Content Warning: biphobia

Over the last few weeks, I've gone over what I don't like to see in bisexual characters and why, followed by what I do like to see. Now for the fun part---why I write us and what makes us so great to write about!

I didn't set out to be an author of bisexual fiction. Like most people, I had a vague sense that "bisexual books" meant poly relationships or threesomes and moresomes. Writing bi characters happened somewhat accidentally.

My first novel, Lower Education, was actually a re-written m/m fanfiction (nope, not linking it here; contact me if you absolutely must know and will positively die without reading it; trust me, it's not that great). I will say that the story was born out of my love for both a particular fandom and the movie The Music Man. When I rewrote it, I had in mind to make it a bit closer to the plot of the movie---that is, my version of Harold Hill (Phin) was supposed to fall for my version of Marian the Librarian (Dani), in classic man-woman romance style. It wasn't even meant to be a big part of the plot, which was mostly about the New York State educational system; the relationship was peripheral and only in there because it's part of the movie's plot.

As the story unfolded, it became clear they weren't meant for each other. The missing element turned out to be the (male) love interest from my fanfic, who had been rewritten as Alex, a side character in my novel who was only there as background. He and Phin had terrific chemistry. Except, Phin wasn't gay. I mean, he just wasn't. I ended up thinking, Huh; okay, he's bi. Makes sense. He didn't have a big coming out or some aha moment. It was just a thing about him, like his sandy-blond hair or his blue eyes. I didn't fuss about it; I just wrote him as a person.

In the course of the story, Phin's not-love-interest Dani's teenage son is having a relationship crisis. Again, he's not struggling to realize he's bi; he knows that. He's struggling to choose between two people he loves (or decide if he has to choose, more accurately). When he confesses to Phin---picking up on Phin's identity---Phin calls Alex out on being biphobic.

What interested me was that I simply wrote a story, and that part felt natural. My beta readers spotted it immediately and said they were thrilled to see it in there. It sparked my interest in looking for other bi characters in m/m (male/male pairing) novels. That turned out to be a lot harder than I expected.

Between the stereotypes, the tropes, and the lack of any kind of representation, I was utterly frustrated. Why are especially bi men treated like mythical beings or awful people? That was the moment I decided that if other people weren't going to do it, then I was. (I have since discovered that there are some terrific stories out there that are either bi-centric or feature fantastic bi representation. Next week, I'll do a list of my favorites.)

Now, don't misunderstand. I don't feel the need to make every male character bi, though I do tend to have at least one bi character in most stories. Sometimes, it happens very differently than it did with Phin. I actually intended to just write gay men for my second novel. That didn't happen either! I ended up with a bisexual trans woman, a genderqueer character, and a man struggling to come to terms with his internalized homophobia and biphobia. Then, while editing that novel and promoting the release of Lower Education, I wrote several other things. More often than not, I included bi characters---of multiple genders, depending on the story. My current project involves two characters, one of whom is out and proud as bisexual, the other of whom is determined to "pass" for straight at all costs to his inner self.

Let me tell you, this whole experience has been fun. It's freeing to play with societal expectations and write characters who reflect real people in my own life (no, none of them can be identified). Those of us who fall outside gender and sexuality binaries provide great opportunities to mess with what it means to be "normal" in a world that says "normal" belongs only to cisgender straight people.

Because we don't fit neatly into boxes, we are your passport to exploring new places in writing. If you like, you can deal with biphobia and transphobia. You can dig into a character's psyche and ask what feels threatening about being previously gay- or straight-identified but discovering the capacity to love outside of that context. You can examine the realities of shifting degrees of attraction. You can play with a character's inner conflict in relationships (beyond just "figuring things out"). You can help readers understand how tough it can be to navigate both queer and straight spaces.

In writing about people who can't be pinned down, you have the opportunity to help people see the whole world in less binary terms. There are gray areas and ambiguities in so many parts of life. I've always said that I'm tired of being a queer person looking for my life in the metaphors of straight people. What if cisgender heterosexual people could find themselves in us? What if in toying with gender and sexuality binaries, we open the world not only to us as fully human but as relatable for our strength and resilience? What if we mess with ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman and make safe spaces for exploring non-conformity for everyone? That brings us all closer to valuing our differences while celebrating the ways we are alike.

There is nothing at all wrong with writing cisgender monosexual (gay/lesbian/straight) characters. I don't feel the need to read about bisexual people in every novel. Heck, I don't even feel the need to read lgbtqia people in every novel. If you do choose to write about us, though, expand your mind on who we are and how you represent us. You just might find you like writing our stories after all.

advertisement