On GFY, OFY, bi-erasure, and bi-visibility. None of which I think it’s possible to write a blog post about without accidentally offending or confusing somebody, up to and including myself. I will try not to.
For starters, I do not like to publicly define my own sexuality, for myriad reasons, just starting with the implication that I might have sex.
I am LGBT, and I do know where I fall on the Kinsey scale, how I define myself, how I personally define straight, gay, bi, etc…
Bisexuals exist. I write them. And I do my darndest to write well-rounded, realistic bisexual characters, if for no other reason than that there aren’t enough of them in fiction and it would be nice to have a few more.
I also write characters who are straight or gay but kind of flexible about it. Not just because Dr. Kinsey called it a scale for a reason, but because humans are funny, sexuality is complex, and I try for characters who are as nuanced as real people. I do sometimes worry that it can come across as bi-erasure.
I don’t think most readers have an issue with a character who has slept with women, but is not particularly interested in doing it again, defining as gay. It gets more complicated when you have a character who prefers men, but has some interest in women. Is he bi? Is he gay? Does it matter?
Yes, it does matter. Realistically, if we were talking about actual human beings rather than the people who live in my head, some of these men would define as bi, and some as gay, or some might even call themselves something else, such as “queer” or “homo-flexible” or “mostly gay”.
So, I let my characters reflect that, and hope that it comes across as attempting to reflect the diversity of actual experience, rather than as bi-erasure. I especially worry about that when I write a character who had defined as bi at one time and starts to define as gay, because that is something that can really come across as “Bi as a stop on the train to Gaytown.” Which is a terrible stereotype and can lead to invisibility, but is actually also some people’s experience, for various reasons. (Of the two I’ve written, one comes from a conservative religious background and has been trying to persuade himself that his interest in women means that he doesn’t need to do anything about his attraction to men, and the other was under professional pressure to define as bi rather than gay.)
I have never written a character who changed that definition of themselves from gay to bi, but I write m/m. My characters have happily ever afters with men, so it’s never come up. If I wrote menage, I suspect it would be different.
I have certainly written characters who defined as straight, and then started to call themselves bi. Including one who’s not actually very bi, but since he’s with a man and intends to be for the rest of his life, he needs to call himself something, and decides to own the label. Besides, his bi boyfriend might be a little irritated otherwise.
So that’s where I stand on this particular subject. As a reader, I can tell you that I love characters for who the journey isn’t necessarily straightforward, no matter how they end up defining. And I love coming out stories.