Episode 84

Chris Angel (they/them) Murphy is a queer, trans, and nonbinary LGBTQ+ educator and consultant living in Denver, CO, but is originally from Los Angeles, CA. They have a background in social work and LGBTQ+ community organizing. Chris Angel started LGBTQ+ community organizing as a freshman in high school back in 2001 and has been speaking and presenting on various topics ever since. They also have their own podcast, Allyship is a Verb, in which they interview LGBTQ+ community members from various lived experiences and backgrounds. In addition to all that, Chris Angel is just a great conversationalist, fearless when it comes to tackling difficult subjects with love and compassion. I loved this conversation with them, and fell wildly in love with their Best Book Ever, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. WHAT a book!

Support the Best Book Ever Podcast on Patreon

Follow the Best Book ever Podcast on Instagram or on the Best Book Ever Website

Host: Julie Strauss

Do you have a book you want to tell me about? Go HERE to apply to be a guest on the Best Book Ever Podcast.

Guest: Chris Angel Murphy
Instagram /Podcast/Etsy Store/Website/Gumroad

Discussed in this episode
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Animorphs series
The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love by Jonathan Van Ness (Julie’s note: JVN narrates the audiobook version of this book; if you aren’t in love with them yet, you for sure will be after you listen to it!) 
The Perks of Being a Wallflower movie
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Sissy: A Coming of Gender Story by Jacob Tobia

Discussed in our Patreon Exclusive clip
Raising LGBTQ Allies: A Parents’ Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground by Chris Tompkins

(Note: Some of the above links are affiliate links, meaning I get a few bucks off your purchase at no extra expense to you. Anytime you shop for books, you can use my affiliate link on Bookshop, which also supports Indie Bookstores around the country. If you’re shopping for everything else – clothes, office supplies, gluten-free pasta, couches – you can use my affiliate link for Amazon. Thank you for helping to keep the Best Book Ever Podcast in business!)

Hello, Bookworms, welcome to the Best Book Ever, the podcast where I get to know interesting people by asking them about their favorite books. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and today I’m talking to Chris Angel Murphy, a queer, trans, non-binary, LGBTQ+ educator, activist, and consultant. Chris Angel also has their own podcast called Allyship Is a Verb, and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that this is one of the most meaningful and kindest conversations I have had on this show. I absolutely loved talking to Chris Angel about why “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the Best Book Ever.



Julie Strauss: Hello, Chris Angel! Welcome to the Best Book Ever. Podcasts. Thanks for having me. I’m so happy to be here. I’m delighted to have you. And I want to start right off with, I know it’s kind of a tacky American thing, but we’re going to do it anyway because I find your work fascinating. Will you tell my listeners what it is that you do?

CAM: At this point, it’s kind of like, what do I not do? Because yeah. You know, I wonder how many other people might relate to this, with the pandemic. My background is actually in social work, but that completely burnt me out over the course of the pandemic. Obviously, it’s still going at the time of this recording. Compassion fatigue becoming an issue for myself that I needed to focus on me more. So I actually started a business and quit my social work job back in April, earlier this year. And I’m just trying to see if I can make it work. I do LGBTQ+ consulting and educating. An organization might bring me in for, let’s say, three months to help them roll out pronouns or something like that in a very thoughtful way. That includes training and strategic planning, things like that. That’s one component. But then I also started a podcast, that was a few months after I launched my business. And that’s been great for marketing, but also having more weight to what I am sharing out. It’s called Allyship Is a Verb. And the whole point is that it’s intersectional LGBTQ+ allyship, highlighting and amplifying all these different people with different lived experiences and backgrounds. A lot of them say some of the same stuff, but in a different way, but then you can also see how not everyone needs the same support. Some people may need different support, and I think it helps prompt conversations. Each guest episode ends with a tip. And then also some self-reflection questions, deepening the learning. I just nerd out on education and I love training. And then there’s the Gumroad store, which has some digital downloads things like an LGBTQ+ conference list. Then I also started an Etsy store, actually, at the same time as my podcast. You see what I’m saying? I just do too much. So, for example, something I just launched was this really neat LGBTQ+ bookmark that actually looks like the old school checkout card process. But rather than under borrower’s name, it has milestones from our US history, in particular from like 1924 through 2009. And for Date Due it’s the date that I’m aware of that this event took place. I researched these things and so that’s been really neat. So it just feels like very thoughtful, but then there’s also online courses that I’m very slowly rolling out. I am so aware that I’m doing way too much and I’m even considering doing like a YouTube channel and stuff now, but I’m really just trying to see what works, what resonates and what feels good for me as far as just helping people get the education that they need, especially when it comes to this community. It’s a big passion of mine and we’ll see where that takes me. That takes up pretty much all my time. 

