Identity

Marie Patlán
Jul 15 · 3 min read

I’ve spent the last year trying to figure out who I am. I’ve always been a set of dichotomies. I’m a scientist who writes fiction. I’m Latinx and I’m white. I feel deeply but analyze everything. And I’ve always been this way. It’s like I’ve known for most of my life to date that I didn’t really know who I was, and yet at the same time, I was a little bit of everything. I’ve always been okay with that. I’ve assumed that I would keep learning about myself as I grew older, that maybe one day I’d have it all figured out. And that has proven to be true so far.

Everything about who I am now started with Something Beautiful. (And yes, that is intentionally capitalized.)

Two years ago, my fiction debut was published. It was titled Something Beautiful, it was published under a different name, and it was very near and dear to my heart. (For those reading this, Something Beautiful is currently out of print, but it’s getting republished under this name, so stay tuned!) I was writing about sexual fluidity, about identity, about figuring out your life in the midst of terrible depression and grief. When it was published, I got two very distinct responses to the book — a) it made people cry, or b) people hated it. In fact, a fairly well-known book blogger got about a third of the way through, misunderstood a scene entirely, and trashed the book all over the internet. All of this is fine. It’s a learning process, and it was an exercise in restraint, because I am a firm believer that once a book is out in the world, it’s not the author’s anymore. It’s the readers’. But one repeated comment pushed into the introspective cave of my life, and I’ve been living there ever since. But I’m ready to come out.

Yes, that wording was also intentional.

In Something Beautiful, I was writing about sexual fluidity because when I wrote the book, I didn’t know what to call it. And because representation has changed a lot in the years since I wrote the book, what I wrote was left to stand on its own. But what I was truly doing was discovering my own bisexuality and writing it on the page using the only terms I knew at the time. I was 23 when I wrote the book, after all. But now I’m 30, and I can see three things very clearly.

  1. I’m definitely bisexual.
  2. I’m definitely on the asexual spectrum, although I having specifically identified it more than that.
  3. I definitely don’t always feel female, although I don’t know how I want to label that yet and that part of me is the newest thing I’m trying to figure out.

So here’s what I have to say — be yourself as you know yourself in this moment. You’re constantly changing, always and forever, and embracing that is the best thing you could possibly do. The process of doing this isn’t always easy. In fact, it rarely is. As an example, I’m currently going through divorce proceedings, because as I continued to discover myself and change, I realized I outgrew the person I decided to spend my life with in my early 20s. And that really sucked. But it’s all part of the process. I use writing to discover things about myself. It’s how I’ve always worked things out in my brain. The latest for-sure discovery came out of an ace character in a WIP I’ve been working on, and the nonbinary inner realization came from a side character in another manuscript of mine. I’m finding myself. And I like who I’m discovering, even though it’s not always easy.

I got the title of my debut from a NEEDTOBREATHE song, and I think this line reiterates my self-discovery process better than anything else I could possibly write: “I won’t stop until I’ve found something beautiful.” So I keep going, keep discovering, keep learning about myself and accepting these new things about me.

As with everything else in my life, I’m a work in progress too.

Marie Patlán

writer. reader. runner.

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