Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Pride Monthis a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
July is Disability Pride Month; a time where disabled identity and disability are celebrated! During Disability Pride Month, I hope all of you will take a moment to celebrate, support, and uplift our disabled siblings, educate yourself on the disabled issues, disabled oppression, and what you can do to unlearn ableism in everyday language and interactions.
It’s fortuitous, then, that for our Pride Month series, I have the utmost pleasure of having three disabled bookish content creators visiting us at the Pond today to talk about the intersections between disability and queer identity. Of the many conversations that take place about intersectional queer identity, disability is often left out of the conversation. Therefore, I am incredibly honoured to provide a space for Anniek, the book blogger behind Anniek’s Library, Bex, the book blogger behind The Bookish Bex, and Chantal, the booktuber behind QueenAurora’sBook, to discuss what queer identity and disability mean to them, and how the two intersect.
But before I share the interview that I did with these three wonderful people, I’d like to introduce to you all the wonderful work that they do!
Anniek, Book Blogger behind Anniek’s Library
If you’re looking for a book blogger that reads a wide range of books – from middle grade to adult! – then I recommend Anniek’s book blog, Anniek’s Library! Anniek writes book reviews, writes recommendation posts where they recommend a variety of diverse books, and participates in some really cool challenges where they share their TBR (a great way to find books!).
As you may (or may not!) know, July is Transathon, a readathon hosted by Ocean where you read a variety of trans books by trans authors following prompts! If you’re in participating, I highly recommend reading Anniek’s Transathon TBR, where they share their picks for the trans readathon!
Bex, Book Blogger Behind The Bookish Bex
Bex has been a huge advocate for more disabled, especially autistic, representation, and I found her blog through her wonderful Autistic Pride Month post last year. Bex writes book reviews, has hosted the Autistic Pride Readathon, and has also done author interviews (check out her author interview with Kay Kerr, author of Please Don’t Hug Me)!
Naturally, I want to highlight Bex’s Autistic Pride Readathon which takes place during the month of April. There is a dearth of autistic representation in literature, so it’s wonderful to see a readathon that celebrates autistic authors and their books! I hope you can all join next year.
Chantal, the Booktuber behind Queen Aurora’s Books
Chantal has been such an ardent and wonderful supporter of The Quiet Pond for as long as I can remember and I appreciate Chantal so much! Chantal is the booktuber behind QueenAurora’sBooks, where she shares wrap-up videos, readathon and challenge TBRs, and book hauls!
I particularly love this video, where Chantal talks about her reading during quarantine in her April 2020 wrap-up! I adore Chantal’s personality in her videos and I really enjoyed listening to her thoughts and opinions of the eight books that she read during April. Give this video a watch!
Blogger Interview with Anniek, Bex, and Chantal
Xiaolong: Hello Anniek and Chantal! A big and warm welcome to The Quiet Pond! I’m super excited that you are both here to visit us today for Pride Month! For our friends out there who might only be meeting you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Anniek: Hi! Thank you so much for having us!! I’m so excited to be here 🙂 My name is Anniek and I’m a bookstagrammer and blogger. My handle on both Instagram and Twitter is @anniekslibrary and my blog is anniekslibrary.wordpress.com. I’m 27 years old, and I’m queer (bi aroace), non-binary and autistic; my pronouns are she and they. My blog mainly focuses on LGBTQ+ books, and I also try my best to hype up books with (own voices) autism rep!
Bex: Hi, my name is Bex! I’m 23, bi, polyam and autistic. My twitter handle is @thebookishbex. Pronouns are she/her. I advocate a lot for books with both queer and autistic rep since disabled people are often forgotten in discussions of diversity, especially when it comes to queer rep. I also talk a lot about books with queer polyamorous relationships, especially those that also have disabled rep. I mainly talk about adult and new adult books, but I still read and talk about YA often too.
