There’s only one universal truth about Pride: it’s not the same for everyone. It can be joyful, terrifying, messy, none, both, all of the above. Most of all, whatever Pride is to you, it’s yours. And whatever yours is, it’s got a place in the community. Day 5 of Pride Nights at Queen’s is proud to celebrate that, proud to celebrate the people who make our community something immense, something ours. Read what guest Krystle Matar has to share, and don’t forget to check out her awesome new release, Legacy of the Brightwash!
Krystle Matar has been writing for a long time, but things got serious when Tashué Blackwood walked into her life, an amber-eyed whirlwind. When she isn’t arguing with him or any of his friends, she parents and farms. She has a lot of children and even more animals and one very excellent husband. She is currently working on lots of stories set in the Dominion. She expects to exist in this universe for a while.
Out by Krystle Matar
I never thought I would need to ‘come out’.
I never anticipated that I’d make it to my 30s and have to spend a long time wondering if I was brave enough, if I was ready. To be ‘out’. I was out, once upon a time.
Let’s rewind, maybe.
When I was growing up, my mother’s best friends were gay men. Partners, let’s call them Matt and Andrew. Brothers, let’s call them Carl and Adam. Adam’s partner, we’ll call him Sam. They were wonderful, positive, supportive, cultured, funny, loving. Sam was a bodybuilder and Adam kept a tiny apartment in the downtown core. Carl had a beautiful townhouse, immaculately decorated—I think he worked at an art gallery? We used to go to his house for dinner parties, my mother and I, and I dressed up in my fanciest clothes, but mostly I liked playing with his dog. Matt and Andrew lived in the suburbs and Matt had a dog, too.
Most of my happiest memories as a young person have one of these men in them.
Because they were just about my only good male role models.
My dad’s side of the family is… messy. I have never been close to them. There’s a lot of drug abuse and other kinds of abuse in that family.
I learnt to make myself small. I learnt to cover up so they wouldn’t try to grab me. I learnt to stay in corners so I could keep an eye on them. I learnt that at around 3-5 drinks, they’d let us kids have beer, but don’t hang around too long or they got really gross.
I remember watching a pride parade from Adam’s balcony. I think I was 14. I’d been intimate with boys and girls by that point, and I remember talking to him about it. Not because I needed to figure anything out—being bisexual was just obvious to me from the beginning, and because these men were such a part of my life, there was no fear of what that meant. I was just ‘like them’. Being attracted to men made me ‘like them’ because we could talk about what we thought was attractive. Being attracted to women made me ‘like them’ because we could talk about the gay community.
He just wanted to make sure I was being safe. Never leave your drink unattended at bars or house parties. If you decide to leave with someone, make sure a friend knows who you left with and hopefully where you went. Be respectful of your partners. Make sure they’re having a good time. You’ll probably date people in your life who aren’t ready to be out yet, and that can be hard to navigate, but be patient. It doesn’t come to everyone as easily as it came to you.
I remember watching that parade and knowing with surety that this was my future. I’d be walking in that parade one day. I think that was the year I was thinking about marrying my girlfriend. Maybe I was thinking about her and I specifically, about walking with her hand in mine, waiting for when we were old enough to move in together and be together forever.
I don’t remember where my mother was. But then, she didn’t give me a lot of good advice.
This might be the last time I saw any of these friends she had. Because somewhere around this time, she stopped seeing them. Somewhere around this time, she spent more and more time trying to improve herself, and she turned all her hateful judgemental bad habits out into the world and decided that one of the answers was that these wonderful, loving, supportive, complicated people were sinful because they were gay and that was the end of me having good male role models.
That’s about the time I started writing about Tashué Blackwood.
At 16, I walked in the pride parade like I wanted. Not with my girlfriend, alas—we didn’t get married. We did not conquer the challenges of the long-distance relationship; the challenges defeated us. I walked with my bff instead and I kissed her in front of the folks carrying signs about how we were going to hell.
I wrote Tashué and other queer characters because I was queer and I wanted my writing to be a place where I expressed myself. Tashué was my alter-ego, a different version of myself, but male. Confident and charismatic and a trouble maker. I loved him for being things that I couldn’t be.
My mother told me, “I forget that you grew up thinking this was normal. If you want to be taken seriously as a writer and be published, you’ll have to stop writing gay characters, because no one actually wants to read that.” I don’t know why I listened? Maybe she just told me enough times that she wore down my resistance. I really wanted to be published.
