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 Smith, Coda by Emma Trevayne, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Adaptation by Malinda Lo, Pantomime by Laura Lam, Otherbound 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.