It's June, so what better time to write about the queer identities in my books than the start of Pride Month?
Of course, pride doesn't have a start or end date. It's not a sale in a store.
But it does have a beginning. And I want to talk about mine, and how it influences my writing.
The last post I wrote for pride month was three years ago, when we were a few months into a pandemic that shut down the world. I'm using that post to reflect on my life three years ago, so go read that first to understand some of the things I say here.
So many things have changed since then. For starters, I was in my first same-sex relationship for almost a year! And we had sex. So, in one fell swoop, I debunked the doubts I had about myself. About if I was queer enough to belong in queer spaces. I'd never been in a same-sex relationship before, so how did I know I was bi? I'd never had sex, so how did I know I was ace?
(Well, that's still up for debate. I enjoyed the sex, but I found out later—earlier this year, in fact—that I much prefer getting than giving. Asexuality is a spectrum, after all. And I simply don't care if it happens or not.)
I'm no longer in that relationship, but it taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that I wasn't necessarily bad at kissing (as the first guy I'd kissed at 16 said), but that kissing is actually very enjoyable. It taught me that sex can be pleasurable, but also scary and, as I realized much later, maybe my body isn't compatible with some. (I tried to have sex with a guy. It didn't work.)
I want to be open about my experiences, because I never saw my experiences as I was growing up. Which is why it took me well into my 20s to feel comfortable saying queer. To understand where my attraction starts and ends. I'm 30 now, and I'm still figuring it out.
And that is why I write the characters that I do. Characters who are messy and young and figuring things out. I'm still not out to my parents (three years on, and that hasn't changed at all). I spent 9 months in a relationship with a girl who lives 1.5 hours away, and I lied to my parents every time about where I was. Out with a friend. On a writing retreat. I had so many lies. I don't want to write about lies when I was living them. I want to write about characters having adventures, not about characters experiencing hardships because of their sexuality. Because we can write about them without writing about their trauma.
That is why Inimitable Books is such a good fit for my debut. Their mission statement is "uplifting marginalized voices (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, neurodivergent, those with disabilities, and other kinds) without pigeon-holing the authors into writing books about the trauma of those identities." My characters are all queer (until proven straight), but that's not the only story I'm telling. Because I'm living it. I'm experiencing it. My identity is confusing and, to my family, secret. They will never read my debut. They may never know that I'd rather date girls. That I want to live with one some day. Because that would be traumatic, and that's not the story I want to write.
As I wrote in my post three years ago, I've thrown as much diversity into my writing to make up for what I lack in real life: a queer social circle. I'm finding them, slowly, one by one, but finding friends at 30 is just as difficult as dating at 30. I want deep, meaningful connections. (I'm rereading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, and Schwab wrote it beautifully: "humans have friends, have families, have a thousand strands tying them to other people." Of course, Addie is essentially immortal, and isn't able to leave her mark on the world, but she wants a connection. She wants someone to remember her. I want someone to think about me, but they always have other people to think about it too, and I feel...untethered. Drifting. Like I'm an afterthought.)
That's not the point of this post. It's pride month, and we're here to celebrate defiant queerness.
My characters are queer. Simple as that. Because I am, and so they have the experiences I want. The relationships I want. Writing is an escape, and I'm running away. I'm opening doors that are otherwise closed in this world.
I am allowing myself to belong. I am letting myself believe that I am queer enough.
And who knows? Maybe in another three years, I will have come out to my parents. Until then, I hope you, the reader, can see something of yourself in my books. In the identities I include. I hope you feel seen.
And I hope you have a safe pride month, no matter where you are on your journey. Out, closeted, or somewhere on the threshold.