Happy New Queer

Happy New Queer

I am terrified of writing this post.

I am terrified that my family will read it and confront me about it and tell me I shouldn’t have written it. I am terrified that there are people who will probably never speak to me again because of it. I am terrified that it will change the way some of my friends view me. I am terrified that people will berate me for not telling them in person.

I’m really, really scared. And I started writing this post in November after thinking about it for months, and last night when I couldn’t sleep I was writing it and rewriting it in my head until long past two in the morning – and only now do I have the courage to post it. I made a New Year’s Resolution to be more truthful, honest, and open. This is one stage of that. “New year, new me,” people say. But for me, it’s simpler than that: “New year, true me.”

A lot of my writing friends and book bloggers often start the year with a post about the books they’re looking forward to that will be released this year, and while there are a few of those, I want to talk about something else that’s coming out: me.

Let me tell you a story. I wrote a post a little while ago explaining which Les Mis characters I identify with and why, but I missed out something very important: the one way in which I resemble Marius Pontmercy.

In November 2012, I met a girl just once (admittedly having known her online for three years), and I fell in love.

I mean, I didn’t know it then. I was still heavily in denial about the whole thing, and while questions had crossed my mind, I didn’t even let myself consider the possibility that I had feelings for my best friend. It wasn’t until the end of January that I sat down, thought about it, and came to a conclusion – I’m queer.

I’m writing this post because quite often on this blog I want to talk about LGBTQ issues, but I’m doing it from the point of view of an ‘ally’. What I really want to do is  say to you, “Look, I’m sick of your heteronormative fiction!” from the point of view of someone who lived twelve years without ever coming across a queer character and is sick to death of heterosexual love triangles in YA fiction. I want to tell you why Holly Black and Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater are close to my heart as writers – and point out how telling it is that I can only name three authors who have bothered to represent people like me.

I’ve been building up to this post, mentioning in my recap of 2013 the struggles and identity crises I went through last year, refusing to use gendered pronouns when talking about my relationships, but hints aren’t enough. Let me start from the beginning.

In January 2013, I mentioned in a blog post that I was ‘probably heterosexual’. Which wasn’t entirely true. I’d gone my whole life not really understanding why I didn’t feel attracted to guys in the same way as my friends, but in the last couple of months I’d become increasingly confused and was vehemently in denial about the whole thing. I had a whole bunch of issues relating to faith and upbringing that stuck around for months, but my denial wasn’t actually due to any sort of internalised homophobia. I’d been supporting my LGBTQ friends for a couple of years already, even when it got me into difficulty, and I’d written several queer characters. I was passionate about diversity and acceptance.

No, my fear was simpler than that: suddenly wanting to kiss somebody you’ve known since you were a baby is disturbing no matter what gender they are, because it just feels incestuous. The easiest thing to do is just pretend it’s not happening, because… ugh. And once you ignore that, you’re once again ignoring all clues that you might be interested in girls.

That was October. By the end of January, as I’ve mentioned, I managed to admit to myself that I was probably in love with my best friend and, after a few days, I confessed to her. Within another fortnight, I actually told my parents, who didn’t take it brilliantly and told me not to tell anyone, to keep it hidden. I don’t think they realise how difficult and painful that was; I told my close friends, but I always felt like a part of myself was forbidden, locked away. They’ll probably be mad that I’m writing this, but I’ve spent long enough in the closet. I told my brother, too, and he called me at 1am and I cried over the phone.

Gradually, I told a few friends, and the overwhelming reaction was, “Well, it was only a matter of time,” or “I knew it.” Which confused me. A lot.

The overwhelming theme in queer narratives and something I’ve heard from many of my LGBTQ friends is that they ‘always knew’, and it only took them this long to come out because they needed to work up the courage. Others had a realisation at about the age of twelve, when they hit puberty. But I didn’t. I legitimately had no idea until I was almost seventeen, and then it just kind of hit me:

Man, I like girls.

So I began to wonder if it was even legitimate, or if I was imagining the whole thing. I mean, surely I should have been aware since, like, forever? I could retrospectively analyse my behaviour and see occasions where my admiration of other girls pushed the boundaries of straight (and technically my first kiss was a dare at a sleepover with another girl, but I don’t think it counts), yet other than that, I’d had no clue.

