A story from a different closet

A story from a different closet

David Heilman, North Campus Staff

Allan D. Hunter is an author and gender activist who sought a way to provide a new viewpoint of identity to those who found themselves outside of normality. Offering his own story as a framework “Genderqueer: A Story From a Different Closet” is his take on offering that viewpoint. A passage from the book says it all.

“This book is the coming out and coming-of-age story of a gender-nonconforming male. Set in the late 1970s, it’s a work of nonfiction and highlights the realness of an identity that is not gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender, but isn’t cisgender and heterosexual either. It’s something else. It’s my story.”

“Genderqueer” takes the reader through an introspective look on the life of Derek a young boy struggling to find acceptance in a 1970’s world less kind to those outside of the “gender norms”. The story takes us from elementary school to young adulthood. You experience his thoughts and feelings as they were then, the events that change his life, and how he grows from them.

The tone Hunter carries through the book is one seeking commonality between himself and the reader. As such it seems to takes a few things for granted in terms of explaining the nature and separation of sex and gender. So for those who don’t have some background knowledge in gender issues this book may require some additional side searches.

An interesting surprise is how much the book reads like fiction. Each part of the book is its own smaller story subtly blending to the next. As though it were a typed out series of stories a parent would tell their kid after as they matured closer to equals. Sharing it not only as a form of entertainment or a lesson to avoid the mistakes he made but as a way to explain that there are others who go down similar paths of hardship. That ultimately there is good somewhere toward the end.

If there’s one thing the book stood out with however, it was the degree of honesty in the story, at times to a fault. The book covers many explicit topics sparing no uncomfortable detail and is certainly intended for a mature reader. The language and hate speech and the uncomfortable emphasis on sexual desires bring a coarse realism to the scenes of torment and awkwardness of his younger years. The amount of intimacy the author put into the story pulls the reader in and allows them to mirror the feeling Derek felt in the moment.

Ultimately this book is a fairly quick read at a hair over two hundred but covers an important story of someone who took risks and came out to everyone in a way no one understood. A story of trial and strength. A story of an individual’s pursuit at understanding their identity. A story that reminds us all we’re not alone.