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Writing bisexual characters right

Indecisive. Promiscuous. Greedy. Untrustworthy.

 Bisexual stereotypes like these are still present in our culture, and bisexual characters with these traits are still popping up in 2018. 

Why?

Stereotypes are hard to shake, especially for communities that have long had their voices suppressed. LGBTQ+ rights are being hard fought across the world and progress has certainly been made, but representation for queer characters in fiction still has a long way to go. 

One of the worst stereotypes I've encountered as a bisexual woman is that I must just be confused. Either I'm a straight girl experimenting, or I'm a gay woman lying to herself. I've heard this from both heterosexual people and from other members of the LGBTQ+ community. Being gay or straight is at least easy to understand for most people, but anything in between? Forget it.

So here are some tired bisexual stereotypes to avoid in your works:

1. The hypersexualized bisexual

I don't know exactly why this is so hard to understand, but just because someone is bisexual does not meanthey want to sleep with everyone. Having a character that is open with their sexuality is fine, but having this intrinsically tied to the fact that they are bisexual? Not so great. 

2. The hidden bisexual

So you want to introduce a bisexual character in a heterosexual relationship? Cool! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when a character's bisexuality seems to have no bearing on the story or the character development and has simply been thrown in as a way to make the character "edgy" or more "interesting". 

Various TV shows over the years have introduced a one-off "gay storyline" for a main character seemingly as a way to attract ratings only for the relationships to usually go nowhere and the character to revert to their default "straight" state (see Marissa Cooper from The OC as an example).  Every time I see an example of this I think: couldn't this character have just been bi? Why bother if you're not going to commit to the storyline?

3. The female bisexual for a male audience

 It's the classic male fantasy: your girlfriend kisses another woman, and wow was that ever hot. Isn't it just the best when girls decide to make out in front of you? Now you're thinking: how can I work that into my book/movie/tv show somehow so that my audience knows just how hot this is?!

 Don't. Do. This.

 If your primary reason for making a character gay/bisexual/queer is because of some kind of fanservice to your male audience, just stop. There's a long history of women, POC and queer characters being disposable props in the main character's story, and representations like this contribute to the harmful stereotypes of bisexual people that I listed above.

Also, bisexual people are not always down for threesomes and get tired of hearing other people suggest it, even jokingly! I'm not saying don't do it, but including a bisexual threesome in your work will definitely not be as groundbreaking or "hot" as you think. 

So now that we're through with the don'ts, here are a few questions to ask yourself when setting out to write bisexual (or really any queer) characters or storylines:

1. Am I being respectful to the community I'm choosing to represent? 

2. Am I doing this for the right reasons?

3. Am I really the right person to be telling this story right now?

4. Who should I talk to for more information?

Educating yourself about any community you're trying to represent is really the only way to get it right. So let's all do our research and commit to more positive representation for characters of all kinds.

 

Laurel JohansonSpringComment