Omid Razavi- Let Me Out Book
We are big fans of the Let Me Out book, a children’s pop-out book that tells the story of the main character’s journey towards self-acceptance as he travels ventures outside the closet, by Omid Razavi. In a true Wizard of Oz fashion, the book begins in black and white before bursting into colorful fun pictures that literally jump off the page. Trust us, this book is a must for you, your bookcase, friends of friends of friends, and any and all children in your life. The Let Me Out book has been featured on Gay Star News, Gays With Kids, & Profiles in Pride. I can’t imagine how many kids and youth are going to be impacted and encouraged by Omid Razavi and his book. Omid we sincerely thank you and can’t wait to share your book with our loved ones.
Name: Omid Razavi
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
How do you identify? Gay Man
What do you do? LGTQ+ advocate, Director of Communications for Pflag Canada, Founding Board member of It Gets Better Canada and author of Let Me Out: a pop-out about coming out.
What are your favorite queer resources? HRC and GLSEN - they offer great documentations filled with advice on coming out.
What are you reading these days? Let Me Out: a pop-out about coming out. Reading this on repeat :)
Out of all the crayon colors, which one would you be? Yellow canary
Outside of your family, who was the first person to inspire you? My best friend.
Describe yourself in 3 words. Genuine, creative, pensive
The heart of it:
Let’s start from the beginning. Walk me through your coming out experience.
I believe I always had an inclination that I was gay. I am sure I have early memories of being 3 or 4 years old and noticing that my interest in boys was different from that of girls. My first childhood playground kiss, at the age of six was with another boy. I didn’t give it any thought or hesitation. So I am not sure when that changed into two decades of doubt, denial and inner turmoil. Creating a veil of lies became my day-to-day reality well into my twenties. I kept trying to convince myself that I would grow out of it. Writing that now, it seems like such a ridiculous thing to say, but this is a reality for many of us struggling with our identity.
My childhood best friend came out to me in my early twenties. I was so proud and happy for him. Upon having him tell me, I had a moment of reflection where I considered the reality of my life if I were to have come out as well there and then. I wasn’t ready. It wasn’t my time yet. You would think that having your closest friend come out to you, would make your own revelation easier. With each year that passed, it became harder to acknowledge my truth and to tell my best friend. I was worried that he would question why I didn’t share my truth when he did.
It wasn’t until I found myself in my first gay relationship that I truly became faced with a defining crossroads in life. Unwilling to come out, the relationship ended. Once it did, my understanding of what happiness meant was totally redefined. I believed that happiness meant conforming to the comfort or what I believed to be the comfort of others. I thought that by hiding my sexuality and by assuming that this would allow for those around me to better accept me it would allow for an easier and happier life. I did not care to acknowledge that hiding a relationship behind closed doors with shame would destroy any chance of actual happiness. It was at that moment that I called up my best friend and officially came out. He did not question why it took so long, or why I did not feel comfortable in telling him sooner. His only question was -how are you feeling and for that I am forever grateful.
Did your household have an impact on your coming out journey?
I grew up in a Muslim Iranian household. Religion was never forced upon us, but we were heavily encouraged to believe in God and a higher power. Putting out good karma was a daily conversation with my parents. I was quite fortunate, in that I was able to visit Iran as youth and young adult quite a few times. It opened my eyes to an amazing culture, array of art, philosophy, and way of life. It was also my first realization about the importance of representation. Iran does not encourage LGBTQ+ representation. It is very much underground and for this reason not fully recognized or understood by its residents, primarily the elders. Coming out to my family in Iran, was never an open option… well definitely not one while visiting them there.
Growing up as an Iranian Canadian, I felt a disconnect on a few levels. I was part of a school, where I was a minority. I wanted to fit in with the other kids so badly. That meant keeping my cultural holidays, foods, and customs hidden when I was younger. As a child, you don’t know better and believe that conforming is the easy way out. Not only did I experience struggles trying to fit in culturally, but I also began to sense an increasing awareness that my sexuality was off from everyone else around me. I believe having this paired with my desire to fit it with the other boys as an “authentic Canadian” definitely played a role is stunting my ability to recognize or admit my sexuality.
You clearly have a passion for stories and animation and that shines through on your instagram. How have people responded to your social media platforms?
@LetMeOut began as a platform to promote our Kickstarter seeking out funds for Let Me Out. Once I started to put out snippets of me talking about my coming out experience and the importance of living your truth, I began receiving DMs from youth either telling me that my posts have helped them come out or they would be seeking out guidance and help. It was at that point that I realized that this platform went beyond the book. The book was definitely a driving factor, but I understood that our social media would need to be a platform for advice, resources, and inspiration. I am so fortunate to have a background in animation, which has helped me work through a lot of these posts in a positive and hopefully inspirational manner. The key focus of our platform is to celebrate the coming out process. I want to remove the stigma of shame and doubt and encourage others to realize how much you can shine when you live your truth.
Now, tell me everything about The Coming Out Book! What is it and what conversations are you hoping to inspire?
The book is a true labour of love. It is genuinely the book I wish I had growing up as a resource to help guide me. I was obsessed with pop-ups as a kid and my hope it that by creating an LGBTQ+ pop-up, not only is its important messaging getting the grandeur that it deserves, but that LGBTQ+ content can be further normalized for our youth.
Writing and illustrating this book has been a lifelong dream come true. To now see it available and making its way into classrooms and homes, has been such a celebratory moment for me. I am so proud of the book as well as the fact that I was able to partner up with a gay paper engineer, which makes this project even more special. Our paper engineer, Tiro Perilla, is an incredibly talented Colombian who, once approached with the concept, immediately jumped at the opportunity. He said that he wished he had this type of book as a child growing up and that once it is out with him name proudly recognized in it, it can be the tool he needs to come out to his family and community.
The story follows our main character as they struggle to confront their secrets behind closet doors. Once those closet doors are opened, the book becomes a colourful pop-up celebration showcasing what life can be like when you embrace your inner truth!
I am hoping it can begin many conversations for our youths, especially focused on accepting their identity and the identities of others. The book is designed to encourage both those within the LGBTQ+ community as well as allies.
The book is available here.
Where did you find inspired while you were creating Let Me Out?
I always found myself most at ease and myself when I have paper and pencil in hand, ready to draw. It was my earliest passion and still puts me in such a happy state today. There is so much amazing talent out there, especially Queer and especially on Instagram. This platform has allowed so many people to showcase their passion in a way never before imagined. It is truly inspirational to see on a day-today basis.
Did you ever picture yourself as a children’s author?
Absolutely. I always knew I had a story to tell, but just didn’t know what that was. I found myself escaping into my art as a child, perhaps this was a way to distract myself from other thoughts, but ultimately it was how I expressed myself best.
Finally, we love to end interviews with advice for readers. What coming out advice would you offer readers?
There are no timelines in coming out. Only you will know when it is best and must come out to yourself first. You can try and gage the situation, but consider building an LGBTQ+ network, to have that support group, in case your family will need more time to comprehend what it is you are telling them. Also, don’t be afraid to put your happiness first. It is your life to live and no one should tell you how to live it.