One year ago, I got interviewed by the BBC for Bisexuality Visibility Day. I answered a few questions, and gave a few opinions, and the interview was posted online. I promptly sent the web-page to my parents, and posted it on Facebook.
I was very lucky.
The only negative comments I got were from strangers online, and there weren’t many of those. All of my family and friends were happy and accepting, and it was generally a non-issue in terms of how I interacted with people close to me.
In terms of my writing, it was as though I’d given myself a green light to go forth and bend the heck out of anything and everything. Not a single main character I’ve created since last year has been ‘straight’.
If only my reading could have done as well. It’s difficult to go back and count, but I am pretty confident in saying that the majority of books I have read this year have starred straight, cisgender main characters. Some beautiful exceptions to the rule have been:
Ill Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Wiliamson
The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman and
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
That’s five books out of over sixty. That’s 1/12 of books. Of almost entirely Young Adult Literature, which is supposed to (anecdotally) be much more diverse than fiction aimed at adults.
I was seriously sad about this when I realised it.
Out of these five books (five, good lord), only one main character openly defines themselves as bisexual (Frances Janvier in Radio Silence). One character doesn’t label themselves at all (Jess in The Big Lie), and three characters are transgender, but straight (The Art of Being Normal and If I Was Your Girl).
When I was fourteen, I remember speaking to my friend about whether or not I felt ‘gay’. I liked girls, but for some reason I still liked boys. And that didn’t seem to add up. I knew gay people. I had gay relatives. But bisexuals were ‘a pitstop on the highway to homo’, as Will and Grace told me. Bisexuals were slutty girls who snogged other girls for attention. Bisexuals were men who were afraid to come out as ‘completely gay’. Bisexuals were greedy, dirty, riddled, undecided, confused, doing it for a laugh or attention.
Being bisexual wasn’t presented to me as a positive option. It wasn’t portrayed in any media I was using as something that people used as a real, lifelong identity. It wasn’t shown to me as something adults were. Bisexual people were experimental teens, or young people at uni who wanted to ‘try gay’.
Thank goodness, things are changing, but so, so slowly.
Dahlia Adler has amassed a whole, epic list of Bi YA, you can view here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/kick-off-bisexual-awareness-week-12-2016-ya-books/
I would have killed for these books when I was fourteen. I would have killed for an MC who was incidentally bi, like Frances in Radio Silence. I would have read these books in secret, in the library, seeing people who were like me, who were happy and they weren’t slutty or dirty or trying being gay for a laugh. They were real and lovable and loved and genuine.
For young people who are not able to be even slightly open about being queer, these books are, quite literally, life-saving.
I spent so long ignoring the bi side of myself that I didn’t realise I wasn’t writing work for Young Me. I wasn’t doing Young Me justice.
And so, now, I will. I will write queer characters. Who have happy endings. Who love and are loved. Who live and learn and have adventures and fight dragons and dance and kiss and shoot arrows and wield swords and cast spells and read books and write letters and sing and eat and survive.
Because surviving means we can tell more stories. And more stories equals more acceptance. And more acceptance equals more love. And that is never a bad thing.
So, Happy Bisexuality Visibility Day for 2016. Keep reading. Keep writing.