Writing Bi Characters
I made a point when I started this blog that I would be talking about life as a queer writer. I haven’t really done that yet. Today, well … things get talked about. (I also made a point that I’d write more. I promise to do that.)
Writing bi characters is harder than it would seem at first glance. The reasons are basic: the same stuff that bisexuals hear every day from the community at large also apply to the characters in our stories. Women seen in a romantic relationship together are automatically assumed to be lesbians, men in romantic situations are gay. Men and women in romantic relationships automatically bring the assumption of heterosexuality. But that assumption is more a cause of the way our human brains work and less automatic discrimination. The problems exist beyond those assumptions and those problems have become the questions that have been circling in my brain ever since I started realizing that one of the characters in my new novel is not only bisexual but kind of likes that boy over here and not the girl over there:
1 – Well, her bisexuality is just a phase. Really, she just wanted a man.
2 – His bisexuality is a phase and he’s hiding in the closet rather than admitting he’s gay.
3 – He just wants to watch his girlfriend in a three-some.
4 – They are both just sluts (especially her) and that gives bisexuals a bad name.
5 – Why won’t she date the lesbian?
6 – Why can’t he date the guy?
7 – Why is it such a big deal if they come out? After all, they’ll be assumed to be straight no matter what.
8 – Bi men don’t really exist.
And those are just the ones off the top of my head.
Talking with my amazing writing partner and sounding board made me realize even more than I already had the depths of this storyline for these characters. To the point where they are scared to tell each other they love each other because doing so means that society (and their families) might be right. What if they really just had something they had to get out of their systems? What if they are just one or the other? What if it’s all just a lie? And while consciously they know who they are, there are fears that play on the mind of everyone who identifies as bisexual and I’ve lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had about that exact topic with other bisexuals.
As a writer, it is obviously my job to make the characters real and to answer these questions and let the reader come to their own conclusions. Yet, these are the things that weigh on my mind while I’m writing the lives of the two different main characters. Yes, one is a lesbian. Yes, one is bisexual. And their lives do cross back and forth through the course of the book. And the last thing I want is for there to become a world of Team Gina or Team Leo or Team Adryana. Because sexuality isn’t about teams and it’s about time our community started to realize it.
Up until the most recent draft of Shadows in the Spotlight (which is being queried again tonight!) I made the very conscious choice to drop Marc’s bisexuality from the story. Elena was cut from the plot for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one was that it was easier to bill him as the Gay Rockstar. Queer fiction, I’d hoped, would jump on it. It wasn’t until last year when I decided to put Elena back into the pages where she belonged. Because while Marc might have registered as mostly-gay, he still had honest, romantic relationships with women and he too was dogged by his own bisexuality. Because it was hard enough to be a “Gay” Rockstar. Try being a bi one.
So in some ways, this is my own coming out. My talking about my own fears as a bi writer writing bi characters. Because not only am I worried about reaction, I’m worried about making these characters as honest to my community as they can be.