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You're Gay

The letter below is part of an ongoing series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested. Today's guest is James Sie, author of All Kinds Of Other, out this Tuesday.


Hey you! (Or should I say hey, me?):

What’s going on here...It appears that there’s a balloon hat on your head and you’re wearing that white vest you think makes you look cool...oh, it’s your birthday! I remember! You’re about to embark on that epic game of D&D with your friends! Yes, you always knew how to party hard. Can I steal you away for a moment? Just let your elf-mage sleep a few turns; don’t worry, there’s no gelatinous cube oozing nearby.

This is actually the perfect time to talk. You’ve got a couple more years of high school left, and I think I might be able to do you a solid here and offer some advice on how to spend these last years before college. I’m not talking about your job, or academics; I know you’ve got that covered. It’s about an area of your life you’re deliberately avoiding even thinking about... you know what I’m talking about, right? Or maybe you don’t—you’ve gotten really good at keeping it hidden, even from yourself. I already see you sliding your eyes away, changing the subject, offering me some Cheetos to divert attention away from yourself. Stop it. We’re going to have this discussion.

James as a teenager

I’ll just put it out there, plain and simple: You’re gay. I know you barely understand what that means, but, you do. I’ve seen how your eyes linger on that photo in the yearbook of the shirtless boy on the football field, how you study it like you’re trying to decipher a hidden message. I know about that copy of Playgirl you hid between the sections of a Sunday Star-Ledger you bought from the newsstand (yes, I know you also stashed a couple of bucks next to the cash register in a fit of Catholic guilt, but that’s beside the point). You like other boys. And that’s not a bad thing. Trust me. It’s a GREAT thing, figuring out who you want to love.

Why am I outing you like this? I guess, when I look back, I feel really bad that you never had the opportunity to explore that part of yourself in high school, that you spent so much of your coming-of-age, trying not to come of age. Hiding from your heart. Feeling ashamed of who you were. When you put your emotional life on hold, you lose so many moments of discovery, connection, and maybe... love? Yes, I know you think you don’t know anyone else who’s gay, but they’re there, believe me. Those two guys in the Drama Club (at the very least); the editor of the literary magazine... my advanced gaydar has clocked them as definite candidates. But you can’t even see the possibilities in them, because you refuse to see it in yourself.

Look, if you could just accept yourself a little sooner, you’ll be able to experience some more joy, some more life; you won’t have to feel so lonely and isolated and unknown. You might pick up some confidence in yourself, and passion, sooner. And a kiss—would a kiss in high school be such a bad thing?

Not that it’s all smooth sailing after high school. You should explore, and celebrate who you are, but be safe. There’s a plague coming around the bend, just as you’re entering college. AIDS. Not gonna lie—it’s gonna kill off a lot of gay men and scare the bejeezus out of you. It will also wake up the LGBT community, galvanize the ones still standing into political action.

Shoot. I really killed the vibe there, didn’t I? Sorry. Okay, let me leave you with this: you’ll get through those plague years (and what you’ve learned from that time will help you with next millennium’s pandemic—don’t get me started on that shitshow). And by the time you hit my age, you’ll be married. To a man. Thirty years and counting. You’ll have a son! Yes, you’ll be able to marry and adopt and have a family—isn’t that amazing? And you’ll be writing books about queer boys discovering who they are, and who they want to love.

Okay, that’s pretty much what I wanted to tell you. You’ll figure the rest out. Now, go back to your D&D campaign—there’s a trove of healing potions in the rusty chest under the tapestry on the southeast wall. Oh, and that kid Andy, from the swim club, the one with the delightfully tousled chestnut hair and the dimples? Yes, he is. You’re welcome.


About The Author: James Sie (pronouns he/him) is the author of Still Life Las Vegas, which was a Lambda Literary Award nominee for Best Gay Fiction. James is also a voiceover artist for many cartoons and games, including Avatar: The Last Airbender, where his excessive love of cabbages has earned him immortal fame. Born in New Jersey to immigrant parents, James now lives in Los Angeles with his husband and son. His debut young adult novel, All Kinds Of Other, comes out this Tuesday.


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