JS: Can you help me understand what you mean when you say companies want to roll out pronouns? You mean it’s a bigger deal than an employee coming in and saying, I want to be identified as they/them? Like, it actually has to be a formal process?

CAM: That’s great question. And I know that some people may feel that that’s extreme. However, it’s something that I’ve done successfully at companies I’ve worked at as an employee, as well as being what I’ve been cheekily, calling “gay for pay.” Which is funny, cause I actually identify as trans, non-binary and queer, not necessarily gay. But sometimes, depending on who I’m talking to, it just feels like something easier to say. But yeah, I think it is good because I mean, some of the backend of what that looks like is identifying if you even have a culture that would adopt something like this? Do you have a culture in your workplace where you can give feedback and have open and honest conversations and say things like oops and ouch, and talk about the oops and the ouch, and have corrections made and things like that. And so then it usually also entails getting the buy-in from the LGBTQ+ community within that organization too, because sometimes they can have concerns. Like, are you going to make this mandatory now? Which I never do. And I have a reason for that. The people I care about the most in this conversation are the people who don’t feel comfortable being out. And so, for whatever reason, they don’t want to bring their quote unquote full self to work. That can mean that if you do something like make pronouns mandatory, you’re either going to make them double down on being mis-gendered or, for some, to come out. Either way, that’s not good. So yeah, just encouraging that it’s just highly encouraged and sharing the culture around that. What to do if you make mistakes, talking about what pronouns are, because most of us learned this in school long ago and we don’t remember. And so just making it a safer learning environment. So usually then I’ll go ahead and train leadership first, because especially if they have employees they are responsible for, then they need to know what they’re being held to, how to explain this to other people and how to help create this culture shift. As well as then almost like a town hall for all staff to say, Hey, here are the changes that are happening. Here’s when they’re happening. Here’s something that we want to bring to the company. Let’s talk about it. You could just tell people, Hey, we’re going to do this now, so put the pronouns in your email signature or start sharing it out in meetings. But again, this is a cultural thing people are adopting. There are some rules and ways we might want to go about it. I do think it’s helpful to be more intentional and thoughtful, to increase the likelihood of the adoption rates of people actually doing that and understanding the why are we doing this? Which is like one of the biggest challenges to tackle. Honestly, pronouns aren’t even the biggest thing to me. There’s other things that are more important to me, that feel more critical to my livelihood. Like not having to debate with a doctor about whether I have a right to exist and have access to care. You know, things like that. So, I’ll actually be really excited when we’re not talking about pronouns as much, and it’s just normalized and people understand. To me, it’s like no different from, I guess for those listening, can you remember a time maybe that you wrote a cover letter for a job and maybe you just so happened to know that there was a person in particular you had to write and not a “To Whom It May Concern” kind of thing. So you actually had a name, but you had no idea what their gender was. And so you’re just guessing. You’re maybe Googling if you had that at the time and trying to figure out which prefix to use. And we didn’t have a gender neutral prefix until more recently, which is MX, which is pronounced, like mix. So, like, Mx. Murphy. I think we can just look at prefixes and say, look, we’ve normalized that and sharing what our prefixes are. It’s something we even may circle when we’re filling out a form or things like that. So why can’t we also just do pronouns too? I really just think it makes it safer for everyone, because if we get caught in the trap of, oh, I’m looking at you and I know exactly who you are and how you want to be treated, we’re going to get that wrong. We’re going to get that really wrong and we shouldn’t make those assumptions. And so something I encourage folks to do, if you want a free tip today, folks, you know, figuring out what your pronouns are and if you feel comfortable sharing, you can just say that right after your name. So like for me, I say, Hey, my name is Chris Angel, my pronouns are they/them. How about you? You know? And always just role model it for other people too, because it can make it a safer space for folks to share. When people do that, it makes all the difference for me, because I feel really good. I feel like I’m being seen for who I am, but there’s also so much more to me than that.

JS: Chris Angel, were you always a reader? 

CAM: I think my gateway into that was the fact that I was an only child, and early on in our education system – and maybe this is so American of us – I would get these free personal pan pizza based on how much I read. And I lived for that. I apologize in advance if anyone’s going to be offended, but I got pineapple ones, or Hawaiian ones.

