The "B" word

July 17, 2012

Here's something that will surprise no one: I like writing bisexual and pansexual characters. Like, a lot.

Here's a count, so far:

Sam* and Hansen
Brady and Etienne
Jamie and Kelly
Aeron* and Tam
Adam* and Leith

The little star of course indicating a bi or pansexual character. No, definitely not trying to imply that they're the same thing, and each character has their own reasons for identifying (or refusing to) as they do, but that's a different post. For the purposes of this one, I'm gonna put that section of spectrum folks together. And yes, that three-out-of-five couples trend continues and intensifies as I get more and more books kicking--y'all have already heard about Malory, and he's under the "B" category too. All the letters in the QUILTBAG are important to me, and I can and will be all-inclusive. But this one is, again, unsurprisingly, kinda my thing.

A lot of the way I've seen bisexual/pansexual/ label-eschewing generally awesome people who are attracted to other awesome people represented in books, TV, and film makes me stabby. I strongly feel that if we had more characters who weren't at the extremes of the spectrum, a lot of hurtful myths--which for the record are as rampant within the LGBTQ community as without--would be that much closer to extinction. Visibility. Representation. All that good stuff. So bearing in mind that I am by no means the expert on anything, here are a handful of absurdities I enjoy having my characters defy:

  • Bi people are slutty. Not that being slutty is bad, because personally I think it's awesome--but it has nothing to do with where you sit on the spectrum. I had this conversation with another bi author recently, but in fact we, and most of our acquaintance, are completely the opposite. Being attracted to those who identify as male, female, and nonbinary is not a matter of greed. It's how we're wired.
  • Hetero attraction goes away after we hook up with a same sex partner, or vice versa. This is not a switch someone flips. While every individual has their own experience and it's of course possible, I've not yet met a person who actually went "gay for you"--which is why that phrase stings a lot of bi and pan people, for the record. We're kinda touchy about the whole bi-erasure thing. I'll let Malory say it for me: "It's not like it wears off if I don't smell pussy every year or something. Always gonna do it for me."
  • On a related note: bisexuals can never be truly happy as one half of a monogamous couple. Sure, some are poly, just like, yanno, straight or gay or asexual--anyone. Ever. But just because someone's bi, it does not mean they must have it all at once any more than liking men means someone needs ALL THE MEN at once. Logic. It's a thing.
  • Bisexuals are gay but can't admit it/straight but faking it. Possibly the most insulting of all potential myths. As another good bi writer-friend of mine (we need a support group, trust me) says, "I love being a mythical creature." We exist, I swear. While human sexuality is often in flux, and a person's identity can change over the course of their life, bi and pan are no different than any other labels in that sense. This isn't a phase. We're real people, and we know who we are.*
  • Variation on a theme: bisexuals are manipulative. I see this one a lot in TV and film and it makes me scream. Guy swears he's straight, then sleeps with some dude to get something he wants and goes back to his girlfriend/wife/whatever. This? This is not a bisexual thing. This is a dickhead thing.
  • Accepting your bisexuality creates huge internal drama. Don't get me wrong, obviously it can. I have some friends for whom it was incredibly difficult. I know this makes for good conflict, and fiction is all about the conflict, but it doesn't always go down like that--not by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes it's just like, "Oh, well, that explains everything, awesome." Then their friends are like, "Oh yeah, saw that coming a mile away." And then their family goes, "Yeah, no shit, you like girls too," and go back to drinking their beer. (Yes, that happened. To me**. My brother's hilarious.) Some of us don't want it to be a big deal, either. I mean, other people make enough of a big deal out of it for us. But, like, we live with it, so it's more likely that we aren't super surprised when we figure it out.

Why is this coming up now? Adam Kavanaugh, who happens in, oh, two weeks. (Yikes!) He is, as my Editrix Raven says, pathologically mellow. Which doesn't always please the people around him, but hey. Gotta keep on keepin' on. He's got me thinking about it, though, so here we are.

I'd be really interested in any bi or pan stereotypes others have noticed, too. (The other me blogs about this a lot, but I'm sure I'll never cover everything.) I do realize that one person writing weird-ass books isn't going to fix anything. But it sure is fun to have at it, all the same.

*Also, questions are good. That's where it starts. I <3 questioning, and would give a lot to live in a world where that was made easier for people. Everyone would be a lot happier and more comfortable in that world. So don't think I'm trying to exclude that concept, please.
**I know I'm not the only one. Not only because of friends, but because of, oddly enough, Equilibrium. For every person who says, "Man, Sam 'went gay' too easily." there are three who say, "Oh thank god, a reasonable bisexual character, geez." Hope. I have it!
J.A. Rock said...

"This is not a bisexual thing. This is a dickhead thing."

"Logic. It's a thing."

HAHA! You're the best.

I think you hit all the nails on all the heads.

Oh my god, the spectrum, people, the SPECTRUM. I get annoyed with the idea that being bi has to be a 50/50 split. You can be mostly attracted to one gender and occasionally attracted to another. You can be drawn more toward partners of one gender during certain phases of your life (NOT the same thing as bisexuality being a phase that wears off, and not the same as gay for you.)

Thank you for this post.

Katey said...

Those are really good points too, yes, and I really need to play with them. And that those phases of obsessing more over one gender than the other (or having gender-irrelevant moments) do not actually affect a current relationship because, hey YOU'RE STILL IN LOVE with that person and STILL BI.

But yes. Argh. Angry bi mob time! Thanks for stopping by and joining the rant. <3

Piper said...

Dude... THANK YOU.

Becky said...

"Oh, well, that explains everything, awesome."

That was my experience when I figured out I'm genderqueer. One night of panic, then I woke up the next morning and went, "duh." I'm not a different person now, just because I have a name for the thing I've always been.

I think, and this is speculation on my part but I think this is where it's coming from, the "bi people are slutty" myth comes from the very confused idea that someone can't be satisfied with their sex life if they're not getting everything they like all at the same time. There are lots of fun things to do in bed (and on the floor, and the kitchen table, and up against the wall....) but it's anatomically impossible to do them all at once. I'm a little gimpy for floor sex these days, but I'm not going to live a life of sexually frustrated misery without it. (Also doesn't mean that B.O.B. and I won't have a lovely little fantasy about it every once in a while, either.)

Katey said...

Piper, you're the awesomest.

Becky, yes exactly! I totally get why it's a trial for people in many, many situations, but... it isn't for everyone. Sometimes I think seeing TOO much of that in fiction gives people a really skewed view of reality. Ha!

But I think you've also hit the nail on the head with the slutty thing, and your analogy is a good one. I might have to direct people to your comment next time I have this conversation <3

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