Identity Envy cover

Identity Envy

Why would a lesbian raised in a Jewish home have a sudden desire to be a tough-talking Catholic girl? And why would a gay man travel to Ireland in a desperate attempt to escape his “hillbilly” roots? Identity Envy—Wanting to Be Who We’re Not explores the connections gay men and lesbians have to religions, races, ethnicities, classes, families of origin, and genders not their own.

“”So what is ‘identity envy’? What causes it? Who has it? This anthology offers no answers to these excellent questions; instead it seeks to provoke an exploration of the many possibilities. The approaches… are myriad and multivalent, humorous and hard-hitting, poignant and provocative.” “

— from the Introduction

This unique anthology takes both humorous and serious looks at the identities of others as queer writers explore their own identity envies in personal essays, memoirs, and other creative nonfiction.

Gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, intersex, and other sexual minorities often feel marginalized by mainstream culture and have a need to belong somewhere, to claim a group as their own. This surprising book presents stories of identity envy that are humorous and hard-hitting, poignant and provocative, written with energy, wit, and candor by many of your favorite writers-and some exciting newcomers.

Identity Envy—Wanting to Be Who We’re Not is a must-read for anyone who appreciates good writing — especially gay and lesbian readers who know what it’s like to wish you were someone else.


“Identity Envy does what you always hope a good book will do – it takes you deep into the lives of a group of fascinating, and in this case often startlingly honest, people. You become so engrossed in their stories, full of hope and nostalgia, disappointment and courage, that you finish the book wishing you could know each of them, even better, in person.” — Robert Taylor, author of Whose Eye is on Which Sparrow and A Few Hints and Clews

Identity Envy is an entertaining and enlightening collection of personal essays about the desire to be someone other than who we are. The writers take on matters of class, race, religion, regional differences–and so much more–all with intelligence, insight, and compelling honesty. In tone, the pieces vary from the comic sizzle of Mike McGinty’s “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Helen” to the rueful nostalgia of Robert Boulanger’s “Acting American.” The book made me think differently about my own identity and the way we all make peace (a frequently uneasy peace) with ourselves.” — Stephen McCauley, author of The Object of My Affection and Alternatives to Sex

“In a culture that often gives short shrift to the complexities of identity, this book OFFERS UP A COLLECTION OF TRULY FRESH, INSPIRING AND REVELATORY EXPLORATIONS of those shifting sands that make up the unsure ground of who we think we are and what others assume us to be. A FASCINATING EXPLORATION of the formation of identity, Identity Envy does what all great books do–it asks its readers to examine its subject matter as it pertains to themselves, encouraging all of us to not only reflect on our own projections and struggles with self-acceptance, but beyond that, it invites us to examine the dynamics of our very sexuality and how it aids us in integrating those parts of ourselves we perceive as ‘other’. . . .CONTAINS TESTIMONIAL AFTER TESTIMONIAL TO THE REDEMPTIVE POWER OF KNOWING ONESELF. . . . A WONDERFUL TREATMENT OF A VERY TOPICAL AND MISUNDERSTOOD ISSUE, an inspirational compendium of the power of the individual to not only integrate different aspects of their identity, but to move beyond socially-imposed identities, whether they be dictated by religion, ethnicity, gender, class, place–or even sexual orientation vis-à-vis the dominant gay and lesbian culture which can oppress as well as liberate. Identity Envy plumbs the depths of identity formation, examining all aspects of the issue, from externally-imposed identities to the freedom and fluidity of creating our own internal identities. Ultimately it CELEBRATES THE COURAGE OF QUEER FOLK to assert their unique identities in the face of oppression and social stigma. . . . Deals with serious social and psychological issues . . .also a book filled with wonderful humor, inspiring tales of courage, and the enthusiasm and joy of self-realization and growth.” — Trebor Healey, Author of Through It Came Bright Colors

“Sex and gender phobias of the dominant culture compel queer people to envy identities other than our own; and that often leads to shame and low self-esteem. Until the release of this wonderful book, there’s been no positive role-modeling for what exactly to do with all that envy. These essays read like fairy tales, only they’re the true stories of what people do when we hate what we are, and when we wanna be something we’re not allowed to be. The editors have put together A TERRIFIC COLLECTION OF SWEET, HEART-BREAKING, HILARIOUS, AND ALWAYS BONE-DEEP HONEST TALES of the journey all us queers and freaks are given in our lifetimes: to grow from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.” — Kate Bornstein, Author of Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws