Because of You

Not only are these the words that make up the title of one of my favorite Kelly Clarkson songs, but they are also inspired by Michelle Williams’s epic Emmy speech. I am a sucker for awards shows, and it’s moments like Williams’s big win that make me such a fan. If you didn’t get a chance to see her speech, here you go:

This speech ties into a really great surprise I had on the interwebs a couple weeks ago seeing that the author name on my book, WHOBERT WHOVER, had been changed to Jason June on all sites where my book was listed for sale.

Then I logged onto my Author Portal at Simon & Schuster and was greeted by this:

The name on my whole account had been changed, meaning the magical fairy of acceptance and love who changed my name for WHOBERT online had to be at S&S too.

So all this ties into Michelle Williams’s speech where she calls on companies to help out underrepresented voices when they let those companies know what they need to succeed because someday they might say thank you for helping them succeed *because* of their workplace. This is totally one of those moments. I want to give a huge thank you to Simon & Schuster, and especially my editor Karen Wojtyla, for not batting an eye when I said I wanted to change my author name to reflect my genderqueer identity. Instead I heard a resounding “YES”, and felt loved and embraced and like S&S wanted me to succeed. I know a lot of the time in the book world it can seem like the business part and the publishing part and the authoring part are all so separate, but it was the most uplifting experience when all these parts came together to rally behind me in a moment that really mattered in my life. Here’s to that continuing to happen for writers of all backgrounds in the years to come.

New Name, Who Dis

If you came here expecting to see the name Jason Gallaher and are now scratching your head wondering who in the blazes Jason June is, have no fear! It is I! I’ve officially changed my artist name from Jason Gallaher to Jason June to reflect who I am as a genderqueer person. I explain more about where the name came from and what it means to me in this Twitter thread:

 

Thanks for all your love and support, everyone! I’m excited for this new chapter of my story!

Love,

Jason June

JAY’S GAY AGENDA

OMG, where have I been?!

I was holed away in my house writing for the past few months. Most notably, I had one of those THIS IS THE ONE Aha Moments where a gay YA rom-com came to me almost fully fleshed out. I could hear the characters, see them, and I knew I had to tell their story.

Cut to me in a cave, blinded by light having just now emerged after I sent that YA manuscript to my agent yesterday morning.

I adore this YA so much, y’all. It’s called JAY’S GAY AGENDA. I posted a Twitter thread about it that you can read here. The main point of the thread is that I LOVE THIS STORY WITH ALL MY HEART, but it may be an impossible dream to get this manuscript published. It’s set in Fall 2020, and many publishers already have their Fall 2020 lists full. But I’m so going to try and make this happen.

JAY follows the title character, the only out student at a rural high school, as he finally gets to experience his gay firsts when his mom moves his family to the big city his senior year. It’s full of crushes and kisses and mishaps and mistakes. It’s the story of finding balance between romance and friendship.

But why 2020? 2020 will be a very intense year with the presidential election. Something that always makes me cringe during campaigns is that the LGBTQ community is used as a tool by politicians of both parties to get votes. It’s unsettling when your sexuality is constantly politicized, and I imagine many teens in the LGBTQ community will be stressed because of this. I hope JAY can be an escape for these readers, a reminder that a world exists in which they don’t have to be someone else’s tool, but a person who gets to experience love and lust and all the things that come with that.

If this doesn’t work out, I’m still so happy that Jay’s story came to me. You hear a lot in the writing world that no writing is wasted. JAY has already given me so much. It was so uplifting to write, remembering the excitement that comes with all those firsts. It also opened in me this huge passion for YA, and more ideas are starting to pour out of me.

So I may be heading back into the writing cave soon! But in the meantime, I’ll be posting a bit more about the journey of JAY and some firsts of my own I experienced while writing it.

xoxo,

Jas

Austin SCBWI Member Interview

The amazing folks at the Austin chapter of SCBWI asked me to do a Member Interview, and it was such a hoot! Head here to read about how my hometown inspires me, what it means to me to be a kid lit writer in the LGBTQ+ community, and how you could never convince me to become a buffalo!

Love Letter to LOVE, SIMON

It’s been a week since LOVE, SIMON, Greg Berlanti’s film adaption of Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, came out (and for the first time in my life, I’m going to say “no pun intended”). I’ve seen it twice. Both times I’ve seen it I’ve been a total mess. The movie opens with Jennifer Garner as Simon’s mom covering Nick Robinson as Simon’s eyes as she is about to give him his first car, and I just instantly burst into tears. You can feel the unconditional love drip off Simon and his parents and his sister. From their first displays of unconditional love, I knew this was going to be a monumental movie. I tried to choke down my tears—sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes empathetic—for the rest of the movie, but I failed miserably.

I realized that—no matter what the reason for or type of tears pouring from my eyes—I was crying because this was 100% the gay love story I needed. Not only as a 30-year-old married gay man today, but as the 17-year-old gay kid I used to be who was so afraid to come out in high school. A TIME article was recently titled, “Love, Simon is a Groundbreaking Gay Movie. But Do Today’s Teens Actually Need It?”

Yes. Today’s teens need it. Yesterday’s teens need it. Teens who turned into 30-something millennials need it. The oldest generation of gays—those who had life-long “roommates” and who feared ever being open about their sexuality—need it.

