“I came out of the closet in grade nine on the basis of my attraction to men, which was undeniable (though at the time I’d have sooner used the word inescapable). I had no idea that, by doing this, I was throwing myself into queer identity—a lifelong course of action with many of its own complications, digressions and rites of passage, each as unfamiliar as the bottom of the sea. Exposure to queer narratives was impossibly helpful here. I’m grateful to have discovered Random Acts of Hatred by George K. Ilsley, a collection of short stories about gay men.
“Ilsley came to my high school as a visiting author, just a couple years after I came out to my first person. I read the copy our class received over two or three weeknights, then reluctantly returned it to the classroom library. Last year it occurred to me to order a copy online, and I re-read it about as quickly. The opening story, ‘Our Boy,’ follows an unnamed narrator through an uncomfortable puberty, a first crush, a camping trip, a spell of homelessness. It’s erotic and sad, disturbing and funny. Reading it at sixteen, I thought, ‘I am correct to be mad at the world.’ Reading it at twenty-seven, I think, ‘I was correct, at sixteen, to be mad at the world.'”It’s good when stories like ‘Our Boy’ get written. It’s great when they get published. It’s remarkable when they wind up, somehow, in the hands of young queer people. Ilsley might not have set out to do so, but years ago, he validated my anxieties, and thereby reduced them. He did this by contextualizing the queer male experience—my newfound present and future—in marvelous prose.”
Ben Ladouceur’s first book of poems, Otter, was published by Coach House Books in spring 2015.