First off, go and read this amazing piece on #NationalComingOutDay by Seanan McGuire. It’s awesome.
I have two things I want to talk about today. The first is my story, the second why I write queer characters. Both are interconnected.
First off, I call myself ‘queer’. I’m bisexual but I’m more into women than men. I find both attractive (accents are a big turn on for me, on the account of being blind, as is intelligence though neither relies on gender). Due to unpleasantness in my childhood and my autisticness, I’m drawn more to women simply because I sort of understand them. Men are weird, complicated and alien. I’ve had a boyfriend in the past but it was short and far too orientated on sex, I need to take things slowly, not rush, and because my sex drive is tied into my bipolar, I don’t have a switch I can just push at five in the morning.
At school I was the ugly duckling, this was in the eighties and nineties where queer and bi, it existed but it wasn’t a thing. Girls were expected to fancy boys, at my secondary school all I saw were opposite sex couples snogging in public and that was it. There were no books and the prevailing trends said male + female = normal.
Yeah I’ve never been that.
By uni, I started meeting openly gay people. People who liked themselves, who were comfortable with their sexuality. I also started reading manga and anime. Just the other week, I got talking to a nice server at a restaurant I frequent who was open about their sexuality. He noticed the Sailor Moon buttons on my jacket and we started talking about Haruka and Michiru as well as the Usagi/Haruka kiss and the gender issue Crystal resolved about whether Haruka was male, female or whether it even matters (it doesn’t). I always identified more with Michiru, frankly, realising I like girls who are graceful and kind, feminine and smart. But this was the first time I’d ever seen a proper queer couple (even though the first time was a manga which decided they were definitely not lesbians because that would be Bad). I realised, mid-conversation, why I liked this fellow was because he was comfortable in his own skin. He was happy.
I realised I wanted to be happy, even though I’ve been ‘out’ for nearly a decade. I finally realised what I was, who I was, when I was living in Exeter and met a fellow gamer girl who was in a relationship. She kinda made me realise that I wasn’t her, nor was I attracted to her but I was definitely not straight. She, of course, realised I was queer before I did.
I’m the oldest child with two cousins and a sibling. My grandmother basically raised me, loving me unconditionally. I’m not close to my family, I can’t be. I made a choice between what was expected of me and my own sanity; I chose my sanity and am much happier for it. Anyway, one day my grandmother asked me when I was going to settle down and have kids (as the eldest and female, it was kinda on me, I think to produce the next generation at least in her head). Now I’ve never wanted children. I get broody but it’s not practical or something I’m going to do this time around.
So I explained I was queer, specifically that I liked women more than men and was happy single and focusing on my new career as a journalist.
The shit hit the fan. Like literally.
My sibling was dating the woman who is now his wife and the mother of his kids. My grandmother, for some reason, decided to ring him and I ended up having a surreal phone conversation. I’m pretty sure he will deny having this and frankly I don’t care: gaslighting is a family hobby. Hell, even my recall of it is so ‘WTF???’ it feels more dream than reality, though I’m certain it happened. My brother was suddenly terrified I wanted to take his girlfriend away, that I was attracted to her.
Newsflash: I have morals, I don’t flirt with people in relationships, they’re off limits unless I know they’re poly/open, and is then-g/f isn’t my type.
But, of course, bisexual people are basically greedy. They want all the sex with all the people, especially the already taken.
I think it took me at least half an hour to convince him I wasn’t interested. I knew his girlfriend, of course, but we weren’t close or even had that many conversations. I only registered she was even still dating him at my father’s funeral. My life had diverged with university, living in Exeter, with going to Harlow to study journalism, that I rarely ever saw my brother, let alone took notice of his relationships.
Eventually it died down and everyone did what they normally do: they chalked it up to a phrase. I am, after all, known for being single. The Parental Unit actually brought it up once, just once, in a pub while I was the other side of a pint, and told me she though my ‘bisexuality was a phase’. Her insinuation being was because she didn’t think I’d slept with any girls that somehow I was just unsure.
Now, of course, you posit that question to a straight person and they answer: “Well, I always knew I was straight.”
Queer people, of course, have to justify their queerness because while it’s becoming so much more acceptable, it’s still seen, vestigially, as being something you choose. I know I’m female and not just because that’s the gender I was assigned at birth. I also know I’m not straight. I’m also happy knowing that I like women and men.
That’s part of why there are so many queer characters in my novels and stories; because they’re a reflection of the world that should be, where gender isn’t important. Love is, trust is. I actually had someone tell me they didn’t like that I wrote so many gay characters; needless to say, that person is no longer in my life and that one, off-handed comment, was what really finished it. Queer characters need to exist, trans characters need to exist, minority characters need to exist, poly ones, disabled ones need to exist because books always mirror the world and the writer who summons them into existence.
So happy #NationalComingOutDay! If you’re already out, celebrate like it’s Pride. If you’re not, be brave and embrace who you are, be yourself and you’ll be all the happier for it. Welcome to the first day of your real life, the one where you’re happy in your skin, content in knowing you’re a good person, that love is amazing, no matter who it is you find along the way.
Be proud of who you are, be happy.