Russ is stuck. He wants to cross the street and enter the building–it looks innocent enough, except for the rainbow flag that hangs from the top of the doorframe. But when Brian shows up and puts him at ease, Russ has the motivation he needs to take those two steps up.
Physically it was just two steps for Russ, but mentally and emotionally it was a huge chasm. He had acknowledged to himself that he was gay or queer or whatever terminology was currently in vogue, but once he crossed the street and entered the building everyone else would know. The building wasn’t trying to hide its purpose – there was a big rainbow flag on the door. No one could miss it – it was as if it was advertising its purpose. He looked from across the street at the people going into the building and thought they were all stereotypical of what he was, a young gay man, and even at 17 he knew that the road to acceptance by the straight world would be a long and difficult one. If he took those two steps he would be committed. He didn’t feel brave and he kept telling himself that he was too young to out himself, but if he didn’t do this now, when?
As he stood on his board on the sidewalk he was thinking that he still had 15 minutes to decide if he was going to attend the meeting since he was early, then someone said to him “you’re going to have to go in there sometime…. you might as well get it over and done with.” He turned around and pretended that he didn’t know what the guy behind him was talking about and prepared to launch on his board, but his new friend continued talking to him and seemed very knowledgeable about the building. Then he suggested to Russ that they get to know each other better in the fifteen minutes he had left before deciding whether or not to attend the meeting. Russ knew that it wasn’t that simple. It was what stepping up meant physically and emotionally. As he considered his new friend Brian’s suggestion he wondered, what did he have to lose? But he knew that whatever choice he made could be life changing — being in the closet or living his life out in the open.
Two Steps Up is the story of a very innocent young man’s coming to terms with what he is and what his decision to reveal his sexual orientation will mean for his future because there would be no turning back, but it’s more than just one person’s struggle. For those of us who are straight and have no idea about what it really takes, especially for a teenager (or anyone for that matter), to “out” himself or herself as not being part of what is considered mainstream society, this book is very poignant and revealing. The emotions of that very first time when someone basically tells the world “this is who I am” may not seem to be important or earth shattering, but to Russ it is life changing.
Sean Kennedy paints a picture that I think only someone who has lived his life under the scrutiny of society can do as effectively as he has done in Two Steps Up. I am impressed with the author’s approach to this very sensitive topic against a background of two teenagers skateboarding, and Russ experiencing his first fumbling attempt at kissing someone. Kudos to Sean Kennedy for a wonderful and insightful look at the other side. For such a short book Two Steps Up has a lot of impact!
If/when you decide to read this book you can think of it either as just a story of a gay teenager deciding to take a couple of steps, or look at it from a much broader perspective of the struggles that kids like Russ face on a daily basis.