The Lucky List by Rachael Lippincott is on sale now.
By Rachael Lippincott
The first time I had an inkling about my sexuality was when I was in elementary school. I heard an NPR interview in the backseat of my parents’ car about a lesbian couple that had been together for a number of years, and the trials and tribulations they’d endured throughout their relationship. I woke up in a cold sweat that night, having a full-on panic attack, absolutely terrified that I was going to be like them. I remember googling “man with a six-pack” on our family computer and scrolling through Google images of shirtless dudes until I’d convinced myself that I was, well…normal. Whatever that means.
Moments like that one came back to me after I read a one-sentence review for my upcoming novel, The Lucky List. All it said was “I am once again asking you to use the word lesbian,” and I just couldn’t get it out of my head.
Why hadn’t I used the word lesbian? Why couldn’t I use the word, both within the pages of my story and in my own life?
Then I remembered that night in elementary school.
Fear. Plain and simple. Decades have passed since then, but on some level, below the surface, that same feeling is still there, rearing its ugly head at different points in my life.
When I was 20 and a relative that I care deeply for told me that I was lying to myself about my attraction to women, acting like it was the “ah-ha!” moment I had been missing. When I’ve had to leave churches after sermons, or conversations with elders, this part of me, my ability to love, being critiqued openly. When I called my now wife my friend in certain spaces because I was scared of the repercussions and being perceived differently, only hurting both of us in the process.
And it’s not a delusional fear, being perceived differently. I’ve seen it firsthand in the books I publish. The people in my life that supported me and pulled out the champagne and sparklers when I wrote straight love stories are suddenly radio silent when I write a queer one. They’re the same people that didn’t congratulate me on my engagement, or my wedding. The people I’ve spent so long trying to make comfortable while I’m not.
Because of this, I have always asterisked my sexuality with stating my attraction to men in some kind of desperate attempt at padding the truth. At clinging to whatever short-lived peace I got from that Google image search all those years ago.
But have I ever really, truly felt romantically attached to a man? No. Do I think I could marry a man and have a happy, fulfilling marriage? Definitely not. (Although that last one may be slightly influenced by the fact that I absolutely adore my wife, and any marriage without her would be unfulfilling).
I avoid labels completely or say “gay” or “queer” as a placeholder when the right word is sitting right in front of me.
Will I ever be brave enough to use it? To swallow the fear and the aversion, to silence the voices and the judgment of family and friends and strangers, both real and perceived? I sure hope so.
And maybe one day my characters will be too.
Rachael Lippincott is the coauthor of All This Time and #1 New York Times bestseller Five Feet Apart. She holds a BA in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Originally from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, she currently resides in Pittsburgh with her wife and their dog, Hank.