Bisexuality in Lesbian Romance
It isn't often that we get to see a bisexual woman in lesbian romance (or straight romance for that matter but we'll stick to one topic). When we do she is often presented as a woman who dated men but never knew that deep inside she was a lesbian (yes, I've seen this constantly in les fic). Or she is there to represent every stereotype one can think of about bisexuals in pop culture. I've tried to include bisexual women in my stories, but then I had to ask myself, was I possibly committing the same crimes I had started to notice in the books I read?
I started thinking about this after a reviewer mentioned some issues with a character in my first novella Four Letter Word. She felt that there were some “icky” characterizations that were feeding into unpleasant thoughts and feelings people have about bisexuals. It forced me to take a look at that story as well as one of my others and how I was representing the bisexual characters.
Four Letter Word is based on a very short erotic piece I wrote many years ago. When I decided to write and publish my work I looked over some of my old stories and this one stood out to me. The novella barely resembles that original story other than one scene that I kept. In writing it, I had an idea of these characters and it was essentially the lovelorn woman who finally gets the attention she so desperately craves from the object of her desire. When I decided to make one of the characters bisexual, I wasn’t thinking beyond that. Meaning, I didn’t know who she was until I started writing which is often how my creative brain works. So as the character of Maya began forming I saw her as someone who seemed confident but was in fact not completely comfortable living her truth. I wrote her that way because I remember feeling like that in my younger years.
Bisexuality is a valid identity.
For bisexual people, it feels like you have to constantly "come out" because if you’re dating the opposite sex people assume you’re straight, and if you’re dating the same gender they assume you’re gay. It creates a feeling of never being enough of either and the fact is one doesn’t have to be. Bisexuality is a valid identity.
Now, I tend to refer to myself as queer because I despise labels and quite frankly prefer the fluidity of not specifying any one sexual identity but for the specificity of this blog post, I will say I am bisexual. I like including bisexual women in my stories because as I mentioned our visibility isn't the best. Having said that, I realized after reading the review that when I created Maya and made her bisexual that I didn’t put more thought into how she would be presented. This great article from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) discusses some of the common myths about bisexuality. One of the big ones is that bisexual people cannot be faithful. In Four Letter Word 2 Maya admits to never being faithful in any of her relationships and while she does have a reason, which has to do with her relationship with her father, I realize now how that may appear to others.
I like including bisexual women in my stories because I don’t feel we see enough of these characters
I have another character named Danielle who appears in my series Friends & Lovers. She is also bisexual but is even more in the closet than Maya and only uses women for sex. This feeds into another negative stereotype about bisexuals having heterosexual privilege and using their same-gendered lovers but not ever loving them. While she does redeem herself by eventually living in her truth, I hate that I made her character that way. As a bisexual woman, I have never and would never hide who I love and I have always been faithful. So why did I create these two women with these characteristics?
None of us are free of influence from the greater society around us. Whether we are people of color or LGBTQIA, we too can hold prejudices about people and even sometimes ourselves. I have tasked myself with being way more conscious about my own biases when writing characters in the future. I plan to write a book about a woman who is bisexual and looking for love (I write women loving women so you can guess who she will choose in the end, lol) but I want to do it in an authentic way. I want her to reflect reality and not some twisted version of it.
None of us are free of influence from the greater society around us.
Having said all of this, I want to be clear. Bisexuals are people too, which means we are flawed just like anybody else. Being bisexual doesn’t mean one never cheats, is never flaky, or confused or a bad person but those are character flaws of the individual, it has nothing to do with their sexual orientation. The same can be said for those who are polyamorous, yes there are bisexuals who are but there are plenty who are not. Being bisexual does not mean you can only be fulfilled if you have relationships with both genders you are attracted to simultaneously. Choosing that love style has nothing to do with sexual orientation and everything to do with how someone chooses to express their love and commitment.
The flaws that my characters exhibit don’t have to revolve around their sexual behaviors or dating habits. It’s lazy and I need to do better because we deserve better.
As a Black bisexual woman, I want to make sure that I create multifaceted characters. I know the importance of representation, that’s what spurred me to start publishing. While I know why I made my characters as they were, in the future I will be making sure there is more nuance in what I write. The flaws that my characters exhibit don’t have to revolve around their sexual behaviors or dating habits. It’s lazy and I need to do better because we deserve better.
Want to read more? Below are some articles as well as videos that discuss this topic further
Biphobia in the lesbian community (one of my fave YouTubers, check her out)
5 Bisexual People Explain What "Bisexual" Means To Them