UA student publishes story

By Jimi Jo Story
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 22, 1996

Many teenagers face the fear of seeming "different." But UA junior Anthony Ashley, who just turned 20, has a perspective that may not match most.

Ashley recently had a short story published about growing up gay in a small northern Arizona town in the book Being Different. The book, edited by Larry Dane Brimner, is a collection of essays by bisexual, gay, and lesbian teenagers about their experienc es in a world that frequently overlooks homosexuals, especially teenage homosexuals.

Ashley wrote his story after seeing a magazine advertisement asking for submission of personal experiences from homosexual teenagers. The journalism major said he has always enjoyed writing and had fun with the story.

The book's goal, Brimner wrote in the introduction, was to shed more light on "an important and fragile segment of the homosexual population virtually ignored - gay, lesbian, and bisexual teenagers." Brimner wrote that 1/4 of the homeless teenagers in the United States are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

"I know that one in every 10 people is gay," Ashley wrote in his story. "I knew I wasn't the only one ... But I was the only one who did a lip sync in drag to Madonna's Vogue, among other things."

He also wrote about being teased, but said he considered himself a "very strong and tough-skinned" person.

In his story, Ashley recounted how he had a girlfriend throughout high school to make it look like he was bisexual. To this day, he said, she believes he is bisexual. He has only come out to his friends. Since he has not told his parents, his time at home is spent being "butch and macho."

Ashley said he is excited about the book, as he hopes it will heighten the awareness of the homosexual community. His high school career, he said, barely touched upon sex education.

"The instructor could not utter the word 'homosexual', or anything pertaining to it, because the administration thought mentioning such things could lead a person 'to become gay'," Ashley wrote.

Ashley said increasing awareness is a key to creating a open environment, and that he wishes sex education classes were much more thorough. He is amazed that his high school, which has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the state, was so inept when it came to teaching sex education.

"Each time the instructor mentioned the words 'penis,' 'vagina,' 'sexual intercourse' and any other words relating to reproduction, she would whisper them!" he said.

Although Ashley did have to deal with teasing and cruel comments, he did not face many of the situations others describe in the book. He said other stories depict gay experiences as totally denied, sad and tragic, with some having been physically and emot ionally abused, confused by their own sexuality and afraid to share it with others.

Ashley said the book is an invaluable teaching text, as it tells thought-provoking stories with a truth that makes the stories of abuse more disturbing.

Being Different will be available in bookstores this spring.