First, I want to thank Charlie for hosting this post and allowing me to be here to talk to you. This post is meant to be a part of the week-long blog tour for my new book Cold, which is a gay romance novel based in prison. But even in the midst of all the work that goes into creating a and promoting a book, I believe it is important to keep in mind the reason I began publishing – to raise money and awareness for homeless LGBT youth.
As a writer, I’m typically granted space around the web to spread my own message, often about the latest book. But lately I’ve begun asking why we continue to whisper about the problem of homeless gay kids and then scream on issues like marriage equality, as if 500,000 homeless gay kids aren’t important enough for the LGBTQ community to be loud about.
Did you know that LGBT youth make up 13-15 percent of the juvenile justice system, even though they are only 5–7 percent of the population? It seems like there’s a pipeline that runs directly from school to prison built especially for them, don’t you think? And it may very well be, because in today’s U.S. schools the police are roaming the halls and administrators are sending kids to jail for such heinous infractions as dress code violations, being late to class, and talking back. We’re not talking fighting and violence in school, we’re talking normal adolescent behavior, and for a LGBT kid that doesn’t fit in, or is forced to endure harassment by his peers and school employees, it becomes almost too easy to become a part of the juvenile justice system.
There’s a lot about the issue of incarcerating kids that I purposefully didn’t cover in Cold, because the book is an erotic romance novel based in an adult prison. What happens inside a juvenile prison is often more terrifying, more unrelenting, and typically un-reported. I only touched on that briefly with my character, Anderson, in the adult prison system. Anderson is a small man, a twink, who doesn’t have a fight game and is one that would be easily targeted by predators if he were a real person in a real prison. Anderson meets up with a predator as he comes to the end of his time, but is saved by an unlikely hero. That is often not the case as you can see here from a real life example of what happens to the weakest inside a juvenile prison.
Did the reality of that linked post ruin your taste for a fictional account of romance in prison? I hope not, but I hope even more that we don’t take the fiction we see around us and use it as a block against the vast reality that encompasses LGBT homelessness. Unfortunately, there is no one answer to youth homelessness. There isn’t a singular law we can pass that will help gay homeless kids become equal in the eyes of the law, or in the eyes of the people who step over them on a daily basis. It takes me and you making it a priority; just as we have made marriage equality a priority. It takes resources, and commitment, and yes, sometimes it even takes personal sacrifice.
I understand that this isn’t a typical book tour post, but the issue of homeless LGBTQ kids is important to me, and I hope it becomes important to you too. Because behind each of the stories you read within this genre, there’s a reality that is much, much worse and has no happy-ever-after to make us feel better when we curl up at night.
Cold by Brandon Shire
Published by TPG Books
Prison is a brutal, heartless, and demeaning environment. No one knows this better than a man sentenced to life in prison for murder. Lem Porter is a high-profile prisoner who had a solid career ahead of him in a field he loved until he killed his brother. He has spent almost eighteen years behind bars and doesn’t have much hope left.
Anderson Passero had it all. He built a career, a name, and a relationship with a man he thought he loved. Only after he very publicly landed in prison did he realize how ignorant he’d been. He has eight months left on his sentence and he is eager to go home and put prison life behind him. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will always carry these eight months with him, and they may just help him to understand what love really means.
Visit Brandon’s website to learn more about his books and the LGBT youth charities he supports.
10% of the proceeds from the sale of any of Brandon Shire’s books are donated to LGBT youth charities combatting homelessness.