I turned the pages as I progressed through life, first overcoming my fear of being different, and subsequently accepting my bisexuality and sharing that part of me with the public in the hopes it would make the world a better place for both myself and others like me.
By Blaize Stewart
Growing up in the rural Midwest of the United States, my life was not one particularly full of adventure, excitement, or, perhaps most importantly, diverse perspectives on life. While there were plenty of wonderful things about my childhood, there was always a part of me that yearned for more, that knew deep down life had more to offer and teach me than what I was immediately surrounded by. Perhaps it was because even then I knew there was something different about me, an aspect of my being that didn’t quite fit in with the accepted narrative of the surrounding community. Luckily, I had an escape: my books.
Books have always been celebrated in my household, as my grandparents owned a bookstore for years and passed on their love of literature to their daughter and grandchildren. While they sadly closed shop before I was born, during my childhood the walls of their home were lined with books and seemed to emit a special kind of magic. The words on those pages could take me anywhere, all the while helping me expand my worldview, develop empathy, grow as a person overall, and much more.
Funnily enough, I still vividly remember the pride I felt upon completing my first book with full paragraphs as a youngster. “Dolphins!” had seemed like an impossible mountain to climb when I first beheld it, but once I completed that last sentence it felt like the world had opened up in a brand new way for me. Soon enough, I was voraciously reading through any book I could get my hands on, even ending up in the unique spot amongst my friends where my parents would ground me from reading as a punishment. However, even during my grounded periods I would find ways to sneak in a chapter or two, whether it be by reading under the covers at night or sneaking in pages when my parents weren’t around. There was (and still is) something so attractive about losing myself in a book, something that goes far deeper than simple entertainment.
It’s an opportunity to see life through the lens of others, to explore real or mythical worlds governed by laws beyond my comprehension, and to go on adventures that aren’t often available in reality. Growing up, having that escape was vital for my emotional and mental health. The stories of bravery, courage, sacrifice and more taught me how to embrace my identity, as a bi man and beyond, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. If tiny little Bilbo could traverse Middle Earth and come face-to-face with the great and terrible Smaug, then surely I could be brave enough to be my true self.
Simply put, these books showed me what’s possible if you try; regardless of who or what you believe you are now, you are capable of growth and change, for both better and worse. But merely knowing that I could blaze my own trail in this world gave me hope. Seeing my literary heroes fall down and pick themselves back up gave me resilience. Life is not always a beautiful story, but you can certainly experience plenty of high points so long as you keep turning the pages.
And that’s just what I did. I turned the pages as I progressed through life, first overcoming my fear of being different, and subsequently accepting my bisexuality and sharing that part of me with the public in the hopes it would make the world a better place for both myself and others like me. Though I didn’t often encounter bi representation in my readings, at the very least they gave me assurance that being different and shirking away from the status quo were not damning characteristics. There is power in embracing who you are and sharing it with the world, regardless of whether you do so through the written word or some other medium, and there is no telling what impact that act of self-love can have beyond yourself, if only you give yourself the chance.
Here I sit all these years later as a bisexual bibliophile, living a life that would have never been possible without the comfort, inspiration and support books have provided to me throughout my life. Stories, whether they are housed in books, magazines, film, or simply in someone’s mind, have power; don’t let that power go to waste as you make your way through life. If you embrace it, there is no telling what adventures await you.
About Blaize: I am a digital marketing specialist and LGBTQ+ columnist based in Chicago, IL. I was born and raised in Central IL, and earned three degrees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: B.S. in Broadcast Journalism, M.S. in Journalism, and Ed.M. in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership – Diversity & Equity in Education. In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading sci-fi/fantasy, playing in LGBTQ+ intramural sports leagues and enjoying all the perks city life has to offer. Always happy to offer advice, networking or any other help I can to other bi and LGBTQ+ individuals out there, regardless of where you are on your journey.