You need to remember that I was brought up in a Christian household and while it wasn’t repressive or anything, ‘sex’ was very much something that happened after marriage and not before and woe on you for thinking about it. So I grew up without the slightest bit of interest in any of it, since it all seemed distant and far away and not something I even needed to think about. As a result, it simply didn’t occur to me that I could possibly be anything other than heterosexual.

All my support, all the impassioned speeches and blog posts and arguments with people – it had all been academic. It didn’t affect me. I knew exactly what I believed, and nothing tested that. When it started to impact my own life, it was a little bit harder. I struggled in church and with faith. I grew angry at a society that, having seemed so progressive before, suddenly revealed itself to be unbelievably heteronormative. Valentine’s Day, which came at a time when I was fragile and unhappy, was almost unbearable.

It took me until late November to explicitly come out to my sister. Earlier in the autumn, I’d said, “I’m not sure guys are my thing…” but hadn’t been able to say more. She didn’t have a problem with it, but I couldn’t phrase my feelings until then. When I started seeing a counsellor, it took me a number of sessions to bring up the topic, and despite it probably being central to several problems, I found it very difficult to discuss ever again.

I’m imagining, from what I saw of the media’s response to Tom Daley’s coming out video in early December, that you’re all thinking, “Miriam’s a lesbian!” (For those who missed it, he was reported as gay because he was dating a guy, even though he explicitly said that he still liked girls.) But I never said that I was homosexual. One of the reasons it’s taken me so long to say anything is because the labels just don’t seem to fit.

I’m working it out still, yeah, but I don’t know whether I like girls exclusively, or even whether I feel sexual attraction at all. I’m interested in a romantic relationship, but sex is an entirely different issue. It’s possible that I’m asexual, but then again, as I explained, I grew up with sex as a distant, unlikely other, so maybe I’m just not ready for it. I’m not saying that all aces are simply ‘not ready’. They know what they’re labelling themselves. I’m just saying that it’s possible with me, so I’m not going to claim that label yet.

I’ve toyed with a few. There are all sorts of categories (“homoromantic asexual” or “biromantic demisexual”), but after a while you get confused and think, “Why can’t we all just be people who like people?” Or, you know, don’t. As the case may in fact be.

But I’m the sort of person who feels the need to put a name to something so that I can tidy it away inside my head. For someone who hates being put in a box, I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to squash myself into one.

Only recently have I come to terms with the idea that I don’t know how to label myself, and there’s no point doing so when things can change so quickly. I spent nearly seventeen years thinking I was straight and then my worldview shattered. Things can be changed in just one burst of light – and what was right seems wrong, and what was wrong seems right…

The label ‘queer’ is one that I think suits me. It’s a strange word, because it went from a harmless adjective meaning odd or unusual to a derogatory slur, and has now been reclaimed by the LGBTQ community. If you’re straight, you need to be super careful, because unless someone specifically says to you that they identify as queer, they might still find it offensive. And while some of us use it as a catch-all term for all LGBTQ identities, some still view it as negative or exclusionary.

I’m all for the reclamation of potentially offensive terms. When I used to get called a freak or a weirdo, I’d wear that badge with pride.

‘Queer’ is much the same for me. It’s my way of saying, “I don’t care what you think about me.” It’s saying, “Yeah, I’m not ‘straight’, but just you try putting me in a box.” It’s me being fed up of the gay/straight binary that seems to exist. (As somebody once said on Twitter, it must be awful to be a bisexual ghost. People don’t believe you exist, plus you’re a ghost.)

So I guess that’s how it is. I’m … not straight. I know there are people out there who may struggle with this revelation, and going back to school next week to face my classmates might be difficult. There are people I know who firmly believe that being LGBTQ is ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’. All I can say to them is this:

If an all-powerful God created me, then he knew what he was doing when he made me this way. I might not know what his plan is, but I’m going to trust that he has one. Living a lie seems to me as much of a sin as telling this truth.

New year, true me. Queer and still-struggling-slightly-but-working-on-the-proud-bit.

Oh, and if you’re wondering? The super-attractive potential student sitting in front of me at Glasgow University was female, yes. And the friend who broke my heart. And the (same) friend who kissed me in August, or rather, whom I kissed. I guess I don’t need to avoid pronouns anymore. That’s going to be a relief.

Here’s to 2014: truth, honesty, and no more living in the closet. I’m out and I’m staying that way.

