This guest post series is all about queer people talking about their relationship with queer books, whether they saw themselves represented in them or not. If you would like to write a guest post for me, the rules and info on how to contact me are on this post.
Today’s guest post is by Annie Bear. Her post focuses on how a certain label can feel wrong for you even if you fit the theoretical definition for it. Thank you Annie for your post!
Ever since coming out 8 years ago, I have simply called myself ‘gay’. I never felt a huge need to label exactly what type of gay I was, though society kept asking the question. I would tell some people I was lesbian and then they would start judging the fact I had been with men before coming out. I would tell some people I was bi and they would start thinking I was a cheater or just experimenting. Telling people I was gay left too much information to the person to decide who I was for myself rather than letting me define my own self. I have always seen ‘gayness’ as a spectrum. Some people are on the completely heterosexual side of the spectrum, and some are on the completely homosexual side of it. There are many places in between the two sides, and I find myself somewhere in the middle. I’m not exactly a 50/50 bisexual, and most people you meet aren’t. Bisexual is a loose term for people who find themselves attracted to both genders. You could be 90% attracted to men and only 10% attracted to women and be considered a bisexual, or it could be the exact opposite, or any other fraction of the two, or you could be attracted to both men, women, and non-binary genders. I don’t know my exact numbers and to some of my friends, its a game they play guessing what they are. When I’m crushing on a guy they start saying I’m 90/10 in favor of men. If I’m crushing on a woman they say I’m 70/30 in favor of women. I never thought either of those fractions accurately described me but its a game they play and think is funny.
When I first came out I had to learn the harsh reality of telling my straight friends I was bisexual. Or the unfortunate experience of telling men or women in bars I was bisexual. Men saw it as a challenge, that ‘one night with me will make you straight’ or that I would go have a threesome with them, and women thought I was too green for them and not really gay. None of these ideas had any glimmer of truth behind them and yet men kept expressing these thoughts. Just because I’d date a man doesn’t mean that I am ‘cured’ or ‘straight again. No matter what gender I am dating, my attraction to women or men doesn’t disappear. Despite who I’m dating my sexual orientation is the same, it doesn’t change even if I marry and stay with one gender for the rest of my life. A straight person doesn’t erase their sexual orientation when they date someone, why do bisexuals have that stigma? Being bisexual also doesn’t mean that I am up for threesomes or polyamorous relationships. I’m a serial monogamous, I don’t shame or critique anyone who is poly, that’s part of their sexual orientation and that’s great. It’s just not mine and being labeled that and having my behavior expected to be similar to a poly person isn’t me.
Due to all these reasons, I have never said or claimed the term bisexual. I’m simply gay. I fall under the umbrella of people who aren’t straight.
Viewing my sexual orientation in this manner limits the representation in media that directly relates to me. I tend to go looking for bisexual representation instead, and to this day I still haven’t found a halfway decent representation of someone who is bisexual. Nothing I have read with a bisexual character accurately depicts the struggle that we go through in both the lgbtq+ community and out. Most bisexual characters also end up with men to ‘play it safe’ and only flirt or sleep with women on occasion. TV shows and movies use bisexual characters as a sex appeal for their storyline and not for the representation. After watching these programs I feel used and cheap and not validated.
When it comes to books, I tend to shy away from books claiming they have bisexual representation, because they tend to come off more as trope-y than anything. I find the same thing with books about lesbians. I also don’t see my sexual orientation as the most fascinating and important thing about me. Books and other forms of media and storytelling tend to focus only on who that character decides to date. I may be over critical and over analytic but there are only a small number of books that reflect how I feel about myself and about my sexual orientation.
The first ‘gay’ book I ever read is the one that most aligns with how I see myself.
Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg forever will be in my top five books ever. For me, it was a book about two women who loved each other, neither of them defined their sexuality and their town didn’t feel the need to. They just were two women who found a friendship that developed into a beautiful relationship. Their relationship and sexuality weren’t the main focus of the book either, there was a much bigger plotline or two around the pair. The whole book may seem understated to some people and not have enough ‘gayness’ in it. But to me, I will always cherish it and reflect on it as a way to understand myself more. Its the book I use when having to explain my own sexual orientation. Being not bisexual is hard to find true representation, but when I choose to label myself and look for representation in that I still fail to find anything that relates to me. Fannie Flagg herself lives a life where she is free from the labels. Having only dated women, she doesn’t label herself a lesbian. She’s a gay woman who writes, acts and lives a life outside her constant need to be labeled. Her characters share the same ideals. As do I.
My name is Annie, I am a writer, a reader, forever student, and not a bisexual.