When I was much younger, I hid from the painful and terrifying reality of my world by way of fiction. Always the active imaginer, I took refuge in the halls of Hogwarts and Rivendell, creating a new life for myself in some magical context that would be exponentially and indubitably less painful than the real world. Hell, even the halls of Wuthering Heights held less pain for my youthful mind than my own home in Rural Illinois.
Through the years, I must have read at least ten thousand books. With each, I discovered a bit of myself through characters. Seeing characters with some similar attribute succeed gave me hope that perhaps, one day, everything would be okay. I would find people who truly loved me unconditionally and accepted me for all my eccentricities. There is a long list of books I would claim, without fear of hyperbole, saved my life.
When the stories I created in my mind became too much, I began writing them down. I learned rather quickly that I had a knack for both writing and storytelling. At age eight, I determined that what I wanted to do with my life was to write books and stories that would help to save the lives of other young readers that came after me.
Now I am an adult, pressured at all sides to figure out what to do with my life that will both support me financially and fulfill me spiritually. I’ve become pretty entrenched in LGBTQ+ advocacy and activism, and the more I think about, do, and help people, the more fulfilled and impassioned I am. While I do still write often, between blog posts like this, a couple of novel bits, and a memoir on my self-acceptance and coming out, I sometimes feel quite guilty for it.
Who is my writing actually helping? Blogs have a way of reaching people a bit more easily than novels and memoirs. I feel somewhat less guilty expressing my thoughts and feelings—predominately in regard to the state of LGBT policy and advocacy—in this medium. But when I put pen to paper to work on a novel or a memoir, I feel overwhelmingly guilty. Even if those works end up helping someone, make someone feel represented, or gives them hope, writing fiction and about oneself is selfish in some way.
I am telling my own story in the hopes of helping other people. Is it even a worthwhile pursuit, or would my time be better spent working toward getting my degrees and becoming someone who could enact real change on both micro and macro levels?
Do I deny myself one passion for another? Are my stories of queer characters in fiction or my own abused and self-denial ridden life meaningful to anyone but myself? I don’t know. And I guess I never will.
In conclusion, writing is selfish. Being a writer is a selfish pursuit, but conveying information is essential. I’m not going to stop being a writer in the off chance that maybe one life may be touched or saved by my words or my experiences. Because in the end, that’s really what I want to do with my life, I want to save the lives of others, both because I’m on a divine mandate from Hades to stop the needless influx of queer youth who commit suicide at a 400% higher rate than their straight peers and because I was almost one of those statistics. I know firsthand how painful being queer can be both in communities that do not accept us and those who do. I love humanity too much to let anyone suffer the way I have. If that’s selfish, so fucking be it.