The Department of English and Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences welcomed transgender and Latinx author Aiden Thomas to discuss their New York Times Bestseller novel: Cemetery Boys, a fantasy novel featuring a young LGBTQ+ adult.

Dr. Renee Hudson (English), recently taught Cemetery Boys in her literature course analyzing the Chicano movement. According to Hudson, Cemetery Boys helped her and her students “to see the joy and lightness of trans childhood and contemplate what it means to be of Mexican heritage in the US today.”

For Thomas, gaining traction as a New York Times best seller was rewarding; but even more rewarding were the benefits they were seeing across the LGBTQ+ community from Cemetery Boys.

“Yes, it’s very cool being on the New York Times Best Seller list, but the coolest is being able to serve the kids in my community. It’s those smaller, quieter, more intimate moments that are important and life-changing,” Thomas said.

“I’ve had three people who have told me that the book meant so much to them that when they transitioned they are now using the name of the characters from the story.”

According to Thomas, it was difficult for them growing up to find media and books where their identity as a transgender individual was represented.

“I didn’t know about trans (individuals) really, and the only time they were ever brought up, they were in movies where trans women were the butt of a joke. In books and in media, I felt that I didn’t exist and was not welcome,” Thomas said.

Thomas intended Cemetery Boys to be “a safe space” for transgender pre-teens, teens and young adults. According to Thomas, the novel, incorporating transgender, queer and Latinx characters and themes, “is what they wish they had as a kid”

“I get a lot of messages from teens and young adults, who will reach out and say ‘this was the first time I saw my heritage represented in a book that actually felt like me,’ or ‘this was the first time I saw a trans character in a story,” Thomas said at the discussion.

According to a Chapman student commentary in the audience, LGBTQ+ narratives such as Cemetery Boys have had a positive impact on transgender and queer-identifying individuals.

“Today is almost the worst it has ever been for trans and queer people. The struggle still goes on, and yet we’re having this big blossoming of positive representation. Now, we are starting to see these really beautiful queer narratives of which your (Thomas’s) work is now a part of forever, ” the student audience member commented.