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Discovering Who You Are
Living in the 7% of Yourself and a Chat with Ellen O'Clover
Do me a favor and imagine yourself in a white room. Got it? Okay. Now let’s unpack your memories. Put your childhood in the corner with all those times you skinned your knee and cried or played with your favorite toys or met your friends in elementary school. The ceiling is for your dreams, the wildest ones you can fathom. Go ahead and hang your accomplishments on the walls to showcase diplomas, awards, photos, and whatever else makes you proud. The floor, however, is for your failures. Every mistake you’ve made or when you disappointed someone (or even yourself).
Still with me?
This is your life up until this very moment. Everything you’ve done can and has been predicted with 93% of accuracy. But what about the missing 7% that can’t be defined?
To find it, I need you to imagine yourself holding a can of paint in your favorite color. Get a grip on the handle and spin around. Splash the hell out of that white room. Really get into it and spread paint everywhere.
Now you’re standing in a room with your childhood in a corner, dreams on the ceiling, accomplishments on the walls, and failures on the floor. And everything is blotched with paint. You know what each paint stain is? That’s the 7% that cannot be predicted.
This percentage is where we can find who we are in our own lives (yes, including failure). Growing up as a queer person, we’re forced into that 93% of predictability. It’s the default. We’re told we’ll have a heteronormative spouse with 2.5 kids, a house with a picket fence, and be living “the dream.” But whose plan is it? Certainly not ours. Finding who we are depends on that 7%. Those paint-splashed moments from childhood when maybe you wanted to play dolls or race cars, the haunting sexual dream that made you question yourself, the picture you might’ve hung up of your best friend who you were secretly in love with, the fight you had because someone called you a slur—these were times when we stepped outside that outdated box of normal everyone so desperately wanted to put us in.
Those moments never leave us, just like the paint stain in your mental image. Maybe they didn’t make sense until the day you knew you weren’t straight, or maybe they did and you didn’t know what to label it yet. Either way, queer people have always found themselves living in the 7%. These moments make us who we are.
The 7% for me (stained an emerald shade of green in my mind) was once horrific. The anxiety and hatred I endured from myself for wanting to play with My Little Pony dolls and wearing my aunt’s heels, from making friends with only females in school and secretly crushing on boy bands, because I’d had secretly wanted to list male celebrities during games of MASH at recess. Now, I’ve embraced that 7%, giving myself permission to let go of the hurt. Those moments aren’t shameful or embarrassing. They were times in which I sought out happiness the only way I’d known how. Looking back, those instances make me smile and understand I was discovering myself in a world that didn’t have a plan for me.
This is crucial for others to realize, especially those coming of age: it’s okay to discover who we are in our own way and in our own time. We shouldn’t be ashamed of going against what’s expected of us based on antiquated gender roles or refusing to accept an imposed future.
This message was driven home for me when I received an (incredibly) advance copy of the young adult novel Seven Percent of Ro Devereux a year ago from the author Ellen O’Clover (my literary agent sibling and now friend). The premise is about a girl named Ro who develops an app based on the childhood game of MASH that can predict the future with 93% accuracy. That missing 7%? Ro has to figure out exactly who she is. Throw in a fake-dating scenario with her former best friend Miller, a cast of inclusive characters including Ro’s current best friend Maren (who identifies as bisexual), and the universal theme of finding yourself… and it’s a story anyone can see themselves in.
Seven Percent of Ro Devereux resonated so deeply with me as a queer person that I had to include it for WE’RE HERE. Ellen O’Clover’s debut hits shelves next Tuesday, January 17, 2023. My excitement for the world to meet Ro and go along for the incredibly sweet, thought-provoking ride is beyond 100%. It’s a reminder that we’re here, everyone who goes against the grain. This is why I wanted to chat with Ellen about her upcoming release and the themes to which anyone can relate.
Check out the discussion below:
Ellen O’Clover writes young adult novels about finding your people, falling in love, and figuring it all out (or trying to, anyway). Her debut Seven Percent of Ro Devereux publishes January 17 from HarperTeen. Preorder details, including signed copies, can be found on her website www.ellenoclover.com. Add it to your Goodreads shelf by clicking here.
About Matthew Hubbard:
I’m an author represented by Katie Shea Boutillier with Donald Maass Literary Agency. My debut novel Last Boyfriends will publish Summer 2024 from Delacorte Press / Penguin Random House. It’s a coming-of-age novel pitched as Heartstopper meets The First Wives Club in which three queer teenage boys in small-town Alabama set out to get revenge on their ex-boyfriends and end up fighting their school's anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives.
I started the WE’RE HERE newsletter as a guide for queer and ally individuals highlighting book news, inspirational interviews, and awareness that we’re here to make difference.
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