Keep It Queer: On Bisexuality

keep it queer

Keep It Queer is an original, biweekly feature on my blog where I talk about being queer and all the various things this has meant to me over the years. Sometimes this will also involve me babbling about LGBTQ books. It’s also a chance for others to share their stories.

So, as I've said before, I'm bisexual. But I've only ever dated one person in my whole life, and that's my current boyfriend. I've never even kissed a girl. But I've known since I was about 12 that I was bisexual.

Bisexual characters are still somewhat of a rare sight in books, but there's been quite a few YA books with bisexual characters in the past couple of years. In 2014, I read Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew SmithCoda by Emma Trevayne, Far From You by Tess SharpeAdaptation by Malinda LoPantomime by Laura LamOtherbound by Corinne Duyvis. And I enjoyed all of them. I'm grateful for the existence of these books. I'm so glad we are getting more representation, with bisexual characters in books that aren't completely centred on their sexuality. In fact, all of these books have pretty complex and cool plots.

But there's something I really really want that I haven't seen yet.

I really just want to see books where a character has only ever dated one person but they still state that they're bisexual. I want to see books where a character hasn't even started dating anybody yet and they state that they're bisexual. Look, I have read many boy/girl romances and I have liked many of them. But sometimes I do get tired of how straight most books are. You know how easily that could be fixed? Bisexual people exist. Quite a few of them around, in fact. All you need to do is throw in ONE SCENE where a girl is starting to date a boy and she tells him that she's bisexual, and he's just like "Oh, okay. I'm glad you felt comfortable telling me. Can I kiss you now?" Or reverse the genders. Everything else goes on as they go on in any other YA contemporary with a boy/girl romance. I dunno, I feel like that would make my day.

You know what's really important there? The simple act of a character stating they're bisexual. Just like that. In those words. "I'm bisexual." I remember Tess Sharpe saying on Twitter that she regrets not having that in Far From You. As we readers all know, there is so much power in words. In just a word. I honestly don't recall seeing that in a YA book.

I feel like authors, when characters don't say that, simply HAVE to drive home that a character is bisexual by portraying attraction to both genders. Now, I wouldn't mind if this was just a very casual, subtle thing that doesn't take up massive space in the book, like maybe a girl is dating a boy but she occasionally thinks fleetingly about how hot this other girl is and how kissable her lips look or whatever. But in most books, this is sort of like... OKAY A HAS DATED BOTH B (FEMALE) AND C (MALE). In the same book we must portray A engaged in kissing and/or some other sexual behaviour with B and with C at some point!

Not all bisexual people have been with partners of different genders. We don't need to see a bisexual character heavily involved in attraction to two people of different genders in the same book. I mean, we don't always see straight characters heavily involved in attraction to two different characters in the same book, right? All bisexual people have to start somewhere. People can know they're bisexual before they've ever even dated anyone or kissed anyone at all.

I went through almost the whole of my teens, up until I met my boyfriend at the age of 18, without having a single crush on any boys in real life (I had several crushes on girls). I still knew I was bisexual, though, because I experienced attraction to male celebrities. I knew. Representation can honestly be as simple as a character just saying they're bisexual. That's it. That's all we need. We don't need their sexual history to prove anything.

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11 thoughts on “Keep It Queer: On Bisexuality

  1. Agree totally! I'm bi and have never kissed/seriously dated anyone. Doesn't mean I'm not bi. :)

    (And I'm checking out those other books you mentioned, because the only one I recognized was Otherbound and I didn't even realize there was a bisexual character in it. Reading it for the Niji Feels challenge but haven't started it yet.)

    1. :D :D Hi! Welcome to my blog! Glad you agree.

      I'm always on the lookout for books with bisexual MCs! Otherbound was actually my least favourite of the bunch I listed, but still pretty good! I'd recommend Far From You and Pantomime the most, but it obviously depends on what kind of stuff you like reading as well. I know that Keren David has a new book called THIS IS NOT A LOVE STORY coming out this May with a bisexual MC, apparently, so you can keep an eye out for that as well!

      1. Excellent!

        Pantomime was one of the ones I was really interested in, so that'll probably be first. I like anything sci-fi/fantasy over more contemporary settings.

        As far as recommendations, I have very few... The graphic novel "a+E 4ever" might count, although everybody's more vaguely "queer" than explicitly bisexual. More often I see people who by most definitions would be bisexual, but it's in terms of "I thought I was straight but now I'm attracted to ____," and then forever after the character is called gay or lesbian and never has any love interests who are not gay or lesbian.

        1. YAY PANTOMIME IS SO EXCELLENT. I really hope you enjoy it! Coda is a pretty good dystopian if you like dystopias.

          Hmm, I will check that graphic novel out! Yeah, I'm always annoyed by that. WHY DON'T PEOPLE EVER SEEM TO EVEN CONSIDER BISEXUALITY.

