Monday, March 21, 2016

Another way to be a "rebel"

(Trigger warning: contains frank discussions of gender, sexuality and homophobia in fiction- nothing explicit, but I know it's a topic that can be distressing for some.)

Last night, a reader on Twitter asked me, "Asexual Kadee? Y/n?" It wasn't a question I had been asked before, so I gave it some thought.  It took me three Tweets to answer, because I wanted to give more information than I could fit in 120 characters.

(Kadee narrates the second book of the Maeve'ra Trilogy, Bloodkin
and "The Rebel," a stand-along short e-story related to the series)

After I replied, the reader commented, "I've been debating it on tumblr for months."  I was glad I had taken then time to say more than, "No, well, maybe, too young to know."  I didn't want to ever imply that 15 is too young to be fully aware of your sexuality, whether you identify as straight, gay, bisexual, or one of the many, many variations that exist in the human population but receive less acknowledgement and understanding- such as asexual.

Kadee, specifically, lives in a culture that is seen from the outside as sensually and sexually free but is in many ways quite limiting.  Among the serpiente, passion is seen as a gift from the goddess Anhamirak.  While a person always has the right to say no in any specific moment, a person with no interest in sex may be seen as odd, "broken" even, in the same way that too many people in the modern human world view GLBTQIA+ (did I forget a letter? I'm sure I did.  If I forgot you, I apologize!) It's a troubling aspect of serpiente society that is often overlooked (like their belief in capital punishment, and some crimes that don't get trials, among other things.  No, folks, it is not a perfect society).

Kadee is 15, and has lived a traumatic life that has shifted her from one very controlling view of sexuality to another, equally controlling but opposite view.  She hasn't had time to safely explore her sexuality.  By serpiente standards, yes, she's asexual, but she would tell you she is too young to know yet.  While in the meantime she would say that she is not accepting the serpiente view that there's something wrong with her because (gasp!) she is 15 and she isn't ready for a lover, she can't help but internalize a little bit of that stigma.  Just as a person grappling with the looming cultural presence of homophobia may be more likely to delay deciding* they're* gay (I speak from my own personal experience here; everyone's story is different), Kadee faces pressure in her society, even in the Obsidian guild, that make it hard for her to know at this age.

Maybe one day she'll decide, yes, she is asexual; maybe she will decide she identifies more with one of the other many labels that won't exist in English for a very long time (remember, Maeve'ra takes place in 1803-1804).  As the author who has known Kadee since I first wrote her in 2001 as part of the novel Aureate, I suspect demisexual would be the best term, but like Kadee, I'm in no hurry to decide.

* I'm using the word "decide" here to mean "consider everything she feels and knows and determine that's the best label."  I am not of the opinion that human beings choose their sexuality.  I'm using the word "they" as a non-gendered singular pronoun because English needs a better word for this kind of context.

Whew! That's why I had so much trouble answering on Twitter.  140 characters.   What's the point?

I was going to go into the disproportionate representation of cis/hetero characters in fiction, even in my own work, and how cultural pressures affected me as I was writing (including an unfortunate teacher remark while reading The Color Purple as a freshman in high school that I think caused me to self-censor GLB themes for a long time)... I guess I'll save that blog post for another day.  To be continued!


  1. I'm sorry if this is bit weird, to just come on and comment on this when it's been so long, and I'm really unsure if you'll see this at all, but I've recently gotten back into The Kiesha'ra (the only of your book series I've read) and I just wanted to thank you.

    I am sad to find out you don't have more books that show girls in relationships with girls, but I wanted to tell you what it meant to me to find this series in high school. I got the big paperback collection when it first came out on a whim, I saw it in BAM and was craving a fantasy novel of some type, and shapeshifters is definitely a type that quenches my thirst for magic. I think it was 2010? I can't be sure, but I think that's right. I was fourteen.

