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Fight for light


Set in OKC, the new novel Shadowboxer explores sexuality and self-acceptance.

Lance Evans July 11th, 2012

It gets better. It’s a notion that you hope is true for Willie Guyles in Paula Sophia’s Shadowboxer.


As the lead character in her novel weaves his way through a new relationship with a drag prostitute, read- ers are taken on a tour of Oklahoma City’s gay lifestyle.

“I wanted to tell a story of what it was like for me and other people like me, who find it harder and harder to contain their truths,” said Sophia.

A 20-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department who made history as its first openly transgender officer, she said she hopes the novel gives insight into the complexities surrounding the GLBT lifestyle.

“I was trying to make the reader feel a sense of isolation and claustrophobia,” she said, “the feelings of being closeted and being contained.”

Some of those feelings were emotions that Sophia felt as a child. Before relocating to Oklahoma at 15, the Ohio transplant was a victim of bullying.

“I had a hard time fitting in,” she said, but quickly took on the challenge of standing up to her tormenters. “I was determined to do what it took to be a boy and learn how to defend myself.”

Her journey of self-discovery ultimately led her to a life-changing decision with gender-reassignment surgery in 2000.

“It got harder and harder to fight it. I couldn’t contain my truth anymore,” she said.

Sophia decided to live her life as the woman she spent so many years trying to hide. It was a triumph, shesaid, but also one met with various obstacles.

“I experienced the degree of homophobia that some officers had,” said Sophia. “I unfortunately ran into the problem of how institutionalized homophobia can be in professional organizations.”

Today, she continues to use her platform as a beacon of hope for young people who may be going through the same pain she experienced as an adolescent. As a sponsor of the “It Gets Better” project, Sophia fights for tolerance and acceptance in academics.

She said that she hopes readers not only find a strong message in the male lead of Shadowboxer’s story, but that they also get lost in its leading lady.

“I realized that OKC was a character in the novel,” Sophia said. “I tried to explore aspects of OKC that are not often written about.”

Sophia hopes that the theme of self-acceptance rings true for fans of the book.

“I think it’s better to acknowledge one’s truth and live it sooner than later,” she said. “Continuing to live in the darkness of the same closet isn’t healthy.”

 
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