Representing Bisexuality in Fiction

September 19-26 is Bisexual Pride Week or #BiWeek 2016


Disclaimer: This post might seem to come out of left field, but it is both relevant and important to anyone who writes fiction, or aspires to write fiction. It’s also relevant and important to anyone who happens to identify as bi or pansexual. (I’m including both, because being multi-attracted counts in my book.)

I’m writing this post because an issue that is near to me is Bi and Pansexual visibility in the media, in creative spaces, and generally anywhere else that humans might see one another. I’m writing this post because it is important for underrepresented or marginalized groups to take their place, not only so that younger generations can see them and grow up knowing that it is okay for them to exist, but so that the currently marginalized folks can know we aren’t alone. I’m writing this post for the same reason that I share articles in February about badass women in horror, it’s because the Bi and Pan folks out there matter. You’ll notice, the image for this post indicated that I want to talk about representing multi-person attraction individuals both in fiction and in real life. Today’s focus is on fiction.

I’m writing this post because it’s important for underrepresented groups to take their place, not only so that younger generations can see them and grow up knowing it is okay, but so that older folks can remember we aren’t alone. I’m writing this for the same reason that I share articles in February about badass women in horror because bi and pan folks write stories and exist in the world and it’s about time we were treated like it.

Bisexuality in Fiction

I want to reaffirm some important ways you can represent your bi and pansexual friends and neighbors in your writing, even if you aren’t bi or pansexual. In doing so, I’d also like to share a few ways you can help fight bi and pansexuality erasure in fiction. This, ideally, will help translate to reducing the amount of erasure and failure to acknowledge these folks in real life. You can help whether you’re an ally, or as part of the community.

not-confused-bi1.      Have Bi/Pan Characters

This one is the easiest way you can make strides towards equality for Bi and Pan people. Now it doesn’t have to be a defining attribute of the character’s storyline or being. You don’t have to start writing our descriptions or introductions for your characters like “Rowena was a redhead, a neat freak, and a rabid bisexual” (…whatever that would mean.) All I’m suggesting is that as you’re writing scenes or imagining actions for your character that you keep this one added personality attribute in mind. Think about J.K. Rowling’s announcement in 2007 that Dumbledore was gay. The important thing isn’t whether or not you keep the idea under your cap for a dozen years until you reveal it unceremoniously on Twitter, it’s that you keep the idea in mind in the first place.

2.      Don’t Buy Into Stereotypes

Bi & Pansexual people are essentially just people who are attracted to more than one gender, no more and no less. They can be just as effeminate, masculine, or androgynous as any other human you might choose to write about – regardless of their gender. Don’t feel compelled to make your Bisexual female an automotive mechanic if it doesn’t actually add anything to her character or to the story. Don’t feel compelled to make your Pansexual male character a hair stylist just because he has a boyfriend. Bi and Pan folks are just as varied as gay, straight, and ace ones.

3.      We Are Not “Confused”

not-confused-pansexualAlthough “questioning” is on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, Bi and Pan people aren’t simply identifying as Bi or Pan until they “decide” whether they prefer men, women, or otherwise identifying people. While some Bi and Pan folks may experience more attraction towards one side of the gender spectrum, it isn’t as though they have an internal scale which will eventually tip one way or another after enough sex, wooing, or anything else. Being attracted to people rather than parts, as the saying goes, can be a complex thing. It’s not a switch that hovers in the middle or a tug of war match. Don’t write as if it were one.

4.      Don’t Make Your Bi/Pan Character a Nymphomaniac if You Can Help It

This goes along with not feeding into stereotypes but is worth mentioning because it is a prevalent issue. There is a strange, long-standing myth that Bi and Pan folks are hard up for intimacy, whether it’s emotional or physical. They’re perceived as not being able to “keep it in their pants” due to their multiple attractions. Remember that being attracted to multiple gender identities is not the same as being polyamorous or non-monogamous and that Bi/Pan people are just as likely to have single partner relationships as their straight and gay counterparts. Someone can be attracted to men, women, and non-binary folks but only want one partner at a time, or want a more traditional monogamous relationship. Bi and Pan folks may want to get married and/or have children some day. Don’t feed into the stereotypes which represent them as sex-crazed or incapable of maintaining a single partner or monogamous relationship if that is what they have chosen. Can a person be Poly and Bi or Poly and Pan? Of course! However, that is not the norm and you’ll do your Bi and Pan identifying folks a service by not making this your standard representation.

5.      Don’t Overthink It

If you’ve decided to create a Bisexual or Pansexual character, awesome! You’ve taken the first step in the right direction. However, don’t overthink it when you decide to include this character in scenes or decide to elaborate on their back story. If you’re not sure whether or not you should include a detail about their past, current relationship, or interests in future relationships take a second to think about whether or not you would include a comparable detail for a straight character.
Example: If you have a bisexual female character and you’re mentioning that she was previously in a relationship with Michelle (a female), but is now in a relationship with Kahari (a male), you wouldn’t need to reiterate that she is bisexual after mentioning her past girlfriend and current boyfriend.

Example: If you have a pansexual character with a non-binary partner, you don’t need to illustrate their relationship history to establish attraction to more than one end of the gender spectrum.

Are You Already Rocking Representation? Awesome!

Do you have a short story, novel or other work of fiction which depicts Bisexual or Pansexual characters? I’d love to check it out! Please leave a comment with the name/link below so that I can visit your work and so that my visitors can find more examples of Bi and Pan folks in media. If you’d like to learn more about BiWeek check out this article by GLAAD about how you can get involved. I’ll be sharing another post this week about representing the Bisexual and Pansexual communities in reality which is based on my own experiences, so stay tuned!

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