Tell Your Stories of the Big Gay Alphabet
Craig Wiesner, publisher from Reach and Teach, admits that during the time when they were looking at first drafts of The Big Gay Alphabet Coloring Book, he had some questions about specific words chosen for some of the letters, wondering what astrology and hula hooping had to do with LGBTQP people. He also had to do some digging to figure out what a narwhal was. As the creator of The Big Gay Alphabet Coloring Book, I wanted people to not take everything in the book at face value. It was my desire to stir curiosity and make people start asking each other why trapezes were Queer. In essence, I wanted it to be like a conversation starter or party game so our stories could be told more and often. We all know why R would stand for Rainbows, but what if we chose Puppets as the letter to represent P in the Big Gay Alphabet and it caused you to do some researching about all the LGBTQP people who have been involved in Queer theatrical activism, using giant hand-built puppets for protests? As the author, I wanted to treat the readers as intelligent, inquisitive researchers who could discover multitudinous answers for why beaches are gay. I can list at least three and one may or may not have something to do with Bette Midler. Our hope was that people would pick up this coloring book and each letter would have a very different impact depending on who they were and where they were on the LGBTQP and generational spectrum.
When a negative review of the book came to our attention, calling our choice of letters confusing, Craig Wiesner wrote an elegant response to why "I for Ice Cream" belongs here. It made me cry and my heart was stirred to create some community around The Big Gay Alphabet Coloring Book. Here is what he wrote:
“What makes ice cream gay? I'm sure that everyone will have different answers from mine (and I really do want to hear yours) but let me share mine. When I was a teenager, my friends and I would go to the ice cream parlor pretty often. There were always lots of kids at the counter and tables, with some boys and girls obviously in love and acting on their feelings for one another. I remember what it was like seeing these straight kids expressing themselves in a way that I absolutely could not, sharing their ice cream, holding hands, staring into each other's eyes, kissing....Sitting right near me was my best friend, a boy I was in love with, but one I never told how I felt. In a gay-positive world, I would have been able to share my ice cream with him, look deeply into his eyes, hold hands, and thanks-be-to-Jonnor (type it into a search engine) maybe even share a brief kiss. That would make ice cream very very gay! And don't even get me started about my memories of that daring young man on the flying trapeze. (In the book, T is for Trapeze.)”
Leela Corman, the illustrator for The Big Gay Alphabet Coloring Book tells us why O is for Opera: “My beloved aunt Mimi was a world-renowned opera singer. She often sang at City Opera, in Lincoln Center. I often had the privilege of going with her to dress rehearsals, and on one memorable occasion, she took me backstage to the dressing rooms. There I saw an amazing wig that has stayed with me since. It was a towering confection of pale grey hair, standing nearly as tall as me, studded with little black bows. I've drawn this wig into many of my illustrations. I got to meet many of her opera friends, who were often very cosmopolitan gay men - this was Manhattan in the 80s. A few came to her funeral in 2008, and brought a lot of light and kindness into that rainy day.”
How do you see yourselves, younger selves and today's selves, liberated or frustrated? What are your wishes for the next generations of LGBTQP people? What does your #BigGayAlphabet look like? For us, A is for Astrology, B is for Beaches, C is for City Hall, D is for Double Dating, E is for Earmuffs, F is for Football, G is for Glitter, H is for Hula Hooping, I is for Ice Cream, J is for Jazz Hands, K is for Karaoke, L is for Leotards, M is for Musicals, N is for Narwhals, O is for Opera, P is for Puppets, Q is for Queens, R is for Rainbows, S is for Soul Train, T is for Trapeze, U is for Unicorns, V is for Vampires, W is for Weightlifting, X is for Xanadu, Y is for You, and Z is for Zeitgeist. But there are endless possibilities.
Use the hashtag #BigGayAlphabet on social media to tell your stories of your own personal Big Gay Alphabet. Use photos or videos, color in a page from the book, link to your blog, say it in 140, tell us about one letter or all 26...