How Reading Romance Helped Me Finally Become Comfortable With My Sexuality
Reading romance changed my life.
Why Romance Books Are Important To Me
I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I was lucky to have it come really easy to me and was even able to teach myself to read before I started school. When I was little, I was fantasy was my go-to genre, though I also loved series like The Babysitters Club, the Sweet Valley books, Goosebumps, and Dear America.
Each trip to the library, I left with a stack of books I'd devour in a week or less. Well before I was a teenager, I moved on to young adult and teen horror. Stephen King and murder mysteries took over for a while, but I always staunchly avoided one genre: romance. I couldn't explain why, but the covers of the romance books I'd pass at the library or see family members read made me really uncomfortable. I wouldn't figure out until a lot later why I felt that way.
It's hard growing up in a small town when you're different, but it growing up in a small town as a repressed gay kid living in poverty with two unemployed and mentally ill parents made it even more difficult. My moms younger brother is gay and I was lucky enough to grow up with an older gay person in my life. You'd think it would have made the realization that I was gay easier for me, but it didn't. At least, not at first.
I could count on one hand the number of out gay, lesbian, and bisexual kids at my high school. There weren't many, but it was so easy for me to accept them exactly as they were. I just wasn't able to extend the same kindness to myself. So I pushed my feeling down. I didn't allow myself to think about them again until college, when I'd had several years to mature a little.
At college, I was able to see queer people my own age, happy and out in the open, for the first time. I think that changed something for me. I began to admit to myself that the feelings I'd once buried were real and valid and, as many young gay, lesbian, and bisexuals do, hit the internet. I read everything I could about being gay and gay culture, and eventually came across an article about lesbian romance books. Before that, I didn't even know lesbian romance existed! They don't sell it in stores and you won't find it on Amazon unless you seek it out. It finally dawned on me that the romance novel covers that unsettled me as a child upset me because, deep down, I knew I would never be like the people on the cover of the books.
I was intrigued by the concept of lesbian romance books. At this point, I'd never had a girlfriend, never even kissed a girl (I don't think I was even read to), so books seemed like a safe place to test the waters. I found a book on the list that interested me and ended up loving it, eagerly reading through all the books the author had out before seeing out more. Obviously the books were entertaining, but they were more than that for me. They were also comforting and made me hopeful that someday I could be confident enough in myself.
Eventually, I did begin dating women, had my first girlfriend, my first real heartbreak that guys never seemed to inspire in me when I'd dated them in the past. Now I'm engaged to a wonderful woman that I get to marry in August all because I was finally able to become comfortable enough with myself to put myself out there. I can't say that it was all thanks to reading romance books, but I do think they helped give me the confidence I needed to finally become comfortable with myself to live an open life full of love.
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