FEBRUARY 7: The Miseducation of Cameron Post (…

365daysoflesbians:

On this day in 2012, The
Miseducation of Cameron Post
by Emily M. Danforth first hit shelves. Although
this was only five years ago and may not seem like some hidden gem of lesbian
history, almost every college-aged gay girl I’ve talked to about Cameron Post
has not only known who she is, but has reacted with some kind of anguished face or hand over their heart at the mere mention of her name. For this reason, I knew
it had to be included in 365 Days of Lesbians.

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What makes The
Miseducation of Cameron Post
so iconic? I’ve seen it described in article
headlines as everything from a “Cowgirl Coming Out Story!” to a harrowing tale on
the experiences of gay conversion therapy. The truth of the matter is that it
is all of these things and more; the book tells the story of a girl growing up in the
rural, Christ and pasture-driven town of Miles City, Montana. After her parents
die unexpectedly in a car accident, Cameron becomes the ward of her conservative
grandmother and Aunt Ruth. Throughout the course of the novel, Cameron develops
a crush on her best friend and must deal with the unaccepting reactions of both her
family and her small town after she is outed. Yes, there are elements of the
~cowgirl aesthetic~ and the book does take you through Cameron’s
heart-wrenching experience of a gay conversion camp, but The Miseducation of
Cameron Post
is neither a dime store novel of lesbian cowgirl romance nor a
soul-crushing tragedy. It’s a coming-of-age novel filled with just as much
wonder and grief as anyone’s teenage years.

When I first read this book, I was on the eve of my
sixteenth birthday and in the middle of a long summer spent bored and sunburned at my grandparents’ house. There were moments in the book of Cameron experiencing
internalized homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality and all those other academic words that were scarily relatable to me, as I assume is the case for
all the other girls who hold this book near and dear to their heart; however,
there are two particular scenes that live distinctly in my memory
– one, a passage where Danforth describes Cameron riding her bike on a hot
summer day to her local movie rental store (hello 1990s), and the other, a
moment where Cameron is riding in a car with the window down and making waves
in the wind with her hand. This is the most iconic thing about Cameron Post. I had heard about internalized
homophobia and conversion therapy from news outlets and the internet, but never
before had these concepts been living and breathing and walking around inside a girl so
similar to myself. This wasn’t Girl Discovers She’s Gay: The Novel, which,
although those stories have their place, I would have been too scared
to pick up in the book store anyways; Cameron rides her bike on summer days, hangs her head outside of car windows on the highway, and gets crushes on girls
– these are all just facets of who she is as a person. There is nothing flat or
contrived about Cameron’s experience or character; she is a full person who you
root for, grieve for, and love throughout the entirety of the novel, and the
more years that pass by, the more I’m able to understand just how much these depictions are needed and why The Miseducation of Cameron Post is just one
of those books that has come to define a whole generation of lgbtq youth.  

-LC