Thursday, October 11, 2018

5 Ways Out of The Closet: an essay for National Coming Out Day, 2018

It's National Coming Out Day!

Yes, October 11 is the day we celebrate being able to come out of the closet, whether as gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, asexual, pansexual, or any number of things. (Or some combination thereof.) While the number of people who identify themselves as being part of the LGBT community is rising, there are still plenty of us who are in the closet. And that's okay. If, when, and how to come out is a personal choice. There are literally hundreds of ways to go about it, so in celebration of the day, I thought I'd share five coming out stories. These are all 100% true, gathered from people in my life.

As you read along, see if you can guess which one is mine.

Interested In...?

A 13-year-old girl, thanks to recent exposure to Liz Gillies in Victorious, has realized she's into girls as well as guys.

(Seriously, you can't show a young gay this and expect her to not fall in love.)

She knows her parents will be fine with it. Some of her friends, she's not so sure, but her parents, she's certain about. She debates how to go about telling them -- or if she even wants to tell them. It's not like anything will change, and frankly, sitting them down and starting a personal discussion sounds like a real drag. Not to mention like it'd be a lot of work. So, what's a girl to do?

She changes her "interested in" on Facebook and figures, if they notice, they notice.


What Friends Are For

For the past six months, a girl has been lying to her best friend. Which she feels really shitty about, but whatever. She's been confiding in her friend about advice for romancing a boy she's interested in, and the friend, like any true pal, has been guiding her as best she can.

One fateful day at lunch, the girl decides she's done lying, and decides to just go for it.

"There's something important I need to tell you. It's kind of a big deal. The boy I like..."
"Wait, did he kiss you? Oh my God, did you kiss him?!"
"What? No! I wish. It's just... I've been saying I like a guy, but it's really a girl."
"...OHHHHHH. Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. Man, I wish I'd known that. No wonder my advice hasn't been working. Girls are totally different."

The girls then go back to eating their lunch as if nothing happened.

Strangers Behind a Screen

An extremely nerdy "straight" teenage girl joins a small, Harry Potter-based roleplay group online. Although her writing is atrocious, she has a great time, playing Astoria Greengrass. She decides to play Astoria as a bisexual girl who doesn't yet realize she's bisexual. Astoria quickly gains the nickname Oblivious Gay Astoria within the group.

Now, here's a fun fact: not even a month after the group folds, the "straight" girl realizes she's the Oblivious Gay.

Some months later, before this girl has discussed it with anyone in person, she bumps into another member of the group elsewhere online. The two discuss the group and their characters, and eventually get to discussing the inside jokes the group had -- including, of course, the legendary Oblivious Gay Astoria. The girl now fully recognizes and appreciates the irony. And she decides to go for it.

"To be honest," she says, "I think I may have been projecting a bit. Like two weeks after we closed, I realized I'm bi."
"Oh!" the other person responds. "That's great! I'm happy for you."

They then continue chatting, and the girl feels more at ease than she has in weeks. Every now and then, people on the internet can actually not be shitty.

Random Acts of Kindness

A panicking high school freshman outs herself to a complete stranger in the school bathroom, when said stranger notices her freaking out. The discussion goes as follows:

"Whoa, are you okay?"
"My skin is breaking out!"
"Oh, I feel that. Hopefully it'll clear up soon."
"I'm seeing a girl I really like tonight! I can't show up looking like this." And then, internally: Shit.
"...I have some concealer in my bag. Want me to fix th--"


A college student sits in a psychology class that she is only taking because she needs more credit hours to graduate. They're on the chapter about human gender and sexuality, which she was already guessing would be a shitshow. And she was so right.

"I could never date a bisexual guy," a girl in the next row says. "I don't need the competition, or the worrying about cheating."

The student decides to chime in with, "That sounds more like a you problem. It's not like straight men don't cheat all the time."

The discussion continues, and a third student brings up their own bisexuality -- again, trying to debunk some ugly stereotypes. Emboldened, the first student speaks up once again.

"Whoever said bi people have twice as many options are full of it," she says. "Straight people think we're gay, gay people think we're straight. There's so much biphobia on both sides--we basically have to date each other, or die alone."

Much to her relief, this garners no reaction whatsoever, except for one guy mouthing "oh, shiiiiiit" to his friend, but she pretends not to notice that.

So... which story do you think is mine?

Have you decided?

Is that your final answer?

No matter which you picked, you're right... and you're wrong. Because one of those stories isn't mine.

All of them are.

Coming out isn't a one-time thing. It's a constant process for queer people, and it's never over. (At least, not until everyone stops assuming straight and cis is the default. But while I'm wishing, I may as well ask for an impeachment, too.) I've come out approximately... let's see, I want to get the number right here... a billion times. Sometimes more than once to the same people, when those people couldn't get a very simple concept through their heads. None of my experiences were particularity traumatic, and I laugh about them now, but you have to understand, all of those situations were terrifying, even if only for a split-second. And it's not over.

On TV and in movies, the coming out is always done in one, big dramatic speech, and then it's over. The character is just "out."

But that's not how it works in reality. For a lot of my life, I've been out to some people but not to others. (I've recently hit "fuck it," but it's a very recent development.) Straight, cis people reading this, I want you to know, you absolutely know someone who's queer, even if they haven't told you. If they decide to tell you, I am begging you to make it a painless experience. The world needs more pain-free coming out stories.

