'The Inside Of Out' Explores The Intricacies Of Being A Straight LGBTQ Ally — EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT

What happens when your best friend comes out of the closet and falls in love for the first time — all in the span of a few weeks? In Jenn Marie Thorne's upcoming young adult comedy-of-errors, The Inside Of Out, Daisy Beaumont-Smith learns about the wrong way to be a straight LGBTQIA ally and learns that being a good friend means putting their needs before your own.

Daisy's best friend, Hannah, just revealed that she's 1) a lesbian and 2) dating Daisy's arch-nemesis, Natalie Beck. Daisy — who is straight — joins the gay student alliance at their Charleston high school in a show of solidarity with her bestie. When she discovers same-sex couples aren't allowed to attend the upcoming homecoming dance, she decides to take matters into her own hands — and she becomes a viral sensation in the process. Now, the entire world think she's gay, and she's forced to keep up the charade, even as she begins to develop feelings for Adam, the nerdy-cute bespectacled college journalist who first reported her story. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Daisy learns that the old adage rings oh-so-true. As her story spirals out of control, she's forced to reexamine everything she's ever known. It's a story about friendship, about coming of age, and about first love. But it's also a story about Daisy realizing and understanding her own privilege.

In this exclusive excerpt, Daisy and the gay student alliance attend a school board meeting to petition to allow same-sex couples to attend homecoming. As the unofficial spokesperson for the Alliance, Daisy gives a speech on their behalf, but it doesn't go quite as planned. 

Read the chapter below to get you pumped for The Inside Of Out, which hits shelves on May 31, 2016. You can pre-order it here

When we entered the municipal hall, a wide space with a dais in the front and folding chairs lined up in five neat rows, I thought, Maybe this isn’t actually that big a deal. They probably won’t show.

But there they were, the true, legitimate members of the Alliance, counting on me to make a difference. Ignoring the eager glint in their eyes, I gave a quick wave and continued down the aisle.

Don’t think about them right now, I told myself. Don’t think about all the past generations of oppressed students, either. Or all the students to come. So many students. Millions. Gazillions. Oh my God—STOP. Just. Think. About. Hannah.

The front row was my best option. I wouldn’t have to shout to be heard by the school board. And I could pretend I was alone. Focused. An island.

I spun to scan the growing crowd. Hannah wasn’t there.

She’ll come. She promised.

I sat and laced my clammy fingers together, peering up at the long table in the front of the room, and behind it, the empty row of microphoned seats staring back at me. Stars danced in front of my eyes and I realized I seemed to have forgotten the basic mechanics of breathing.

To make matters worse, Hannah’s words from yesterday were suddenly echoing in my head. I’m not sure it should be you.

To make matters worse, Hannah’s words from yesterday were suddenly echoing in my head. I’m not sure it should be you.

Damn right it shouldn’t be me, I thought. Okay, Sophie was petrified of speaking out and Raina didn’t want to do it in the first place and Kyle was new, but . . . why hadn’t I tried to convince Sean to do this? He was an actory actor-person, for Christ’s sake, used to giving big bombastic speeches. Also? He was gay! What was I doing?

Stop. I gripped the edge of my chair. This is my fight. I’m part of the quilt bag. I’m asexual. I’m asexual. I’m—

“Fancy seeing you here.”

I recognized the voice over my shoulder. It didn’t compute. It was male. Northern. It didn’t belong here.

But here he was, College Adam, he of the shattered MacBook, shouldering his computer bag to join me in the front row. Uninvited. Smiling so unguardedly it made my heart stutter.

“I’m working on my Southern accent,” he said, apropos of nothing. This kid was seriously strange, and seriously cute with his Clark Kent glasses, and possibly actually stalking me. My perplexed stare must have lingered a beat too long, because his grin dropped away. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

Right? I thought, but said, “I go to this school.” Which was a much better reason than any he could come up with.

“Oh . . . kay?” He dropped himself right next to me and pulled out a notepad and pen.

Even turned away, I could feel him smirking. He probably thought I was some civics groupie, obsessed with local government meetings.

“Actually,” I piped up. “I’m here to speak—”

A pocket door in the side of the municipal hall slid open and my mouth clamped shut. Six beige, middle-aged people stepped through, waving to the crowd as if they were expecting a standing ovation instead of awkward sudden silence. As they settled into their name-plated seats behind the table, I took one last anxious glance backward, hoping in vain for a glimpse of the one person who could remind me why I’d thought this was a good idea.