55 thoughts on “Happy New Queer

  1. Good for you. ;) I hope you have a good new year living true to yourself. It sucks to live a lie, and it sucks to hide what you really think/say just to make other people happy. I personally don’t understand the war between whether you like guys/girls whatever your gender. Isn’t it just like disagreeing on politics, religions, sport and cake? Everyone has an opinion and preference. Think what you like. Be polite. It shouldn’t be such a big deal as it is…I reckon. ;)

    1. To be fair, I’ve lost friends over political disagreements… heh.

      I hope one day being queer or whatever will be like being left-handed. Yeah, it’s not the most common, and people might be slightly surprised if they suddenly find out when they’d assumed you were right-handed, but everybody laughs at the idea that left-handed people were considered ‘sinister’ and that attitude is left in the past where it belongs.

  2. Well done. Seriously. This is such a brave and brilliant thing to do, and I’m so glad you did it. I’m rather fond of the “queer” label myself – I like the word in its quirky, slightly deviant sense. Labels get too specific, too fiddly, and lead to awkward erasure moments (‘there’s no such thing as demisexuals / asexuals / bisexuals!’). Just saying you might be into something other than the opposite of the standard binary divide is much easier, and leaves much more room for, as you say, people to just like people.

    Well done for posting, again. And Happy New Year!

  3. I think that you are amazing and I’m grateful for this post. I am sorry that the reaction that you’ve received from people who you love and trust has been confusing at best, horrible at worst. I’m really sorry. I just want to applaud you, though, for being brave and deciding to be your true self. Your narrative matters. Your identity matters. The way that you label yourself matters. Your strength matters.

    In the difficult times, remind yourself that you are amazing. And remember that once you find truth and own it, it cannot be taken away from you. The only thing it can do is make you stronger and more resilient

    Happy New Year and congratulations on starting it gloriously.

    1. “Glorious” is the wrong word. I think in this context I would definitely go for “faaaabulous”. ;)

      Thank you. I really appreciate the support and encouragement. I’ve been lucky so far because nobody has been outright negative about it, but that’s because I’ve been very careful not to say anything to people I thought might take it badly. Since writing this a couple of people have sent me messages saying they’re in the same boat, people I’d never have expected to understand, so it’s amazing what telling your story can do. I know there will be a far wider range of reactions now that I’ve said this so publicly, but it had to be done. And I did it.

      Happy New Year to you too =)

    2. KC, I may quote you one day. That comment was so poetic, so strong.
      “Your narrative matters. Your identity matters. The way that you label yourself matters. Your strength matters.” <3

  4. *hug* Beautiful post, M. ‘Queer’ is a wonderful word.

    It’s weird the varying reactions one gets and how you’d think they would/should be different. Recently I told my atheist and Anglican parents that I was becoming a Catholic, and their negative responses were surprisingly painful. “I don’t think they realise how difficult and painful that was”. I empathised so much with that paragraph. I know, it’s different, but I just wanted to say that, emotionally, this post touched me, and, although I pondered it, I know now that I’m as straight as a metre-rule. I like the idea of being gay/bi/queer/etc, but I can’t help it: I like guys.

    1. Yeah, I can imagine that was a difficult situation. (And one I’d be interested to discuss more with you, if you ever wanted to chat somewhere other than the comments section of my blog.)

      It’s funny, back in the day I used to say, “Life would be so much easier if I were gay.” Ohhhh, how wrong I was. 15-year-old me, why were you so ignorant?

      1. Yeah, I always encourage discussion. You have my email?

        Ah, yes, I guess it’s so much easier in theory. The problem with some instances (mostly TV dramas) of the portrayal of LGBTQ is that they focus on the two extremes of homophobia or abuse and “I’m gay, you wanna hook up?” “Okay!” scenarios, but never on the more ‘average’, daily issues of real people.

  5. Miriam, I am ridiculously proud of you. We may not be the closest of friends, or close in general, but I can safely say that you are so brave for doing this and I respect you wholly for taking such a step. I’ve read your blog secretly and almost religiously since I joined school, yet never had the courage to tell you. I’ve learnt that you’re a witty, intelligent, beautiful young woman who has a brilliant outlook on life that actually makes sense, and reading this post just strengthens my view of you. I came from a harsh Irish Catholic, closed-world environment, where (sadly) homophobia was strife in my upbringing, but this led me to question why is this the case? We’re all the same no matter who we want to fall in love with. I am heterosexual, but I strongly told my family that they were wrong and they need to accept people for who they are, and I think if your family find that hard to manage then that’s their issue, not your’s, NEVER your’s. I hope that everything regarding your sexuality and your family goes swimmingly and I wish you the best in the upcoming year.

