This guest post series is all about queer people talking about their relationship with queer books, whether they saw themselves represented in them or not. If you would like to write a guest post for me, the rules and info on how to contact me are on this post.
I am so honored to have my friend and fellow blogger Melanie as my first guest, and I would like to thank her again so much for writing it and for all the support she keeps giving me ♥
When Silvia asked the queer book community if they’d be interested in writing guest posts on her blog about their positive or negative experiences with seeing themselves represented in literature, I knew that I couldn’t resist talking about Black Iris by Elliot Wake and how much that book literally changed my life.
I should probably preface this by letting you know that I am a cis, able-bodied, white passing, young, immensely privileged woman that lives in the United States. I have also had a very supportive immediate family when I was discovering my sexuality, and when I eventually came out to them all early in high school.
Very early in life I realized that I was attracted to more than just boys, so I took on the label bisexual in high school, even though I always felt like it wasn’t 100% a perfect fit for me. I had very serious relationships with both men and women all throughout high school and college, and even though I could say things like “I love the dimples on the lower back of my girlfriend” or “I love the broad shoulders on my boyfriend” I still didn’t have a good understanding of my sexuality, but I chose to identify as a bisexual/biromantic.
And then in 2015 I read Black Iris by Elliot Wake and my life was changed forever. And that book alone is what made me realize that my true identity was pansexual/panromantic. To say this book changed who I was as a person is honestly such an understatement. I read the most beautiful quotes that, for once in my life, described me and my feelings:
“If I was gay, I wouldn’t need an asterisk beside my name…… I wouldn’t have to explain that I fall in love with minds, not genders or body parts. People wouldn’t say I’m ‘just a slut’ or ‘faking it’ or ‘undecided’ or ‘confused.’ I’m not confused. I don’t categorize people by who I’m allowed to like and who I’m allowed to love. Love doesn’t fit into boxes like that. It’s blurry, slippery, quantum. It’s only limited by our perceptions and before we slap a label on it and cram it into some category, everything is possible. That’s me. I’m not gay, not bi. I’m something quantum.”
I cried so many tears. Happy, sad, questioning, understanding tears. And even though the main protagonist, Laney, never uses the word pansexual to describe themselves, Black Iris is a love letter to every queer kid that is questioning their sexual identity. I’ve never read a book that more perfectly talks about sexual fluidity still to this day.
Also, I completely understand that being bi doesn’t limit the person to only liking two genders, but I finally understood that my sexual attraction had nothing to do with gender, and I was honestly liberated. The feelings that I felt when closing that book still makes me weep to this day thinking about it. I truly do not have a combination of words to explain what I feel for this book. It was nothing short of a cathartic experience, and I owe Black Iris and Elliot Wake so much.
Black Iris is a book about vengeance and revenge and all the messy parts that come along with those two things. And I believe with my whole heart it is best to go into this story blind. But it’s very dark, and twisted, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but it truly did change my life. Laney’s sexual questioning throughout the novel literally changed who I was as a human being.
But please use caution picking this book up because it heavily talks about mental illness. Also, trigger/content warnings for sexual content, bullying, abuse, addiction, drug use, homophobia, suicide, and talk of rape.
And this is just a hard book to read. It takes a lot from you, regardless of your sexuality. All the characters make choices that you are forced to watch, while covering your face with your hands, and squinting between your fingers. But you also won’t be able to look away.
And this probably goes without saying, but it was my favorite book of 2015, and will be one of my favorite books of all time forever. And I am forever grateful for Black Iris, because it was the book that helped me proudly tell (or scream at) the world that I am pan. 💗💛💙