Warning: This post addresses adult themes, and is, at best, PG-13.
Growing up, I’ve been subjected to many labels. Most of the time, those labels were applied to me before I understood what they meant, or whether they actually applied to me. I grew up in the inner city, in a high crime neighborhood. To say the least, being abnormal in any way was met with derision, scorn, and bullying by people of every age.
I was labelled “fag” and “queer” before I even knew about sexuality. I earned these labels by being smart, and having interests that fell outside of the norm. I liked to read, and my grandfather taught me to make things. I crocheted, I knitted, I built things. I was creative, I was intelligent. Worst of all, I was a pacifist in a neighborhood of regular fist-fights, brawls, and crime.
I was never destined to fit in there. The labels applied to me came from ignorance, fear, hatred, and insecurity. I ignored those labels for years, having no context to put them in, and not really caring what others thought of me. When I was in the fourth grade, I started to understand those labels. It was confusing. I didn’t know if I liked boys or girls better. I had male friends and female friends, and I didn’t like any of them better than the others based on gender.
As I grew older and began to understand myself, I started applying those labels to myself out of guilt and shame. I thought there was something wrong with me, so “queer” fit me just fine. I had a girlfriend in high school, and I loved her very much, in a very normal way. But I ended it, because I thought that my attraction to young men meant that I couldn’t possibly love young women. I was growing up in a world of black and white. It was confusing, because I didn’t feel like I was gay or straight. I liked everyone. I didn’t like that.
I felt like I had to choose. When I “came out” I told people I was bisexual. If I thought I had seen scorn before, I was in for a whole new bundle of hate. Gay people thought I was “trying gay on” or “not fully coming out.” It was heartbreaking. The people I thought would understand me, the community that was fighting for justice, equality, and understanding was treating me WORSE than the community I was trying to leave.
Girls wouldn’t date me because I was “gay” and guys wouldn’t date me because I was “straight” or “closeted.” I was often accused of being promiscuous or of being undecided. People didn’t understand. In the end, I embraced the label of “gay” and called it a day.
Fast forward eight years. I am in love with the amazing GeekMom Jenny. We are engaged. I have tried to explain myself to her any number of times, and she gets it–well enough, anyway.
I stumbled across a Kickstarter earlier this year. Zan Christensen was trying to fund a comic book anthology documenting the spectrum between “gay” and “straight.” It is entitled Anything That Loves. I received a review copy of the book after contacting him, and I was blown away by the content. This anthology covers a huge variety of people. It brings to life the stories of people like me. People who fit somewhere in the middle. It’s an inspired work, especially considering that each artist donated any royalties to the non-profit Prism Comics, which promotes the comics, artists, and consumers of LGBT comics.
The most inspiring part for me, though, was that there were topics that shocked me. I thought that I had heard it all, but reading through this book made me realize just how judgmental I still was, even after everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve learned. (Jenny read it too, and just took it all at face value, since she’s new to these particular gray areas.)
Through suggestive and explicit content, this book brings stories to life. Stories that need to be told. In a frank, honest description of the human sexual condition, Anything That Loves educates and reminds us that love, gender, and attraction are fluid things. Anyone can fall anywhere on the scale between “straight” and “gay” or “male” and “female”–and that position isn’t locked down all the time. People change.
Two years ago, I was going through a divorce from my ex-husband. If someone had told me then that I would be marrying the most awesome woman in the universe in the summer of 2014, I’d have laughed in their faces. But love will find a way, and understanding will find those looking for it.
Note: This book is graphic, suggestive, and in some cases explicit. This work is not for young children. Many of the themes are NC-17, but there are comics inside this book that are less explicit. Parental guidance is a must, but, if nothing else, this anthology gives adults, parents, and generally everyone a place to start educating themselves and a way to begin understanding the world as it actually is, instead of living in a world of our own creation. Use it wisely and think critically about what you are reading, but don’t judge.
Accept these stories for what they are: a true, meaningful, and brutally honest representation of the human condition.
Anything That Loves is published by NorthWest Press, and can be bought through their website.