Up on the dais, a bald man in a crinkled suit coughed into his microphone and called the meeting to order. My hands started to shake, so I sat on them. Then, remembering my notes, I yanked them from my pocket and uncreased them against my knee.

In the school board seat directly in front of me, Natalie Beck’s platinum-blond mother, Cindy, was adjusting the seam of her peach cardigan so that it ran straight down her side. When she looked up, her eyes met mine—and was I imagining it, or was there a sparkle in them? Had Natalie spoken to her? Encouraged, I attempted a wave, but as I did, Mrs. Beck blinked over my shoulder like she hadn’t noticed me after all.

The suited man smiled blearily at the crowd.

“Today’s meeting is an open session, so as always, we’ll open the floor to questions and concerns prior to conducting scheduled business.”

He scanned the room.

My brain went “Stand up,” but my legs went “Nope!” falling asleep in instant pins and needles. Traitors. In the time it took for me to bang life into them, an elderly gentleman to my left was already up and talking.

“I know there’s budget cuts coming up. Y’all aren’t planning to cut wood shop, are you? That’s my main question.”

A mousy school board member at the far edge of the table leaned into her microphone to answer, but the old man cut her off.

“Because if you’re gonna get rid of something, why not music? Or . . . those classes where they’re sketching flower pots? They’re picking up real skills in wood shop and making real things and that’s all I came here to say.”

He sat down and the school board members glanced at one another in confusion, until the suited man who appeared to be their spokesman leaned into his microphone.

“Thank you for your input, sir, and we’ll certainly take your thoughts into consideration as we look at the budget for next year. Anyone else?”

I hesitated. Again.

“I have a question about those dead hedges outside Palmetto High School,” said a woman in the back of the room. “And could I suggest rhododendrons as a replacement?”

I’ll stand up after she’s done talking about plants, I told myself. After my hands stopped shaking. I just needed to gather my nerves and bludgeon them into submission.

Or maybe Hannah’s right. Maybe this is just like every other overreaching idea I’ve ever had. Maybe I should stay quiet and go home without humiliating myself for once in my goddamn life.

There was a silence, and I realized the man in the suit had asked the room, one last time, for any more comments or questions. I felt eyes on me.

Adam’s. His brow was furrowed, his eyes dancing between my nervously clutched speech and my face with something like encouragement.

“If there’s no further—”

I stood. “I have a matter to bring before the school board!”

All the blood in my body rushed downward, making it excruciating to stand, like my feet were on searing coals instead of musty brown carpet.

As the school board shuffled in their seats, Cindy Beck leaned forward and nodded down the table to the suited man. I squinted at the two of them in panic, wondering whether that was some sort of secret signal.

Then Mrs. Beck looked right at me and smiled, calming my nerves. She wasn’t surprised to see me.

I stood. “I have a matter to bring before the school board!”

All the blood in my body rushed downward, making it excruciating to stand, like my feet were on searing coals instead of musty brown carpet.

She half rose to reach her microphone. “For those who don’t know, this is Daisy Beaumont-Smith, one of our eleventh-grade students at Palmetto High School. Go ahead, sweetie.”

The crowd behind me murmured appreciatively. I drew a grateful breath, pulse stabilizing, remembering suddenly all those times she’d fixed me lunch and patted my head and tucked me into sleepover trundle beds.

“Thank you, Mrs. Beck.”

Beside me, I could hear Adam scribbling.

I cleared my throat and blinked down at my notes. Focus.

“I’m here today to request that the Palmetto School Board repeal an unjust and unlawful regulation now in existence that restricts students from bringing same-sex dates to school functions, such as the homecoming dance and prom.”

A wave of sound rippled through the room. I glanced over my shoulder, my eyes alighting on Old Mr. Woodshop, who looked like he’d been sucker-punched. In fact, other than the Alliance, the only ones who didn’t seem surprised were the six members of the Palmetto School Board. They watched me with indulgent smiles and glassy patience—listening but not listening.

A wave of sound rippled through the room. I glanced over my shoulder, my eyes alighting on Old Mr. Woodshop, who looked like he’d been sucker-punched. In fact, other than the Alliance, the only ones who didn’t seem surprised were the six members of the Palmetto School Board. They watched me with indulgent smiles and glassy patience—listening but not listening.

And it dawned on me.

They’ve already decided. Mrs. Beck practically rolled out the red carpet for me with that intro. Natalie must have spoken to her mother and her mother spoke to them. Whatever I say . . . we’ve already won!