By 17, I was pregnant. A man who had been grooming me since I was 12—and he was 21—had gotten me pregnant. And I, at the tender age of 17, was going to save him from his demons. Except I wasn’t equipped and he didn’t want to change, and instead of anyone being saved, I spend 3 years in a relationship with someone who did his best to alienate me from my friends and my family.
It ended with a call to the police when he started hitting me.
I took my children and left.
Court cases and lawyers. I don’t know where he is now, but I do know he still doesn’t want to change.
Writing saved me. Writing about Tashué saved me. He’d saved me once before when I was younger, and he did it again. But he had to split himself in half for a while. He got to be bisexual in private writing that I never showed anyone, because ‘no one wants to read about that’. If I was writing about him in a real book, he had to be straight so that I would be taken seriously. I’ve never apologized to him for that—maybe I should.
At 20-something (20? 21?) rebound relationship. I was still ‘out’. I told him that I was bisexual because it was no big deal to me. It was a big deal to him—he assumed that this meant we would go pick up women together and have threesomes. He got mad when I didn’t want to, because it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t have the time or the energy to go prowling around for his tastes—I was a single mother, just trying to survive. It made me feel gross, the things he asked of me. I was tired. It became clear that in his mind, I was the sum total of how I could serve him and his needs.
Tashué saved me again, because I realized the only reason I was in that relationship was because I didn’t want to be alone. But I didn’t have to be alone. As long as I wrote, I would never be alone. Tashué could live a full and beautiful and complicated life and I could live through him and I wouldn’t ever be alone because I had him.
I wrote a lot that year. I told the rebound relationship to leave and not come back and I focused on surviving parenthood, and becoming a published writer. I wanted the world to know Tashué. He was my hero, and he deserved to be known. Write, write more, get better.
By the time I’m 22, and Tashué has a few novels. I wanted him to be published. I wanted to keep growing and learning and writing. By then, I accepted that I’ll be alone, because it seemed like whenever I brush up against relationships, everything gets worse. I decided that I’m not meant for relationships. I’m too messed up for them, too busy. I took care of my kids and I worked at a coffee shop, and in every spare moment, I wrote. Tashué grew with me and changed with me. He was police officer now at that point, a detective. His arc was always about protecting the innocent.
I met a cute guy who worked at the pizza restaurant across the busy intersection. I didn’t tell him I’m bisexual. I didn’t tell him about my messy relationship history. He knew something went wrong, because there I was alone with twins, but he respected my privacy and my boundaries and didn’t pry.
I told him about Tashué.
He read the books I’d written and in coming to know Tashué, he came to know pieces of me. But only certain pieces, because Tashué was straight-presenting and so was I.
We got married and we had more children, and along the way, he taught me how to love myself. He showed me who I was in his eyes, as someone worthy of more than I was giving myself. And I love him with every fibre of my being. His gender isn’t important, it’s the sum total of who we are together. I hope I’ve taught him to see himself through my eyes, too, and show him that he’s worthy of more than he was giving himself.
But something was always missing. Tashué was always straight in books and I never talked about the scope of my sexuality. It didn’t matter, because I loved him, and I wasn’t going anywhere. I felt like I’d given up something. Not that I needed to go sleep around with women and men, but jut that not talking about it was the same as pretending it didn’t exist. Tashué had certainly given up something. His books were sexless and without the nuance that I loved so much about him when I was younger. Because no one wanted to read that.
I don’t even remember ‘coming out’ to my husband; maybe I mentioned a girlfriend in the past, or something like that, but it was never a big revelation to him. Somehow, it was just normal to him. He just knew.
Fast-forward. Mid- to late-20s and I’m finally on to something. A book that will be worthy of publishing. A book that will really be something, if I can just get it right. I gave up on trying to choose between writing fantasy and writing about Tashué. I pulled him into a fantasy world and built an arc where he could protect the innocent and I felt like I was finally, finally, writing my story. I put in all the things I loved the most. Fantasy, romance, heavy themes, a discussion about cost. Worldbuilding, language geek stuff, guns. There will be a tip of the hat to Westerns, there will be a war. A murder mystery, a Victorian setting, magic.
I stepped into the self-publishing community. I felt so incredibly welcome. They made me feel like I belonged, before I was even published. I love them all. I’m forever grateful to everyone I met along the way, because they taught me to value myself and my writing more than I ever thought possible.
But something was still missing.
Tashué was still straight.
Sex scenes faded to black, because no one wanted to read that.
Lorne and Jason were still Lorne and Jason, because I was never able to force those boys to be straight. Because just like Jason was braver than his father in standing against the Authority for what he believed in, Jason was always braver than me in being fully himself no matter what. It was my tiny little act of defiance, of letting them be together and not talking about it like it was a big deal. It was just normal.
