Cameron Post, Coming Out, and Me
“Why Coming Out is a Creative Endeavour” is sponsored by She/He/They/Me by Robyn Ryle.
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I always laugh when I hear people worry that a book will “confuse children” or “make someone gay.” I laugh because, of course, those ideas are laughable. But I also laugh just a little because in my case, it’s almost true. Books didn’t actually make me gay, obviously; that isn’t a thing books can do. But books can help us realize things, and The Miseducation of Cameron Post helped me realizes I was bisexual.
Many queer people know from a very early age that they are queer. Even if they don’t have the words or the context, they know. Bisexuality (and pansexuality) can be that way too, but it often isn’t. My experience, like that of many other bisexual people, was much less clear. When you are bi or pan, it can be easier to gloss over the fact that you might be different. I was always attracted to the people I was expected to be attracted to. I didn’t have to pretend to understand the straight-centered media around me or struggle to imagine myself marrying a man or having a traditional family. If there was an underlying attraction to girls (and looking back there DEFINITELY was), it was easy to assume it was normal curiosity or a non-specific interest in the (straight) romantic situations I saw around me. As a girl, I think it was even more complicated, since we are encouraged and expected to be close with other girls and don’t receive the same heavy backlash that boys do for displaying that closeness. No one gives it a second thought if two young girls hold hands or snuggle on the couch to watch a movie. We throw around terms like “girl crush” and have little problem acknowledging the beauty of other women.
Especially significant, I think, in this lack of realization was the fact that I saw no representation of women in relationships with other women. I didn’t know any in real life, and what little queer representation was beginning to slip into mainstream books in my early adolescence was about men in relationships with other men. In high school I read Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and watched Will & Grace with my friends. I knew about queer people, but I didn’t see myself in them.
What changed all that wasn’t a girlfriend or a sexual awakening or an LGBTQ club or anything like that. It was a YA book. Specifically, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a beautiful, sprawling novel (and now movie) about a gay girl growing up in a rural town in the ’90s. Cameron’s parents die when she is fairly young, and her conservative, religious aunt comes to take over her care. The book follows Cameron from her earliest romantic encounters to her time at a religious youth conversion camp.
I had read queer YA books before, probably even some with queer female characters, but this was different. For one thing, books about gay girls were (and perhaps remain) far less common than ones about gay boys. There was also the matter of sex. There is a lot of discourse out there about if or why we tend to gloss over the sexual connection of women in relationships with one another. I’ve always found that when a relationship between two women is portrayed (and not for purely straight male consumption) the sex is glossed over. Maybe it’s because our straight-centered society has trouble seeing sex without a male force. Maybe it’s because we prefer to keep women “pure.” Maybe we’re reluctant to risk sexualizing young women and encouraging sexual predators. I don’t claim to know the answer, but I know that I had yet to see it the way I did in this book.
Cameron kisses a few girls in her youth, but in high school she falls in love with a girl named Coley. Coley isn’t a best friend she develops unexpected feelings for—Cameron knows from the beginning she’s in trouble. She and Coley become friends anyway, and the development of their physical attraction is electric. I don’t know if it was the honesty of the scenes between these girls that was so significant for me, the intensity of their attraction, or the confusion of Coley (who has a boyfriend). Regardless, when Cameron and Coley collided again and again, kissing and grasping in the dark, I was bowled over. I actually remember starting to cry.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, there I was on the page. It had taken this powerful, physical depiction to lead me, finally to that part of myself. A door was opened and light flooded in.
I didn’t come out the day after I read The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I still had work to do in sorting out my understanding of myself. Other books came after to offer more help (Far From You by Tess Sharpe, in particular). But I’ll never forget that moment when this book, unassuming and unexpected, changed my life. Coming out is a life-long process, but every time I tell someone who I am, I give a little thanks to Cameron Post.
Also In This Story Stream
- Mad Girl’s Love Song: On Finding Queerness Through Sylvia Plath
- Why Coming Out is a Creative Endeavour
- More Than Just Representation: 5 Queer Reads
- I Was a ’90s Teenage Lesbian: Lesbian Book Recommendations
- Existing in the Sunlight: A Story of Coming Out
- Creating an Inclusive Library: LGBTQ+ Teens Share Their Recommendations