I’m going to preface this post with a story:
Not that long ago I had a strange and perception-altering experience. Since I started writing and sharing The Star and the Ocean earlier this year, I’ve been really fortunate to meet a lot of really amazing people online. I’ve connected with readers, other writers, and artists during this time and made a lot of good friends along the way.
But hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. Without going into too much detail, a handful of months ago I noticed that an online friend had started ghosting me. Quite suddenly they stopped engaging and replying to messages, making me wonder if I had inadvertently done something to offend them. It hurt – this was someone I had truly come to think of as a good friend. But at the same time I’m no stranger to how internet friendships can be; sometimes they just dry up and there’s not much you can do about it.
It wasn’t until weeks later that I became privy to what had actually happened. The family of this friend had found out they were associating with me – me, an out bisexual who produces queer-focused art – and, being a conservative, religious group of people they didn’t like it one bit.
That was it. We haven’t spoken since.
This experience burned me. For the first time since coming out I found myself feeling gross about myself all because of the opinions of people I had never met. Losing the friendship hurt, and knowing it was all over a fundamental part of who I am as a person and because of the stories I write made it even worse.
These days I’m over it for the most part. I’ve gone on to make real and valuable friendships with lovely people online who embrace everything about who I am. But I’d be lying if I said negativity from that experience hasn’t lingered.
It’s because of that lingering fear and doubt that I’m even bringing this story up now. You see, ever since NaNoWriMo people I know in real life – long-time friends, family, co-workers – have all been super eager to read what I’ve written. They’re impressed that I managed to write 50,000 words in a month and they want to check out what they think is my first novel.
Of course a huge part of me is flattered. I’m proud of my novel and I can’t wait for people to read it.
But a smaller part of me is anxious. The story, like everything I write, is about wlw characters. The nice thing about the internet is that anyone who has gotten to know me here has known that I’m bi right off the bat. But a lot of people who know me in real life are still pretty new to my sexuality. In fact, some still don’t even know.
I’m embarrassed to admit that, for the first time since I started writing, I’m worried about what people are going to think. I’m trying to be brave and bold about it: this is who I am and whoever doesn’t like it probably doesn’t need to be a part of my life.
But it makes me feel vulnerable. It makes me feel exposed and like I’m putting everything out on the line to be judged and picked a part. It makes me feel strange knowing that sharing my writing with people in real life might change the way they see me, and it might not be for the better.
Writing has been an incredibly important part of how I’ve embraced my identity. My stories have given me a safe and constructive way to express who I am. The freedom my craft grants me is what motivates me to keep going.
But creating art and putting yourself out there is scary.
I just have to remind myself that the bridges I may burn along the way won’t be as important as the community I gather in the process.