(Mirror) In their new book "We Make It Better: The LGBTQ Community And Their Positive Contributions To Society" co-authors Eric Rosswood and Kathleen Archambeau share the stories of people from Queer history, and explain how their contributions made the world a better place.
The book, intended primarily for teens and young adults but also of interest to older readers, is an easy read, offering the histories of each of its subjects, explaining how those histories led to the making of a positive contribution. The authors write about people from across the LGBTQ spectrum, sometimes travelling through time as they look back upon the lives of people like 19th century author and playwright Oscar Wilde, but they also chose people from our own time, such as gun control advocate Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In the book’s introduction, Eric Rosswood and Kathleen Archambeau point out that many of the LGBT community's most accomplished people are rarely if ever mentioned in schools. They point out that some U.S. states still have "No Promo Homo" laws on the books. Some of these laws prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality in a positive light, while other laws even require teachers to paint a negative portrait of LGBT people.
"There are a lot of people out there with a negative impression of the LGBTQ community," Rosswood said in an interview. "Kathleen and I wanted to highlight key LGBTQ role models who've made a positive contribution to society. We're hoping to inspire people around the world and help them realize that being LGBTQ is something to celebrate. Our community has made significant contributions to society, and that's something to be proud of."
The book is divided into ten parts: activism, business, dance, film and television, government and military, music, religion, science, sports, and literature. The activism section begins with an important, often forgotten chapter in Queer history, the story of Bayard Rustin. As the book points out, everyone knows about Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream speech, delivered at the March On Washington in 1963. What's rarely told is that Rustin, who mentored King and helped to organize the march, was a gay man.
The authors recount Rustin's commitment to nonviolent resistance, teaching us that he traveled to India during the 1940s to study the nonviolent techniques of Mahatma Gandhi. When he met Dr. King a decade later, Rustin imparted these teachings, working with King on the Montgomery bus boycott, which led to the Supreme Court's ruling that it was unconstitutional for Alabama and Montgomery to segregate their public transit systems.
The section on Lana and Lilly Wachowski also inspires. Creators of the hit sci-fi film “The Matrix,” among other big budget films, the Wachowskis are transgender siblings who show trans kids everywhere that yes, you can succeed and make your dreams come true.
Further on, the authors recall Leonard Matlovich, a highly decorated career military man who, in 1975, outed himself to the Air Force so he could create a test case for banning gays and lesbians from the military. When he was discharged, Matlovich made headlines when he filed suit.
"We didn't want to do a book about people because they're lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said Rosswood. "We wanted to highlight people who are some of the best in their fields and they just happen to be part of the LGBTQ community. For example, Tim Cook and Beth Ford are not just business leaders, they're CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Abby Wambach isn't just a soccer player. She's an Olympic gold medalist who also holds the international world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players."
Rosswood also points to Johanna Siguroardottir, a lesbian who served as Iceland's first female Prime Minister.
"We even run countries," said Rosswood. "How many people out there know that?"
The authors pack an incredible amount of information into the book's 236 pages. The book is educational, but it's also highly entertaining. With the Trump administration attacking LGBTQ rights, "We Make It Better: The LGBTQ Community And Their Positive Contributions To Society" becomes a must read, a reminder of all we have to be proud of.
"We want to challenge people's perceptions on what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer," said Rosswood. "And for all the kids out there who are struggling to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity, we hope to inspire them by letting them know they're part of a community that has done extraordinary things. We make the world a better place."
"We Make It Better: The LGBTQ Community And Their Positive Contributions To Society" is now available in paperback and kindle editions.
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