I’ve been writing a book for some time now. It’s not my first project, but it’s the first that’s finally close to having its draft finished (NaNoWriMo helped a lot with that), but that’s not the reason it is so important to me. This project (let’s call it MQ) is the first story I’ve ever written in which there are non-binary and asexual characters from the beginning. All others I wrote (or tried to) when I still didn’t know that I was non-binary or that I was ace, or even after, when I was too afraid to write ace characters because everyone would think they were boring and too afraid to write non-binary characters because people would think they were too complicated. So, I had gay and bi characters, but non-binary and ace? Nah.
With MQ, though, I decided to write what I really wanted. It was supposed to be a fun project, one I wouldn’t take seriously and would be more for me to practice my English than, you know, a Serious Project that I would want to publish. So I made two of the three main characters ace – Rhy is bisexual and demisexual, and Saoirse is asexual (and aromantic). The third character, Lysander, is non-binary and attracted to men. He and Rhy will eventually be in a relationship.
Until some weeks ago, the bigotry in the m/m community or in fandom in general was something I mostly heard about without seeing it myself. Part of this is thanks to the fact that I’m pretty isolated and tend not to be in fandom most of time. Other part is thanks to the fact I’m privileged myself (I’m a white latinx) so I rarely had to deal with the worst and most obvious forms of bigotry.
But after seeing people fight against ace and trans headcanons, after seeing white cishet women basically saying queer men are’t welcome in m/m and getting into a heated discussion with someone who was determined to defend people’s “right” to whitewash a brown character, I’ve come to know just how bigoted fandom can be. Or how bigoted places supposedly safe for LGBTQ people can be, in special the m/m community, where these white cishet women are the majority.
And that got me thinking about my little pet project, MQ.
I know now that many readers will misinterpret and ignore the things they don’t want to see in MQ if I ever publish it. I know now that some will ignore the fact that even if Lysander develops a crush on Rhy pretty early – being non-ace and non-aro -, Rhy doesn’t even think about the possibility of getting involved with him for the whole book 1 and for much of book 2. I know people will get upset that Saoirse never considers kissing or having sex with anyone, being the sex-repulsed ace she is, and that many people will just erase that she is black and that Rhy is brown.
I grew up reading about fantasy worlds with white kingdoms and (more rarely) brown kingdoms and black kingdoms, but in MQ I tried to make the sole kingdom more like the place I grew up in: heavily mixed, with more brown and black people than white people, and where even the white people don’t have blond hair or blue eyes. I wonder now, how many people will ignore that according to America’s concept of race no one in this book is white? That every single character is latinx, even Lysander with his pale skin?
Thinking about all this makes my skin crawl. Like many other non-American and/or queer writers, I put a lot of myself in this book. In Lysander especially. His transness is really, really important to me; the moments where he thinks about how he dislikes being seen as a man or about how he has been changing his appearance with magic since he was 12 in secret were some of the most cathartic and rewarding (but also exhausting) scenes I’ve ever written. Much of his character arc is about accepting himself and finding people who accept him too after a life of feeling like an outsider or like someone who is less and inadequate. But now I know – some people will just see him as a gay man, and these same people will ignore Rhy’s aceness and bisexuality because hey, two hot guys in love and (eventually, I guess) making out!
This hurts. The idea of people basically saying no, we don’t want your real experience, we just want this one here because we think this one is hot and yours is pretty boring and complicated hurts. And makes me rethink many things – should I really try to publish this (assuming it is publishable when I’m finished with it, which I’not sure it will be)? Is it worth it?
I don’t know. I just know that the idea of Rhy being sexualized all the time or of Saoirse being called a boring protagonist or of Lysander being misgendered makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t want to deal with it. I don’t want to think about it.
But at the same time I want to share MQ with everyone, especially with other latinx and queer people. I want people to enjoy it and I hope one day it will be at least a little special to someone, just as it is really special to me. But still, I don’t know if it’s worth it.
And I’m not sure I want to find out.