Hi, I’m Michelle and I’m bisexual. I’ve known that for over ten years and I’ve always felt really comfortable identifying myself as such. There are some issues I’ve faced though. In the LGBTQ+ community, bisexual people are still kind of being frowned upon. There are a lot of people that don’t want to date a bi person because one gender can’t give you what the other can, and what if the bi person wants something else. I’ve faced it myself, an ex of mine was very worried that I would choose a guy over her, because I’d miss being with a guy. Let me just say right now that that wasn’t the reason we broke up, but it did hurt me a lot. And that isn’t even the worst thing that has happened. I’ve seen people talk about being excluded from the company because they’re bisexual.
Bisexuals are often seen as greedy or slutty or as people that just can’t make up their minds. I can’t count the times I’ve been asked if I wanted to participate in a threesome because ‘you’re attracted to both male and female people anyway’. I’ve been told I was a lesbian because I in a relationship with a girl, or straight because I was dating a guy, or straight/lesbian/gay if I’m dating a non-binary person. I’m not either, I’m bisexual. There’s no bigger part of me that likes guys or girls. You can’t say that I’m half gay, half straight. My sexuality won’t change depending on the person I’m dating. And even if I’m single, I’m still bisexual. A very lonely bisexual, but that’s a whole other story.
For young queer people growing up, almost all of the time, LGBTQ+ subject represented in the media are usually the first thing LGBTQ+ wise they come across. And being misrepresented hurts a lot of people. There are a lot of celebrities that are bisexual, but are painted as straight or gay because of who they end up sharing their life with. And if they end up with someone of the same gender, there’s often talk about the relationship being fake or platonic (gal pals anyone?).
Now, writing bisexual characters can be difficult. If you write them ending up in a relationship with the opposite gender, they are seen as straight, if you write them ending up in a relationship with the same gender, they’re gay or lesbian. While I understand that this is something authors struggle with, I really think it’s unfair. It’s the same judgement that people in the LGBTQ+ community have.
Of course there are things you can do to show that someone is bisexual. Maybe mention exes instead of saying ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. It’s doable.
You could show them being in a relationship with a guy and a girl over the course of the book, but how will it end? Who will they eventually end up with, who gets the happily ever after? Still the same struggle.. but doing this means you’re actively showing the character being bisexual (this sounds so weird, but it’s true). Show characters being happy with all sexes. Though you do have a risk of people seeing the dating a girl as an experiment, or vice versa. I’m pretty sure that can all be solved with a well thought storyline though. After all, someone being bisexual (usually) isn’t their entire life. It’s just who they are as they are trying to get through life.
There are other books where people don’t even seem to try though.. I won’t name the book, but maybe you can guess from my description. This book starts off with the MC (male) in a relationship with a girl. During the book he discovers he also like another male character. His relationship with the girl ends and she’s pretty much thrown away like garbage. The book is essentially mono-sexist. This basically means that the author is enforcing characters to be either gay or straight, and are effectively erasing bisexuality.
Now, the relationship between the male MC and his girlfriends wasn’t great, and it’s definitely possible that the MC discovers he has feelings for boys and has actually never really had feelings for girls or better said, his ex girlfriend. There are many ways to eventually discover what your sexuality is and of course there is always the pressure of needing to be heterosexual in order to fit in with society. It would have been amazing if this were the case in the book, however, the initial relationship is not shown to have existed because of pressure to be heterosexual. There is no evidence that the feelings for the other male character are something he had never experienced with his ex girlfriend. The initial relationship is shown to have started as a real, loving relationship, and the MC is shown to have feelings for his ex girlfriend even after the relationship has ended.
It was really hurtful to me that when the MC ends up with the male character, he basically says ‘welp guess I’m gay now’. There’s not even the thought of being bisexual. While I can understand the choice of the author to not wanting to confuse the reader with the internal thoughts of the MC regarding his sexuality, it is such a missed opportunity (no I just don’t really understand it. Write a good character damnit). There would have been no need for extra conversation, extra inner thoughts. Just replace gay with bisexual and you would have never had to talk about it again. There was so much potential and it was lost by this one decision.
Now this all doesn’t mean I don’t love the book. I’m not saying that every character in every book should be bisexual. That’s not reality.. but the reality is that there áre bisexual people. They exist. They are in relationships with other people, no matter what the other person identifies with.
There are some awesome books featuring bisexual characters. The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde features mulitple bi female characters (and also a bi guy and a pansexual genderqueer character!), Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee, People Like Us by Dana Mele, Wild Beauty by Anne-Marie McLemore and You Asked For Perfect by Laura Silverman (among a lot of other books of course!).
What are your thoughts on bi erasure in books? Have you ever come across a book where you thought it was questionable?