JS: No, that’s the right way to do it. 

CAM: Yeah. Thank you. I feel seen and heard and safe now in this conversation. And so that was the gateway into it. But, you know, I think a combination of just being an only child, a personal pan pizza that was free, and also having some really great teachers early on in elementary school who introduced me to books were just phenomenal. I think all of that helped a great deal. And it was just fun because, you know, I’d beg my dad to take me to the library and I’d get Animorphs or Goosebumps. And I would never document which one I’d already read or not like, and I would just be trying to remember, cause there were so many and I would probably get the same ones, but I didn’t care because it was a nice escape. 

JS: So you were really into the series’ when you were a kid? 

CAM: Yeah, I think it was easier because I knew what to expect, to a degree. I knew the author’s style for the most part. And I knew that it would be a good journey. I think where things started changing drastically was when I was questioning who I was in high school, as a freshmen. I think there were a lot of things going on in my life at that point that were very confusing and concerning to me. And so once I jumped into YA novels, like the book that we’re discussing today, that was just such a different world for me. And I had a different purpose for reading. The childhood I had wasn’t great. And it was very sheltered. So even though I was going through big things, like abuse, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. And our family motto was ‘what happens in this house, stays in this house.’ That’s what it was like living with my dad and my grandma. Plus throw in poverty and all these other things. By my freshman year, I think it was just awkward being the underdog again. Right. And not knowing what I was doing and what it would be like, although I was also really excited about it. Then you start throwing in sexuality and I didn’t even know to be questioning gender at that point. There were just these big things going on at home and I just couldn’t figure out how to get through them. And because I couldn’t talk to people, I had books. I was in the YA novels section trying to find books that addressed very big and serious things. So I read books like Go Ask Alice, that one comes to mind. Or other  really heavy topics, because I was just trying to understand and study and dissect, like really go deep into research on how do these young people get through these things and come out okay on the other side, because I need to figure that out for myself. When I was in foster care, I found a teacher. I asked kids that I’d known back from middle school, so I knew I could talk to them, I asked them like, Hey, you know, are there any teachers I can talk to about like, if I have things going on at home or something? And resoundingly one name continued to pop up. And so I went to her and we’re now lifelong friends, and I’m so grateful for our friendship. She helped me get into foster care. I hated foster care; had horrible experience in foster care, but she was a common thread and always looked out for me and I’ll be forever grateful because her friendship has just been one of those that has just been very important to me. But what hurt is that the social workers went to my home, raided my books, and then flagged me for all of those things. So, because I was reading books about people harming themselves or cutting themselves or starting fires and all of this stuff, they flagged me for all of that without engaging with me, without asking me about it, without getting the fuller story of why I was reading those books. It wasn’t until my second foster family that they were telling me, oh yeah, we’re not supposed to let you cook by yourself or all these things. I was like, what? I stopped reading for a while because I was just so hurt. And I felt like, again, I just wasn’t being seen or understood for who I was. And so  there was a period of time I stopped reading. But now, I think I’ve come back to trying to study and understand more and also escape a little bit. So now a lot of the books I read are about the LGBTQ+ community, and people writing memoirs and things like that. So I think of Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye; several of those folks from that show have written books now. I think I’m reading things like that because what’s so neat and interesting about my community, especially when people really tap into it is that the language is evolving. The terms we use are evolving the way that we might reclaim a word that has been used as a slur against us. It’s all just super fascinating to me. And so I’m just sort of absorbing all of that, like a sponge. But YA novels will always have a special place in my heart. And I think those will always be my favorite forever.

JS: I have to say, I’ve never heard of books being weaponized like that as what happened to you. Do you feel like you have PTSD? Like if you pick up a scifi, does part of your brain go, oh my God, people are going to think I want to go to outer space or something. 

