I've considered a lot about how pride plays into the life of Theo Reese, the main character in my new book Tracker Hacker.
One of my primary intentions with the book, and the Codename: Winger series as a whole, was to have a character where being gay was one of the least interesting things about him. Further, I wanted to create a world where sexuality was barely a consideration, much less something to harass someone about. It’s the world I wish we lived in today. I've had this idea floating around in my head to create a character like this for a while, because of books that I've read where the protagonist identifies as LGBTQ+ but that identity isn’t what the story is about.
For Theo, as the reader first meets him in the prologue, he states that he's got a boyfriend. The information rolls of his tongue as easily as he says that he’s a high school student, a hockey player, a computer genius, and, oh yeah, he's also a covert agent. These are just the things that make him up, alongside his boyfriend.
There's a brief mention in the book about Theo's coming out when he was thirteen. He mentions being slightly skittish about saying it. Even that moment isn't one of fear of rejection, but more of wondering what it means to label himself. The context that he brings this up in is that he was explaining how his dad always has an awareness of when Theo’s holding something back or trying to find the words to say something. It’s more around how his dad helps him overcome his own obstacles.
Another moment comes as Theo recalls when he first asked Eddie out. At the time he didn't know if Eddie was gay or not and he wasn't sure if he was misreading Eddie’s interest. But Theo is quick to say that even if he guessed wrong, he didn’t expect anything bad to happen. His nervousness around asking Eddie out was more the kind anyone might feel about asking someone out. It’s a moment you're putting yourself on the line and you might get shot down for any number of reasons.
Coming back to the question of pride for Theo, there's no question that he's absolutely got it. He carries himself confidently through life. Which isn't to say that he's cocky. In fact he's far from it. He’s confident in what he does, but he’s also humble and can be broken. It’s when life throws you a major curveball and you come through that when you get major growth. For Theo, even though he’s the hero, he doesn’t always make the right choice and doesn’t always win. Because if he always wins, pride could turn into something less appealing.
And I have no doubt that Theo takes pride in all the elements of who he is: the hockey player, the boyfriend, etc. And I think he gets a lot of that from his parents. He's learned from his parents a good work ethic, the importance of treating people right, and the importance of being true to yourself. And the key of being true to yourself, I believe, is the pathway to both happiness and having pride in who you are.
Hopefully characters like Theo who carry themselves in this way help show other young people that it is possible to have everything you want while also being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Now of course there's a bit of fiction in Theo's life for sure, because it’s not often that a teenager becomes a secret agent, but the other aspects of his life with school and even being a computer genius and taking college-level courses—those are all possible.
Another important thing I wanted to impart in the book is that truly anything is possible if you apply yourself. Theo wants to be good at the things he enjoys so he works for it. And in those things he definitely feels a pride of ownership. It's important to him to do well and be a team player for his hockey team. He wants to do excel in computers to help protect people from hackers. He's always out to use his skills for good and to help people.
It's my hope that as readers meet Theo, they see this confident, proud, smart, but humble teenager who wants to do the right thing but is sometimes thwarted in the way that only real life can. I also hope readers find a little bit of themselves and find some escapism with this teenager who has a pretty extraordinary life.