by Boysen Hodgson
Shared with permission from Bill Konigsberg.
Bill Konigsberg has long been a man with a fierce purpose for his life. He’s an award winning Young Adult (YA) fiction author who writes poignant, powerful, and hopeful stories about LGBTQ youth. “Out of the Pocket,” “Openly Straight,” “Honestly Ben,” “The Porcupine of Truth,” and his latest, “The Music of What Happens,” have all garnered critical acclaim, including a Lambda Literary Award and the Stonewall Prize for fiction.
In the last couple of years, the ManKind Project (MKP) has also been blessed to call him a brother. He has even written about his experience with MKP. He is active in the Arizona community where he lives, has staffed the New Warrior Training, and has recently become a champion of the work of Boys to Men in the region, supporting young men with mentoring, affirmation, blessing, and encouragement.
This week, Konigsberg was a keynote speaker at the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents at the NCTE) Conference. In his speech, he recounts a story from a panel discussion on the previous day, where one of the panelists went far off the topic of the talk and began to deride LGBTQ youth. Konigsberg, with others in the panel and in the audience, stood up for the youth.
LGBTQ youth are my kids. And I’m a fierce papa bear and you do not come after LGBTQ youth. Let’s widen that. You do not come after marginalized kids. They, too, are my children. We’re adults, and this panelist is free to believe whatever bullshit she wants to about me. Where I draw the line is when she advocates against my children.
The speech was captured on cell phone video, and Konigsberg has transcribed it into two parts.
Read Part 1: https://billkonigsberg.com/2018/11/19/proud-fierce-papa-bear-the-speech/
Read Part 2: https://billkonigsberg.com/2018/11/20/proud-fierce-papa-bear-part-ii/
See the video of the speech below.
Within 2 days the speech has been read and shared over 10,000 times. It struck a chord that has many of us on our feet and cheering. The ManKind Project is proud to support and affirm LGBTQ+ people, including the millions of LGBTQ+ youth who are helping to build a more just and inclusive society. We are proud that a man like Bill Konigsberg chooses to stand with the ManKind Project to support #healingmasculinity and #menswork.
And to me and my family, this is also a personal story. At one point in his talk he speaks about kids who reach out to thank him for his stories … that they hold onto them like life-lines in very confusing times. Our kid is one of these kids. Before I knew Bill, before he had done the NWTA, my wife and I read his books out loud to our (now) 14 year old after they came out. Bill’s works have been signposts of hope and affirmation. They brought characters that our child could see themselves in, characters with depth and courage and persistence. And I now see in my out and proud child a young person with confidence and self-acceptance. THANK YOU Bill Konigsberg. Proud to call you brother.
UPDATE: After the conference ended, The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the National Council of Teachers of English (ALAN) announced that an anonymous donor had stepped up to create the Bill Konigsberg Award for for Acts and Activism for Equity and Inclusion through Young Adult Literature. Bill is the first winner of the award, which will now be given once a year to a person showing outstanding action for youth equity and inclusion.