CAM: So back in the day, at Borders, rest in peace, when I was in that exploration stage of my freshman year, one of the biggest things we could do at that time was go hang out at the mall. That was kind of all we had. And so we usually would end up at the bookstore and sort of fool around and walk in there and look at the different things. And I was so fortunate we even had one. We had a gay and lesbian section. And I think what was profoundly disappointing was that, growing up in my generation, I heard things like, if this happens to you, this makes you gay. It was this fixation on us being hyper-sexualized, and that we’re sexual deviants and that’s all we are, and that’s all we could be. So I didn’t see any trans representation, intersex, anything other of the acronyms and initialisms that we use today. Instead, when I went in, standing in front of the gay and lesbian section, rather than seeing people in like memoirs or something, overwhelmingly I saw, like, “365 Yoga Positions for Sex” and things like that. And I was just like, really? Yeah, it’s sorta evolved. It’s evolved a great deal. And some bookstores are better than others on that. And you know, now those books aren’t as hidden. Sometimes you’re seeing them in the best sellers and things like that. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit right now that, every time I go and buy an LGBTQ+ book, I’m a little bit worried, even though, arguably, especially going to a library, it may be one of the safest places. Sometimes that is one of the only safe spaces we can have. And sometimes they may even have some great recommendations, but you just never know. The awkwardness of maybe covering up the front, if it’s, like, ”obvious” that it’s gay-themed or whatever. But, I don’t know if that will ever go away and it’s a shame. But, for now, people can just like click a few things on the internet and get things delivered to their home. I don’t think you have to worry as much. Stigma, shame, all of that – that’s still, programmed in me and I’m not going to let it deter me anymore. Reading has just given me so much. But yeah, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I don’t still get nervous sometimes about maybe even trying to read like in a coffee shop or something. Cause I just, I don’t want to be attacked. I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m a horrible person for reading this or anything like that. So yeah, I think it’s kind of complicated. 

JS: Do you remember when you first discovered this book that we’re talking about today? “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”?

CAM: I really wish that I could remember. I know it was before I went into foster care, which was later that freshman year, just as we were like getting ready to finish up our academic year. But I think it was one of those books I had pulled just trying to figure my stuff out. It’s not inherently about the LGBTQ+ community, although there are themes in it. But it just seemed like another cool YA novel. I was totally one of those people who judged a book by its cover. And I was like, this looks really neat and simple, and, I don’t know, there’s just something about this that I’m gravitating toward.

JS: Can you described the plot for my listeners who haven’t come across this one?

CAM: So the book is about Charlie, and he’s writing these letters to someone we don’t know. And it’s about him just coming into himself and learning who he is. So it’s your classic coming of age story, starting in high school. And you’re just really learning about the people that he’s starting to meet and just how he’s opening up as a person and what makes him unique. He’s getting mirrored by from the people that he’s surrounding himself with, which is really interesting. And part of it, too, is he’s recognizing something that’s happened to him and he’s learning how to deal with it. And it’s not easy at all, but he has really great people and a really great support system helping him through this thing that he’s unearthing about himself in his past.

JS: Is this a book that you reread? 

CAM: Oh, my gosh. Yes. So when we were setting all of this up, I was very excited to read it again. It’s one of the books that the first version I had, I gave to a dear friend of mine, her name is Sabrina, and I felt like she needed to just know who I was. And I thought that this book could help her better understand me as a person. And it was the same thing then when I gave it to my other friend so those were the two first people actually that I gave a copy to. I’ve told people about it before. I don’t always give a copy of it to someone now. I think it’s interesting that every time I read it, something else happens that I’m like, wait, did I like forget this part? Or like, is my mind blown right now? 

JS: Can you tell me what it is that you connect to so much in this book? What is it that you love so much? 

