Edited on 9/16/2020 to include the pronouns George M. Johnson identifies with: they/them/their.
While I read All Boys Aren't Blue, I kept thinking to myself, how amazing that a book like this now exists. I can't help but think of all the teenagers out there who are grappling with their sexual identity and hiding their true selves. A book like this is something they can connect with and find solace, friendship, and comfort. All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson is a young adult memoir-manifesto about George's life experiences growing up as a young Black queer boy. George discusses how their two major identities, Black and queer, both conflicted and complimented each other and how society has played a major role in the suppression of these identities. George discusses topics such as toxic masculinity, cultural appropriation, code switching, identity suppression, and much more.
I adored George's honesty and candidness. I cannot imagine what strength it took to put these words to paper. They bare their soul in this book and we are all better off because of it. All Boys Aren't Blue is a memoir in the sense that George shares excerpts of their life as a queer Black boy, but a manifesto in the sense that they share their truths and beliefs about society and how beliefs, assumptions, policies, and judgements pigeon hold people like them into a box.
Below are excerpts that stuck out to me and I am continuing to reflect on. I honestly could have highlighted every line, but these are parts that stood out to me:
On non-queer people using queer lingo (ex. "yaaasss" "shade" "Queen"):
"Like I stated earlier, gay lingo dominates language in this society now. I have watched the language once weaponized against me now being commercialized for millions to use, see, and enjoy....Except for Black queer people. Our use of the language that we crated out of exclusion is still being used against us--as it was when I was a child. Our use of it makes us easier targets. We aren't allowed to live as we are in the culture that we continue to shape and create. We get to watch those who oppress us use our content with none of the repercussions we face."
On the effects of homophobia on Queer folk and the people who associate with them and how homophobia associates queer men with not being masculine:
"People who are straight that associate with me now, as an adult, still get questioned about their sexuality. Simply because they are friends with me. Adults who participate in homophobia create kids that do the same."
"Homophobia denies queer people happiness."
"Homophobia is the reason that so many who currently play sports are closeted."
In regards to giving up playing double dutch with the girls in school, to play football with the boys because the boys started to think he was gay:
"It was the moment I realized that safety trumped satisfaction, even as a kid."
On Black progress:
"...the white community has long prevented Black progress in every arena. Even today, institutions are still having "the first Black person to..." And it means something."
"Symbolism gives folks hope. But I've come to learn that symbolism is a threat to actual change--it's a chance for those in power to say, "Look how far you have come" rather than admitting, "Look how long we've stopped you from getting there."
"You'll find that people often use the excuse "it was the norm" when discussing racism, homophobia, and anything else in our history they are trying to absolve themselves of. Saying that something was "a norm" of the past is a way not to have to deal with its ripple effects in the present. It removes the fact that hate doesn't just stop because a law or the time changed. Folks use this excuse because they are often unwilling to accept how full of phobias and -isms they are themselves--or at least how they benefit from social structures that privilege them."
"...I remember the arguments people have about whether you are born queer or grow into it. I think the funniest part about that argument is that it doesn't matter if queerness is by birth or by choice. It is who you are, and no one should have the right to change that."
If you have children, read this. If you don't have children, read this. If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, read this. If you are not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, read this. Bottom line, if you have a pulse, READ THIS BOOK.