'Silent Lives' explores the problems of 'passing' as straight

Local author Sara Boesser will be at Hearthside Books at 6 p.m. this Thursday

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2004

In 1990, Juneau human rights advocate Sara Boesser wrote a 25-page paper, with the intention of turning it into a book, for a writing course at the University of Alaska Southeast. The manuscript was originally titled "What Price Passing" and came at a crossroads in her life. She was 40, and was dealing with, as she writes, "the gains and losses of coming out as a lesbian."

"I'd tried to live an exemplary life, striving to be above reproach in everything except that which to me was most personal and most dear," she wrote. "I thought that would be enough. But I was wrong."

Over the course of several rewrites, 14 years and 37 publishing rejections, "What Price" evolved into "Silent Lives: How High a Price," a 193-page exploration of the challenge a sexual minority faces when attempting to pass as heterosexual. It's her first book.

Boesser will be at Hearthside Books Nugget Mall location at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11 for a discussion, booksigning and question and answer session. For more information about her book, visit www.silentlives.com.

"I wrote it because I realized there was a lot of useless fear going on," Boesser said. "Gay and lesbian and bisexual people were afraid of heterosexual people, and heterosexual people were afraid of us. I know the stereotype of homosexuality is not true. I know that I'm not a scary person. I know that I'm honest and loving and a threat to no one, and I know that's true of my friends."

"I just really wanted to give a window through which people who don't realize yet that they know gay and lesbian people can see how it is for us, and can see that we're not a threat and never have been," she said. "I think it's time for people to talk in a more loving way and connect and heal some of the pain that both sides are feeling."

Fourteen years ago, Boesser says she could find a few "positive" articles about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered issues in magazines such as Times and Newsweek. But, of course, civil unions and gay marriage were not in the daily headlines.

"Sodomy was still illegal in many places in the country," Boesser said. "Three-quarters of the Fortune 500 companies have domestic partner health benefits now, and there was none of that, that I was aware of in 1990. Many more religious denominations are allowing gay and lesbian people to be ordained, and of course, there hadn't been an out bishop ordained in 1990."

Boesser moved to Juneau with her family in 1959 and works as a human rights advocate. She earned a bachelor of arts in cultural anthropology from the University of Washington. Her parents, Mildred and Mark, were co-founders of the Juneau chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in 1994.

"The majority of the world presumes everyone is heterosexual unless a person corrects is, either speaking up or in behavior," Boesser said. "A lot of people pass intentionally for safety or job security. People have to follow their intuition and come out in ways that are safe for them. And I'm also encouraging our supporters, our straight allies, to come out as being supportive of equal rights and equal treatment and gay and lesbian and bisexual people."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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