I'M SO HAPPY THAT MY SON WAS TRUE TO HIMSELF; When Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult Found Herself Researching the Topic of Gay Rights, a Controversial Issue in Her Native United States, the Subject Matter Really Hit Home When Her Own Son Kyle Came out. Here She Reveals What Her Hopes Are for Him and Other Homosexual Teenagers

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 3, 2011 | Go to article overview

I'M SO HAPPY THAT MY SON WAS TRUE TO HIMSELF; When Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult Found Herself Researching the Topic of Gay Rights, a Controversial Issue in Her Native United States, the Subject Matter Really Hit Home When Her Own Son Kyle Came out. Here She Reveals What Her Hopes Are for Him and Other Homosexual Teenagers


Byline: Jodi Picoult

MY first crush was on a boy named Kal Raustiala when I was an eight-year-old in second grade. He had shaggy, leonine hair, a pet iguana and a climbing frame in his basement. Although I didn't really know why at the time, my heart beat faster near him. When he wasn't around, I wanted to be with him. And when I was with him, I never wanted to leave. It just sort of happened, in the way that love often does: naturally, instinctually, and wholeheartedly.

After college, I had a friend who, like me, was naturally, instinctually and wholeheartedly attracted to boys. His name was Jeff. My roommate and I spent many Friday nights with Jeff and his partner Darryl, catching the latest movies and dissecting them over dinner afterwards. Jeff was funny, smart and a technological whiz. In fact, the least interesting thing about him was that he happened to be gay.

Gay rights is not something most of us think about - because most of us happen to have been born straight (at no point before falling hard for Kal did I actively choose to be attracted to the opposite sex). But imagine how you'd feel if you were told that it was unnatural to fall in love with someone of the opposite gender. If you weren't allowed to get married or adopt a child with your partner. Imagine being a teenager who's bullied because of your sexual orientation; or being told by your church that you are immoral. In America, where I live, this is the norm for millions of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning) individuals. Only five out of 50 US states [plus Washington DC] conduct same-sex marriages, and only a handful recognise its legality.

Those opposed to gay rights often say that they have nothing against the individuals themselves - just their desire to redefine marriage as something other than a partnership between a man and a woman. Meanwhile, same-sex couples and their friends and families argue that they deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples. The result is a country bitterly divided along the fault line of a single contentious issue.

People are always afraid of the unknown - and banding together against the Thing That Is Different From Us is a time-honoured tradition for rallying the masses. I've noticed that most people who oppose gay rights don't have a personal connection to someone who is gay. On the other hand, those who have a gay uncle or a lesbian college professor or a transgendered supermarket cashier are more likely to support gay rights, because the Thing That Is Different From Us has turned out to be, well, pretty normal. Instead of plotting the demise of the traditional family, as some politicians and religious leaders would have you believe, gay people mow their lawns and watch American Idol and video their children's concerts and have the same hopes and dreams that their straight counterparts do.

When I started writing Sing You Home, I wanted to create a lesbian character that readers could truly get to know. Zoe Baxter is a woman who - along with her husband Max - has been trying to get pregnant for years. After many failed IVF attempts she finally conceives - only to lose the baby. The tragedy is the final nail in the coffin of her strained marriage, and she and Max divorce. To cope, Zoe throws herself into her career as a music therapist. When Vanessa, a guidance counsellor, asks her to work with a suicidal teenager, their relationship moves from business to friendship and then - to Zoe's surprise - blossoms into love. As she begins to think of having a family again, she remembers that there are still frozen embryos at the IVF clinic that were never used by her and Max.

Meanwhile, Max has drunk himself into a downward spiral - until he is redeemed by an evangelical church, whose 'homosexual agenda' in America. But the mission becomes personal for Max when Zoe and her same-sex partner ask permission to raise his unborn child. …

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I'M SO HAPPY THAT MY SON WAS TRUE TO HIMSELF; When Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult Found Herself Researching the Topic of Gay Rights, a Controversial Issue in Her Native United States, the Subject Matter Really Hit Home When Her Own Son Kyle Came out. Here She Reveals What Her Hopes Are for Him and Other Homosexual Teenagers
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