Writing Taught Me About Myself

Photo credit: Kamil Porembiński on Flickr
I've been thinking, lately, about how much of myself I put into my characters.

It used to be more subtle. With Eros, I put a lot of my own struggles feeling between cultures as a pale Latinx person navigating Cuban and Mexican identities while benefitting from light-skin privilege, and frequently being assumed to be white. With Kora, I put my own experience of feeling overburdened with responsibilities as a young person, and what it's like to live with that kind of pressure.

With the projects I'm working on now, it's not so subtle. And I like it that way.

I'm currently juggling three projects that I'll be tackling in different stages after The Rising Gold is completely done. All three of them feature Latinx, trans masculine protagonists. Their stories, personalities, worlds and experiences are all different, but they have that in common and I'm delighted that they do.

But long before I'd come to terms with my trans masculinity, writing was quietly teaching me about myself.

Before I began actively questioning my gender identity, I gave myself "permission" to learn about trans masculine people by writing a manuscript about a trans guy. It was a terrible manuscript and will probably never come out of the trunk ever, but at the time I needed that excuse of "this is research for a book" to feel safe enough research and learn.

Around that time I also wrote a Mulan-esque "girl disguises herself as a boy" story, in which the protagonist realizes she's much more comfortable with a masculine presentation than she ever was with a feminine one. That's another WIP that will stay trunked for reasons, but I wrote that WIP—and most tellingly, a scene where she cuts her hair off, looks in the mirror and really sees herself for the first time—something like six months before I did that very same thing myself. Before I was even actively considering cutting my hair so short.

I look back at my writing and laugh because so much of what I was unconsciously keeping quiet was there in my work, completely unintentionally. Writing gave me permission to explore boundaries that felt off-limits in my everyday life, and for that, I'm incredibly grateful.

Writing taught me about myself long before I knew just how much there was left to learn.

Now my choice of characters and themes are absolutely purposeful. But it feels good—really good—to put the things that have been not-so-quietly living in my head on the page. And I hope, one day, others like me will get to read it and think look, it's me.

Has writing taught you anything about yourself? 

Twitter-sized bite:
Has writing taught you anything about yourself? @Ava_Jae opens up about how their writing helped them discover their trans masculinity. (Click to tweet)

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