The Necessity of Writing Queerness Without Romance, a guest post by Maria Ingrande Mora
When I was a high school freshman, I had about five crushes at a time. Sophomore year? Same thing. My junior year? Yeah, you get the picture.
Despite being a chaotic bisexual who loved the twisted-tangled feeling of a crush, I didn’t date anyone. I certainly didn’t have any relationships. Did that make me less queer? Absolutely not.
In The Immeasurable Depth of You, 15-year-old Brynn does most of her socializing online. Fandom is community. So when she’s sent to Florida to live on her estranged father’s houseboat with no internet access and no phone, she feels more isolated than she’s ever been before. That’s saying a lot, since Brynn is used to living with a sense of isolation as she navigates severe anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
When she meets Skylar, Brynn finds her irritating and irritatingly crush-worthy. But for many reasons, the relationship that develops with Skylar is not romantic. It’s a complicated, deep friendship.
Romance isn’t a prerequisite for queerness
The nature of Brynn and Skylar’s relationship doesn’t make Brynn or the book less queer. Giving Brynn a meaningful relationship that was neither romantic nor sexual was a very intentional move on my part. Having a crush on someone who doesn’t feel the same way can be really difficult. Having an intense friendship of any kind can be even more difficult. I wanted to let Brynn experience and process the unique (and relatable) intensity of platonic love layered with an unrequited crush.
That being said, I love romance in stories! I gravitate toward fantasies with a strong romance element. That simply wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to tell with The Immeasurable Depth of You.
Let’s not gatekeep queerness — especially in front of teens
For many queer teens (and adults!), queerness can feel like something that must be achieved or demonstrated. This can lead to feeling isolated from the community and from feeling as if one doesn’t belong in queer spaces.
I have experienced this, and it’s a terrible feeling when you already feel isolated by living in a world that prioritizes heterosexual relationships and the gender binary. I recall being a freshman in college heading to gay clubs and wondering if I was “allowed” to be in the space if I wasn’t actively dating a woman. At the time, I would have benefited so much from stories about queer folks experiencing and expressing their queerness in ways other than being partnered.
Brynn is going through a lot, but questioning her queer identity isn’t one of her challenges. It was very important to tell a story about a girl who is secure in her identity without feeling as if she needs to “prove” her queerness. Brynn has a lot of self-awareness, yet doesn’t quite see that as the superpower it is — because she’s so deep on a journey of accepting herself and loving herself.
Bisexual folks are in a unique — and frustrating — position to feel isolated from both straight folks and the LGBTQ+ community. They can experience harmful stereotypes and the pervasive belief that bisexuality is a phase. This is something Brynn addresses directly in the narrative. She might engage in a truly epic amount of negative self talk, but she isn’t going to let someone be biphobic or ableist to her face.
One might think that because Brynn has multiple crushes, that she’s reinforcing negative stereotypes. The truth is, she’s a teenager. She isn’t sexual active — in fact she may someday identify as aspec — but she experiences crushes on all genders. Faulting her for that erases the lived experiences of bisexual and pansexual folks. Does that sound complicated? Sure. Because it absolutely is. Having huge, strong feelings is never simple or easy. Especially when you feel like you’re fighting a tide of misconceptions and expectations.
Brynn crushing on a cute librarian who just happens to be a boy doesn’t invalidate her queerness. The budding crush exists on the page in part to reinforce that her identity is valid no matter who she happens to find crushworthy at any given moment.
The intersection of identity and mental health
More than anything, The Immeasurable Depth of You is a coming of age story about navigating anxiety and depression. Brynn’s queerness is one piece of her layered identity. Her queerness informs how she moves through the world, but it doesn’t serve as a challenge in her life at this time. She’s experienced homophobia from some peers, but in part because she’s so very online, she’s been fortunate to have affirming young people around her. She also has the support of loving, if not flawed, parents who affirm her queerness.
No matter how supported she is, Brynn is representative of the majority of queer teens who experience anxiety. Research by the Trevor Project found that 73% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety. 58% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing symptoms of depression. We need to do better by queer youth and provide them with accessible and inclusive resources.
As a queer adult who struggled immensely as a queer teen, I hope The Immeasurable Depth of You gives readers who connect with it the chance to feel seen and affirmed. It’s a messy and complicated story of self acceptance and resilience — and how love can impact us in ways we might not expect.
Meet the author
Maria Ingrande Mora (they/she) is a graduate of the University of Florida, where they received their bachelor’s degree in English with a focus in creative writing. Their love languages are snacks, queer joy, and live music. They are a content designer with over 20 years of experience building brand narratives, editorial strategies, and content systems for clients across multiple industries. A queer single parent, Ingrande Mora lives in St. Petersburg with their two teenagers and three cats.
Their queer YA debut, Fragile Remedy, was selected as Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Their second novel, The Immeasurable Depth of You, will be released April 4, 2023 with Peachtree Teen. Their Power Rangers comic book series, Ranger Academy, releases this fall with BOOM! studios.
About The Immeasurable Depth of You
In the devastating but uplifting tradition of Adam Silvera and Nova Ren Suma comes a queer coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Florida mangroves.
How do you face your fears when everything is terrifying?
Fifteen-year-old Brynn can’t stop thinking about death. Her intrusive thoughts and severe anxiety leave her feeling helpless—and hopeless. So after her mom interprets one of Brynn’s blog posts as a suicide note, she takes extreme measures, confiscating Brynn’s phone, blocking her Internet access, and banishing her to stay with her father who lives “off the grid” on a houseboat in the Florida mangroves. Isolated from her online friends—her only friends—Brynn resigns herself to a summer of mind-numbing boredom and loneliness… until Skylar appears.
Skylar is everything Brynn isn’t—sultry, athletic, and confident. Yet Brynn feels at home around this fearless girl who pushes her to try new things and makes her belly flutter with nerves that have nothing to do with anxiety. When Brynn discovers that Skylar is trapped in the bayou and can’t tell her why, she resolves to free her new crush from the dark waters, even if it means confronting all of her worst fears.
Through Brynn’s funny, awkward, and sincere narration, The Immeasurable Depth of You explores the ways mental illness can impact a life by centering a character who is learning (sometimes messily) to accept all parts of herself.
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: 04/04/2023
Age Range: 14 – 17 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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