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Innovative coloring book, 'Being Gay is Okay'
Review by Tracy Baim
2013-04-06

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This new coloring book from St. Louis-based Really Big Coloring Books is a creative approach to the topic of LGBT rights. It's by a straight company, and you can tell they tried really hard to show the basics of LGBT history and rights.

I could quibble about things such as diversity of images (there certainly is some diversity, but our community is so darn diverse that few ever get a perfect mix), not enough transgender (but certainly there is some), and some small errors. But really, I want to review this as a whole product, an amazing undertaking that could shatter some earth views.

This is nothing close to a typical coloring book. It's so complex it needs an index for its content (42 pages plus inset cards). It is written for children, so it uses basic language. But that kind of makes it fun to read:

"Gay teachers, coaches and educators have always taught in schools. Always. The reality is most of them have hidden their homosexuality, this is called being in the closet."

On Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church: "WBC is considered by many US citizens as a Domestic Terrorist Organization and not a Christian group at all; but devil worshipping hate mongers. The Gay Community at large and others have a very dim view of this human and his church."

"Village People is a disco group that formed in New York City in the 1970s, well known for their on-stage costumes depicting American cultural stereotypes, as well as their catchy tunes and suggestive lyrics."

I found myself laughing out loud at some of the language, but also understand how important it would be for a young child to see this coloring book. It may be basic writing, but it does not dumb the content down for their minds.

The book includes so much information delivered in so many ways, in just those few pages, that here is a basic summary, and then I recommend just get the book. Most of these come with the drawing outlines where kids (and adults) can color in. Explore your inner child with:

— A section "If you think you are Gay," saying "It is okay to be a Gay individual."

— Fabulous Gay Role Models, a racially diverse grouping of role models such as policewoman, fireman, chef, etc.

— Teachers and Educators.

— Gay Advocacy and Help Organizations, a list of 15 groups and resources.

— New Poems about being Gay, probably the weakest page in the book.

— A Coming Out Letter, a sample for people coming out.

— Fabulous Gay Families, two dads and their kids to color in.

— Historically Fabulous Gay Figures, with Richard the Lionheart, Sappho, Socrates, Walt Whitman, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol, Paul Lynde, William Henry Rorke, Harvey Fierstein, Freddie Mercury, Chaz Bono and Ed Koch. Again, these mostly would not have been my choices (especially Koch and Linde), and it should be far more diverse, but it's a start.

— Occurrences in LGBT world history, a timeline of some key events starting 1500 BC through Obama's 2013 LGBT-inclusive inaugural address

— A coloring map of same-sex marriage in the U.S.

— A coloring map of same-sex marriage worldwide.

— Being Gay Is Okay Fabulous Gay Sharing Cards. These are 4-color, glossy, removable cards in the center of the book—LGBT trading cards. Some obvious selections, but also big gaps, among the 36. Some (like Queen Latifah) are not proudly out, and others not very relevant or active on LGBT issues compared to other possible choices, but it's the editor's choice, and still a fun idea. Those with cards are: Clay Aiken, Chad Allen, Giorgio Armani, Tammy Baldwin, Lance Bass, John Berry, Richard Chamberlain, Andy Cohen, Chris Colfer, Anderson Cooper, Ellen DeGeneres, Melissa Etheridge, Jodie Foster, Barney Frank, Boy George, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, Chris Hughes, Billie Jean King, Elton John, Nathan Lane, k.d. lang, Queen Latifah, Greg Louganis, Jane Lynch, Rachel Maddow, Ricky Martin, Ian McKellen, Jillian Michaels, Suze Orman, RuPaul, Wanda Sykes, George Takei, Lily Tomlin, Bruce Vilanch, John Waters. As I said, quite a few gaps (celebs over powerful icons Bayard Rustin, Audre Lore, James Baldwin, Barbra Gittings, Frank Kameny … the list could go on and on).

— A Certificate of Marriage.

— A special "Decode a Super Fabulous Message!" page.

— Fabulous Gay Supporters, color in Bette Midler, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Kathy Griffin and Joan Rivers. (Again, these would not be the supporters list I would choose! And the word 'Fabulous' is quite overused, but maybe the kids will pick up on it and reinvigorate its uses.)

— Memorial Dedications to Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard.

— Sexuality of the Population, with a Kinsey Scale to color in (how fun!).

— Homosexuality and Faith, with examples on world religions and their take on LGBTs.

— A look at recent U.S. presidents and their views on LGBTs.

— Gays in the Military, color in the four main services.

— Mental Health issues.

— Health issues.

— A Word Search and Crossword page.

— Dealing with Bullies.

— American Homophobia and Hatemongers.

— Global Homophobia and Hatemongers, kids can color in Hitler, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Louis Farrakhan.

— The Village People coloring page.

— Terms about LGBTs.

— And finally a list of the Human Rights Campaign's Best Places to Work 2012.

I am not a coloring book expert, but this seems to be one of the most interesting books of its kind I have ever seen. Publisher Wayne Bell told me he wants to make sure people view it as an honest attempt to show the history of gay people. He said it is his favorite cultural event book his company has done. Past books have included ones on Obama, the Occupy Movement, 9/11, the Seal Team 6 takedown of Osama bin Laden, and even the Tea Party.

"It opens the door to education and conversation about how Being Gay Is Okay," Bell said in a press statement. Yes, is certainly does. Highly recommended.

See www.ColoringBook.com .


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