When I was first coming out, I read voraciously about gay life. I read gay novels and short stories, non-fiction, outdated psychology books, and of course, coming out manuals.
I've been out for more than 10 years, but coming out manuals haven't progressed much in that time. It seems that coming out manuals are usually written by people who are older than I am and firmly entrenched in the mainstream gay community. And I worry that kids who read those books are just going to get recruited into the same boring mainstream gay lifestyle.
Coming out is partially about accepting yourself, partly about dealing with straight family and friends, and partially about finding a part of queer culture to get hooked up to. I'm most concerned about that last part, but the other parts aren't perfect, either.
At the "War on Fat" workshop at the Dirtybird Queercore festival, someone told me about a coming out manual that actually advises that you lose weight before you try coming out. Talk about reinforcing the looksist standards of gay culture!
I think that coming out manuals generally go too easy on families. Sarah Schulman's novel "Rat Bohemia" presents a harsher, but true-to-life example of what queers can expect from their families. And how about Team Dresch's song "Uncle Phranc": "My mom says she loves me, but I don't think it's love cause she only loves me when I act just like she does and that's emotional blackmail."
Coming out books need to have a chapter on how to kill your parents -- not because most parents deserve death, they just deserve the shock of finding such a book when snooping around in a kid's room.
Coming out books and gay youth groups want to avoid controversy. Gay Youth groups remind me of church youth groups in their enforced wholesomeness and the mainstream gay role models who often lead them.
I punked out before I came out. I think that probably I became a punk because I was queer. I was a misfit, therefore I became a punk, but I found that I didn't totally fit into that, so I came out, and found that I didn't fit into mainstream gaydom because I was a punk. I think that perhaps people who come out into mainstream gay culture first are less likely to later turn to punk. I always like to quiz gay punks about which came first for them, and I'm often surprised to find my theory wrong -- many people came out before turning to punk.
Reading those coming out books you aren't going to hear about queer zines, queer punk music, or basically anything more hip than Romonovsky and Phillips or Holly Near.
So what's the solution? Make sure those queer zines, records, and web pages are out there and visible, proving to kids that there's a future besides rainbow flags, disco, and going to the gym.