    Ant Noonan

    1. I’m getting really emotional now, damn it! Look what you’ve done to me!

      Thank you. Your words of encouragement and support mean almost as much to me as the realisation that people “secretly and almost religiously” read my blog, which is about the best thing you can tell a blogger, like, ever.

      Ahhhhh I’m going to go before I get too soppy, all these people being nice to me is far too much… *runs away*

    2. Ant, Can I also take this opportunity to thank you sincerely. You have been an amazing person and very supportive!

    3. Aha, don’t worry Ant, you’re not the only person from school that ‘secretly and almost religiously’ reads Miriam’s blog ;)

      And Miriam… I’ve rewritten this comment a number of times now and still can’t quite manage to express my admiration in words. I don’t know you well – in fact, the only things I know about you are from reading this blog and our lovely intimate/awkward sessions with Jordan :P – but I feel very privileged that you would share this with me and by extension people from school.

      1. I know you a bit, though less well than I’d like. We should hang out more. I’ve known you read my blog for a while now – I think you told me a while back?

        And ha, next time Jordan tells me, “Un jour, tu va avoir un petit copain…” I may just tell him to take his heteronormativity and stick it somewhere unsavoury. In French, of course. Ehehe! :)

  6. Miriam, I applaud you, I am so proud of you today.

    I remember how hard it has been in the past to tell people about my identity and I also agree with the current use of the word queer as I personally use as an all encompassing term because while I have other lables which I have told you in the past being queer makes more sence to me because there is such an erasure of many identities in the LGBTQ* community and it has allowed me to learn more about myself.

    My close family and friends have been accepting and I have only lost about one friend through all of this and he was a jerk. There are still many people who do not know such as my mother’s family who are all devout Irish Roman Catholics, so in that respect you have actually been more brave than I have.

    I have known you for more than 6 years now and I am just so happy that you have been willing to share this with us.

    Also like always this was beautifully written :)

    You are a beautiful, intelligent and amazing individual and just know that, because it can be hard. Keep on smiling and DFTBA…

  7. A worthy display of strength. I hope others’ prejudices weaken before you.

    There are physiological and psychological theories that hold everyone to be bisexual to a certain degree; so we might all be people loving people, some of whom merely displace their attraction to certain groups into non-sexual bonding.

  8. *hugs* I’m so proud of you, and I hope things go OK with your family and at school.
    …now I’m tempted to quote what you said to me in my coming-out post. “Be a water buffalo. Be pink or blue. And don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t have a hairbrush because you don’t have any hair.” I felt icky the other day and looked at comments on that and they cheered me up immensely. So thanks for being awesome and nice, and I hope people treat you the same way.

    It’s weird, a few months ago I would’ve probably called myself gay and now I say lesbian instead. Or queer. I like how non-specific it is (and I think it can be used for trans* folks too?).

  9. How sad is it that we live in a world where someone’s labeled as brave for simply being honest about who she is? Still, I think you’re awesome for writing this post. I’m sorry that we live in a world where a post like this is something that takes a lot of time. I love your left-handed analogy, because that’s exactly what it should be like: something that’s different but not something that matters.

    I love what you said about labels and boxes and how you hate having to define yourself yet you keep putting yourself in boxes anyway. I do the same thing. Not necessarily with sexuality, but with other aspects of my life. For me, I think I like labels because it makes me feel like I’m part of a group, that there are others like me. But at the same time, they’re also restrictive.

    This was such a beautifully written post, and it definitely helped shed some light on how people learn about themselves differently. Thank you for sharing it. I will definitely keep all this information in mind when I write more diverse characters in the future. :)

    1. Thank you! And I’m always happy to help people who want to write diverse characters – if there are any questions I can answer that’ll make it easier and more accurate, then just ask.

      I’m rather proud of my left-handed analogy. Came up with it myself, I did.

    1. And I know quix689 said it’s sad to label someone brave for being honest, but really! If I was the same, I’d be terrified of telling my family. You have such courage. I should learn from you.

