Bisexual Romance!

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 🙂

 

Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia

HAHAT 2014May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, so I am participating in my usual blog-style, with a rambling and slightly preachy post 🙂

I don’t identify as Homosexual or Transgender, and though I don’t consider myself 100% “straight” I really have no place in the LGBT acronym. So I call myself an Ally, and I try to be one.

I don’t go around saying it, though. In fact I think this might be the first place I’ve actually said those words “I’m an ally.” I have an HRC bumper sticker on my car, and I have some Rainbow-ish love-is-love T-shirts, and I don’t tolerate any hate speak in my presence… but I never openly identify myself as an ally.

As it stands in terms of homphobia and transphobia: There are the people under the LGBT* umbrella, who are discriminated against, and then there are the people who are actively doing the discriminating. The rest of us are either silent witnesses, doing nothing to help (almost as bad as the discriminating assholes) or we are “Allies,” willing to stand up for what is right, even if only in small ways.

Promising to be an ally is awesome, because you are basically saying “I know the world isn’t always safe for you, but I promise to be a safe place, and to support you.” That is a beautiful sentiment, and a powerful vow.  I love it.

But “ally” isn’t an identity. It isn’t a thing you are. Rather, it is an action, something you have to do.

And in my opinion, it isn’t something to be proud of. It is something we all should be. Being an ally is like the bare minimum of  human decency. Men should be allies to women, people who are LGBT should be allies to each other, young people should be allies to the elderly… anyone with privilege should be an active ally to those living without that privilege. We should try to do better, all of us, every day.

I could totally go on a rant about Ally pride, and how much it pisses me off, but I don’t want to fill this post with negativity. This hop is supposed to be about positive change. And so I thought I’d list some ways to actually BE an ally, everyday. Beyond the shirts and the bumper stickers.

  • The way we teach our kids is a big way to be an ally, maybe the biggest. Kids depend on us to show them what is right and wrong, and showing them that acceptance is right and discrimination is wrong is a powerful way to create positive change. If you have kids, you know there are a million tiny ways you mold their opinions everyday. Do it carefully.
  • Speaking up is another way. And I don’t mean when someone is being actively bullied or harassed, though of course we should do that, I mean in the tiny everyday things we all see and hear. When my neighbor said “I have no problem with gay people getting married, as long as they don’t kiss in front of my kids.” I didn’t want to say anything, but I did. When I hear people say “That’s so gay!” I speak up, even if they all think I’m an oversensitive PC bitch. When my kid wants to paint his toenails pink, I let him, and I make sure anyone who suggests there is something “wrong” with him gets a verbal slap. We are all in situations like this every day, especially as allies. It is important to speak up.
  • Changing the way we think is a way that I think many allies might ignore. You might think that you are totally “in” the LGBT movement, are completely supportive. But I have heard a lot of negative comments among so-called allies. Little comments about bisexuals with partners of the opposite sex being in a “straight” relationship. People saying “I hope my kids turn out to be gay” or “My gay friend, Joe, is coming over later.” I’m sure I’ve also said tons of things that were offensive and hurtful, but the point is just that we should all try to do better.

I guess the core of it is, to truly be an ally (verb, not noun) we need to constantly acknowledge our privilege, try really hard to have empathy, understand that just because we don’t see oppression doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, and take action whenever possible. I’m trying.

I will leave you with this really awesome but slightly unrelated TED Talk, about building empathy and rejecting categorization:

❤ Don’t forget to visit the other great blogs in this hop! Click HERE to go to the main HAHAT blog hop page

One commenter will win a copy of my latest book, Love You Forever, in either signed paperback or e-reader format, your choice. note: If you want to win, you must comment and leave your e-mail when it asks (I think if you are a wordpress user it will not ask, it will just know) otherwise I won’t be able to contact you! This contest will be open until May 24 and one winner will be chosen at random.

But because giving away my own book really doesn’t cost me much, I will also donate $1 per comment (Only up to $25. Sorry, I’m poor) to Youth Pride Inc, an organization local to me that supports LGBTQQ youth and provides community education. So come on, talk to me!

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