First Person Queer: Who We Are (So Far).


224 pages
ISBN 978-1-55152-227-2
DDC 306.76'6





Edited by Richard Labonte and Lawrence Schimel
Reviewed by John Stanley

John Stanley is a policy advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and


This anthology contains 40 short, first-person narratives detailing specific issues in the lives of these queer people. In the introduction, Labonté and Schimel promise that “we’re all in here, somewhere.” They deliver on that commitment. The span of the collection is remarkable: not only gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, but transsexuals, transgendered people, and the just plain queer put forward their views. For some authors, being queer is not as important a part of their lives as identifying as deaf, for example, but these short works are not advocacy pieces, except through readers’ empathy. Many of the writers are not Canadian and nine of the essays have been previously published.


Not all of the writers are comfortable with where they might be today, but they understand where they come from and what is important to them. The essays also demonstrate that no one operates in a vacuum, that everyone is a social being. For some of the writers, sex is incredibly important, for others it once was, but not now, and for still others the issue has been finding a comfort zone, not sex. Some of the writers are prominent—Ivan Coyote, Katherine Forrest, Sky Gilbert, Stan Persky, Andy Quan—others will be new to most Canadian readers. There are some surprises—a smile appeared reading Gilbert speculating on the poor sales of his novels—but taken together, it shows that one size does not fit all. Not every writer is delighted with what has been achieved by queer people to date. Andy Quan has decided that gardening is best.


The editors have assembled anthologies many times before. In this volume they aimed for inclusiveness across gender as well as age. Despite the diversity, the essays not only hang together, they move. The editors have not only met their goal of providing a snapshot of queerdom today, but have also revealed our species’ diversity. These writers’ past opens a future for us.


“First Person Queer: Who We Are (So Far).,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024,