    2. Which is the problem with the majority of literature, I think – when the vast majority of authors are straight, queer characters are overlooked and ignored. But statistically one in ten people identify as LGBTQ, so it’s mighty odd how few characters do…

      By all means, write queer characters. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have or point you in the direction of someone who can answer them better, if it helps make literature more diverse. :)

        1. Meanwhile, of the 300 books I own only three of them have a single queer character, and none of them are the protagonist. Hmm. Something’s wrong with those statistics.

  10. I applaud your bravery in writing this post. :) I can’t even begin to imagine how awful it must’ve been to keep something like this hidden. You can count on support from me!

    Good luck with everything. :)

    1. Oh, and I saw your tweet about the 300 books. Can we say insane?! I can count on one hand the number of books that include named gay characters off the top of my head. (City of Bones, Openly Straight–the protagonist is gay–, and . . . that’s it).

      1. Yeah, one of those three is “City Of Lost Souls”, book five in that series. (I only own that one, but I hope to acquire the others at some point – I read them from the library, you see.) The other two are “Tithe” by Holly Black and “The Dream Thieves” by Maggie Stiefvater, and I nearly didn’t include that one, because it’s kind of subtle — like, yes, he’s gay, but it’s not said in as many words, you know?

        And, noticeably, all three of those are about gay males. Girls are remarkably absent. Sigh…

        1. Oh, how true! I can’t think of a single gay female in any of the books I’ve read. Maybe you could change that, being an author and all. ;)

          1. I’ve read some, but I don’t own any. Off the top of my head, I can think of ‘The Bell Jar’ (where a lesbian character is viewed as repulsive and unhealthy by the narrator, and then commits suicide), which I do own and didn’t count because I read it for school and it’s on a different shelf, and ‘Angelmaker’ by Nick Harkaway (with 50s lesbian superspies, which was a pleasant surprise for me). I’m sure there are others, but those are the only two coming to mind – and I tend to make a point of seeking them out. And I don’t think I need to say that ‘The Bell Jar’ isn’t exactly the greatest representation in the world.

            I recall that I also have ‘A Place Of Greater Safety’, with Camille Desmoulins who is … bisexual? I guess? It’s historical, and he was a real person, and those terms weren’t invented until the following century, but he likes boys just fine. But again, he’s a real person, not a character.

            Oh, don’t worry, I’m working on it. My most recent first draft had an asexual protagonist; my current project (a redraft) has a relationship between two girls (one gay, one bisexual); a novel I wrote earlier this year had a transgender character and a lesbian character and an undefined queer protagonist… Basically, if everything I wrote got published, I could really work on changing those percentages. Ehehe. :)

            So with that and The Bell Jar, we’ve brought the total up to … five. Wow. Just wow.

          2. Yep. As far as I can work out, only five. I mean, I read books from the library all the time, but man… that percentage is WAY too low.

            I actually plan to write a post about this soon, so I’m going to shut up now before I say everything I want to include in that.

  11. Engie told me this morning that one of her friends had come out on their blog, but I didn’t realize it was you. I don’t know if I can really hug you because you don’t know me terribly well, but I’m going to give you an Internet hug anyway because you really deserve it. *hugs* I think you’re very brave, because being honest about anything in a world like today’s is a feat of bravery. As you said, sometimes it’s difficult to be honest even to ourselves. But I’m proud of you, little as that may mean to you. I’ve been struggling a lot with self acceptance lately and trying to figure out my sexuality and all the labels out there that don’t quite fit, but this post really struck me. I found it very inspiring, maybe just knowing that I’m not alone, and there’s brilliant people out there going through struggles like I have been and coming out on top (with eloquent wording, of course). And I’ve blathered on for far too long now, but I’d like to say thank you, and congratulations. And I’m very tempted to end this mess with a Nine quote, so I’ll say it: have a fantastic life.

    1. Ehehe, thank you. When I was writing it I wasn’t thinking about how it might affect others, but several people messaged me to say how much they related to me. My friend said it was like “somebody finally said something that made sense”, so I’m glad I wrote it if only so that it gives other people a way of expressing their identities. :)

  12. Thatwas really heartfelt Miriam, and I know I am a bit late but well done, I am proud and impressed, for the way you phrased it which makes the other GSM labels (dont get me started on labels) seem more accesible to those who dont understand them.
    Also as someone who fears coming out to parents it is good to know that people also go through this but stay it out and are stronger because of it
    Bravo Miriam, Bravo

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