  2. I think a friend of mine's bisexual, but she hasn't actually outright told me, so I don't know for sure, haha. But I agree, we definitely need more bisexual people in books. Most of the books I read that have LGBTQ characters are gay or lesbian, which is good and all, but it would be nice to read things from a different perspective for a change. (And I am SO tired of reading about these stereotypical gay guys who are always the outcasts of school. NOT TRUE, AUTHORS.) I didn't know Adaptation had a character who was bi, but that makes me all the more excited to read it! (I have the book in my Kindle already, hehehe...)

    “Oh, okay. I’m glad you felt comfortable telling me. Can I kiss you now?” -- I feel like if you met a guy like that, MARRY HIM IMMEDIATELY. And if I met a guy like that in a book, I would fall for him immediately, too. Precious, precious boy. <3

    But I know what you mean about authors needing to do something dramatic in order to show that a character is "queer." I don't know much about being bi or gay or whatever, of course, but it's so not realistic. My best friend is gay, and nothing dramatic ever happened before he told us about it. So yeah. Keep it simple and keep it real, geez.

    Great post, Cynthia! :D (Ughhh, why are there so little comments on this post?!?!? EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS.)

    1. Post author

      Yes, READ ADAPTATION!! :D I failed to mention it in my post but I should have been more precise and stated that these books all have bisexual MCs. I have actually yet to read the sequel myself, shame on me, but I WILL DO IT AT SOME POINT THIS YEAR. I really liked the first book! Malinda Lo's writing is a bit hit and miss with me, but I will continue to read her stuff forever because she always has queer female protags and that makes me happyyy.

      I think it really depends, because like, obviously there are still loads of schools and places everywhere where gay guys are still bullied and outcast!! And we still need those stories, but it's just that we need other stories too. I was absolutely miserable at my old school. It was an all girls school and though no one seemed to have much against gay guys, pretty much everyone was VEHEMENTLY against lesbians or queer girls and it sucked.

      HEHE YES THAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT GUY. My boyfriend didn't bat an eyelid when I told him either, so. I adoreee him.

      I don't know, it's because no one recognises what a genius I am, Meg. *sadface*

  3. Why have I not commented in this yet?

    This is such an awesome post, and such an important thing to discuss. I completely agree with what you’ve written here. I’m bisexual as well, with only one relationship, with a man, behind me, but I’m still bisexual. (and so many people don’t understand that - which is one of the most frustrating things ever)

    And you are so right, words have so much power. Having a character outright saying that they are bisexual would be such a big thing. It’s hard to find bisexual representation in books where it’s specifically said that a character is bisexual.

    A book where the main character has only been in one relationship, or none at all, but still knowing they’re bisexual would be heaven. We don't need dramatic dramas or anything like that to know that the character is bisexual - just an acknowledgement that there is an attraction to more than one gender, but that attraction doesn't have to be acted on.

    I’m definitely going to check out some of the books you’ve listed - Actually I just started reading Grasshopper Jungle, and I’m liking it so far.. It’s weird, but really good!

    1. Post author

      YAY :D :D Hello! Ughhhh, I totally understand your pain. YOU SHOULD REALLY READ NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED BY HANNAH MOSKOWITZ WHEN IT COMES OUT!!! I finished reading an ARC yesterday and it was pitch perfect. Bisexual MC who vents about how much it sucks that nobody understands that just because she goes and dates a guy, that doesn't mean she's suddenly turned straight!! SO GOOOOOD.

      But yeah, definitely read Not Otherwise Specified. The MC talks about her bisexuality a lot and it's very frank and honest and direct and she brings up a lot of the issues that bisexual people face, with sort of prejudice from both gay people and straight people!! It's soooo wonderful.

      I just completely agree with this whole comment. *happy sigh* I AM SO GLAD I FOUND YOUR BLOG AND YOU FOUND MINE, haha. WE SHOULD FORM OUR OWN LITTLE BISEXUAL BOOK GROUP.

      Yes, I hope you will read and like the other books I listed! I liked Grasshopper Jungle a lot, thought it was super cool and different, but I was quite disappointed with its treatment of female characters. The other books I listed do far better with their portrayal of female characters! :D

      1. I am absolutely dying to read Not Otherwise Specified! Luckily it's not too long until it comes out! It just sounds so amazing, and the way you describe it makes me even more excited!! I will definitely try and get it as soon as it comes out!

        BIsexual Book Group - Oh the ideas! :) I am so happy I found your blog, and you found mine as well! :D
        Lisa recently posted Review || The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

  4. I love my romances, hehe, but you are absolutely right, we need books where the characters being bi or gay is just a fact and not something that needs to be "proven" by kissing (both a girl and a guy) and... stuff :P And, I actually like reading books with little or no romance as well, so it would be cool if the character in a no-romance book would be bisexual.
    Cayce recently posted Shakespeare&Company

    1. Post author

      :D :D I JUST FINISHED READING NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED BY HANNAH MOSKOWITZ AND IT HAS A BI MC AND BASICALLY NO ROMANCE. IT'S SO GOOOOOD. The MC has slept with both boys and girls but there's a line in the book about how she knew she was bisexual and that she'd like it even before she slept with a guy (she slept with girls first) and I just appreciated that so much. Seriously amazing.

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