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Silent Lives: How High a Price?

by Sara L. Boesser
Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books, an imprint of University Press of America, 2004
194 pages, paperback.

If ordered online through the publisher, the book may be purchased at 15% off the listed price.

Reviewed by Nancy A. Hardesty

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For individuals, congregations, or study groups discussing issues of sexuality, Sara Boesser’s book provides a valuable resource. The book is subtitled “For Personal Reflections and Group Discussions about Sexual Orientation.” 

Boesser, a graduate of the University of Washington, has lived in Alaska for many years, where she has been a tireless advocate for human rights. 

The premise of this book is that when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons are compelled by social norms to “pass” as heterosexual, everyone in society loses. 

Many studies have shown the detrimental health consequences of stress, and certainly hiding one’s sexual orientation from family, friends, members of one’s church, and colleagues at work takes a serious toll. Boesser also reminds us that straight people lose as well when there is a “veil of silence.” Family and friends are not as close and intimate as they would like to be. Prejudices, ignorance, and discrimination are unchallenged and allowed to continue. Society deprives itself of the diversity, creativity, and spiritual energies that gay people could bring to the table if they were allowed to just be themselves. This is also an issue that has a negative impact on young children, tweens, and teens as well, robbing them of diverse role models and making life especially difficult for those who do not fit rigid heterosexist norms, whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or not. 

Boesser offers a useful array of discussion questions and exercises for individual and group learning. Her endnotes include helpful definitions and resources. 

This is a book that can be used by religious. educational, and civic groups. Acknowledging her appreciation for the work of Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Letha Dawson Scanzoni in Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Boesser integrates religious issues into this work but does not focus on them. Thus this work brings forward fresh questions and positive points that can be raised in a variety of social and civic arenas where human rights issues remain to be resolved. 

Silent Lives: How High a Price? is a new approach and very helpful addition to the national dialog concerning human sexuality.

Dr. Nancy A. Hardesty is Professor of Religion at Clemson University, Clemson, SC. and author of many books.

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