying life with ambiguous genitals. As with the separate stairways at my first school, you could follow only one route.
In a world in which we are bombarded with bad news, LGBT history month is an opportunity for us all, regardless of our personal sexual and gender identity, to celebrate how far we’ve progressed as a society in our tolerance of difference and ambiguity. I’m proud to have the opportunity to mark it with a bookshop talk and reading. What will you do?