By Trevor Ritchie (he/him), teacher and editor of Alphabet of Hope, Burnaby
“Where are all the queer people?” This is a simple question I remember asking myself as a teenager, and sometimes still find myself asking today. I grew up in the heteronormative world of sports and was attempting to live up to the expectations of presenting as a cisgendered, heterosexual teenager in modern Canadian society. Meeting those societal expectations means understanding cultural nuances, all to help mask my identity as a way to keep myself safe. The emotional labour involved in hiding my identity for such a long period of my life was stressful. That stress would inevitably lead me back to the question: where are all the queer people?
More recently, society has made significant gains in legal recognition and protections of relationships and queer identities. People are coming out at a younger age than before. At the same time, there are still too many stories of queer youth being forced to flee their homes or communities because of the discrimination they experience. Queer people in the United States are experiencing even more turbulence in their lives in the face of transphobic executive orders in Texas, demanding investigations of child abuse into parents who provide gender-affirming care to trans youth, and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida.
These parallel thought patterns birthed Alphabet of Hope, an anthology of short autobiographical stories written by members of the queer community from all over the world. Our stories are written by people from all walks and stages of their lives. This anthology shows that no matter where you come from or what you’re going through, people and place can change and become more hopeful. We want to give hope to queer youth and show them that they can be seen in their communities. Whatever issues they are wrestling with relating to their sexual orientation or gender identity, they can feel supported and know that others have considered and faced those same issues.
Many of the stories in Alphabet of Hope discuss the coming out process. Several of the coming out stories discuss the process of telling other people about the author’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Others take the reader on a more personal journey through the author’s realization process of their own identity and the stress that realization caused. The last series of stories were written about home communities and how social change is coming to all parts of the world, not just the cosmopolitan cities more commonly associated with LGBTQ+ communities in the media.
As teachers, we strive to create environments that are as welcoming as possible for our students. We want students to feel they can be their authentic selves and not have to hide who they are for fear of being judged or treated differently. Alphabet of Hope shares a similar message for students that goes beyond the classroom and into the rest of their world.
Alphabet of Hope can be found by visiting qrco.de/bcyp1H. If you are interested in submitting a story for the next edition of Alphabet of Hope, or its fictional sister anthology, email firstname.lastname@example.org.