Books We Love: Keeping You a Secret
In this post, we continue our series of personal essays about books with LGBTQ+ themes and/or characters that change readers' lives. Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters helped author Tiffany Clampet deal with the hatred she encountered when she decided to come out, and has likely helped thousands of other readers as well.
About our guest author: Tiffany Clampet is a writer, dreamer, lesbian, mom, activist, and so much more. She currently resides in New Mexico but was born in Louisiana. She works as a VeterinaryTechnician while she continues on her journey of breaking into the writing world.
Coming out. Some fling the door open at a young age, while others take a bit longer. We all go at our own pace, and my pace happened to mean not coming out until I was 29.
I had always identified as bisexual but as I started to dig deeply, I found that in fact I was a lesbian. I began to seek out books that would inspire me, that would tell me I wasn't alone. Keeping You A Secretby Julie Anne Peters was the book that helped me most.
17-year-old Holland is smart, popular, and ambitious, with a loving family and adoring boyfriend. Everything is perfect until a transfer student named Cece comes into Holland’s life and her feelings for this new girl confuses everything. Holland finds herself in a new crowd while most of her friends turn their backs, abusing her with homophobic slurs and vandalizing Cece's locker and car.
Peters paints so beautifully what can happen when you finally become yourself. As someone from a deep southern family with different views of sexuality, gender, and race, coming out is intimidating. I knew I had to be prepared for what might happen when I finally said the words “I am gay.”
Most of my family took it well. Some didn’t. Some told me I was an abomination bound for hell. Once I became engaged, it became much worse. Some people didn’t respond when I shared the news, others told me they wouldn't attend.
All of these experiences reminded me of Keeping You a Secret. The book stayed with me over the years. It kept coming back and inspired me to become more vocal about my community. For decades, the LGBTQ community was hidden, whispered about only in the shadowy recesses of society. Like many things people have grown to fear, myths and misconceptions abounds. My goal is to show that just because I love someone who happens to have the same genitalia, I’m not less than human.
Keeping You a Secretalso reminded me that sometimes you have to do just that: keep a secret. Even in 2018, at times you decide to keep your love hushed. Not because you are ashamed, but for your own safety, even from those closest to you. Some people will forever refer to their partner as their "friend,” refusing to hold hands or show any public sign of love. This is their choice. There’s no specific way to be the right kind of gay. Of course, there are also those who are disowned, and those who are supported by people they never would have expected to stand by them.
Keeping You a Secret really prepared me for the reactions I might face when I came out. It inspired me to be me, whether that meant loud and radical or quiet and proud.
When you step out of that closet, let that liberating moment take hold. Use it as your shield as you take on the world.