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Guest Post: Keep Faith by Kess Costales

This guest post was written Kess Costales.

Kess Costales Author PhotoKess Costales is a Toronto-based, queer Filipina author represented by Kat Enright of the Seymour Agency. As a child of immigrants, it is important to her to always provide queer Filipino diaspora representation in her stories. She graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Criminology, but doesn’t use her degree for anything. You can usually find her constantly daydreaming about monsters, magic, and romance.

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Keep faith, in the broad sense of the word. It doesn’t have to be a religion unless you want it to be. It doesn’t have to speak about the universe unless you want it to. It doesn’t have to be about anyone but yourself.

When Gabhi came to me about this idea, I couldn’t refuse. Not only because it was a chance to share a story about being queer the way that I am, but also because it intersects with my faith. That’s something I’ve yet to properly touch in my writing and I figured it was about time.

I grew up in a Catholic Filipino household and though my mom is more liberal than other Filipino moms, our culture can be a very conservative one. It was a little shaky getting to where I am now and knowing myself the way I do.

In my darkest days, I considered that I couldn’t believe in God because of how much I was suffering and how confused I was. I felt unworthy, unloved, and unimportant. I felt so many terrible things and stopped going to Church and I still haven’t gone back, but there’s one thing I realized: I believe in God because I need to believe that I am loved no matter what I do or who I become. I often jokingly say that I’m a non-practicing Catholic and that’s true because no matter what I believe, there are flaws that I cannot support and beliefs that don’t align with mine.

But I know I need that positivity and that love and that’s what I get from my faith, as little as I have these days. I don’t like the thought that we are supposed to suffer or that our suffering is all part of God’s plan, but I like the hope and the love and the feeling of perfect and worthy as I am. When I questioned my sexual orientation, I thought about how Catholics perceive queerness. When I thought about my sexuality in general, I wondered how the Church would see me.

And I needed to believe in goodness and the chance of finding love and being accepted.

No one’s story is exactly the same. We exist in different spaces with different beliefs and names and emotions. We don’t experience things exactly as others and it’s good to have a collection that reflects that. Faith isn’t solely about religion or Christianity. Queerness is broad and diverse and ever-changing as we discover ourselves and new definitions that might fit better than pre-existing ones.

I’ve fully supported Gabhi in bringing this anthology to life. I loved and still love the idea and seeing it come together gives me hope, especially now, when I’ve been hit with grief over a broken relationship that’s entangled with my queerness in a messy sort of way. I need the joy that comes from knowing a book like this exists.

When you see the cover, I hope it brings feelings of warmth and optimism. I hope the rainbow reminds you of the queerness and the diversity and the different stories you’ll encounter in this collection. I wanted that brightness, that sunshine-y glow, the hearts in the rainbow because we are deserving of love in our faith and with others. A rainbow is a symbol of queerness itself, with hearts dispersed in it for the love we all deserve.

It wasn’t the only cover I made. In fact, there were five options in total, but the cover you see now is the one that reflects the anthology best. I always used the rainbow in some form, sometimes with flowers for romance, and always bright colors to keep it eye-catching and full of light.

There’s an array of stories to find within it from a variety of talented authors.

Mine is a story about a Filipino teen, asexual and biromantic, who pretends to date her best friend to make their exes jealous. However, all this time, the main character has been in love with her friend. It’s my queer version of the fake-dating trope, a chance to delve into being asexual in environments where sex seems to rule and finding love somewhere safe and feeling worthy. It’s about faith in God and faith in the belief that there is nothing wrong with being queer. It’s about falling in love and being in love and having hope.

Keep faith, stay strong, and know that there are joys coming your way and you deserve every one of them.

Keep faith in that everything will be okay and that you have your own story to write or to experience with love however you need to be. As friends, as family, as romantic lovers—keep faith in that you will find them.

I’m grieving a lost relationship now. I’m heartbroken and terrified, but I am glad for this collection of stories. I am glad that my faith reminds me that I am whole and deserving of love. I am so glad to be among these writers and to share our stories and to offer a bit of my heart to anyone willing to take a chance on this anthology.

About Keep Faith:

Keep Faith CoverKeep faith, in the broad sense of the word. It doesn’t have to be a religion, unless you want it to be. It doesn’t have to speak about the universe, unless you want it to. It doesn’t have to be about anyone but yourself. Keep faith, in other planets and other houses; be it in the face of danger, grief, or while you spread your arms and laugh. Keep faith the same way you keep hope, bright and shiny, ever present. Keep faith in all your queer, beautiful self. Because you deserve it.

This is an anthology of 14 short stories, by 14 queer authors, where faith and queerness intersect. Incidental, purposeful, we-exist-and-that’s-why queerness. And faith meaning whatever you want it to mean.

KEEP FAITH is out September 1st. Preorder it now from Gumroad or add it on Goodreads.