The Bisexual Awareness Week might have passed with September wrapping up – but that doesn’t mean that the issue of bi-erasure and being vocal about it should be left alone until next year’s awareness week.
Bisexuality Awareness day falls on the 23rd of September of every year and has a website dedicated to it. On Twitter the hashtags #BiVisibilityDay and #BiVisibilityWeek are full of people encouraging and supporting each other. But we understand that this might not be enough to make you feel accepted and validated considering how pervasive bisexual erasure is in popular media and in everyday life.
Phrases such as ‘it’s just a phase’ abound when the question of bisexual individuals is raised, often leading to the suggestion that bi-identifying persons are actually straight or actually gay. ‘But you only date *insert the opposite gender*!’ is another common expression, suggesting that bisexuality means that the person has to have an equal number of partners of ‘both genders’ during their dating life. Thankfully, your identity is not a recipe that requires specific measurements of encounters with different genitalia to be valid. No matter what some people might say about bisexuals (they’re ‘greedy,’ ‘indecisive’ or ‘confused’) this is not the case. Your identity is valid, you exist and you matter, even if some might make you feel otherwise.
With issues like pervasive bi-erasure and biphobia, the issue of proper representation in media is often brought up. Poor representation of marginalised groups is a heated topic and extends to the portrayal of bisexual people, or the lack thereof. There is some solace to be found in having a character whom you can relate to, someone, although fictional, who provides proof that your feelings are real and you are not making up your own sexuality. This is especially important at a young age when teenagers are developing their own sense of self. While the number of YA novels that feature bisexual characters in the anglophone publishing industry has increased, there is still a lot of stigma that writers portraying bisexual characters have to deal with.
Casey Lawrence (@MyExplodingPen), author of The Survivor’s Club series, discussed issues such as being accused of writing characters that are ‘not bi enough’ because they end up with a partner of the opposite gender. However, if Lawrence were to write them with a same-sex partner then there would be those claiming that the character is simply gay, thus erasing their bisexual identity. These issues go to show that societal prejudices seep beyond day-to-day life and affect creative portrayals of fictional people’s lives. This makes it hard to find works that do not devalue one’s identity at the expense of someone else’s.
That’s why we’d like to give you some author and book recommendations featuring bisexual characters.
A book a day (keeps the doctor away) for Bisexual Awareness Week:
- Autoboyography by Christina Lauren (a coming-of-age story featuring a bisexual boy in high school falling in love with one of his classmates in a writing class)
- Bi The Way by MJ Wallace (indie comic inspired by the author’s personal experience of discovering and coming out as bisexual)
- For Sizakele by Yvonne Fly Onakeme Etaghene (explores ‘transcontinental identity, intimate partner violence, queer gender and how we love as illuminators of who we are’ through the experiences of a bisexual Nigerian college student)
- Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (revolves around three best friends in a geeky convention setting; features an Asian main character who is bisexual)
- Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (protagonist is a mixed-race, bisexual teenager aiming for university; features an actual, non-romantic relationship between a boy and a girl)
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (18th century romantic adventure with a young bisexual British lord on a Grand Tour of Europe with his best friend/secret crush)
- They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (features a gay Puerto-Rican main character and a bisexual Cuban main character in an alternate world where everyone knows when they will die)
- Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge (about a plus-sized bisexual woman and her often hilarious journey to self-acceptance)
For more recommendations of titles that feature bisexual characters check out Book Riot’s list of 100 Must-Read Bisexual Books.
If you live in the central belt of Scotland and feel up for it (we hope that the fictional characters from the books above will help boost your confidence), you might want to check out the social group Bi and Beyond in Edinburgh. They meet on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 7-9 pm. It is a fortnightly social gathering for people who identify as bisexual and non-monosexual. With organised social activities and refreshments provided, whatever your label or lack of label – you are welcome. For more information, you can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Know that you are not alone, you matter and you are good enough just as you are.
Don’t forget to mark the date for next year!