With Worldpride coming up next week in my fair city of Toronto, I thought it would be a good idea to look back.
Waaaay back in fact to 1995, to an excellent graphic novel that encapsulates so much of what has happened in the 1960’s, that lead up to these current times.
Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse was published by DC Comics imprint Paradox Press. And it is a fictionalized account of what might have possibly been Cruse’s life growing up gay in the deep south of the distant early sixties.
Toland Polk is a young man in the town of Clayfield who is troubled by not only his sexuality, but also the blatant racism society practices. Many many conflicting troubling thoughts pop up constantly in Toland’s mind as he navigates these intense political waters around him.
Over time, he learns to stand his ground, slowly but surely, but he still is fully aware of the dangers of being to open about himself and his feelings towards minorities. Early on, his sister tells him to stop playing with a local black boy, all because her friends might talk, so he slowly does. Later in life, he makes it clear to his racist brother-in-law Orley that he does share those despicable views.
Toland is doing all this rather open soul searching over time, with his journey being slightly mirrored by the very real Civil Rights movement. Violence is always a threat for Toland and several of his friends and partners. Sometimes it is just offhandedly mentioned as an offpage event, but its impact is always present.
Thankfully we know Toland survives the inner and outer issues, since the entire tale is told in flashback to his partner in the here and now. Despite all the chaos, the peace of mind of being himself eventually reaches Toland. Even after the last page, you will still have lingering thoughts about how autobiographical this story is.
Cruse is, by the way, a noted indie cartoonist, and Stuck Rubber Baby is an award-winning mature read. I can’t help but think, like Will Eisner’s story Cookalein in his graphic novel A Contract with God, that most of this narrative is true and honest to Cruse.
Stuck Rubber Baby is a great starting point for anyone who wants to witness some of the history of the gay rights movement, and to see the struggle for identity so many gay people go through.
For a metric ton of other books, several taking place in the modern day, that deal with LBGTQ issues, I highly recommend @ChristasBooks site More Than Just Magic which is featuring all sorts of books this month celebrating #YAPride. And for a geeky look at geekiness, from an out and proud geek, you can check out @Rainbowcloak site called Rainbow Cloak, because he is very original (winky face for ya Rainbow). Also, you can try the excellent webseries Out With Dad, all about a teen girl coming out to her single father.
And last but not least, Happy Pride All!
…is currently reading Fables 138 to 140 by Bill Willingham and Fairest 18 to 26 by various
P.S. Worldpride is being held in Toronto from June 29th to 29th, 2014.