Today I am so excited to welcome Anahita, a writer, who is also one of my dearest friends!! In today’s post Anahita talks about ‘My Journey of Discovering My Queerness Through My Writing’.
But, before I share with you what Anahita has written for us today, I want to take a moment to highlight all the spectacular things Anahita has done as a writer. If you haven’t met Anahita before today, then I am very excited for you to see the wonderful work she has done!!
Anahita’s Books and Twitter 💞
Okay so Anahita recently became agented and I was so proud and happy I got to witness that!! We’re one step closer to having DESI WITCH out in this world!! Check out more about DESI WITCH here, till then also see this anthology Anahita is a part of and add it to Goodreads! MY BIG, FAT, DESI WEDDING is the name!!
Also, omg make sure to follow Anahita’s twitter too because it’s honestly just amazing!!
Anahita Discusses ‘My Journey of Discovering My Queerness Through My Writing’
I’m so excited that I get to write this because it’s something I discussed briefly in my HOW I GOT MY AGENT blog post but haven’t really had a chance to talk more about in detail. But now I get to do it, and it’s all thanks to Kashvi, my baby sibling and literal lifeline (shoutout to Kashvi for being one of the most amazing book bloggers I know!)
So here goes: my journey to discovering my queerness through my writing.
It’s taken me a while to get here–coming to terms with the fact that not every queer person discovers their queerness early on, and that not every queer person’s journey to acceptance is the same. I discovered that I was queer a few months after I turned 18, and I was terrified of labels for a long while after. I’d just joined college; I had a friend who was openly out then; another friend of mine had come out to me, and I thought I was just “trying to be cool” or “going through a phase”.
Throughout my life, I’d liked and crushed on boys, and I hadn’t known it was okay or even possible to like someone who wasn’t a boy. So, even if I did like someone who wasn’t a boy, I probably brushed it off as platonic love or admiration. I hadn’t met anyone queer before that year (no one who’d come out to me, at least) and I had never been exposed to any diverse media. I grew up reading stories filled with white, cishet characters, and I didn’t think stories of colour–forget queer stories of colour–had a place in the market.
Now that I look back upon it, it was only three years ago that I realised publishing was finally making place for diverse stories. And here I am, after countless tears and hundreds of rejections, with an agent for my desi, sapphic story. It’s something I wouldn’t have believed achievable not too long ago.
But come college, and I was exposed to some fantastic, queer friends, and I started consuming more queer media, and my preconceived notions of what I believed “normal” completely shattered. And suddenly, those past platonic loves and admirations started coming back to me, and I started wondering–what if they were more?
Another reason why this question popped up in my head was because I was also tackling my extremely conflicted feelings for one of my closest friends…feelings that to me, felt a lot like love. It let to a midnight, stairway conversation with one of my hostelmates, where I told her I wanted to take an “am I gay?” quiz but I was terrified of the outcome, because what if I was gay?
I eventually distanced myself from the close friend I was in love with because those feelings were starting to heighten my expectations from her to feel the same, intense connection I felt, and not long after, I started dating a boy in college (who I’ve been dating for three years now, by the way), and both let to me convincing myself, no, no, of course I’m straight, and that it was probably all a phase.
But even despite getting into my first-ever relationship with the most amazing guy on Earth, the question would pop into my head when I found myself gazing a moment too long at some really pretty girl in the mess, or when I was left alone to my thoughts on my hostel bed, perched in front of my computer, fingers itching to take a quiz. It was at that point when I educated myself on how gender and sexuality are different, how both are a spectrum, and how it’s never too late or too early to discover that you’re queer. It was 2019, and it had just been a year since homosexuality had been ruled out as a crime in India, and the members of the LGBTQ community were just starting to have the same rights as any other citizens. It was probably me growing more aware, but I found that everyone around me was a lot more open and accepting than they would’ve been a year ago.
Then winter vacation came along, and I couldn’t write for the life of me. I’d been working on a Sci-Fi space novel that had fallen into a massive plot hole I couldn’t get it out of, and the entire vacation went by without me having written anything at all. I’d been playing around with this other WIP idea for a couple days, about a closeted-bffs-to-sapphic-lovers story (which went on to become my favourite trope and features in everything I’ve written since), but I’d set it aside multiple times because of the terror that overcame me everytime I started to write it.
