This month’s second queer reader is Sam, who writes LGBT+ stories under the name Anthony James. He’s bisexual (or maybe pansexual), transmasculine, and likely autistic too (although undiagnosed for now). Even if his writing isn’t focused on any of those aspects of his identity, they tend to show up in one way or another, explicitly or implicitly. You can follow Sam on Twitter @anthjameswrites, on Instagram @fromtheimagination, and check out his website. Sam is also in charge of LGBT+ stories/submissions at Cepheus Publishing, which you should definitely check out if that’s up your alley. Find Cepheus Publishing on Twitter @cephpublishing.
Keep reading to find out about Sam’s undying love for Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda, reading to escape the real world, feeling less alone while reading queer books, and more!
What was the first LGBTQ2IA+ book(s) you remember reading? How did you end up reading it (i.e., were you searching for queer books or did you just happen across it?)
I don’t remember what the series was called, it was a fantasy series – not YA, though one of the protagonists was about 16/17 (I think, definitely younger than 20). I borrowed the first book, because my friend said I’d enjoy it. It was the first M/M book I’d ever read that wasn’t fanfiction and I raced through the first two books. I was about 15/16 then and not out.
What is/are your favourite LGBTQ2IA+ books, and why?
Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda. No other book will ever take over top spot for my favourite LGBT+ book. I read Simon two years ago – November 2015. I had long known I was queer and realised I was trans around May, but was only just coming out. It has a special place in my heart; why will be in the next question. I also love Becky Albertalli’s book The Upside of Unrequited and Adam Silvera’s books. And definitely The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue; reading about a short, bisexual boy from Cheshire England really made my life, its the closest thing to seeing myself in a book I’ve ever gotten. I’m always looking for more LGBT+ books, especially ones with transmasculine protagonists.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book have you read that best reflects your experiences as an LGBTQ2IA+ person?
What attracted me to Simon was the quote on the back of the book, about straight people coming out. I knew it was an LGBT+ book, so I was always going to read it, but that quote on the book made me really excited to start, because it was always how I felt about it. I lived in a really accepting family, so I was never afraid of coming out as queer, but I never did until I was throwing it in with my gender because it never felt… normal to, for me. Being transgender is a little different, I wanted to change how I looked so felt I had to tell people, but no one has said they were straight, so why did I have to come out as ‘not straight’? (Which was all I was really sure of at thirteen.) Something must have shown on my face or in the things I did, because that’s around the time people started asking if I was gay; I didn’t lie about anything and just say no, but didn’t tell them the truth either because I wasn’t exactly sure where I fit, they were assuming gay girl and I was dreaming of being a boy, and it generally just didn’t feel right.
I also felt a lot like Simon. He had his thing that he felt confident with (his being drama, mine being writing). He was generally more open in writing. I always felt less alone when I was reading Simon.
Which LGBTQ2IA+ book do you wish you could read but can’t because it doesn’t exist yet?
I wish I was reading about about a mentally ill trans guy from Northern England just trying to figure out where he fits in the world and maybe finding someone who genuinely likes him along the way. I guess I could write that one, never properly tackled an own voices story before. Just transmasculine protagonists in general would always be nice.
How do you find LGBTQ2IA+ books? How easy or hard is it in your experience finding the ones that you want to read?
I borrowed the series from a friend and Simon was given to me. The rest I hear about because of Twitter, I follow a lot of authors and reviewers, or because I’ve searched one I’ve already read on Amazon and scroll through the ‘if you liked this book’ section at the bottom. Sometimes I’m lucky and an LGBT+ book will be in a store in my small town (that’s how I got two of Adam Silvera’s). Sometimes I have the time and the money to travel into the closest city and find it there. Half the time I go to a bookstore in my town and ask them to order it in for me; the last book I did this for was The Gentleman’s Guide. I had to wait a few days for it to come in, but it was worth it.
Do you know other LGBTQ2IA+ readers or participate in any LGBTQ2IA+ reading communities (in person or on the Internet)? What’s it like? Why or why not?
Part of me wishes I did, but I never know how to interact with people and that makes me panic and avoid them. If I could get over that or be invited first, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. Part of me is okay with it, though. I always read to kind of escape the real world and talking about it with others feels like sharing a secret sometimes. It’s why I’m so late writing reviews for books I’ve read; as soon as I share them, they won’t just be my thoughts anymore. I do have a friend I talk to about books; it is nice to share them sometimes.
Thanks for sharing with us Sam! I know you aren’t alone in your love for Simon; it’s so exciting that the movie is coming out soon!