If you come out today, I'm proud of you. If you stay closeted for whatever reason, I'm still proud of you. Don't let anyone tell you when or how to come out; that's one choice that should be 100% yours.

Happy National Coming Out Day, everyone.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

NOTE: This book is now available for purchase. I was given a free Advance Reading Copy by Pegasus Books in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to send me an ARC, please see this page.

TITLE: The Oyster Thief

AUTHOR: Sonia Faruqi

GENRE: fantasy, romance

PLOT SUMMARY: Coralline is a sweet, shy mermaid whose world is upended in three major ways. First, she's sacked from her job at a local clinic. Second, the merman of her dreams proposes to her. And third, a dangerous oil spill sends her little brother to the brink of death. Meanwhile, a human man, Izar, has created an invention that will bring him untold riches... as well as drive merpeople to extinction. When Coralline leaves home to try and find a way to save her brother, she crosses paths with Izar, recently turned into a merman for reasons neither of them can figure out. The two form an unlikely alliance to try and find a solution for both of their problems, before the oil spill can claim Coralline's brother's life, and before Izar's enemies can catch up to him.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I was super-stoked to receive an ARC of this! I love mermaids, and I had a lot of fun reading Sea Witch last year. While I wouldn't say The Oyster Thief is "like Sea Witch" (the plots are actually quite different), I would definitely recommend this to people who are fans of that book, or fans of mermaid mythology in general. While it did have its problem, I really enjoyed this one, and tore through it in three or four sittings. (Not that you'd be able to guess that, from how long I've taken to write this review... Sorry!)

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: This begins as a gender-flipped version of The Little Mermaid, but I was very pleasantly surprised when it veers off in a different direction and does its own thing. Retellings are great, but it's always nice when they take on a life of their own. I have mixed feelings towards the first third, which is mostly dedicated to setting up the circumstances under which Izar and Coralline meet. I really enjoyed Izar's sections, showcasing his work at Ocean Dominion, but the sections focusing on Coralline felt a bit draggy. The pace improved significantly when Izar and Coralline finally cross paths, and I always enjoy a good "get the thing" plot. My main gripe is that I wasn't fully invested in the romance (more on that in the section below), and since it was so integral to the plot, that kept me from being 100% into it. But that being said, I did really enjoy the overall plot of this book, especially concerning Izar's backstory.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Something of a mixed bag. Gleaning off other reviews of this book, I know the heroine Coralline is... divisive. But I liked her -- and I did find a lot of the criticisms of her to be kind of unfair. (The girl's brother is dying, she's got the right to panic.) One criticism I did agree with, however, is that she seems to act much younger than she's supposed to be -- I initially thought this book was YA and Coralline was supposed to be like... seventeen, eighteen years old. But she's supposed to be in her mid-twenties, which does make her seem a touch immature. In spite of my initial misgivings (since he's, ya know, introduced trying to drive a sentient species to extinction), I did wind up liking Izar, and I enjoyed watching him develop into a better person. However, I did find that development to be a bit rushed; I would've liked to see more time spent on his redemption arc. Consequentially, I also found it hard to believe that Coralline fell for him so quickly, especially since she has a perfectly nice fiance at home. Most of the side characters were pretty one-note (especially the antagonist of Izar's subplot, which was a real disappointment), but we did get one major exception: Coralline's boss at the clinic, Rhodoelma. I would totally read a book about her, she was great.

6 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: I thought that the author's descriptions of the ocean world where Coralline lives were just beautiful. You could really visualize this magical, undersea society, and I just loved reading about it. As mentioned above, I did have some problems with the initial pacing, but I was glad to see that that sorted itself out once Izar and Coralline actually did meet. Overall, I think Sonia Faruqi has a real talent with prose and descriptive writing, and she did a great job of creating her world.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: So my main complaint about this book is that nearly all the female characters besides Coralline (and her too, to an extent) seem to exist primarily based on their relationships to male characters. Even Rhodoelma, who I really loved, fell victim to this, which is a real shame since she was otherwise a really cool mentor character. In fact, aside from Rodoelma, and her mother's muse, Coralline doesn't seem to have any positive female relationships at all. In particular, Izar's human girlfriend seemed to exist only to be his human girlfriend, and cause some convenient plot tension. It just feels like a whole bunch of opportunity was wasted here, especially with regards to Coralline's relationships with her mother and Rhodoelma.

4 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you're looking for a fresh, fun take on The Little Mermaid, I'd definitely suggest checking out The Oyster Thief. It's a bit tropey, yes, but tropes aren't necessarily bad, and it was an extremely entertaining ride. I thought it created a fun world with a lot to offer, and it's a great read for anyone who's looking for some good fantasy fiction for adults. (Though there's no reason fans of YA wouldn't enjoy this one.) While I did have my issues with it, I enjoyed myself while reading, and I think others will, too. Who knows? Maybe mermaids will become the new hot Thing™ in the fantasy market. One can dream.

FINAL GRADE: 6.5 / 10


An extra-special thanks to Tasneem for sending me an ARC of this book! I really enjoyed it, and I'm glad I got a chance to read it before it officially hit the shelves.

Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.

If you've read The Oyster Thief, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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