Chantal: Hello my name is Chantal Aurora and I’m a booktuber and bookstagrammer at @QueenAurora’sBooks. I am bisexual and disabled. I have multiple chronic illnesses some of which fall under the neurodivergent umbrella. My platforms focus on promoting young adult and diverse books. Pronouns She/Her
Xiaolong: I think one of the unique and beautiful things about queer identity is how everyone’s story is a little different. What was your experience of figuring out your queer identity like?
Anniek: I recently described this to a friend by comparing my identity to an onion. I only started to figure out my queer identity and my gender identity some two years ago, and I spent a lot of time questioning. This all happened after I’d gotten my autism diagnosis (which was at the end of 2017), and it feels like that diagnosis was the first step in understanding myself better, as it allowed me to take more steps to peel off layers of my identity (like the layers of an onion, hence the comparison). I very much feel like I needed my autism diagnosis to be able to frame my queer identity as well, because my autism impacts the way I experience my sexuality and gender.
Bex: I’m bi but my attraction is not a 50/50 split between genders. I tend to lean more towards men and am more a-spec when it comes to women so I don’t crush on them quite as often and it took me awhile to realize I was bi. I was 18 and a senior in high school and one day I realized that the “admiration” I felt for one of my female classmates was more of the romantic variety than the friendly variety. I told my friend that day I thought I might be bi and she was super supportive and I’ve identified as bi ever since.
Realizing I was a-aspec and polyam came a little later. I only realized I was polyam in the last year or so, when I realized why I found it so ridiculous that characters in love triangles are always expected to choose just one person to spend their life with. I think I can largely thank our beloved polyam ship herongraystairs for helping me come to the conclusion that I want to date and love multiple people of multiple genders.
Chantal: There were two main events that made me realize I was bisexual. When I was in high school I met this girl that I felt intense feelings for. That was the first time I had felt something like that and questioned if I was queer but since I knew I was attracted to men, I waved it off as platonic. Then in college, I joined the LGBT+ center and I wanted to make educating myself a priority.
One of the first things I did was a deep dive into researching different sexualities and gender identities. I read everything from definitions to essays to books about queer people writing about their experiences, anything about queer people I could get my hands on. It wasn’t until I read an essay by a bisexual woman talking about her experiences being bisexual did I realize some of it resonated with me. She talked about how most people think being bisexual is 50/50. I thought that too at the time and that was one of the reasons I never considered I could be bi. She said she was always more attracted to women and her crushes on men were rare.
When I read that I realized the opposite was true for me. I have only ever had one serious crush on a girl but was always attracted to men. I’ve had a few crushes on non-binary people and people of other genders but 90% of the time it is men I am attracted to. After reading that essay I thought back to that time in high school and realized I was bisexual.
Xiaolong: Disabled identity can sometimes feel fraught, because disability is still widely perceived and ‘accepted’ as something that is very visible, leaving disabled people with invisible disabilities feeling excluded. How do your invisible disabilities intersect with your queer identity, and how has that shaped the way that you navigate queer spaces?
Anniek: Let me preface this by saying that every queer and/or trans autistic person feels different about this; they say “if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person” for a reason. But for me personally, my autism very much impacts my being aromantic and asexual, as well as my gender identity.
Autism shapes how I experience the world, it shapes how I relate to it, and it shapes how I view myself in relation to it. So it also shapes my (lack of) attraction to people, as well as my gender. When it comes to navigating queer spaces, I’ve been lucky to find so many people like me on social media, which has been so wonderful and important to me. In real life, queer spaces are less accessible for me because of my sensory issues, and I’m not sure I’d ever be able to attend Pride, for instance, because it would just be way too overwhelming.
Bex: A lot of people don’t think autistic people can even be queer, or experience sexual and romantic attraction and desire, so that plays into it a lot. People forget we (queer autistic people) exist because they don’t expect autistic people to want things like romance and sex and we have to fight extra hard for queer and autistic rep together. And a lot of autistic rep isn’t even named on the page because for some reason the word has a negative connotation, which is frustrating as hell. Being autistic plays into every interaction I have so flirting and communicating can be very difficult and it makes finding partners very difficult. I’m 23 and have never been on a date or kissed anyone, which is fine and normal for many, but I know it’s because I’m autistic and have to work extra hard to form connections and relationships.
