CULTURE: QUEEN & COUNTRY
Matthew Todd's Straight Jacket is an urgent and vital manifesto for living as a gay person in the modern age. But can a book outlining the depths of a minority in crisis ultimately help to save the gay community from itself?
The fact hasn't escaped us here at Q&C magazine that Straight Jacket has been out for over a year now. But with the release of the paperback version, it seems timely to revisit and highlight it as an essential read as part of our regular Book Club series.
Our readers in rural communities in particular might be interested in some of the themes covered in this part memoir, part polemic by the award winning writer and former editor of Attitude magazine, Matthew Todd.
Straight Jacket has been described as a revolutionary guide for the gay and LGBT community on how to build happy, secure lives and relationships, and a manifesto for us and society at large in helping protect and nurture young people, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Aimed at gay men, the wider LGBT community, their friends and family, the book looks beneath the shiny facade of contemporary gay culture and asks if gay people are as happy as they could be - and if not, why not?
"The book is a call-to-arms about how those of us with wounds from growing up LGBT in a less-than-supportive world can heal," Todd has said. "If, like me, your self-esteem has suffered, or you've developed unhealthy coping mechanisms, then I want you to know that no matter how bad you feel, there are things you can do about it. I've come to realise when all is said and done, life is about kindness. It is the key."
The groundbreaking book explores why statistics show a large number of gay people suffering from mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, addiction, suicidal thoughts and behaviour, and why significant numbers experience difficulty in sustaining meaningful relationships. Bracingly honest, and drawing on his own experience, he breaks the silence surrounding a number of painful issues.
Meticulously researched, courageous and life-affirming, Straight Jacket offers invaluable practical advice on how to overcome a range of difficult issues. It also recognises that this is a watershed moment, a piercing wake up call for the gay and wider community to acknowledge the importance of supporting all young people - and helping older people to transform their experience and finally get the lives they really want.
What people have said about Straight Jacket:
"This is an essential read for every gay person on the planet." Elton John
'This book should have been written a long time ago, but it wasn't... I think everyone, no matter what their background, could, can, will benefit from reading this book. A much-needed and healing work of tough love, written with love." John Grant, singer-songwriter
"As editor of a magazine aimed at gay people in the country, I was interested in the passages about the isolation of growing up or living in rural areas which can be just as challenging and damaging as surviving the big cities and their toxic gay scenes.
Having been drawn to the metropolis of London and several years later crawling out, as many of us have done, it was heartening to read about the issues around gay shame and how it manifests. This is very much a sobering but informative read." James Wilkinson, Editor-in-Chief, Queen and Country magazine.
Straight Jacket is out now in paperback, ebook and audio.