As we celebrate Pride Month this June, we asked Wise Ink author Russell Ricard to share his personal journey in finding his writing voice as it relates to Pride, being a gay author, and publishing his debut novel, The Truth About Goodbye.
He did not disappoint.
He wrote this letter to his younger self, and we hope it inspires you as it inspires us!
At five, you will not know exactly why other boys and some girls call you “flower boy” or “fag.” You will not know why you can’t stand being away from your best friend, another boy, but some day you will understand why. And it will be for a wonderful reason.
At ten, you will sing and dance through your body. From your heart you will create prose and poetry and plays on scraps of paper. And while you still will be taunted by other boys and some girls for expressing your creative spirit, something inside will remind you that you are okay just the way you are.
At sixteen, your voice will be violated. A parent will read your private mail, and also your diary. They will discover that you love another boy. They will condemn you based on their religious beliefs, yell in your face that you will burn in hell. But you will find a counterpart to your birth family. This logical family, as you will later discover is a term coined by one of your favorite authors, Armistead Maupin, will lift you up, celebrate your uniqueness, and love you unconditionally. And you will slowly begin to reclaim your voice.
At 18, after the boy you assumed was “the one” breaks your heart into a zillion pieces you will suffer a mental breakdown that will keep you in bed for an entire week. But your voice will once again rise. You will eventually clock this grief as part of your growing pains. You will channel this dance of lost and found into extended creativity—more writing.
At 21, you will take the red eye from Los Angeles to New York in pursuit of your artistic dreams. You will meet success in the theater world, continuing to tell stories through song and dance and acting. And the voice that was violated at sixteen will drive you safely toward storytelling through prose, poetry, and plays.
At 23, you will fall in love with “the one,” your soul mate. This will further help you gain access to your voice.
And at 44, after 21 years together, you and your soul mate will finally hear the words “By the state of New York…I now pronounce you husband and husband” from the officiate. You will be in awe of the sight: witnesses that include your birth and logical family finally there for you. And the wedding cake will be incredible—it will taste like true love. During the celebration you will profess gratitude that you and your soul mate have moved from friend to partner to husband, the semantics of such words not lost on you.
At 50, you will finally take all you’ve learned from your younger selves and channel their spirit into your first novel. You will not censor your voice, your pride, or your bravery for being out and open in both heart and soul. Because you know what true love is for both your self and another man.
You will hear Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s voice say that there shouldn’t be two kinds of marriages. She will say that gays and lesbians should be afforded full marriage not “skim milk marriage.” And further, you will have celebrated that Ginsburg and her colleagues on the Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of Marriage Equality across all 50 states. And even though you know full well that the fight for LGBTQ rights is not over, you will trust that your 5 and 10 and 16 and 18 and so-and-so year self whom you’ve taken care of for decades will find the pride and guts to rise up for love and your rights; and the rights of others.
With the publication of your debut novel The Truth About Goodbye you will take deep pride in telling a story with a universal message about love, loss, renewal; and the celebration that love is love.
You will continue from there, one day at a time.
And so, dear one, have heart and guts and pride. Keep creating. Keep writing. Your voice matters.
Russell, your 51 year old self