Content Warning: bisexual erasure nonbinary erasure

As a bisexual, genderqueer author writing m/m and m/genderqueer literary romance, I’m fed up to my eyeballs with the way booksellers categorize queer lit. Amazon, for example, starts with "Gay and Lesbian" and then includes subgenres such as literary or romance or science fiction. Others use tags, the same way my county library does. That means the book might be shelved in fiction, romance, mystery, or whatever but it's tagged as "gay" or "lesbian" (and, on very rare occasions, "transgender").

I have a problem with this.

It's great to have things tagged, don't get me wrong. If I want to read queer lit, I want to know it fits in that category, even if it's space cowboy or urban fantasy or dystopian futuristic or sweet romance. My issue, though, is all the people being rendered invisible by categorizing something based on which two people are in a relationship. Bi erasure happens when we label books as "gay" or "lesbian." Those are identities, not romantic pairing labels. A bisexual man is not automatically gay because he's with another man; a bisexual woman is not automatically a lesbian because she's with a woman (as labeled by outside people; if an individual wants to identify that way, not my business). This is especially bad if the character(s) in question have explicitly identified themselves as bi.

The other erasure I see is people who do not fall neatly into gender binaries. There is some decent trans lit out there, and I'm now finding more people willing to play with gender identity and expression. However, those books can't adequately be categorized as "gay" or "lesbian" either, especially if the gender-fluid, gender-creative, genderqueer, or gender-nonbinary character doesn't identify as such (as in real life, where there's a lot of variety). Or what about trans people who identify as straight? Or stories focusing more heavily on gender identity than on sexual orientation? More often than not, the book is tagged based on presumed body parts rather than identity.

I don't want to see lgbtq listed as a "genre" at all. There are many straight people who are interested in a story regardless of who is in whose bed at the end. There are even straight men who aren't put off by gay sex. Imagine that! (Please insert giant sarcastic eye roll here.) Some of our best work isn't being read because it got labeled as "gay" and shunted to the queer section where it's only being seen by a tiny fraction of the population. If we quit thinking that straight people won't be interested in genuinely queer themes (not just "Hey, look, this guy is GAY and/or having GAY SEX!"), or universal themes through a queer lens, people might stop viewing our books as the sort of thing one hides in a trench coat, whispering, "Pssst...wanna buy a book?"

Personally, for my work, I would prefer to first categorize my novels within their actual genre: literary, romance, fantasy, whatever. Then, within that, I'd like to see tags for the themes. That would give people not only sexuality and gender tags but also information about the type of story. For example, I often write religious themes. A work could be categorized as Romance, with sub-tags for lgbtq and Christianity. I think some places do this, but not nearly enough, and there aren't always enough/the right kind of tags available.

I'm hopeful this will happen one day. Until then, I'll just keep writing, making it clear that I'm not limiting myself to two broad (and sometimes inaccurate) categories.

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