Tuesday 1 June 2021


Happy Pride Month! 🏳️‍🌈 I usually kick off June with a list of queer book recs, but this year I thought I’d start with something I don’t usually discuss on my blog: my own journey with discovering sexuality

My high school years were between 2003 and 2008, and info about sexuality was few and far between in classes. Our sex education was the most dated, ridiculous hour of our lives, in which boys were separated from girls and we were taught how to put a condom onto a banana. Nothing about same-gender sex, nothing about female pleasure. Just a general sex makes babies so use contraception until you want babies.  

There was no opening for a discussion about sexuality whatsoever. The literature we read was heterosexual, and characters & historical figures I now know to be queer or queer-coded were just assumed heterosexual by us students because we were never told any different. Our history classes were overwhelmingly straight, which I now know is complete bullshit. Because I relearned all of this stuff myself, outside of my school years. 

Most of that education is down to books. 

part of my Pride Shelf

The first time I read a gay character was when I picked up Jaqueline Wilson’s Kiss from my local bookstore. It was structured to come across as a love story between a teen boy and girl who had been best friends since they were little. It eventually becomes clear that the boy is gay and doesn’t love his friend in the way she wants him to. I’d been exposed to gay characters on TV by this point, but they always played up to stereotypes and weren’t written accurately. This was the first time that I was experiencing a gay character who was just a regular teenager, and that was such an important part of this story to me, to see that gay teenagers exist all the time. 

A week later I came across a book in my school’s library. I don’t remember the name of it, but I do know it was in a section that required parental permission to read, despite it being a YA book. The main character was a lesbian, and it was strange to read it because lesbians felt like mythical beings to me at that point. No one I personally knew was a lesbian (spoiler, they totally were, I just didn’t know yet), and the word ‘lesbian’ was only thrown around as an insult. 

The more YA books I delved into, the more labels and terms I discovered. In turn, I discovered more about sexuality and myself than ever before. I learned that I didn’t have to limit myself to one label because grey areas exist. A person could be bisexual and demisexual, someone could be pansexual and aromantic. If you preferred to just label yourself queer as an umbrella term, that was fine too. The rules weren’t as rigid as I always thought they were, and that made me feel so much better about myself because I was (and still am) someone who was very confused about sexuality. Reading about pansexuality in the book community helped me to find a term that felt like me. 

hanging out in one of my favourite bookstores after Pride

I’ve never been in an actual relationship. Over the past few years, I’ve come to realise that I don’t particularly want to be. Authors like Alice Oseman have helped provide characters and labels that describe feelings I’ve been experiencing all these years. Reading an aromantic character in Loveless was like looking into a mirror. It made so much sense to me and I finally felt understood. I haven’t officially labelled myself as aromantic because I honestly don’t know if my feelings will change in the future, but that’s okay. I’ve made peace with it for now. 

I absorbed information from the wonderful YA authors who casually weaved sexuality into their books, and the online book community who openly discussed the content of these books. The YA community has always been one of the most diverse and welcoming online spaces I’ve been in, and I’ll be forever grateful. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of writers to teach young people about sexuality, but I’m so thankful that they do it regardless because until schools start providing teenagers with the information they deserve, at least authors are representing those who desperately need to see themselves in stories.

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