I always wanted How To Be You to be your book. I've tried everything to make it yours. I mean, you're mentioned in the title for heaven's sake! But it goes beyond just the title, of course. Every paragraph, every crafty art project in its pages is about you—the real you. And when I say you, I mean you. I'm not talking about the LGBTQ community or even the strong, wonderful group of people that has come together around my social channels. When I say you, I don't mean any group or any capital-Y You. I mean you; I mean the person reading this. Whatever your name is (Danny? Nneka? Kristina?), the book is for you. I want you to feel worthy.
And the work that GLSEN does in schools every day is about the same thing. They know that there are many good, honest, beautiful students who are being unfairly treated for who they are. GLSEN knows that not every student has the luxury of concentrating on their schoolwork. Too many LGBTQ teens have too many days of trying to survive torment and name-calling and abuse in school. But there is good news! GLSEN is doing something about it!
And today, I have the great pleasure of honoring some of the people who work with GLSEN to make schools safe and affirming. Activism comes in many forms and often comes from within. Most of these folks are making changes in their own schools and in themselves. Because How To Be You is about each one of us, because it asks all of us to participate and tell our own individual story, each copy of the book becomes an artistic expression of each reader. The book comes out today, and below are some of the artistic places it's already gone—here are some of the beautiful and talented co-creators I've already had.
In the book, there is a crafty exercise that proves you, the reader, are a hero. We asked people to submit some of their own results from doing the exercise. How To Be You asks each reader to think of themselves as superhero/ines and to design the cape they would wear. You must know first that all of the entries to our Superhero/ine Cape Coloring Contest were superb. Any time someone expresses who they are without shame and creates a work of art, I am happy! As the book goes out into the world and touches more lives and meets more "you's", I can't wait to see more of the art that results. I can't wait to see your art. Yes, you. Your art. And as GLSEN continues their work, I can't wait to see more smiling, happy and safe LGBTQ students.
Our Grand Prize Winner
Hello you! This is a beautiful cape. I see so much of you in this. I see your passion and your love of justice. I see your kindness and desire to help so many people. I see your work to give a voice to so many people who have been silenced. I hope you will keep "always smilin'" and singing out. Please don't stop making art and being you.
Hello you! You touch on so many beautiful themes here. I really see your wish to bring people together. I love the way that the "different" parts of this cape all work beautifully together, just like the colorful nails of the colorful clasped hands. This is about togetherness, and it's beautiful. Please don't stop making art and being you.
Hello you! I really love your colorful self! I might be wrong, but I'm seeing some of the transgender flag colors, and it's beautiful. Those color stack nicely over the big diverse umbrella of the LGBTQ flag. And of course, I see that you are a true artist, using your creativity to add art and music and acceptance to people's lives. Please don't stop making art and being you.
Hello you! You are so funny! I need more sushi rolls in my life. Thank you for combining digital and hand-drawn elements here. You've made an artwork that really breaks the rules. I can see your rebellious strong spirit. I also love the fun you brought to my world (and I smiled!) when I considered happy aliens coming to meet us one day. Please don't stop making art and being you.
Hello you! You've really done an excellent job here. I see your desire to build things up instead of tearing them down. Thank you for that. And I can see you recognize that although people might go through some tough times, there is always the possibility of gaining strength and experience from our trials. That's my experience too. I see your strength. Please don't stop making art and being you.
And you—whoever is reading this right now—please don't stop being you. Please don't stop making your beautiful art. The world need you.