I stifled an exultant yawp, reeling with a strange new sensation—gratitude toward Natalie Beck. Then I smiled politely and continued my formality of a speech.

“In 1979, a group of students in Rhode Island were denied the opportunity to bring same-sex dates to school dances. Instead of backing down, they took the battle to the courtroom. The next year, that state’s Supreme Court found that the school district was denying gay and lesbian students their right to free speech, as well as violating the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that the government may not ‘deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.’”

Here I’d written “DRAMATIC PAUSE.” I used the opportunity to draw a breath. In the back of the room, someone coughed.

“This was long before I was born. Thirty-six years before the United States Supreme Court ruled that all Americans have the right to marry the partner they choose, regardless of gender. And yet I stand here today asking for the same rights that were guaranteed by a courtroom during the early days of the gay rights movement. I know that my request may still seem controversial to some of you . . .”

I glanced at Mr. Woodshop. He blinked.

“. . . but the truth is, it’s embarrassingly overdue.”

My confidence growing, I stepped closer to the table and smiled at each member of the school board, pretending I was on one of those legal shows where the sexy attorneys all wore designer suits to deliver their final arguments.

“I recognize that we live in a community with strong ties to the values of the past. I could list the many ways in which enacting a more progressive policy for Palmetto students would benefit the school and create a more effective learning environment for students.”

I held up my speech to show them my list of pluses, which I was totally going to skip now, because I was on a roll.

“But there is a more important fact that overshadows all of that. By denying all students the right to enjoy themselves as equals at a school function, you are denying a group of Americans the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution of the United States. Those are the values we should cling to and uphold—the ones our forefathers fought for. The ones we still fight for today. And so, on behalf of all of the students of Palmetto High School, I ask you to repeal this unjust regulation and allow same-sex dates to dances—effective immediately.”

Behind me, I heard a mass shuffling. Just as I froze, wondering if everyone was leaving the room in disgust, there came as much of a roar as a crowd of twenty-four could make. They were standing, cheering. Jack was whooping. Old Mr. Woodshop was grudgingly clapping. My mother was hyperventicrying! And in the back row . . . was that Hannah?

Behind me, I heard a mass shuffling. Just as I froze, wondering if everyone was leaving the room in disgust, there came as much of a roar as a crowd of twenty-four could make. They were standing, cheering. Jack was whooping. Old Mr. Woodshop was grudgingly clapping. My mother was hyperventicrying! And in the back row . . . was that Hannah?

“That was very nicely put, Miss Beaumont-Smith,” said the suited man, his grin bright, but his voice wooden, as if he were reading from a printout of his own. “And it’s always an honor to hear from our students directly. Can we get one more round of applause?”

They clapped. I nodded graciously. Then he cleared his throat.

“As you yourself acknowledged, this is a controversial issue with no clear path to take.”

No clear path? Obviously, repealing the rule was the clear path. Did he not just hear my awesome speech? I opened my mouth to retort, but he spoke into the microphone again, sending a squeal of feedback through the speakers.

“As a matter of fact, we discussed the rule prohibiting same sex dates in a special session yesterday evening . . .” Nailed it! “And it’s our collective decision that we don’t want our schools to be caught in the middle of such a hot-button issue. It would be a distraction to students and a headache for our community.”

A headache? This dude’s announcement was taking a strange turn.

Whatever, I thought, lacing my fingers behind my back. Just get to the part where you change the rule.

“In the end, with the additional tightening of school budgets, the decision that makes the most sense is to abbreviate this year’s homecoming festivities. All other homecoming activities will proceed as planned—the football game, the parade and court, etcetera—but there will be no dance. I hope that answers your question.”

I either sat down or my seat rose to greet me. Either way, I couldn’t move.

No. Dance.

So I was half right. The school board had known in advance. They’d held a “special session.” But the answer wasn’t yes. It was the opposite of yes.

And Cindy Beck was still smiling serenely.

I either sat down or my seat rose to greet me. Either way, I couldn’t move.

No. Dance.

So I was half right. The school board had known in advance. They’d held a “special session.” But the answer wasn’t yes. It was the opposite of yes.

I lifted my printout and tried to control the shaking in my hands long enough to read it, desperate for more talking points, any viable ammunition. But there was nothing written there that could possibly uncancel the homecoming dance.

Behind me, I heard the room bubbling with dissent, gasps becoming angry grumbles. The suited man ignored them.

