When I met her, she was married to a man. Now her partner is a woman.

When I met her, she was an ardent lesbian who couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be attracted to a man. Now she’s married to one.

When I met hir, zie was queer. Then trans. Then — in part because zie became frustrated contemplating the costs and inadequacies of surgery — zie returned to female pronouns. Though I tend to avoid pronouns altogether when discussing that particular friend, waiting to see what might be next.

One of my favorite reviews of my second book, The Rules for Hearts, refers to my characters’ “fluid sexuality.”

I write characters with fluid sexuality because I’ve seen and experienced it, shifts in sexual and gender identity that I never could have predicted. And I keep thinking that if we weren’t all so desperate to define and label every relationship almost before it begins, maybe managing the shifts would be easier.

Of course, we put ourselves in boxes as often as others consign us there. Climbing into the box of a particular identity can be like building a fort; we barricade ourselves from everything outside and revel in the security within. And as teens, we’re often especially anxious to claim membership in a tribe. Plant the flag, wear the button, wave the banner — here I am! It’s valid and satisfying and affirming.

It’s also inherently limiting. What if a territory that once felt like home suddenly doesn’t feel so comfortable? What if you find yourself unhappy, or even just restless?

As a writer I’m interested in complexity. I’m interested in blurry lines. I’m interested in the times when you look at someone, blush, and wonder: is this friendship? More? Less? Is this where I fit? How about here? Or there?

I’m not saying that these kinds of shifts should be part of every story, or that there aren’t any number of people — and thus, characters — whose sexual and gender identities remain moored and steady. But sometimes, for some people, they don’t. Let’s tell those stories too.



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