Adrian Shanker read carefully selected passages from his critically acclaimed new anthology, "Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health."
A queer activist himself, Shanker shared personal stories with those who gathered Jan. 30 around the table on the second floor of 304 Broad Street in Milford. He invited questions on "how the LGBT community lives their lives and the journey of health challenges along the way."
The book addresses questions such as, "I was raped a few months ago. Will anyone want to have sex with me again?" and "Why do I feel so guilty after having sex?"
Shanker was quick to say the book isn't a text. It's an anthology that provides food for thought and understanding, he said.
The chapter on supporting queer youth focuses on the importance of enrichment, blogs, and the plight of homeless LGBT youth. A parent discusses the experience of learning that their second-grade child is transgender. Another chapter talks about surviving suicide and then thriving. Milford Mayor Sean Strub talked about his own chapter, "Challenging HIV Stigma," and how the stigma has evolved since the early days of the AIDS epidemic but still persists. Both Shanker and Strub are globally known LGBTQ activists.
The anthology deepens understanding of the many ways the safety of LGBT people is threatened in the digital age. But digital experiences also offer a lifeline. Jack Harrison-Quintana writes, "Knowing you're not alone in your queer body, knowing there are others out there like you -- who share your wants, needs, and desires -- is lifesaving."
'It will take activism'
"Bodies and Barriers" was named by NBC News as one of “10 LGBTQ Books to watch out for in 2020." It is arranged chronologically through the major life stages of LGBT people.
Shanker is executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, Pa. He is a longtime leader in Pennsylvania's LGBTQ community, having led Equality Pennsylvania for three years during the fight for marriage equality.
The book is published by the Oakland, Calif., independent publisher PM Press. The TriVersity Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, based in Milford, hosted the reading and book signing.
In a message sent after the event, Simone Kraus, vice president of TriVersity, said "Bodies and Barriers" is a "well-written book with essays concerning the state of LGBT health and the barriers we must over come ourselves or our allies who we are, our children, spouses, partners, and parents. Adrian brought to life the parts he read. And being in the presence of two activists, Adrian and Sean, and hearing them speak and hearing the passion in there voices makes this is a must read book for LGBTQ+ and allies alike.
"But mostly it brought to life to me that we must take on an activist role for this subject. I saw the difference this night between an advocate and an activist. And to solve this issue it will take activism for this to be brought to the light of day."
Steven Teague, executive director of TriVersity, said the organization will be sponsoring more thought-provoking events in the future.
"Stay tuned!" he said. "There are many emerging events on our horizon."
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct a few errors.