“If there are no more questions, we’ll proceed to regular—”

“I have a question!”

Adam stood, his iPhone outstretched like a real reporter. His hands were shaking too. I wondered numbly if he’d remembered to hit record.

“A clarification, really. Are you saying, sir, that you are preemptively canceling the homecoming dance . . . in order to prevent gay and lesbian students from attending?”

Red crept up the suited man’s neck. “They can attend. They were always welcome to attend.” And now his forehead was beading with sweat. “But if they want to bring a date . . .”

Cindy Beck caught the eye of the suited man and his words faded to nothing. Relieved, he sat. Mrs. Beck leaned calmly into her microphone.

I wondered if she would acknowledge the elephant in the room—that her own daughter had come out of the closet less than a week ago. But there was something strange glittering in her mascaraed eyes. Something like triumph.

I wondered if she would acknowledge the elephant in the room—that her own daughter had come out of the closet less than a week ago. But there was something strange glittering in her mascaraed eyes. Something like triumph.

“We’re a little community, Mr. . . . ?”

Adam swallowed hard. “Cohen.”

Her smile became a wince, as if she pitied him. “I’m guessing you’re not from around here. We don’t like to stir the pot. Make waves.”

She was really laying the Charleston accent on thick.

“We prefer to keep school operations as removed from politics as possible.”

She wrinkled her nose on the word “politics,” like it was a dirty diaper. This wasn’t about politics, though. This was about the lives of students like her daughter. How could she not see that?

Adam perked up. “In that case, follow-up question! Is it true that you’re planning to run for Congress in the next election?”

Cindy Beck pretended to blush. “I have no comment about that at this time.”

A murmur ran through the mini-crowd.

She was running for office. As a conservative, no doubt. And so, to further her political aspirations, she was holding this issue hostage. Her daughter’s issue. My issue.

The room was in an uproar, at least. This time people really were getting up to leave in orderly disgust. I waited for someone to hoist their folding chair and chuck it across the room, starting an uprising, but that didn’t quite happen. All I saw were heads shaking. People picking up their purses.

The room was in an uproar, at least. This time people really were getting up to leave in orderly disgust. I waited for someone to hoist their folding chair and chuck it across the room, starting an uprising, but that didn’t quite happen. All I saw were heads shaking. People picking up their purses.

And in the back, Hannah von Linden rising from her seat, her disappointed smile gleaming across the room. She’d seen me try.

Try and fail.

Worst of all, she’d seen exactly what her community thought of her. To them, she was an Issue. Capital I. A nuisance. A headache.

“No,” I muttered. Adam was putting away his phone, but, glancing at me, he hesitated.

This couldn’t be it. All this build-up, to get shut down on a technicality?

Up at the table, the school board had returned to scheduled business, the mousy woman squeaking into her microphone.

I stood up, and said, again, louder, “No.”

Adam’s eyebrows were raised. He gave a little motion with his head.

Do it.

I drew in a breath. “I have an announcement!”

Now everyone else in the room seemed to freeze, locked in expectant silence. In the back, Hannah mouthed “Daisy,” her eyes flashing alarm and head shaking no.

I was alarmed too. I didn’t have an announcement. My announcement was that I was so mad.

But instead of stomping my feet, I clenched my fist—and said the first thing that popped into my head.

“The homecoming dance will go on!”

Cindy Beck tittered, then grabbed the microphone, nails scratching against it with a long thud. “We just said it won’t, Daisy. Now please—”

“It will not be the official Palmetto High School homecoming dance.”

Somehow I’d found myself standing on my chair, facing the back of the room. Facing Hannah. My voice was erupting out of me without direction from my brain, a medium channeling an avenging spirit.

“It will be better! It will be a homecoming that welcomes home all students, regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation.”

This was surprisingly good.

Before my brain could catch up with my mouth and shut it down, I said it. The idea. The only possible solution.

“On October twenty-second, we will throw our own homecoming, open to LGBTQIA students and alumni, their same-sex dates, and . . . anyone else who wants to attend.” That didn’t seem like a conclusion, so I nodded seriously and added, “Thank you for your attention to this matter!”

It proved harder to climb down from the chair than onto it. As the room became louder than ever, Adam hurried to offer me a hand, and I thought he was just being nice until he lifted his iPhone to my mouth.

“Have you really just announced a competing homecoming weekend for gay students?”

“Yep,” I said, my cheeks burning with elation. “And you can quote me!

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