Alishia Alexander: Did the answers in the book only come from your perspective or were they a collaboration of your knowledge and others you know?
Abby Dees: Both. I picked the “108 questions” in the title somewhat arbitrarily, hoping that I’d actually get 108 questions and a little worried that I might have to fill in the shortfall, but that wasn’t the case at all in the end. I got tons of responses from sending the word out through everyone I knew and everyone they knew asking them to get back to me with any questions anyone had heard, had or wished someone would ask about LGBT issues and identity. When they arrived I was surprised to discover that I’d heard one version or another of every single question at some point in my own life. There really wasn’t anything that was totally new, though I was struck by the intensity of some of the questions (religion and politics especially) and the fact that I didn’t know that people still needed to know the answers to some of them (for example: “Is one of you the man and one of you the woman?”).
AA: How exactly did you come up with the questions?
AD: I sought to make the questions as universal as possible and to take out as much baggage from them as I could so that they remained open and free of too many assumptions or emotion that might cause the reader to skip those questions rather than engage with them a bit.
AA: Are the questions geared towards the entire LGBT community or to lesbians in particular?
AD: Oh, indeed for the whole LGBT community. I also sought to include as many trans-focused questions as I could, though “trans” isn’t in the title. That was because, simply, that I didn’t think I could speak with as much certainty and credibility on behalf of the trans community. I’m sure there are MANY more questions that could have been included that trans people have heard or discussed along the way. But I did try my best to make sure that I focused on those issues too.
AA: Besides the questions helping out individuals who are heterosexual, does the book possibly lend insight to those who may have questions from a gay person’s perspective?
AD:Yes, I hope so. I really wanted it to be an invitation to talk, regardless of who has joined the conversation. I’d heard of some gay folks using the book as kind of a party game, which I thought was fabulous. And I didn’t really count on was how many gay men, when looking at the book, said things to me like, “Oh, I ALWAYS wanted to know that about lesbians…” So I guess it’s not just geared towards straight people having these conversations! But I’d also imagined straight people offering this book to their LGBT loved ones as a way of saying, “I really want to know more about you—would you be willing to talk with me about some of the stuff in this book?”
AA: What kind of feedback on the book have you gotten from both heterosexuals and gays?
AD: I’m thrilled that everybody seems to have “gotten” what I was trying to accomplish by presenting the questions more than the answers. I was a little worried that people would say, “Well, damn—where’s the rest of it?” But instead I think they appreciate that I’m really just nudging people to talk to one another and giving them a little hand-holding in the process. I’ve gotten some great feedback about the light tone and sense of cutting one another a little slack. There’s too much rigidity out there, and I’m as opinionated about these issues as anyone. But if we can keep a little humor and warmth in our interactions with people we love, we will get our point across so much more effectively. Everywhere I go talking about QQST, people seem to share that belief.
AA: Which question would say was the hardest to answer or explain in the book?
AD: I’d say that it is this one: “With all the other problems in the world right now, can’t gay rights wait a bit? Is it really as important as poverty and racism and global warming?” My short version response is the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote” “No one is free until everyone is free.” But the fact that this comes up a lot among well meaning people tells me that we need to do a better job at communicating how much gay rights aren’t “luxury rights,” but fundamental human rights. It’s hard for people to believe that when they don’t see images of LGBT people just trying to keep their jobs in typical towns, or fighting for custody of their kids, etc. Instead, it’s all Bravo reality shows—which I love of course, but it’s not the whole picture.
AA: While creating this book with the help of your mother, do you think it can help not only heterosexual people learn about the gay community but also parents who have gay children?
AD: Oh yeah, certainly. I wouldn’t recommend it for straight loved ones who are just set in their ways and aren’t interested at all in changing their thinking. But for anyone else who says, “I love my gay/lesbian/bi/trans daughter, sister, buddy, etc. but I’m not sure I totally understand or agree with them on everything”—then QQST is for them. All I ask is that we come to the conversation with respect and love and a willingness to consider perhaps another way of seeing things. That’s all, really. Seems to simple, but I keep learning that we all need a reminder of this everyone once in a while.
BY: ALISHIA ALEXANDER