What role model taught you that your own identity was unique or important? How did they teach you the value of your identity?
I have been blessed to have had a lot of role models in my life who have inspired and accepted me. But the one that I believe had the greatest impact is my friend, John. I met him a few years ago, when I had yet to come out to anyone. It was meeting him, the friends I met through him, and the place that he created that gave me the courage to finally accept myself. They taught me that I was good enough the way I was, and that I didn't have to change who I was to still be loved by the people in my life. John had created a place that was so accepting, inspiring and absolutely full of support. It was actually being there with people similar to myself, and people so accepting, that showed me that creating a community like "You Are Enough" was possible.
What was the inspiration behind On The Shoulders of Giants?
The idea is that everyone has a story, and that everyone deserves to be heard. I have been inspired by so many people throughout my lifetime; ordinary people who overcame extraordinary things, and people who embrace who they are and share that light with the world. My cousin and I created the "You Are Enough" program and wanted to show everyone that they mattered. We couldn't think of a better way than to let people share their stories---to let their voices be heard. Through sharing their stories, not only are they empowered but they are able to hopefully show others that they’re not alone in what they're going through. We wanted to make sure to highlight topics that were usually under-represented, stigmatized, or just completely ignored.
What is one thing you'd like people to take away from your work?
I hope that they take away the truth that what makes them unique and/or the struggles that they went through all made them into the wonderfully flawed, and beautifully imperfect person that they are. And that it's okay, because none of us are perfect. I want those who read it to learn something they didn't know about before, or understand something that maybe they misunderstood or were intolerant of before. The most important thing to learn is that we are all just people.
What advice do you have for new writers?
I think that if you want to write, then write. Don't be shy about sharing it with others, or don't think that you don't have a good enough story to tell. Just tell it, in your own words and in the best way you can. Do it for yourself, because it makes you happy. Don't write to please other people.
What barriers still exist for LGBT writers who want to write about LGBT lives and issues?
There will always be barriers when trying to get proper representation for a minority group. If you right LGBT characters realistically and well, I believe that’s the best way to get people will respond in a positive way. We need more representation out there. We need more people like us in books, movies, or TV because it's important to be able to identify with a character that is like you. It's that way for everyone. I think that in order to have a bigger presence in media, we have to not be scared to do our part in creating it. But also, we have to support others who are already doing it. To show people that we want accurate and well written representation, not just a throwaway LGBT character for ratings or for headlines, we have to stand together and be vocal about what it is we want in a way that will get people to listen.
Should Allies write about LGBT characters and issues?
I think that the more people writing about these types of characters (and these issues) the better. But I would hold them to the same standard in writing, which is accurate portrayals of "real" three dimensional people. Complex and interesting characters are something that ALL people want when they read or watch something. If the writing is good, in a perfect world, who they love or how they identify should not matter. So, I think that the more people who are writing those stories and showing that, the better it will be for our community. And the more allies we have on our side, the more likely it is that mainstream media will listen and continue to produce LGBT content.
What's up next for you?
I am really invested in the You Are Enough program that we created. I want to expand on that: help more people, create a bigger community, and continue to share people's stories.
Do you have a personal motto?
Be yourself, love yourself. This was actually very hard for me to learn, and accept. Now that I live it, I know that I don't want anything less for anyone else.
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Jamie Brenner lives near Hudsonville, Michigan. She is a member of the Grand Rapids Pride Center's Women's Social Group. Apart from serving in the reserves and working at a bank, she studies Martial Arts and has a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tang Soo Do. She enjoys writing and loves comic books. She created a program, You Are Enough, that focuses on Self-acceptance and anti-bullying. And has written two young adult novels (A Place For Me and Soul Searching).