Chantal: I wish I could go to pride or a gay bar but those spaces are not accessible to me. My coming out experience was terrible and part of that is because I am disabled. When I came out I was dealing with some of the worst symptoms of my chronic illness ever and was taking various medications to manage them all. Some of these medications were causing me horrific side effects. When I came out one of my family members told me I was confused and me thinking I was queer was another side effect of my medication. It was devastating to hear these things from someone close to me. They didn’t believe me when I told them I was bisexual and chalked it up to some chronic illness symptom. They haven’t exactly come around but this experience made me feel insecure about my queer identity and left me questioning all the time If I’m really queer.
Xiaolong: Let’s talk a little bit about books! What was the first time you saw your identities – or one of your identities – reflected in a story? What was that experience like?
Anniek: I’ve definitely had earlier experiences, but those were all negative, as there’s really not a lot of good (which often translates to “own voices”) representation, but Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde was the first time I actually saw an autistic main character framed in a positive, empowering light. I can’t put into words how necessary it was for me to read that book at the time I read it. I remember reading it in one sitting, and crying, and feeling so seen, for the first time in my life. This was before I got diagnosed, but I had suspected I was autistic for years at that point (my parents had always thought I was autistic but they never had me diagnosed). It’s not an exaggeration to say this book changed my life: it still took me a while but it was one of the main reasons why I ended up seeking out a diagnosis, and that has been so impactful on my life.
Bex: Queens of Geek as well! I remember pre ordering the book and being so excited to finally read a book with an autistic character AND a bisexual character in it, even if the bisexual and autistic rep was separate. And I adored it.
Far From You was the first book I read with a bisexual character and I loved it but I didn’t know I was bi at the time. Failure to Communicate was the first book I read with both a bi AND autistic character, just last year. And it’s one of my favorite books of all time. I know I probably came across autistic characters pre diagnosis but I don’t remember where and I doubt the rep was very good so I’m not counting it. I’m glad my experience reading bi and autistic rep for the time was pleasant and from ownvoices authors.
Chantal: Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston was the first time I ever felt represented as bisexual after coming out. Like Alex, I realized I was bi late in life. Like Alex I had a same-gender friend in high school who I liked but kept telling myself how I felt about them was platonic. That book is one of my favorite books of all time because that was the first time I ever felt represented as bisexual and made me feel valid in my sexuality. I had to deal with a lot of biphobia and homophobia when I came out, it was hard to feel valid or like I was really bisexual but that book changed me. There’s this quote in the book that I cling to all the time I feel invalidated in my identity.
“Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves that they’re straight.”
Every time I don’t feel like I’m really bisexual I recite this line and it brings me comfort. I saw so much of my sexuality represented in Alex and it was life-changing. I still have a long way to go in fully accepting my queer identity but that book made me feel like one day it will be possible.
Xiaolong: For our friends out there who may be interested to diversify their reading and want to read more books about disabled and queer people, please recommend a few of your favourites!
Anniek: First off, let me say that one of my favourite things to do ever is to recommend people books! And I read A LOT. So if you’re looking for something specific, feel free to hit me up – my DMs are always open! But I want to specifically recommend three books that have intersectional queer/trans and autistic rep, and that are so important to me.
The first one is Human Enough by E.S. Yu, which has a Chinese-American pansexual autistic main character and a grey-asexual love interest. This book has some of the most empowering autism rep I’ve read, with a main character who often confidently engages with the ableism in his life.
Secondly, I want to recommend Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West, which has the single most loving autism rep I’ve read – the main character loves to be autistic and that was so wonderful to read because we don’t get to see that a lot. It has a lot of queer rep as well.