CAM: I love like his friends and I love how they interact. I’m robably romanticizing it a bit, but it’s also just so quotable. One of the quotes that I have been saying forever now, as a result of reading this book, is: we accept the love we think we deserve. There’s someone who says that to Charlie. And it’s just one of those deep things that you’ve really got to sit with and let run over you. And if that isn’t a good tagline for my life right now, I don’t know what it is. They talk about the word infinite, and – this is really silly. I don’t always share this with people because this isn’t something that comes up naturally. But one of the things that was fun and interesting about growing up on the internet when it was starting to come out, was that everyone had an AOL screen name, if not multiple screen names. And you maybe had a snarky one or boring one or a silly one or whatever. But I could never land on one. So I was always creating new ones, reinventing myself. But once I read this book and for the rest of my life, my internet handle has been Infinite Avenue. And it was a result of another quote in the book where they talk about this feeling of feeling infinite. And it’s not really quite a feeling, per se, but I get it. I understand it. And that’s something I’ve been chasing in my life too, or trying to create, is those moments where you feel infinite. I think the closest word would be unity. And as I was rereading it again for our interview today, I was like, yes, that makes sense. There’s this oneness with the universe, but there’s something interesting about saying, and in that moment, you know, I swear we were infinite. Charlie and I had eally different lives. Totally understanding that this is a fictional character, but although we had different lives, we got to some of the same places because there were certain overlapping themes. So, when there’s the great reveal at the end about what happened to Charlie when he was younger, I’ll never forget. I was sitting on my grandma’s bed and my dad was in my room. I was in my grandma’s room to try to get some privacy so I could just read and be quiet. And I just remember, it felt like my world completely shifted. Like how I imagined, maybe, what it’s like to be on LSD or something and things are moving. But I just felt like my world shifted and number one, I was just so shocked because I wasn’t expecting that reveal, but there is something deeply healing about it. And I do actually believe that because of this book, it got me to foster care. Because I think it just woke me up to saying our family motto is fucked. And I can’t be quiet anymore. I was absolutely Charlie. Because of that motto, I was never allowed to have friends. I was never allowed to have any depth. I was never allowed to go anywhere. Although foster care was a horrific experience, I’m so grateful for that because otherwise nothing would have changed. And when I came back out, you know, almost a year later, and my dad and grandma went through all the hoops they needed to go through to get me back, I was a different person and I lived for myself and I opened up to people. I started living my life by saying, you know what? Because this was all I had at the time, I’m going to do everything opposite of my family. So if they’re not open and connected with people, I’m going to do that. If they don’t try new food, I’m going to do that. And it served me well for a long time. But now as an adult, I’m like, great. That worked then, and up until recently, but who do I get to be now, outside of that compass? Because I want to just make my own decisions and not have it be a result of, I just need to do the opposite. I mean, it’s not just because I’m non-binary – I can believe in binaries. There were just so many things about him that I was like, wow, okay, I can be different. And these things are good. Because I could love these things about him. I could love these things about myself. And I’m literally having that like realization right now as we’re talking. [This book] doesn’t get everything right, either. I mean, it was absolutely a sign of its time, like for when it was written. There are things that I would like flag now as like, maybe don’t say that. But I can love it as a time capsule for what it is.


JS: What you just said is what shook me so deeply. When you said they flagged the books that you were reading, because books were this for me too. And almost everybody I have talked to on the show said that they found some sort of comfort or solace or familiarity or opening up of what the world could be in a book. And to have that weaponized against a child absolutely breaks my heart. Because for so many of us, that was the only place we could find it. 

CAM: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s the difference, right? Is that even though we’ll have social workers, therapists, all these different helping professions, it doesn’t mean that they can’t cause great harm. Like I said, I’ve been able to reclaim my love of reading. There’s still, sometimes I’m just like, [nervous], about it. But most of the time I’m reading from the privacy of my home. And honestly, I hope I can get to a place someday of not caring and just like whatever, like having a very obviously queer book or something that I’m reading in a, I don’t know, in a coffee shop or something, and just not care if people see.

JS: That actually dovetails into my favorite character, which is – this is my mom heart talking – which is Brad, the football player. I love these kids so much in this book, but I finished this book and I felt like everyone else is going to come out of this alive. But I don’t know about Brad. And, he broke my heart. I’m genuinely worried about him. And I get that he’s fictional, but it’s the Brads that I worry so much about because they – well, they’re the ones who turn around and inflict so much damage. You know, they become senators. 

CAM: Brad’s storyline is really heartbreaking and unfortunately, something that can still happen to kids today. So it’s unfortunate and yeah, that whole, the lunch scene, when he turns around and calls Patrick a f***** and then how Charlie comes in. He really didn’t have to do that. He really didn’t have to do that, Brad. But he was also trying to save face with his buddies and everything. It still happens today. I mean, we hear these stories about how the younger generations are just becoming so much more inclusive and so much more expansive in terms of gender and sexuality and stuff. But these things still happen because not everywhere is safe, you know. There’s still plenty of countries and things like that where it’s still illegal and you’re hunted down for being gay or even suspected for being gay. So there’s still so many Brads out there and it’s heartbreaking. And I’m so glad you brought that up. This book does a great job of talking about a wide range of topics that can impact kids and teens and stuff that’s still relevant today. 

JS: Did it feel true to you or did it feel sort of like a fantasy version of high school students? Because I think about this book and “The Fault In Our Stars.” I always hear people my age and older criticizing them. “Teenagers don’t talk like that.” And I don’t know. I think they do. I think it felt very, very real. And people who say this isn’t how teenagers talk or think or act, I think, they’re just not around teenagers. But I was not a teenager when it came out. So what was your opinion when you were reading it? Did it feel like people you knew?