    I consumed them quickly, I loved how easily I could soak them in and immerse myself in the world. I was a big sap for Danica and Zane's relationship, and I adored the worldbuilding in the series. I read and read and read and got excited about it and wanted to talk to people about it but no one would read it with me and then.

    1. Then I got to Wolfcry? And. At first, it was this gutwrenching secret. I couldn't exactly pinpoint why I was suddenly so terrified of someone knowing I had enjoyed that book so much, had enjoyed Betia and Oliza as I had--I was petrified of someone finding out I had read something where two women could love each other... And that I had loved and cherished it. So, the only practical way my fourteen year old rattled brain could think to come up with to "compensate" for it was to reread it over and over and over and over and immerse myself so entirely into the story and find something, anything, that I could shift the focus onto so I could explain to anyone suspicious (Of what? I wasn't sure, I couldn't be sure, I didn't want to be sure, and I definitely wasn't thinking of all the things I had gone through in middle school or all the things I was struggling with and all the words tossed my way throughout it), so. I focused my thoughts onto another, "more acceptable" (to my current peers) pairing:

      Marus and Urban. I'm not sure if you ever thought of that or had any intention for anyone to so desperately cling to them, but I did. Eventually, as I expanded some and learned more about my identity, I still clung to them. In my mind, Urban had been very aware of himself and his feelings and had no qualms with it (after all he offered comfort and understanding to Oliza once he recognized her feelings for Betia--I mean what clearly I didn't notice that pairing at all what or maybe I just mildly tolerated it, all those passages I marked? that was just so I could make my Marus/Urban fanfiction yep--I... remained deep, deep, deep in the fearful closet even as I personally expanded my understanding).

      I don't even entirely know where I'm going with this, just how much it meant to me and seeing this written by you made me think of it because I'm an ace lesbian (and arospec but you know!) and I've been searching for the past couple hours for any hint of other characters I could cling to as I decide if I should buy more or not |D

    2. I just kind of wanted to let you know how important you were and your books are to me?

      My book is still covered in sticky notes and pencil scratches, I still have a bunch of old doodles I made in high school of Urban and Marus--what a small, unsupported pair for me to have clung to?--sometimes with Oliza and Betia in the background but CLEARLY it's just because I wanted to show them having friends, and because I liked how the four interacted in my made up scenarios, and it had nothing to do with the fact I wanted to draw Oliza and Betia holding hands.

      However, sometimes, in the privacy of my mind and house and thoughts, hidden in my room, pouring over one book out of the five collected into the paperback, I'd just. Be happy. I cried? Probably multiple times? Just from pure emotion from it? I feel like it sounds utterly ridiculous how much it meant and still means to me, even now, my heart is swelling, and I am both nervous and ecstatic that this book exists and it's so pleasant to read and it's everything I want--fantasy and shapeshifting and different cultures and these two characters who love each other, both of them girls.

      I have a partner now, who is currently supporting and enjoying my revisited joy (she's reading it for the first time soon!). I have two qpps (queerplatonic partners; one is demi and the other is aro and bi!) who are letting me gush my heart out and who support me endlessly and help me feel safe.

      It's been six years, but. In all honestly, this was my first (and only) exposure I had to that. I tried, once I was out more (as out as I imagine I'll be for a while) to find more books with lgbt romances and protagonists, but I'm actively now about to try to find some more with girls who end up with girls because all the ones I managed to grasp onto were not (except perhaps one? and she didn't end up with a partner, although it was empowering to read her liking girls and being allowed to like girls) and I just. Really want you to know what it meant to me? I know I'm just one person, a small one at that, but it meant so very much.

      Sometimes, I feel like the loneliness I experienced and isolation I put myself through (as well as the ostracization I was subjected to) might have been too much for me without this small hope I had? This small murmur in my sticky-note riddled pages of your series that it wasn't some evil thing and that other people thought about it and, at least in fantasy, some people could be happy in.

      So thank you.

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