Diane Billas, who said she identifies as “a queer author” and a “pansexual,” will discuss her new novel, “Does Love Always Win?,” which is about coming to grips with one's sexual orientation, at booked, 8511 Germantown Ave., on Saturday, June 24, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Billas calls her book “a young adult coming of age LGBTQ+ novel that I wrote because I wish I had read similar books in high school. This event will be a great way to celebrate Pride in the Chestnut Hill community.”
A native of York, Pennsylvania, Billas graduated in 2008 from Shenandoah University with a bachelor’s degree in arts management with a concentration in horn performance and a minor in business administration and piano. She then moved to Philadelphia to take a job with the Philadelphia Orchestra as an assistant in the education department. She lived in Chestnut Hill for five years, then Glenside for three years and in Upper Dublin for the last six years.
Billas currently works for the University of Pennsylvania/Penn Medicine's Development and Alumni Relations office as the assistant director of communications and stewardship, and she oversees the Penn Medical School alumni newsletter.
You might say that Billas met her future husband, Matt Billas, because she was tooting her own horn. They met while both were playing horn instruments in the Ambler Symphony Orchestra. “He was the fourth horn player, and I was the second horn player,” she said, “and the third horn player wasn't there, so we were able to sit next to each other. We started talking and eventually began dating.”
Matt and Diane were married at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill on July 30, 2016, and their reception was held at Valley Green Inn. They now have a son who is 6 months old. “I told my husband early on that I identify as pansexual,” Diane said, “and he told me it didn't change the way he felt about me. He loves me for who I am.”
For those who are not familiar with the term “pansexual,” Billas said it describes a person who is “attracted to someone as a person. It doesn’t matter their gender or identity — the term 'pansexual' feels right to me.
“Pansexuality is not portrayed much in popular culture; the only reason someone might have heard of it is from Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato or a few other 'out' pansexual celebrities. Even pansexual representation in movies and TV shows is basically non-existent. I’m hoping that changes in the future so 'pans' like me can feel comfortable telling people that no, I don’t identify as bisexual but as 'pan' and not get a glazed-over look.”
Billas said it’s been a “bumpy ride to even admit” that she’s part of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I grew up in a small, conservative town where I never met anyone who openly identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community. I didn’t have access to books with LGBTQ+ representation. All I ever heard were slurs from my classmates about people they thought might be gay.”
Billas' novel, “Does Love Always Win?” (published by Creative James Media), is purely fictional, but there are some similarities between the protagonist, Shorty, and Diane. For example, they were both on the school newspaper staff and the marching band. But there are important differences. Shorty is “super-popular,” and Billas said she was “a band nerd and not in the least bit popular.”
Shorty realizes she's not attracted to boys at all. “Thinking back on my own high school experience,” Billas said, “I believe I had crushes on some girls, but I just didn't realize it. I thought it was purely that I wanted to be their friend. Shorty's love interest, Kristy, is pansexual, like me.”
Billas said she hopes her book can help younger people who are just now figuring out their own identities.
“If I would have had a similar book (to 'Does Love Always Win?') in high school or college to read, I might have recognized some of the feelings I have about myself and understood more about who I am as an individual,” she said.
Billas will have another book coming out in September, 2024, from Creative James Media, called “Superficial.” This is a young adult superhero novel set in Philadelphia, based on Billas' love of Marvel movies.
For more information about “Does Love Always Win?” or the June 24 event at Booked, visit dianebillas.com or bookedch.com. Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com.