Let me tell you why.

The TIME article’s author had this to say for his main criticism:

“Kids like Simon, in 2018, already have a good shot of fitting in. They don’t need this movie. Will they look up from Netflix to notice that it has premiered? Love, Simon feels like a film responding to an entirely different culture, like one in which gay marriage was never legalized. That decision both acknowledged that equality for gays had won the day and opened the door for far more interesting and challenging fights, ones the next generation will lead. Movies that integrate those stories are ones worth anticipating with relish. Love, Simon, by contrast, simply feels like looking back in time.”

Kids like Simon, which is to say a gay teen with loving parents and supportive friends may have a good shot of fitting in, but the very fact it has to be labeled as a “good shot” indicates there’s also the chance those teens will be ostracized, ridiculed or bodily harmed when finally taking that brave step to come out.

What the author’s criticism overlooks is even if Simon and the real-life kids like him have a supportive friend group, a loving family, and live in a world where same-sex marriage is legal, those children do not live in a bubble. They still live in a country where state supreme courts refuse rights to same-sex married couples that our right to marry was supposed to grant. They still live in a world where state senators can deny same-sex couples the chance to adopt a child and start a family. They still live in a world in which the U.S. Department of Education said it won’t hear valid complaints from transgender students who are forced to use a bathroom that does not correspond with their gender identity.

We still very much live in a world that expresses hate toward the LGBTQIA+ community, and a world in which that hate is constantly trying to be made legal. Would this make a kid, even with supportive friends and family, nervous to come out?

Absolutely.

Just because Simon and kids like him appear “normal”  (whatever that means) on the outside, does not mean that they don’t have a very real emotional struggle going on on the inside. I found myself in a situation very much like Simon’s when I was in high school. I knew I was gay, and I found my own version of Blue. I dated him in secret, not telling my friends and family even though they routinely expressed how much they cared for me, even though I was involved enough in school to be elected homecoming royalty and high school president. This is not to say, “Look at how great my high school experience was,” but to point out that despite these superficial markers of high school popularity, I was still nervous as hell for my “huge ass secret,” as Simon calls it, to come out. I was so scared that my life would crumble and that I would be ostracized by my classmates. I had nightmares about being hated and beaten that stressed me out so much a streak of my hair turned gray when I was 17 and never turned back. So I forced myself in the closet longer than I should have so I could experience what it felt like to be liked before I became hated.

Fortunately, my fears never came true. Like Simon, I was accepted by my family and most of my peers. But this definitely was not the norm for many teens who came out in the mid-2000s, and is definitely not always the case for teens today, especially in Southern states where so much of the anti-gay legislation discussed above is being passed.

Despite being out for 13 years, I still hesitate before coming out to strangers. Even as a confident 30-year-old married gay man in Texas, I’m never sure how people will react when I tell them. There is always that split second of pause where I wonder how the person I’m talking to is going to react when I reference my husband. Will their eyes widen in recognition, their thought of “Oooooh. You’re one of those,” practically audible in the room? Or will they quickly change the subject, their eyes darting around as they try to find someone else to talk to? Sometimes those reactions are not meant with hate, but sometimes they are very much meant to somehow shame me back to heterosexuality.

So yes, we do need movies like LOVE, SIMON. Teens need it, whether they are teens today or were teens years and years ago with the pains from adolescence still holding a place in their hearts. We need movies that say the Boy Next Door doesn’t have to be straight, movies that say love will conquer all despite the world we live in where disgust for the LGBTQIA+ community can so quickly be found.

I know that this post has the potential for me to be called a dramatic millennial, or a liberal snowflake that can so easily melt.

Well you’re right about one thing: I can melt. The love I get from my husband every day makes my heart melt in the best way. If LOVE, SIMON tells us anything, it’s that having your heart melted by the person you love makes any of the lows of the world totally worth it.

And I have to say I agree.

Love, Jason

Whatims – March 12, 2018

Last week was an action-packed five days full of school visits, energetic kids and superhero librarians! I always get a little anxious leading into them, but have such a blast while reading and creating stories with the students. They keep me fired up to write more so I get to visit more!

What I’m Writing: We’re going strong with the revision of my fairytale-based fantasy MG (and by we I mean me and all the characters screaming inside my head). Still at that chapter a day pace, and feeling confident I can keep it up to have this draft done by the end of the month. I didn’t just jinx it, did I?

What I’m Reading: Sayantani DasGupta’s THE SERPENT’S SECRET. It’s the first in the new middle grade fantasy-adventure series, Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond. I totally recommend this for fans of the Percy Jackson series. There are so many fantastic magical hijinks, all centered around Indian folklore which I have never had the opportunity to dive into before. I’ll be looking for the sequel when it comes out!

What I’m Thankful For: I am so into all the book-to-movie adaptations we are getting this month, starting with A WRINKLE IN TIME through to READY PLAYER ONE at the end of March. The movie I’m most excited for is LOVE, SIMON, the movie adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. Teenage Me can’t believe that there is going to be a major movie about a gay, high school love story. I’m going to see it this weekend when it releases so that movie studios know people will spend their skrilla on LGBTQIA+ movies at the theater! Let’s all go!