CAM: Absolutely. And I had a Sam in my life. I wish I had more Patricks, that would have been great. But absolutely it did feel true. I gravitated toward the outsiders. The theater kids, especially musical theater kids. I think we had a lot of those moments, like the excitement of just driving. We’d have cheesy pop music playing that we were too embarrassed to let other people know that we listened to, like Hanson or something, MMMbop and all of that. Right. And we’d just have karaoke in the car and, and yeah. I’m feeling infinite again, that feeling of just like, wow, I wish I could just stay in this moment forever. Because again, like Charlie, I was always in my head. When I was walking the hallways, especially in high school, I was always thinking, always overthinking. And I didn’t realize I was doing that to myself and wearing myself out. But absolutely we had deep conversations. We had like the nerves and jitters about like, are we going to college? Are we going? Does it matter where we go? Like, oh my God, how are we going to afford this? All of it. Yeah. It felt absolutely real. And I think that’s the thing is like, I had a knack of finding the adults who could treat me like another adult and respected me as such. And that was great. And I think that’s what I got from the teachers in particular. Part of it is because they’d be like, you’re like an old soul. Now I’m like, is that just code word for trauma? I grew up fast because of trauma. I think there are those adults out there who just don’t give teenagers credit for being insightful and, and having those deeper conversations. And I think that’s a shame because sometimes we’re all we have. 

JS: To pretend that young people don’t have these vast, complex minds is so condescending and so diminishing. 

CAM: And that’s where the idea of chosen family comes in. And I don’t think that’s specific to the LGBTQ+ community. I think there’s plenty of ways that people have to create their chosen family. And I think that’s great. 

JS: Tell me, what are you reading these days? 

CAM: Right now I’m reading Sissy by Jacob Tobia. I love it because they’re also non-binary and use they/them pronouns and. Again, even though we’ve had very different upbringings, there’s just a lot of similarities there. And one of the things, I mean, they’re just, they’re so smart. They’re so funny. They’re a little bit younger than me. And what I love is that they totally poke fun of this quote unquote trans narrative that exists of, well, I knew when I was young because of these toys and I wanted to wear this. Like just completely poking fun of that. It can feel super performative, because it’s really this thing we can do sometimes for cis-gender people just to say like, no, no, I knew the whole time. But then it also discredits people who don’t figure that out until later in life, because maybe they don’t have access to the language or whatever. That’s part of why this book was so good for me. When I was in high school, we just weren’t talking about these things. It wasn’t until after I came back from foster care, and after I connected with Bridget, the teacher, that I was able to say it. I actually stumbled into a GSA meeting. I awkwardly stumbled into it and she was the advisor for it. And I had no idea what was going on at the time that I went in there. Again, it was just one of those things I was used to seeing teachers during the lunch hour, just popping in their class and being like, Hey, I’m here. I heard from other people that she wanted me to come and find her. And so she knew I was okay and all of that, and yeah, I walked right into a GSA meeting and then it was just over. And so like, thank goodness for that, you know, like, because of her and talking about ways we could have safe sex and just all of this stuff without like the stigma, because she’s also in health education. It was so important. And if I didn’t have that, I mean, God knows. It wasn’t coming up in my other classes with the exception of my Honors English class. Actually, how my whole career started was because in my Honors English class, there was someone in the back. And I was like sitting in the front or whatever, and there’s someone further in the back. I don’t even know how we got on the topic of gay authors, which again was radical for that time. But I just remember a student saying being gay is a choice. I was still figuring my shit out. I was still going through different labels and all of that and feeling pressured to come out with certain terms, cause other people were trying to put me into a box. But I was just like, no, it’s not. And that was the first time I told my story publicly up until that point, of what I had figured out about myself. And the teacher, Mrs. Roth, just backed off and let me handle it. And you need to understand I was this very shy and awkward baby, sweet baby angel, Chris Angel. It was just so shy and awkward. And so the fact that I was standing up in front of this class and sharing my story in this way, and with such vulnerability, I mean, that was like really different for me. But it was really empowering and it felt really good. And then it’s just been duplicated. Like I kept having to come out in classes because things like that would come up. And I’m grateful for that, but yeah, I still think that’s why everything comes back to education for me. People have this fear that we’re going to teach these kids to be gay. We’re teaching them it’s okay. And it is okay. There’s nothing wrong with them. It’s great. It’s lovely. Let’s celebrate those. And also just like, have it not be a big deal anymore. That’s that’s what I’m hoping for. It just can be as natural as like the sky is blue, you know? And it’s just something that we know and it’s fine. So, my hope and I think part of what I’ve made to be my life’s work, which ties into all the things I shared about earlier was that I’m protecting baby me everywhere. Cause things are getting better. We are getting more rights and protections. Although sometimes we go backwards, but overall. I don’t want someone to have to worry about being tokenized in their place of work because of the first person to come out with they/them pronouns or something like that. I want them to be comfortable bringing that part of themselves to their work and not have to do all of that work while they’re also trying to still figure out who they are and stuff. Those are the people that a lot of my work is based on. I just want it to be okay for them to come out, should they want to. But there’s zero pressure or expectation.