Revision, revision, revision. Make Tashué more, make him larger than life, make him more fully himself. Make the sex more present. Make those scenes longer, give them more details. Make it beautiful, a celebration of love and desire and intimacy in a story with a lot of darkness. Tashué and Stella save each other and teach each other that they’re worthy of love and respect in spite of their mistakes, in spite of the scars that life has left on them.
Make the worldbuilding clearer, bigger, just a little piece of all the things in my head. Yaelsmuir is just a speck, I have an entire map that I want to explore, and in giving Tashué a history in this fantasy world, I gave the fantasy world history, too. There’s so much potential in this place, so many stories.
Trim back the distracting characters. The ones that don’t matter enough. The ones that take up space that other, more important people could inhabit and become more fully themselves, too.
Ishmael needs more time on the page.
Ishmael isn’t a coward like me; he’s brave like Jason is and he would like to remind me that he and Tashué have history.
I have plans to publish this book myself. The moment is finally here; Tashué is going out into the world. People are going to know him, finally. But I flinch from this history because no one wants to read that. I grew up thinking it’s normal.
But it is normal, damnit. It’s normal and it’s a part of this world and the ways that people can love each other is varied and amazing and beautiful. There are so many different shades of love, different types of love, different expressions of love.
Tashué and Stella love each other and I wanted to keep that. The healing, redemptive power of love is important to me. Tashué is my alter-ego, but more. Stella is me, too. She’s the parts of me that were damaged by people who wanted things from me that I couldn’t give them. The parts of my that were battered by people who saw me as less than human and less than deserving of love and respect. The parts of me that made choices to protect my children, when those choices were scary and exhausting.
Ishmael is me, too. He’s the me that was hungry, the me that was angry, the me that needed something from the adults around me but didn’t get it. He embodies the history of my writing. He had minor but fantastic pieces of Tashué’s police novels. His very best content was in the writing that was just for me. His history with Tashué was passionate and sexual and delicious. He was where Tashué and I turned when we were tired of being straight-presenting. I wrote stories and stories about Tashué and Ishmael together, loving each other and colliding with each other and burning each other with their passion.
Ishmael hasn’t forgotten these stories and he brings that history and that tension and that endless flirting to the book that would become Legacy of the Brightwash.
And I don’t want to force Tashué to be straight-presenting anymore. He’s more. He’s bisexual. He always has been, just like I always have been. And I’m married to a man with the family we made together, which makes me look straight now too, but my husband knows that there’s more to me than how I present to the outside world and he’s fine with it.
He says, “I love you, person,” to remind me that he loves me no matter how I present.
I write fanfiction of my own work because Tashué and Ishmael’s chemistry is so delicious that I can’t ignore it.
And I look at the notebook that’s filled with smut and love and sex and tension and history and I know that I’ll regret it if I publish Tashué, and Legacy of the Brightwash, without it. I’m building a world from scratch and I can make it be whatever I want, but if I force Tashué to be straight and I resign his history with Ishmael to headcanon and self-fanfiction, I’m admitting that my mother is right. That no one wants to read that.
But the beautiful indie community has taught me that she’s wrong. People want to feel seen and heard, people want to connect to books that know it’s normal.
So, in the days before I’m due to turn my manuscript in to my editor, I make one last revision pass. One last change.
Tashué and Ishmael kiss. Just once. 184 words out of a novel that’s 220k.
Tashué is still in love with Stella and I stand by that.
But in that one tiny kiss, Tashué and I are out. We’re free. I’ve made my stand. In that one tiny kiss, I’ve captured our identities—the past, our history, how I wrote him, why I wrote him that way, the people that have come and gone from our lives and how they shaped us. The sanctuary that writing was. It’s also the future. My future, his future. My career. I don’t have to discard his history with Ishmael and I don’t have to discard my history, either. I don’t have to make a choice and I don’t have to hide.
“I love you, person,” means I can just be me.
That kiss with Ishmael means Tashué can just be himself.
I never thought I’d need to come out, because I grew up thinking it’s normal to feel this way. Life pulled me along a bumpy road and pieces of who I was were starting to fall away.
But I’m out now, I guess. Tashué is bisexual because I am.
Turns out, people DO want to read that. It seems like people really enjoy reading about him.
If you’d like to get in contact with Krystle Matar, you can find her on social media:
Check out Krystle Matar’s latest release, Legacy of the Brightwash.
Follow the Asylum’s 2021 Pride event here!