On Identity, Orientation Writing, and Queer Sacrifice

In a bit of a break from precedent (if three posts constitutes a precedent), tonight I’d like to write a bit about some of the intersections of identity within Hollow Reign that echo aspects of my own life as a queer person and writer.

It might not come as a shock to many of you that I identify the same way as Pietro does (shocking, I know), and while I see them as being very, very separate from myself, I also purposefully write some parallels between them and I on purpose. Sometimes this is done with the functionality of the narrative in mind — I have a lot of lived experience as a queer person, why not use it? Other times, it’s because I myself am genuinely still processing through ‘a thing,’ and find that separating it from myself makes it easier for me to tackle. 

In the latter case, one example is Pietro’s dynamic with their family, where Pietro is the ‘queer troublemaker’ in the good, standard, upright family. Of course, my family looks much different from Pietro’s. I, for one, have never accidentally put my family in astronomical debt due to my being queer. I’m also much older than Pietro is (now), and did not begin the coming out process until I was about twenty-three. My parents were, until then, blissfully unaware. In fact, there’s still plenty that they remain blissfully unaware of — after they were unable to grasp the concept of ‘bisexuality’, I opted not to attempt to talk with them about my gender identity. Given their positions regarding my orientation, I find it unlikely they would have been able to grasp the concept of my being non-binary, too. So, I’m both in the closet and not. I’d be happy to share with them anything if they asked — but they don’t ask, and I don’t tell. 

My current arrangement with my parents — even as an adult, with my own career, and my own life — is similar to what Pietro’s parents ask of them. I can identify however I’d like, as long as I look ‘normal’, act ‘normal,’ and don’t let on any indication of my abnormalness in public, lest I give a restaurant waiter the scandalous, embarrassing notion that the person they’re getting another diet coke for is one of them damn, dirty gay people. They remind me often of my good fortune — certainly, as they have told me, they would “prefer” I was not queer, but they love me anyways, and would just strongly prefer I keep my mouth shut and my head down, and that I should always remember how lucky I am that I was not disowned when so many in my position are, and that I have led a good, privileged, life. I am sure, too, that they hope and pray that one day either Jesus will cure me outright, or alternatively, I will somehow find a man to ‘fix’ me, and that this phase of my life will end and we’ll all march off in hetero bliss together and that this–the person I am–will all be a bad memory. One day, their true daughter will be revealed, and the burden of my identity will simply become a forgotten changeling they never asked for.    

Don’t get me wrong — there are ways in which I am sympathetic to my parents’ position. First and foremost, I love them unconditionally. I know it must be difficult to raise a child who breaks the mold. I was also particularly difficult given that not only was I quite obviously queer from a young age, but also neurodivergent (later diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum), and prone to severe bouts of anxiety and depression. Whatever hopes they may have had for their daughter, I’m sure it wasn’t the socially awkward, intellectual, fat cat-loving queer they got; in fact, I’m sure that even if I was cis and straight, I probably would still have been a challenge for them. They are human themselves, with plenty of their own quirks, needs, and wants. I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to imperfection — parents included — and my parents are certainly no exception. I feel terrible knowing that I am in any way a burden, or that there is something that I could theoretically do to make their lives easier. If only, if only…    

This is the burden I have attempted to translate into one aspect of the Lumerian infraction system — the cost of those marks on Pietro’s arm — the cost to their family. Pietro is able to tolerate hatred and difficulty on their own behalf, but when their family is given a great burden due to their identity, they begin to make sacrifices to alleviate that suffering. I’ll avoid getting into what some of those sacrifices are so as not to spoil anything, but within the first few chapters we see Pietro give up quite a lot. That trend will only continue.  

And how does that mirror for me? I’m not sure anymore. 

For a long time, I navigated the sacrifice myself by simply living a small life — exclusively dating men, even if I wasn’t attracted to them, and at one point even joining a highly-conservative, notoriously anti-gay religious group in order to better cement the unliklihood of my ever going against my parents’ wishes and, perhaps, even marry a man like they always wanted. The past few years, I’ve identified more along the lines of aro/ace. I’m no longer sure if this is an accurate appellation on my part, of if this is yet another strategy of sacrifice. This isn’t to say that I believe that aro/ace people are by and large just the closeted good daughters of recovering Catholics — I don’t — but it might be what I’ve been doing, if only subconsciously. I began to consider as much when one day I caught myself thinking, “well, perhaps I wouldn’t mind dating again one day — but not for a long time — maybe after my PhD — or after I get the academic job — or after I get tenure — or after my parents have passed.” Because, yes, it would completely track within the patterns of queer sacrifice in my life to wait to do so much as *go on a date again* until after both of my completely healthy, early 60s aged parents, both from bloodlines known for their longevity, pass away. I presume each of them still have between thirty and forty years left. (I’d be completely devastated if either of them didn’t.) That would mean that I would begin dating again at the ripe age of… between sixty and seventy, if ever. 

For those worried about how this parallels for Pietro — don’t worry. I’m a sucker for writing fluffy romance, even if I don’t get to experience much of it myself.  

This is one of those things I should perhaps figure out in writing with Pietro’s help. I have no conclusions yet, merely thoughts, fears, and the dual yet conflicting desires to be a good child and to be true to myself. Just, you know, in case anyone was under the impression that writing a story like this somehow means that I’m an expert who has everything already figured out.   

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