Can we talk?

There are people in our lives who want to understand more about us. They have questions they want to ask, but don't know how. And there are questions we have about ourselves that we may have never answered. Abby Dees has written a book that assists in asking and answering these questions and more when it comes to GLBT issues. The book is an amazing resource for having a serious dialogue with anyone who wants to know their GLBT friend or family member better, and understand more about their life.

Queer Questions, Straight Talk is written in seven chapters: Identity, Coming Out, Stereotypes, Marriage and Relationships, Homophobia and Politics, Religion and Spirituality, and Sex. Each chapter has a very intelligent, meaningful and at times humorous discussion of the topic, followed by many common and uncommon questions people are afraid to ask, or just don't know how to. Questions range from “If you haven't had much experience with the opposite sex, how do you know you're really LesBiGay?” to “Have you felt rejected by your friends or members of your family because they thought you were a sinner?

Dees, a civil-rights attorney who splits time between Los Angeles and Nashville, has been actively involved in GLBT rights for 25 years. She and her partner Traci are one of 18,000 same-sex couples in California who married in 2008. O&AN got a chance to ask her a few questions about her book and her life while she was in town for to celebrate Nashville Pride:

What was your major source of inspiration for writing this book?

“ I think this book comes out of my belief that a slightly blushing conversation is way better than awkward silence. And silence about our GLBT lives is what's causing well-meaning people to legislate away our rights. Over the years, I've noticed that there's hardly any clear way for people who are new to GLBT issues — or any identity issues like race, religion or disability — to start talking about it without risking being judged as insensitive or even bigoted.

"I want to make sure people know this is a book mostly of questions, not answers. It doesn't really matter if we all agree, as long as we get rid of outright misinformation and end the silence between us. Anyway, the world is way more interesting if we're not all in lock-step with one another.”

— Abby Dees

“But you know, we've all got to start somewhere. I think talking with our closest friends and family is the best place to begin if there's any willingness at all to have the conversation. There is no such thing as a stupid question if your intent is to understand and you're coming from the heart. So I've put 108 of those questions — even the ones we've heard a million times — down in one place, and tried to give people permission to talk to each other. I've also included guidelines and context so people aren't coming to this completely unprepared and green.”

How long did it take you to put al of these questions and ideas together for the book?

“It took about three months, and most of that time was gathering questions and answers. I wanted to make sure I'd really touched on all the bases, and I also had to track down a few celebrities for their input. The other parts of the book, such as the book chapter and intros, all came very quickly. It was stuff I'd been working on in some way or other since I came out way back in 1984.”

What's the question you wish more straight people would ask their LGBT loved ones?

“’What can I do to be more supportive of you?’ Even the most naïve, new-to-all-this straight person will get a big teary hug from their GLBT loved one for asking this question. I think it's OK if we even tell our straight loved ones we'd like to hear this from them. I know most people feel it in their hearts, but we forget to voice it — about a lot of things, not just GLBT issues.”

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