All four of the main characters in the Equals series are rejected by their families in one way or another because of their sexuality. Russ is lucky, he has a strong, supportive father but his aunt rejects him which in turn affects his relationship with his younger sister. Stephen’s family—already unsupportive of his decision to go to college—cuts him out of their lives completely when he comes out after graduation. Although he’s older, and used to supporting himself, it’s still a painful experience.
Evan is rejected by his aunt and uncle when they fire him from the funeral home where he works then his parents kick him out of the house. The fourth main character—Evan’s love interest—well, you’ll just have to read Connection to find out what happens to him, but suffice it to say it may be one of the worst rejections of all.
At twenty, Evan is the youngest. The most vulnerable too, because other than a few belongings and his car, he suddenly finds himself without a job or a home and no idea what to do.
A chance meeting with Russ in Partners leads Evan to Atlanta, and gives him a place to stay and time to get on his feet and begin a new life. But what if he hadn’t had Russ? What if Russ’ father hadn’t been supportive when he came out? What if Stephen hadn’t waited to come out until he was able to support himself?
These questions played through my mind as I wrote the stories and I was surprised when I realized how much Evan and Stephen had in common. With nearly a quarter century age difference between them, there were surprising parallels between their experiences and feelings.
And as I grew to love the characters, they became more and more real to me.
I love all four of them deeply but there was something about the vulnerable positions Evan and Stephen ended up in that made me spend a lot of time thinking about their lives and the emotional toll the rejection took on them. I found myself wavering between frustration and tears as I thought about these characters and the different turns their lives could have taken.
An estimated 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ identified. That is an alarming number of kids who are turned out of their homes with no resources. Any decent person is upset by the concept of course, but while it’s horrific that any person, much less a young person, is homeless, sometimes it’s hard to put a face to the statistics.
As I considered Stephen and Evan’s characters and where they might have ended up, it became far more than just numbers or an abstract idea of what an awful situation these real life kids are in. Much like it bothers Stephen that he hasn’t done more, I felt a sense of responsibility to give back a bit. I can be frustrated and upset with what’s happening, but it doesn’t accomplish much if I don’t do something to help the situation.
I considered a number of ideas, but ultimately decided that 10% of the proceeds from Husbands will go toward Atlanta’s Lost-n-Found Youth center.
If you aren’t familiar with them, this is the motto directly from their website:
Lost-n-Found Youth is an Atlanta-based nonprofit corporation whose mission is to take homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths to age 26 off the street and transition them into more permanent housing.
We operate a 24/7 hotline at 678-856-7825, a Youth Center, a 6-bed 90 day housing facility, and 3-6 month host home program.
Lost-n-Found Youth is Atlanta’s only nonprofit agency actively working to take homeless LGBTQ youth off the street.
In the past, I have supported kids in my state (The Ruth Ellis Center in the Detroit area) but Atlanta became a huge part of this series and it seemed fitting that an organization local to the books should benefit.
As I tally the sales from the books, I’ll set 10% of the sales from Husbands aside and quarterly, make a donation to Lost-n-Found Youth center.
Because real life kids deserve the kind of lives I imagined for Russ, Stephen, Evan, and his love. They deserve a warm bed to sleep in at night, food to eat, and people to care about and support them.
They deserve a happily ever after too.
Russ is ready to make a lifelong commitment to his partner. That means marriage to him, but Stephen grew up believing that was out of the question. With marriage equality still not recognized in Georgia, Stephen is only concerned about the legal protection available to them.
Someone from Stephen’s past reappears and drives a wedge between them as Russ and Stephen struggle to agree on their future. Russ tries to understand Stephen’s complex feelings about marriage, but the differences in their background stresses the relationship further. Can the relationship they’ve built overcome the issues they face?
Russ had been fourteen when Vermont became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. State after state joined the ranks, and in the last few years it seemed to be gaining momentum. It was only a matter of time before marriage equality swept the nation. He’d grown up with the idea that someday he’d have the right to marry the man he loved. If he wanted it—and right now, he wanted it more than anything else in the world—there would be nothing to stop him.
Except, his partner—the one he’d been so sure wanted the same thing—apparently didn’t.
“How’d you know I was up here?” he asked hoarsely.
Stephen’s gaze lifted, his smile sad. “Because I know you.”
Russ’ tongue felt thick all of a sudden, unwieldy in his mouth. “I thought I knew you.”
The look of hurt in Stephen’s gaze was shattering, but no more so than the earlier rejection. “Can we talk?”
“I’m not sure what there is to say.” Russ walked out of the pool, limbs heavy after the grueling swim and time spent floating in the water. It was almost like the feeling of being back on land after spending a day on a boat. Except that made him think of sailing with Stephen, which was too painful to consider right now. “I asked you to marry me, and it’s not something you want. There really isn’t a compromise.”