JS: This has been so wonderful talking to you and I knew it would be. I’m delighted you joined me. And I hope you will come back anytime you have a book you want to tell me about. Will you tell my listeners all the places where they can find you in your work? 

CAM: Sure. And I just want to quickly say, Julie, thank you so much for your time, your interests, your lovely and thoughtful questions, and for reading this book with me. As far as where folks can find me. My main website is ChrisAngelMurphy.com. I’ve also got Genderandsexuality.info. So for those in the states, various LGBTQ+ resources to look into. Also my Etsy shop. And the Allyship Is A Verb podcast, which is almost everywhere you listen to podcasts, should you want to try that out. I’m not really sure what other social media I’m going to be on, but I am currently the most active on Instagram

JS: Who do you recommend your podcast for? Is it for people who don’t know how to talk to the LGBTQ community and want to learn? Or is it for people who are already active and want to learn more? 

CAM:  Oddly enough, the biggest demographic that’s been listening to the podcast so far as LGBTQ+ community itself, because there are so many different terms and labels and things like that. We can absolutely be allies to each other within the community, and I think it’s important that we do that and know what different terms and things mean. But other than that, yeah, I think it’s just like really open as far as wherever you’re at on your journey. If you want to be more intentional and listen to people’s stories. And just have tips to think about, and especially those self-reflection questions, I think almost anyone who’s curious enough can get something deep from it. And I think what’s also special is that a lot of it isn’t necessarily specific to the LGBTQ+ community. A lot of it is like I started out with a lot of different tools and things that people could use to learn even how to like apologize to each other or how to have crunchy conversations.

JS: What is the crunchy conversation? 

CAM: Crunchy conversations. It’s just my favorite way of saying, like, challenging or difficult conversations. I don’t know where I picked that up. I pick that up somewhere and I keep using it. 

JS: I like that. 

CAM: What’s interesting is that when you listen to these people’s stories, we are super different. We do need different things or want different things and I learn a great deal as well as I’m interviewing folks. I think there’s a lot to learn from it. And it’s possible you may see yourself in some of those stories too, which I think can be neat .If I can just share out one more last quick tip: The Platinum Rule. Anyone who listens to me knows that I just share about this anywhere and everywhere. For folks who are not familiar with it, a lot of us have been taught The Golden Rule: treat others the way that you want to be treated. But I think even as I’ve sort of talked about in our conversation today, we don’t all want to be treated the same way. And so rather The Platinum Rule, which I believe was created in the seventies. Treat others the way that they want to be treated. And like you just mentioned, that little shift has made all the difference for me because now I’m listening to what other people need and not just blanket treating them how I would want to be treated. Just acknowledging that not everyone’s going to want that. So for whatever it’s worth, I hope that people can find that to be a helpful tool because it’s made all of the difference in my life as well. 

JS: That’s so good.

CAM: Yes. I am all for sharing tools and resources because life is hard enough. If we can find some ways to make it a little bit easier and, and take care of each other, I’m all for. 

JS: Amen. Thank you so much. It has been really great talking to you. 

CAM: Likewise. Thank you so much Julie. Thanks for listening. 


Thanks for listening, Bookworms! . I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and you can find me on Instagram. You can also follow the podcast on Instagram, where you can see some of my favorite quotes from the podcast, occasional photos of my reading cave, and get bookish news from friends of the show. You might even catch a glimpse of our official mascot, Benny, the meanest bunny on the planet. I really love most social media, but I love the Instagram book community. So come on over and let’s chat books.

Thanks for joining me today. And I will see you at the library.


Leave a Reply