Becky Albertalli, the celebrated author of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, came out as bisexual this August in a Medium post titled “I Know I’m Late.” “I’m thirty-seven years old. I’ve been happily married to a guy for almost ten years. I have two kids and a cat. I’ve never kissed a girl. I never even realized I wanted to. But if I rewind further, I’m pretty sure I’ve had crushes on boys and girls for most of my life. I just didn’t realize the girl crushes were crushes,” she wrote.
This is a sentiment that may sound familiar to many, but announcing it to the world is not a moment of joy for Albertalli. Her words are exhausted, frustrated and angry, a far cry from her many positive love stories about LGBTQ+ teens in America. She describes her ordeal of being presumed as a cishet writer that profited off of queer stories. Her personal life was scrutinized after Love, Simon released in 2018, based on her book, and became the first gay teen film to be released by a major Hollywood studio.
Albertalli says in her post “This doesn’t feel good or empowering, or even particularly safe. Honestly, I’m doing this because I’ve been scrutinized, subtweeted, mocked, lectured, and invalidated just about every single day for years, and I’m exhausted.” Reading this particular line is disheartening because coming out is a deeply personal part of the queer experience, one that no one should feel forced into. These questions of authenticity and taking up space are completely valid and important when it comes to queer stories, because there are authors and filmmakers who have profited off of queer stories without doing much for representation or visibility. But these questions also hold the capability of causing real harm by crossing the line from critique to invalidation of experiences that don’t conform to the norm – in terms of age or fluidity of sexuality. There are very few visible examples of people coming to terms with their sexuality later in life, like Albertalli did but that doesn’t mean these experiences aren’t real. It’s anyway easy to doubt yourself when your journey doesn’t align with the kind of young adolescent realisations shown on screen and in books, the kind you’re writing about. Add to that, people centering you in hateful debate over the course of several years, and the pressure seems cruel, to say the least. Another thing wrong with this discourse and these questions is that they ignore the capacity that art has to initiate a process of discovery. Secondly, what Albertalli or anyone’s personal life looks like in the context of their sexuality is no one’s business.
Despite all this, Albertalli says that her main motivation to come out was to make the audience more accepting of other writers who might be going through the same thing. “Can we make space for those of us who are still discovering ourselves? Can we be a little more compassionate? Can we make this a little less awful for the next person?”, she implores us in her post. Everyone’s journey of self-discovery and their sexuality is their own, and instead of policing it, we should try and create space for these varied experiences because no one owes their whole story to anyone else, unless they’re completely ready to tell it.