Growing up, Andrew Gelwicks thought that sports weren't for him. With perspective and time, though, that view, he tells PEOPLE, has changed.
Gelwicks — a celebrity fashion stylist — has written a new book to celebrate trailblazers in the LGBTQ community, from athletes to musicians and actors to artists. The Queer Advantage — out Tuesday — profiles Adam Rippon and more, exploring how their sexual identity gave them an advantage on their journey to success.
"The Queer Advantage was born out of curiosity," Gelwicks says. "After considering my queerness to be something that had to be overcome for a large portion of my life, and a potential barrier to success, I began rethinking this. I started questioning the messages society had been feeding me all these years and wondering if my queerness was neither weakness nor an obstacle, but actually an advantage."
He continues, "This was such a revelation to me and I wanted to know whether other people felt the same way — specifically, queer people who had found considerable success in various fields. Was this common in our community? Had these leaders also found their queer identity to be a deep source of power?"
Among the athletes featured in the book are triathlete Chris Mosier, tennis champion Billie Jean King, and soccer star Ali Krieger. Their inclusion, Gelwicks tells PEOPLE, came after some reflection.
"Throughout my life, I’ve had a strange relationship with sports," Gelwicks says. "I've always felt disconnected and somewhat unwelcome. I realize that’s irrational and stems from my own experiences growing up, but I also know I'm not alone in feeling this."
Now, for his book, Gelwicks tells PEOPLE, "Showcasing queer athletes at the top of their games was an important step in learning how wrong I’ve been about sports. I love seeing queer people dominate in every industry, and sports is no exception."
Gelwicks explains that in his youth, he "wished more than anything to not be gay" — and that resentment and anger was "crippling."
"It wasn't until my early twenties when I was able to truly contemplate those feelings and how they affected me, that I was able to comprehend and appreciate all the wonderful, positive aspects of queerness."
He hopes The Queer Advantage will help readers learn to embrace their individual identities, as well as their differences and uniqueness.
"Everybody has something they have struggled with, but how can you turn that struggle into your strength?"
The Queer Advantage will be available for purchase on Tuesday.
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