Genre: Young Adult, Non-Fiction, LGBT
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“This Book is Gay is a collection of facts, my ideas and my stories but also the testimonies of more than three hundred amazing LGBT* people who shared their stories.”
Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it’s like to grow up as LGBT. Including testimonials from people ‘across the spectrum’, this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know – from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell’s hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-have read.
When you see this book, it immediately connotes gay pride, not least from the eye-catching rainbow cover design, than from the capitalised title which proclaims quite proudly: THIS BOOK IS GAY. Of course, this book is much more than that, but the cover does the job of getting the attention of anyone who is interested in reading about sexuality. From a YA perspective, this cover alone could be a prompt, or even a way of coming out to a friend.
A couple of years ago I saw this book in Waterstones and I picked it up. I was with a friend at the time, and commented on how much I wanted the book, and that the colourful, gay cover was ‘literally my life’. This would suggest I am gay. I’m not gay. I’m bisexual, but that’s beside the point. If you’re a young adult, or even an adult adult, you’ll be drawn to this book, especially if you identify as LGBT*, or are curious about your sexuality or still figuring it all out.
However, if you’re deep in the closest and with a parent when you find this book, it might be a little more difficult to show an interest in wanting it, or just wanting a look inside. But you never know, before you even open it, just picking it up and making a subtle comment about it might springboard you just that bit closer to coming out. Funnily enough, I only bought this book a few weeks ago, because I found it cheap. I was with my mum at the time, and although I’ve never told her directly that I’m bisexual I’ve realised it doesn’t matter, and where once I would have avoided going anywhere near this book with her around, I picked it up, carried it around the shop and then bought it. No shame. What’s there to be ashamed of?
I digress. Now, let’s actually talk about the book.
It is important to note that when this book was published (2014), the author identified as a gay cis male, and was called James Dawson. These days, James is Juno, and identifies as female, after undergoing a gender transition from male to female. If you want to find out more about the author, then check out her website: Juno Dawson
This Book is Gay is presented to readers as a handbook for people who identify as LGBT*, and it very much is just that, but I think a complete handbook would be a lot longer than this book, possibly double the page length. The overall intention of the book is to educate, and is very much aimed at the young adult audience, but can still be fun for us adults to read as well. There’s even a bit for parents with LGBT* children, and even sentiments to suggest that this book could be a solution to some people’s struggle with how to come out.
For me, a twenty-two year old bisexual female, this book is one that I wish I had when I was in school. I really needed it, and I’m sure it would have helped me to accept my sexuality a lot sooner, and not feel as ashamed or confused for so long. I love the way it is written: funny and serious. The language is definitely adapted to appeal to a younger audience, and as a way of making a difficult subject more entertaining, as a way of helping young people to come to terms with the wonderful world of LGBT*.
My only criticism is related to my point about a complete handbook being bigger than this book. At the start, this book is framed by being a book for those in the ‘Exclusive Gay Club’, and proceeds to offer an introduction that makes it clear that the book will discuss the entire LGBT* community, not just gays. There’s even a flowchart which leads you to either being gay/lesbian, straight, asexual, bi, queer or curious. We then have short paragraphs informing us which each of these mean, including Transgender. This was a good start, and I thought discussion around all these sexualities would last throughout the book.
I have considered more than once that I might be asexual, or at least partly asexual AND bisexual, but I don’t indentify as such because I just don’t know. I hoped that this book would have a dedicated chapter or section that explored asexuality, or had stories from people who are asexual. But alas, asexuality get’s a little bit left behind and ignored. There’s a huge chunk of the book dedicated to discussing sex, particularly in-depth analysis and break down of gay sex and lesbian sex. Towards the end of this, in big, bold capitals is:
WE ALL WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH LOADS OF PEOPLE
…and this is apparently the ‘one universal truth of the universe’. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t want to have sex with anyone, let alone LOADS OF PEOPLE. Okay, I might want to see what I like and what I don’t like, I might fancy being intimate with someone, or wonder what it would be like…but it doesn’t mean that wanting sex is the be all and end all of my existence and/or my sexuality. For anyone reading this book who is asexual…they’re going to be disappointed and possibly disheartened by a good portion of the book.
Bisexuality gets a fair amount of coverage, but this book is mostly aimed at young adults who are gay, lesbian, and I’d even say transgender, more than bisexual or asexual. That’s not to say it didn’t make me laugh out loud at some points! It is well worth picking up and having a read, and is useful in so many ways.
I’d definitely say that if you’re a young adult who is questioning their sexuality, get a copy of this book and read it, and by the end of it I’m sure you’ll be able to understand yourself and your sexuality a whole lot better.
Link to the book on Goodreads: