It exists ❤
So here’s a story: I was scrolling facebook and I saw a post on queer sci-fi asking “what topics would you like to see discussed?” and I answered “Bisexual romance” (actually I wrote a bit more than that, basically outlining my concerns over including bisexual characters in a meaningful way, and increasing bi-representation in fiction.)
So then the other day I’m scrolling facebook again and I see that my topic idea got picked! Cool! There was a nice discussion on the queer sci-fi FB page (I thought so anyway) and I was pretty happy to see such a lot of participation on a topic that is so important to me. Nice.
Then someone made a blog post of their own about it (well maybe more than one person but only one I saw) and their post sparked some more heated discussion, and was taken down. I missed the drama of it all (thank the gods) but I would like to add a little bit. Not because I want to make drama (this won’t be dramatic don’t worry lol) but just because I think the problem is worth consideration, and is important enough that it should be talked about and not just brushed aside to keep things copacetic.
My original question was poorly worded (hey it was a facebook comment give me a break!) but my essential question was: what level of representation in a story is “enough” to label it a bisexual romance?
And the author of the drama-inducing blog post touched on this, as well. It is a real problem, and I think they actually pointed out the root of the issue: When we label romance, we do so based on the genders of the main couple, not their orientations. This is a problem, obviously, and leads to massive bi-erasure. So yes there are prejudices against bisexuals, lots of harmful stereotypes, and even outright disdain for bi’s in romance and, well, everywhere. But I don’t think that is the whole problem. In Romance, we also have an issue with marketing, labeling, and even just talking about bisexuality.
One point that blogger made was bisexual romance is a label used primarily for menage. I’m sure that was a hurtful statement for many. Unfortunately, it’s true. The bisexual romance shelf on amazon is pretty much a selection of mmf menage stories. And hey, I love bisexual menage stories (I’ve written some! *shameless plug* Buy my mmf!!) but mmf is hardly the typical bisexual love story, let’s be honest.
Here’s the thing: there are LOTS of bisexual characters in m/m Romance. Lots. Want to find one? Good luck! Because there really isn’t a way to search for them.
Imagine if there was just one LGBT Romance category on Amazon. And when you brought up a search for “gay romance” you automatically got bisexual, trans, gay, and lesbian titles all mixed in with no filtering. Good? Maybe for some, not for others. Well, when you search up “bisexual romance” you get a lot of menage, maybe a few m/m stories where the author tagged it bisexual, and that’s it. All mixed in, and many of the m/m books with bisexual characters are not there at all. When you search for “gay” or “lesbian” you get lots of bisexual in there, with no way to tell which is which. Sometimes, it’s not even clear in the blurb. And readers will call bisexual characters “gay” as well. Rarely is the word “bisexual” even mentioned.
There ARE bisexual characters in m/m. I’ve written them, I’ve read them, they’re totally there I promise you. For an example, Cut and Run’s Ty and Zane are bisexual (right?) and they’re pretty popular with readers. Yet those books are not listed in “bisexual romance” on amazon. Why? Because the main pairing is two males. So it’s m/m. But…m/m does not always mean “gay.”
Yet amazon (like most vendors) does not have an m/m category. You’ve got to pick an orientation. (Did you just cringe a little? Yep, me too.) Do you pick bisexual, and get your monogamous m/m thrown in with menage and thereby miss reaching the majority of your readership? Or pick gay and erase your bisexual characters? (I usually pick both, but to be honest it’s the “gay” list I’m trying to rank on, as it is the bigger market.)
Representation matters. But so does getting our books to the readers who want them. (bisexual romance authors gotta eat, too)
I’m not sure what the solution to this is. How can we spotlight our bisexual characters and still appeal to our readers? How can we change such a big thing as amazon’s categories? How can we openly recognize bisexual characters in romance? I wish I had more answers. As always, I’m open to ideas 🙂