By now, I feel like everyone’s written some hot takes about the autobiographical manga, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness. I’m a little late to the party. You would think that, me being me, I would have hopped right on that train, but alas, money was tight and time was short, so it took me a while to finally buy the manga and read it. But now, I’ve finally finished it! And, as I expected, I loved it and found it to be very poignant, relatable, and even inspiring. Although, not exactly in the ways I expected.
I had seen scans of pages from the manga that dealt with Nagata Kabi’s accounts of her experiences with mental illness, as well as plenty of people marveling over how the story was about “more than just being a lesbian” (as if it’s somehow shocking that queer people have experiences outside of their sexuality…), so I wasn’t going in blind or anything. Still, I was really, really shocked to find that most of the things that struck me deepest about the manga involved family, self-perception, and creating meaningful art.
Part of the reason I didn’t fully relate to the more literal themes involving sexuality is probably because Kabi’s first lesbian encounter is…unique, we’ll say. After barely thinking about sex for the first twenty-eight years of her life, Kabi realizes that, hey, she likes girls, and decides to sign up for a lesbian escort service. The story is, of course, far more nuanced than that, but the point I’m trying to make is that I cannot relate to her actual, tangible experience at all. I knew I liked girls since I was about eleven and panicked about it for like, eight years – it certainly didn’t take me as long to come to those conclusions as it did for her. Oh, and I never rented out an escort, either.
This isn’t to say I disliked the uniqueness of her experience – it was refreshing to hear an account regarding female/queer sexuality that isn’t focused around coming out of the closet or high school. I was just surprised by how different our experiences really were. And yet, despite the fact that our journeys to self-discovery were wildly different, I found a lot that resonated with me.
What I really ended up relating to was that constant pull of disappointing your family. I’ve always, always, always thought in those terms. I don’t even know why – my parents aren’t overbearing, are far from being conservative or pushy, and any relatives who would disapprove of me being me are relatives that I don’t even particularly care about. Kabi’s worries about her parents went beyond just her sexuality – she wanted to have the right job, the right lifestyle, the right everything to impress them. I didn’t realize until I read My Lesbian Experience, but I had been thinking in those terms a lot, too. I’ve always wanted to do something with art and with writing, but worry that if I put anything out that is too personal or too explicit, it will disappoint my parents. Clearly, Kabi got over this fear since she put out a literal book about all of her feelings and about having sex with a lesbian escort. If she can show the world her innermost thoughts about lowkey thinking her mother is hot, than I can put anything I want to put out there and not worry, too, dammit!
I’m guilty of this, too. For a long time, I had this idea in my head that I was only “allowed” to like girls if I was “hot” enough. As in, only if I dressed a certain way, was skinny enough, was girly enough, etc. It’s like, I had this weird need to make sure guys would think my brand of gay was appealing, and I wanted straight girls to see me and think, “wow, I would have never guessed you liked girls! We still like you and accept you, because you’re gay but not, like, THAT gay.”