DiversifYA: Mark O’Brien, part two

MarkToday, Mark O’Brien is back for his second DiversifYA interview! Mark is a writer of *amazing* YA (seriously, have you seen his pitch for MAD WORLD?) and a contributor at Bookalicious, and you probably want to follow him on Twitter–or on his blog.

His first interview was incredibly awesome, about dealing with mental illnesses. Today he’ll be talking about being growing up gay.

1. How do you identify yourself?


For a long time, I’ve struggled with this word. I never described myself that way when I was younger, even in my own mind, just because I couldn’t. So it’s still kind of a difficult thing to call myself that, but I’m working on it.

2. What did it feel like growing up gay?

For the most part, it was not a fun time. I’m still growing up—I’m sixteen—so my attitude may change, but yeah. I grew up in a moderately Catholic family, and I attended church every Sunday despite my kicking and screaming. I hated it. I knew, even at as young as five, I was different. And I knew at around eight or nine that everyone in that building would hate me if they knew. And I realize now that’s a generalization and probably not accurate, but one has to admit that the Catholic Church in particular has not been particularly lovely to gay people.

Every day, I hear people insulting me without their even knowing it, just by the derogatory comments and slurs they use. My own brother uses them. He’s homophobic, and I’m not out to my family yet, so it hurts to hear him argue that homosexuality is sinful and Wrong. I try to defend the community—and myself—but every time I do, I get the same rebuttal: “Are YOU gay?” I hate being silenced, but that typically shuts me up.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

It’s hard to have to hide a part of who I am. Sometimes I wish I could scream it from the rooftops so everyone would know. Also, hateful people/groups like the Westboro Baptist “Church”? I know everyone tells me to ignore them, but sometimes they get to me. A lot.

I think I’ve become a lot closer with my friends since I’ve come out to them. A lot of them seemed to already know, and if they didn’t, it didn’t really matter that much. Also, it seems to me that if being attracted to members of the same sex is my deepest, darkest secret, I must be doing something right.

4. What do you wish people knew about being gay?

It’s not a choice; who told you it was, straight people? Yes, I know I’m gay, despite the fact that I’ve never kissed a girl. Gay guys are not all better-looking than straight guys, so stop saying that; it’s annoying. As is the related “Oh, you’re so lucky you’re gay!”, under any circumstance.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

I’ll be the first to admit I’m somewhat effeminate. Most of my friends are girls, and they’ve said before they don’t really consider me a guy (which I took as a compliment because we were talking about how All Teenage Boys Suck, Let’s Just Marry Ryan Gosling. Or was that last part just me? …what were we talking about?) Anyway, yes, I’m kinda effeminate. Not all gay guys are as woefully stereotypical as me, though.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

Keep in mind that you are writing a person first. This person has a past, a personality, issues he/she/indeterminate pronoun is dealing with, a family, etc. This person loves some things and hates other things and probably has a hobby or a job or pets or whatever. Just because he/she/pronoun-of-your-choice is a person of color and/or female to male and/or in a wheelchair and/or autistic and/or whatever else does not mean this person is not a person.

That said, keep in mind being a passenger on board the LGBTQ train affects your identity. I’m not going to pretend that my sexuality isn’t impactful on my personality. It totally is. Sexuality’s not something stupid and insignificant like hair color, and it should be a factor in your character’s personality. You shouldn’t be able to switch the pronouns referring to your gay character’s love interest to “she” and “her” and have the same storyline.

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3 Responses to DiversifYA: Mark O’Brien, part two

  1. I have nothing of substance to say, just HI, I LOVE YOU, MARK!

  2. <3

  3. Yay! So much love for you, Mark.