National Coming Out Day
In celebration of National Coming Out Day, I thought I would take a moment and share what it is that inspires me to write. I recently released my first lesbian fiction/romance novel, All That Glitters, and am so grateful for both modern, emerging technology and society’s gradual acceptance of the LGBT community – Both of which has allowed me to chase my passions and share them with the world.
I was an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I soaked up books like I soaked through underwear when potty training. From an early age, I looked forward to weekly trips to the library, story-times and eventually creating my own worlds. In the summertime, I would sit on the front porch or the driveway for entire Saturdays at a time while reading the latest Sweet Valley Twins or Babysitter’s Club books. I would imagine the characters in my head; how they spoke, held themselves and interacted in the worlds woven for me by Ann M. Martin or the variety of ghostwriters that took turns bringing Sweet Valley, California to life. The stories would play out like movies in my head as I eagerly pored over each page. In the wintertime, I would lay under the Christmas tree in the family room with the newest Scholastic book order that had arrived for me at school that day and read while surrounded by soft lights and glitter. (Seriously. I remember my mom walking downstairs, taking one look at me and going “Oh. Okay.” before finishing whatever she had been doing.)
As I got older, my tastes evolved beyond traditional kids’ and YA fiction and into the more edgy. I quickly discovered that I loved biographies – I loved getting inside of peoples’ heads, learning about their struggles and what made them evolve into the person they are today. I would spend hours in the biography sections of Barnes & Noble and Borders examining the covers and reading the jacket copy to try and decide whose life I wanted to delve into next. Prozac Nation, Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland, Traci Lords: Underneath It All and dozens of other biographies of all types that I had pored over still line my bookshelves. (And yes, I would recommend all of those. What can I say? I tend to be attracted to quirky, left-of-normal characters with strange lives.)
One thing was missing, though. In high school, I hadn’t exactly COME OUT yet but I was beginning to realize. To understand. Aside from a handful of movies (Oh, But I’m A Cheerleader, you’ll always have a place in my heart…), there was really no way to explore this intriguing LGBT community that I knew (and even feared, back then) that I was a silent part of. Amazon certainly wasn’t what it is now and, with 95% of my books being purchased directly from the mega-retail stores, there was really nothing in terms of LGBT fiction, romance, mystery, comedy – NOTHING. Certainly nothing YA or teenaged. It was very much a void.
I gradually grew into chick-lit and learned that I loved light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, sassy books. But the romances all seemed rather the same and I would roll my eyes and sigh every time the girl ended up with the guy by the last page. I loved reading, I like books and the stories were all interesting but there was nothing I could truly relate to. Nothing that made my heart actually beat faster as I read it, no characters that reflected me – a questioning, scared 16-year old who used sarcasm and faux confidence to cover this void, this THING that I hoped was just a passing phase – and nothing that explored same-sex relationships or coming out.
The L Word‘s first season premiered shortly before I graduated high school. I began watching it shortly after I started college and it was that media, that honest portrayal of women and same-sex relationships, that served as the confirmation that I needed. It’s normal! In West Hollywood, it’s even CELEBRATED! Women date and have relationships and fall in and out of love just like heterosexual people! Look, Bette and Tina are even trying to have a baby – Being gay doesn’t mean that you can’t have a family! I give a lot of credit to The L Word for helping me to accept and normalize what I had told myself was weird and abnormal for so many years. I wish there had been books when I was younger, too – Stories with all sorts of different likable and unlikable characters experiencing all types of relationships and different twists of life as part of the LGBT community. If there had been – or rather if they had been easily available to a high school girl from the ‘burbs – maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to accept myself as I am. Maybe I would have realized quicker that it wasn’t weird or something to be feared – That, instead, it’s a big, wide world out there with lots of people who feel just like me and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being gay.
When I decided to try my hand at writing, this was all in the back of my mind. I wanted to write a fun story with relatable characters while attempting to portray that struggle to accept your sexuality that I’m sure everyone who colors outside of the “straight” lines experiences. I wanted someone 18, 19, 20 years old (and I say that because there IS an adult scene in the book) to be able to read it and say, “Wow. That is almost exactly what I thought. I felt that too. Hell, I STILL feel that!” I’d love for young adults to have a resource of good, quality LGBT fiction to turn to when settling for standard chick-lit just ain’t cuttin’ it anymore – Because you’re wishing the girl that just moved to the big city to start the fantastic career ended up with her hot boss/best girlfriend/long-lost girl crush/wild college roommate/WHATEVER…Just NOT the guy in the story!
It’s so important for the community to have these resources – Especially the silent members. I know how disheartening it is to walk into a bookstore, eagerly looking for SOMETHING that speaks to you, and find…nothing. But, I realized, if there’s nothin’ there? MAKE something be there. Write the story, create the book, cross your fingers and hope that the world continues to evolve as quickly as you’re putting them out. Maybe one young woman will read it and realize that everything they’re feeling/experiencing/fighting isn’t all that bad. In fact, it’s okay. Other people have been through it and are eager to share stories so that one young woman understands that she is not alone. THAT is what inspires me to write and to continue writing. That is what helped build All That Glitters.
Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone – Gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, pansexual, questioning, queer – The best thing you can ever be is happily YOU. The rest will come together in incredible ways.