Then one day, close to the end of the vacation, I didn’t know what came over me, but I sat my butt down on the chair, opened a Google Doc on my phone, and started to swipe (because that’s what you do when you have an Android keyboard). It was a scene that’d been in my head for a while–the setting, the senses, the dialogues, the characters who were, funnily enough, named Alia and Iha (for those of you who don’t know, the novel that got me my agent is a closeted-bffs-to-sapphic-lovers story with characters who are called Alia and Ira. It’s desi, witchy, loaded with descriptions of magical sweets, and features a road trip! You can read more about it here). I poured everything I felt, everything I hadn’t let myself feel before into that scene, and in one hour, I’d written 5000 words. I convinced myself I couldn’t possibly discover I was gay if I wrote one scene, right?
I closed the doc and threw my phone to the side, lying there, staring at the ceiling, feeling almost relieved. I read that scene again much later, shared it with a few of my friends (including my boyfriend) and they loved it. Of course, all of them did wonder why I’d written a gay story. I told them I was just trying something new, even though a part of me knew I was lying through my teeth.
Winter vacation got over, I shelved that story, and to this date, it remains one-scene-long (the characters I did revisit much later, though, in Desi Witch).
But now, something had changed. I wasn’t terrified or ashamed of writing queer characters. And it was eventually what saved that Sci-Fi story that had been stuck in the plothole for too long, because I added another POV to it, and this one centered a queer girl. Everyone who read that novel agreed that the second POV was much better than the first one, and it was partly because the more I wrote, the more I came closer to accepting myself and my buried, seemingly forbidden feelings.
And finally, one night, I took that quiz.
Of course, a quiz on the internet can’t tell you what your sexuality is–that’s something you’ve got to come to terms with on your own, which is why I’m not going to tell you what the exact result said–but it gave me some respite, and answers to the question I hadn’t allowed myself the chance to ask before.
My boyfriend was the first person I came out to. He was so amazing, so supportive, and I sobbed through the entire talk, because I was so relieved. Those months of invalidating myself had tired me out, and it helped to hear from someone else, someone I loved and trusted, that it was okay. That I was valid, and it was okay to be queer. I came out to a few more friends after that, and wished I hadn’t, because I got to hear “it’s probably a phase” from a lot of them. Others were supportive though, but the fact that not everyone believed me had me sticking to a label I didn’t identify with for a very long time, a label I thought was more acceptable.
I get that labels are liberating for most people, and I love that for them, but it was honestly caging for me for a very, very long time. I was always scared of being judged; I kept juggling between labels–one for the queer community, where I felt I wasn’t queer enough, and one for the non-queer community, where I felt I was too queer. It was why, eventually, I came to a point where I stopped using labels and that ended up being more liberating for me. Which is why, it shouldn’t matter how out and queer you are, or how comfortable you are with your label. You’re valid however, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
So it was closing in on the summer months, and I was still using a label I didn’t feel fully at home with, and I’d started another story, a YA Dystopia. Originally, the main character had a love interest who was a boy (I still laugh out loud when I think of it) and I was somehow trying to fit their romance into this story where it didn’t work. Infact, the main character’s best friend somehow barged right into the spotlight as I wrote (yes, I know, another bffs to lovers. I’m so weak for them). Their platonic friendship love turned into yearning sapphic love, and before I knew it, my characters had taken the steering wheel of the story from me. They had so many years of shared pain, misery, and chemistry that exploded from the pages.
And that was when I realised the label I’d been identifying with for too long wasn’t me.
It took a couple more years after that for me to finally realise I was pansexual, and it was a journey that wouldn’t have been possible without my writing. I know anyone who hasn’t had a similar experience with their writing or anyone who doesn’t share the same love for writing probably thinks it bizarre that I discovered my sexuality through my writing. But it was the only thing that drove me to acceptance.
Those words I wrote late into the night, or in a cafeteria full of people bustling around who had no clue the kind of storm that was raging within me, begging to be let out…those are words I will treasure.
And however flawed they may be to others, they’ve made me who I am.
I want to end this post by listing out a few books that played an important part in my journey to discovering my queerness. It’s a haphazard list, scattered across genres, but they were among the first queer stories I read, and they’ve pretty much shaped me: Last Night At The Telegraph Club–Malinda Lo, The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo–Taylor Jenkins Reid, Wilder Girls–Rory Power, Every Day–David Levithan.
With that, I guess we’ve come to the end of MY JOURNEY TO DISCOVERING MY QUEERNESS THROUGH MY WRITING, and I want to close this off by wishing all my lovely, amazing, fellow queers a very happy pride month. This is your month, and you’re absolutely valid–with or without labels <3
If you enjoyed reading this post and wish to support the blog, please consider checking out my WISHLIST ! You’ll be helping me read and feature more books 🤍
Thank you so much Anahita, for visiting Misty Realms and having this discussion with us!! We love and appreciate you so much 💗 HAPPY PRIDE 🏳️🌈