For the longest time I was vague about the book I was writing, even on my blog and social media. I kept saying ‘oh, it’s a young adult novel set in high school.’ When someone pressed for more, I’d add in, ‘well the main character is in marching band, there’s some romance, and lots and lots of drama.’ Usually that was enough to satisfy their curiosity, but I felt like I was not only betraying my book, but also myself by not telling them the whole story.
My book, Does Love Always Win?, is a Young Adult LGBTQ+ contemporary romance. I was scared to tell people the truth behind my book, because I was afraid they would dig deeper and ask why I wrote this book. I wasn’t ready to tell them or even admit it to myself.
Only recently I realized, after many sessions with my therapist, that I was suffering from internalized bi/panphobia. I hated myself for identifying as pansexual. There were many reasons for this, and I had to unpack them all in order to really figure out what was going on in my brain.
I grew up in a religious household, so it was always in the back of my mind that who I am was not acceptable according to my religion. At first, that was hard, but I eventually became okay with it. I knew I couldn’t change who I was, and I didn’t want to. It made me who I am today, and writing Does Love Always Win? was a way for me to express myself and my feelings. But there was still something deeper going on.
Then we hit the jackpot. I was very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, but I didn’t think I belonged because I’m in a straight passing, heterosexual marriage. I felt like a fraud. That there was no room for someone like me. And because I felt this way, I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pansexual because I didn’t think I deserved to identify this way. So I hid my identity. I didn’t realize how much pain it was causing to not be able to be myself, but it was slowly starting to take a toll on my mental health. I sometimes felt like I needed a flow chart to remember who knew about my identity and who didn’t, so I didn’t accidently slip up in a casual conversation and out myself.
My therapist helped me to put a voice to all of my concerns and understand why I felt them. Being pansexual has so many bad stereotypes, and bisexual/pansexual erasure really is a thing, which can lead to internalized bi/panphobia. Plus, having to explain what pansexual is over and over to people gets tiring. To me, when I’m in a committed relationship with one gender, it doesn’t mean I suddenly forget my attraction to others; no, to me it means those attractions can still be there, but I’m with the partner I fell in love with, no matter their gender. I’m still pansexual, even if society might see me as straight passing. And I don’t have to justify my identify to anyone, ever.
Over time, I started to feel more accepting of myself, but I realized that I still needed some support from others in the LGBTQ+ community. I happened upon a local LGBTQ+ support group and started attending their groups virtually. I have never met such a welcoming and supportive group of individuals. They really helped me accept who I am and believe that it is okay to call myself a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
I have now told most people how I identify and the topic of my book, and people have been very supportive of me and my writing. I’m still super scared to put a piece of myself out into the world but I know that’s the next step for my self-acceptance journey.
LGBTQ+ books weren’t available to me when I was growing up, and until recently there were very few sapphic YA books. I wrote the book that I wished I had read in high school. Perhaps if I had read something similar to Does Love Always Win? I might have understood a little bit more about myself. I really hope that I can help at least one person by sharing this story with the world.