Thanks to successes like The Trevor Project and Dan Savage’s idea to make “It Gets Better” videos, more people now than maybe ever before are aware of teen suicide. The Letter Q is the most recent book addressing the issue and sheds the formalities of speaking to a broad audience you’ve never met. It is instead an anthology of letters from LGBT writers to their younger selves.
The result is an intimate experience where the authors address specifics and call themselves out on their own faults. The Advocate caught up with three of the book’s contributing writers. Sarah Moon is the high school Spanish teacher and writer who came up with the concept for The Letter Q. Jasika Nicole is known to most as Astrid on the Fox Television series Fringe. Nicole is also the illustrator and writer of the online web comic High Yella Magic. Christopher Rice is author of A Destiny of Souls, The Moonlit Earth, and others. He is also the co-host of the The Dinner Party Show.
The Advocate:Why did you set out to make this book?
Sarah Moon: I’m a teacher, and I have had certain students who’ve been going through things. And, there are things I’ve wanted to say to them in a way I never would inside or even outside of the classroom. I was talking to my girlfriend and I said, “I wish I could just write a letter and have that be a book.” And she said, “You can’t do that, but you could write a book of letters.”
What makes this book different than the last “It Gets Better” book?
I spend a lot of time with teenagers. The thing I notice is that they listen when I tell them, “This is how I learned to do that.” Then they’ll start doing it that way. If I say, “Do this,” they say, “Whatever.” When I explain that I had trouble with this too, this is why I do this, then they go home and practice because they believe that what you are telling them is true.
Do you think the child version of yourself would take the advice in your letter?
Yeah. I mean, I think it would take her a while to put out the cigarette, take out the earphones, stop rolling her eyes. And then it would be just this puddle of tears and anger.
What were you like as a kid?
I was pretty angry, very scared, and it was covered up with a lot of bravado with a shaved head, bangs, big ol’ boots, lots of bumper stickers, and pride rings so enormous they’d knock you unconscious. I was also very sensitive, I mean, more sensitive than is useful to anybody.
As a teacher, would you defy a “Don’t Say Gay” bill if it were passed where you live?
Yeah. It’s my nature. I can’t ask my students to be braver than I am. I’m sure that I would.
Is there anything else you wish you’d written in your letter?
No. I think that letter went through a lot of my trying to leave things out. You go and you say, “You’re not saying something.” And then you have to say it. There was a lot of wrenching, “I don’t want to say this piece.” But it’s the piece that makes it all true. Saying what you don’t want to admit is the thing that brings it all together.
(RELATED: Watch an exclusive, and touching, video about the book on the last page.)