My final recommendation is a memoir: Uncomfortable Labels by Laura Kate Dale, about her life as a gay autistic trans woman. I actually read this book before I figured out I’m non-binary, so I guess now I understand why it resonated with me so much, haha!
Bex: So, I’ve got a lot. First of all, I highly recommend my all time favorite book Failure to Communicate, which has a bi and autistic main character whose job is to form alliances with alien species. She’s also developing a polyam relationship with two of her crew mates throughout the series: one soft and mischievous boy and one smart and sexy girl. My other recs are Into the Drowning Deep, The Queen of Cups, Moon-Bright Tides, Seven Ways We Lie, No Room at the Inn, Human Enough, the Remaking of Corbin Wale and Three Part Harmony. These are all books I’ve loved with autistic queer characters and highly recommend! I also love Cast from the Earth by Leandra Vane which doesn’t have an autistic queer character but does have queer and disabled rep: a f/f romance with an amputee character and a mmf romance with an autistic character and a deaf character and two queer men. Scandalous Passions is a queer polyam historical with two queer women and a (cishet) man who has a stutter, which is a disability I don’t see represented nearly enough. The Nowhere Girls, The Gilded Wolves and Queens of Geek also have both queer and autistic characters but again, the autistic and queer rep is separate. I loved all of these!
Chantal: Far from you by Tess Sharpe was the first and only book I’ve ever read with a bisexual disabled lead. I didn’t feel represented by this book but I still recommend it because it’s a great book and I’ve seen lots of bisexual people connect with it. It’s a story split into two alternating timelines. One follows the main character befriending her best friend and the other part of the story focuses on the main character trying to track down her best friend’s murderer. It’s a book about grief, discovering your identity, and has a thriller murder mystery plotline. All of these elements were handled well and once I started the book I could not put it down. I loved that it did not shy away from showing the disabled experience. There was a scene where the main character has to go to the doctor for chronic pain shots. I’ve never had this exact experience but it perfectly captured how uncomfortable it is to have to go to the doctor frequently because of disability and the lengths some disabled people have to go through to feel better. The shots she gets are extremely painful but she has to do them because the shots relieve her chronic pain. I loved this book and I hope this will pave the way for more books about bisexual disabled main characters to be published.
Anniek is a 27-year-old Dutch bookstagrammer and book blogger, who’s queer, non-binary and autistic. They’ve been a massive bookworm since before they can remember, and when they’re not behind their laptop working as a freelance editor, they can be found reading all the books.
Bex is a reader and aspiring writer, primarily of books about queer and neurodivergent characters. She blogs about books with queer polyam rep, autistic rep, or both. She read and blogged solely about YA books for years but over the past few years she’s switched to reading mainly adult novels. She hopes to encourage people to read more books about disabled lgbtq characters so that publishers will publish more of them, particularly with 20 something characters. She’ll read any decent book with polyamory or autistic rep she can get her hands on and hopes to be the main person people come to for those sorts of recommendations!
She’s a hopeless romantic and and will read books of basically any genre as long as they have a little bit of romance in them. She hopes to someday write and publish books about queer and autistic adults and young adults.
Bex loves her cat, the beach, Taylor Swift, mexican food and video games.
Chantal Aurora is a bisexual disabled booktuber and bookstgrammer. She moved from Italy to America as a child and is part of the Italian diaspora. She has been posting videos about books and taking bookstagram pictures for four years. She exclusively reads diverse books with a focus on young adult literature. Occasionally, she will read middle grade, adult romance, graphic novels or adult contemporary if the book sounds interesting or is diverse.
It was such a privilege to have Anniek, Bex, and Chantal – three really awesome disabled and queer bookish content creators! -visiting us at the Pond today! I hope that this interview was insightful, thought-provoking, and engaged you to reflect on how you fit within the discussions of disability.
Thank you so much to Anniek, Bex, and Chantal for visiting! It was wonderful to have them, especially for Disability Pride Month!