The Letter Q Sends the Younger You a Message

The Letter Q is the most recent book addressing the issue of teen suicide 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.

BY Brett Edward Stout

May 02 2012 8:30 AM ET

The Advocate: Why did you decide to get involved in The Letter Q?
Christopher Rice: I wanted to speak to the dead ends I felt I took socially immediately after high school in response to the pain and sense of rejection I felt in high school. I wanted to address the false idols that I ended up worshiping.

You’re referring to substance abuse and the party scene?
Yeah. I think it was an awakening process, and I think a lot of gay people go through it. To be more specific, the gay people who run right out into the bars the minute they come out and plant themselves on a barstool like I did. For those of us like that, it might take a while to realize that the bars don’t deliver on everything they appear to promise.

What was your first thought when you were asked to do the project?
My first thought was that people would think I was too hard on myself. When they didn’t send me a letter saying, “Can you lighten up on yourself?” I was kind of relieved. I personally would like to see in the book how the stories vary according to the age of the author. Because, speaking back to yourself in 1996 is different than speaking to yourself in 1954.

Were you bullied in school?
I didn’t have that experience. I think a lot of people thought I did because my first book was about a kid who was pretty ruthlessly bullied. What I had to learn as I got older is what realbullying is. Guys making fun of you in the hallway is unpleasant, but as I came out I met people who had actuallybeen bullied. I met people who had been subjected to consistent physical violence throughout their elementary and high school years because they were gay.

Did you have a support structure outside of your parents?
I had really great teachers.

Having relied on teachers in that way, do the “Don’t Say Gay” bills terrify you?
You know, I hear about those bills and I think they are utterly preposterous. They’re not going to survive the marketplace of ideas. Maybe I’m just whistling in a graveyard, but yes, they absolutely terrify me.

In the book, you send a letter to yourself. Is there a letter you would send to your mother (Anne Rice) about your younger self?
I think on balance my mother did a really great job. You know, I think I’d give her a list of warnings. As a child I had terrible neurotic fears. Mom was afraid they were never going to go away. I would encourage her that eventually her son would be able to tell the difference between real life and her son’s thoughts. I think it frightened her to see she has such an emotionally sensitive child. It is odd, I mean, she had a child who died of a very real illness (leukemia) and then their next child was afraid of things that weren’t even real. My mother always said, “The ones that had forgiven their parents for all the ‘terrible things’ they’d done, were the ones that had had children and realized how difficult it is to raise children.” When I finally had to deal with myself one on one as an adult, I’m not sure I would have wanted to raise me. I don’t know if I would have done such a perfect job. 

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