writing

Why I Write Bisexual Characters

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I’ve been wanting to write this post for a little over a year now, but I find that whenever I start to think about bisexuality my thoughts shoot out in a thousand different directions and I can’t seem to focus on any one point. I have a lot of feelings, I guess is the thing.

Whenever I see lesbians bashing bisexuals in public forums, I’m filled with something akin to rage. I’m not an angry person by nature. In fact, for the most part, it’s incredibly difficult to upset me. But there are topics that light me up from the inside and make me want to blow things up. Sexism. Homophobia. Racism. Any instance of a human being feeling superior to another human being or bringing them down for being who they are—that sort of thing turns me into a raging lunatic.

I don’t believe in fighting negativity with negativity. You will not find me on forums yelling at people, or calling them names, or telling them that they are wrong—no matter how badly I want to. I honestly believe that negativity yields more negativity. I don’t believe that’s how you change things for the better. At least, that’s not how I want to change things for the better.

Here’s a story

The first girl I was ever in love with was bisexual. Proudly so. At the time I was just coming out and I knew nothing about stereotypes or other people’s experiences or how the community felt about any particular thing. I knew only this: I was in love with a girl. And she was awesome.

The girl who was my girlfriend before her (a lesbian) found me online one day a few months after we’d broken up (because she cheated on me) and said, “So, you’re with C. now? You know she’s just going to leave you for a guy.” I was like, “What are you talking about?” She said, “She’s not really gay and you’re being stupid for thinking that she loves you.” I blocked her.

About a year and a half after my girlfriend and I got together—after I’d moved to New Jersey to be with her—we spotted a flyer on campus that announced a meeting of the university’s lesbian/bisexual women’s group. The topic? Bisexuality. My girlfriend was very excited and even though in those days I was too shy/intimidated to go to gay events, I agreed to go with her.

We expected the meeting to discuss the issues facing the bisexual community and what could be done to increase visibility – that sort of thing. After all, this was the lesbian and bisexual activist group.

Instead, a few girls in the group took turns ranting about how horrible bisexuals were and how maybe they should be excluded from group activities and how basically they were everything that was wrong with the fight for lesbian rights.

I was horrified.

My girlfriend was so upset she walked out of the meeting. I ran out after her. She was angry and I had no idea what to even say. I took her hand and we walked back to the dorm.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was angry. I was so angry that all I could do was replay that meeting over and over in my head.  I was angry and I was ashamed. I was ashamed to be a lesbian. I was ashamed that I hadn’t stood up and insulted them – in English and Spanish—and told them all to go to Hell. I desperately wanted to be that person.

I was not that person. I am still not that person. I’m a pacifist. I hate conflict. I hate fighting. I hate being angry. I hate hate. Also, aside from getting my ass kicked, I don’t see what my yelling at them and insulting them would’ve accomplished.

I forced myself to think about the meeting in a different way. There had been a lot of girls there and only about four or five had been actively speaking. The rest had said nothing. At the time I thought their silence meant that they agreed. But I started to realize that some of them were probably as horrified as I was and simply hadn’t known how to speak up.

Instead of angry, I felt sad. What were we doing? Why were we fighting against each other? How was that going to help anything? I had no answers. I was 18. I’d just come out. My parents dropped me off at college a few months earlier and their parting gift was to tell me I was shameful for being gay and that I couldn’t possibly know what love was.

I had no answers. I was as confused as the next lesbian. But I knew what love was. I knew little else, but I knew that much.

By the end of my freshman year, I was in charge of the LGBT section in my dorm. By the end of my senior year, I was in charge of that same lesbian/bisexual women’s activist group that had caused my girlfriend to walk out. I had no answers, but I knew that I wanted to fight for LGBT rights. I didn’t want to see people feeling bad about themselves.

I hate labels

I call myself a lesbian because that’s easy enough for me to do. If you define a lesbian as a woman who’s only attracted to women and only dates women and only falls in love with women, well, that’s me. But I’m also more than that. We are all far more complex than any one word can possibly allow. And that’s why labels get us in trouble.

When I was writing Kris (from TBSOL) the second time around, I struggled with what to label her because I wanted not to. I wanted her to be free of labels. And I think she’ll probably grow up to be the sort of person who says, “Screw labels. I’m just me.”

There were about 800+ people reading the beta version of v2.

A few people said, “I’m so happy you made her bisexual!”

A couple of people said, “Why did you make her bisexual? It’s going to piss off a lot of lesbians. We don’t like that.”

But most people said absolutely nothing about it. They just enjoyed the book.

It was pointed out to me that I’d already written a bisexual character –Karen – and that I didn’t need to have two. From the beginning of the novel, my intention was to represent both sides of bisexuality. Karen spends the whole book dating a guy. Kris ends up with a girl and she’s not about to let her go any time soon.

I didn’t want Kris to be a lesbian. I feel like it’s the expected thing; a character realizes she has feelings for a girl and suddenly she’s 100% gay. As a lesbian, it makes me selfishly happy when that happens (because that’s what happened to me), but that’s not what happens most of the time.

It’s okay to have feelings for boys and girls. It’s okay to be attracted to both. It’s okay to be attracted to both and have more feelings for one. It’s okay to not be sure. It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to think you’re one thing and then realize you’re another. You should be told that it’s okay. You should be shown that it’s okay.

Honestly, I don’t know that many people who are 100% anything. Even some of the lesbians I know who call themselves lesbians are really more bisexual than anything else. But we still cling to these labels like they’re life vests. We get angry when people change the rules on us, like we have any right at all to tell another person how to feel.

We cannot cry out for equal rights and be selfish in our actions and reactions.

So why do I write bisexual characters?

Because there are still people who tell me not to, and I don’t think that’s okay. Because some people warn me that it might piss off my fellow lesbians, and I don’t think that’s okay. Because my bisexual friends feel under-represented in fiction, and I don’t think that’s okay.

I believe in equality. True equality – not just the sort that affects me directly. I believe in visibility – not just the sort that represents me completely. Bisexuals’ problems are my problems. As are gay men’s problems also my problem. As are women’s. And transgenders’ and queers’ and minorities’ and everyone else out there screaming for someone to reach out and say, “I see you. You’re not alone.”

I write bisexual characters for the same reason I write lesbian characters and male gay characters and Hispanic characters and whatever else other characters I end up writing: Because we’re all in this together.

 

Note: My blog is a safe space for LGBTQ peeps and allies. Should you harbor negative feelings about anything I write here, feel free to email them to me privately. Any public bashing will be deleted from the blog and replaced with pictures of unicorns, bunnies and rainbows.