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Bi-Erasure and Bi-Visibility

AWTADH
2013 2

Greetings, Kittens!

A few years back, during my well days, I wrote a guest series based on “life in the middle” as a MMF romance author. Continued bi-phobia and bi-erasure has left a void when it comes to sites dedicated to—or just inclusive of—bisexual content. Navigating the stereotypes of bisexuality also means taking great care to clearly show bisexuality on the page as a true identity, without taking from the fact that most bisexuals, like most of the Western world, tend to settle into monogamous coupledom. It’s difficult to do both, the bisexual past is often erased and the relationship is ultimately considered to be gay or straight, depending on the partner the protagonist ends up with in the end. To keep the bisexual experience on the page, as well as celebrate the overlooked and misunderstood road of non-monogamy, I chose to write polyamorous romances. In my work, polyamory is expressed as polyfidelity, a committed relationship of three or more people. Romance readers of course know these books better under the label menage.

Menage, for those of you unfamiliar,  is the ever growing subgenre of romance, and a natural extension of the classic love triangle. You know the one I mean: Hero A has everything she ever wanted, Hero B is everything she thought she could never have, who will she choose?

As a pre-teen, I read those books and always wondered why she had to choose at all. Menage emerged to show that she didn’t, at least not entirely. I’ve come across more than a few in which, once the deed was done, the threesome invariably learn that it’s best for her to be with just one of the men, but it’s less of a choice between them and more a clarification of what she/they really want. I can accept that, it’s just not my gig. I prefer the increasing, dare I say pervasive,
HEA segment of menage that legitimately becomes poly-romance. I want my threesomes, foursomes and moresomes to work it out, stay together and become a family. Is it harder in real life than on paper? Damn skippy! But so are relationships in general and yet romance is the bestselling genre all the same. Readers have extended the fantasy, and I say give them what they want. If it serves to educate on the concept of bisexuality or fluid sexuality, all the better.

When you open my books, they’re all poly, all the time, (and there was much rejoicing). There’s also male-male love in all my work, which is not the menage standard. I don’t mean the gay couple across the street, or the gay brother-in-law and his partner, (although I have nothing against shining a light into their love lives, if they leave their bedroom doors open), I mean two or more male leads that are in love with each other. Men who want to touch, taste and caress one another. Who watch one each other walk by with that hungry, all encompassing need to ravish the object of their affection. Men in awe and appreciation of the attributes of other men, and enthusiastically in awe and appreciation of the attributes of women. Yes, I firmly put the ‘B’ back in LGBTQ with my Bisexual Poly Romance—and most people don’t know what to do with me.

MFM, that lovely combination that’s all about a women getting everything she wants, is easily shelved with the rest of het-romance and promoted like its monogamous brethren. Change the letters to MMF to become about a man getting everything he wants and suddenly there’s a pause. When the time comes to let readers know your work is out there, some sites that cater to erotic romance readers start to get a little jumpy if you want to stand out on the bisexuality or sexual fluidity of your characters. It goes something like this:
I write erotic romance and here is my MMF book, your readers will like it. “Hmm, gay content.” They’re not gay, they’re bisexual. “Still, male-male content, I’m not entirely sure how to package that to our readers, if you want to emphasize it, have you tried the gay romance sites?” The characters aren’t gay. “But it’s male-male content and they know how to work with that.” Fine, that seems reasonable. The majority of MM readers are women and many of them were introduced by various menage stories that obviously worked for them. Some went on to launch male-centered romance/erotica sites and know what they’re looking for, great idea. Here you go, I write erotic romance, here’s my MMF book, your readers will enjoy it. “Hmm, straight content.” The characters aren’t straight, they’re bisexual. “Still, male-female content, I’m not entirely sure how to package that to our readers, have you tried the het-romance sites?”.

*Blink* *Blink*

Before you get the wrong impression, no one is entirely throwing MMF writers to the wolves, there isn’t a mad hate-on for bisexual/fluid content, nor does the industry have a campaign of bi-erasure. It’s more a matter of neglect because of bi-erasure in society and lack of bi-visibility in entertainment media at large. We don’t see bisexuality with the frequency or positive commonality that gay male couples have achieved, so when you get to niche sites, they don’t know what to do with that representation and try to force it into one box or another—the experience of bisexuals in day to day life.

A great story will speak for itself, it just needs someone to listen. With so many books released every day, specialty sites pop up all the time to give readers a place to come and talk about favorite genres and find desired content. To make sure that their readers get exactly what they want, they narrow their focus as much as they can and those of us between boxes are forgotten. There are certainly readers who want everyone in the bed to be completely committed to the enjoyment of everyone else present, but where do they go?

LGBTQ sites offer the full spectrum, but often the implication is that the stories will be about the struggle of being LGBTQ, rather than about people falling in love and learning about each other. Sometimes it moves beyond implication to outright statements by such sites who are “Telling Queer Stories for Queer Audiences”. Well, as much as I embrace and celebrate my queerness, I don’t write queer stories, for queer audiences. I write poly love stories with sexually fluid characters, for anyone who wants to read outside the lines. Where’s my shelf?

In the end, enough writers of MMF, (and FFM, but let’s not even get into the red-headed stepchild treatment of FF content in non-lesbian romance, or of lesbian romance itself because that’s its own series of posts), or enough readers will get together and the necessary sites will emerge. In the meantime, keep lists, start group discussions and track down authors doing what you want and getting it right, then spread the word. It’s only when we see ourselves that we believe we have the right to be ourselves.

We’re out there, sexually fluid and bisexual identified authors showing what that kind of love looks like in our unique voices. Find us. We’ll be here writing and waiting for the time, when being stuck in the middle, becomes conquering from the middle out.

Leave a comment with an email address to win a copy of A WAY TO A DRAGON'S HEART or one of my other titles.

Writing from the Middle Ramble ~ Done
~X

For more links in the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Xakara is an openly bisexual, poly author. Her works include ITS SWEETEST FORM (A Therian World Novella) out with Musa Publishing. SHIFTING PASSONS ( A Therian World Novella), out with Samhain Publishing. A WAY TO A DRAGON’S HEART (A Therian World Novel) out with Liquid Silver Books. GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST (PsiCorps Book 1) and DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT (PsiCorps Book 2) also out with Liquid Silver Books.




 
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Comments

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
May. 17th, 2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
M/M/F always seemed more appealing to me, because it seemed more equal (ideally, with everyone attracted to everyone else). M/F/M bothers me because the guys always seem squicked out by each other, or the gal is just using them as two live toys half the time--not cool.

vitajex(at)aol(dot)com
xakara
May. 17th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
That's exactly how I felt when I discovered menage. I wanted everyone to be involved and happy and fulfilled, rather than one or both men existing as a fantasy element, merely tolerated by the other male. Going with the adage to write the books you want to read, here I am, MMF.

I do have one MFM title, but that's merely the story of how they become MMF, so it works. Also, both men are entirely engaged with each other. They want the other there, they want it to be the three of them, even though they haven't figured out where they want the relationship between the two of them to go.

Thanks for the comment and best of luck with all of the prizes.
chaotic_heart66
May. 17th, 2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
Hi there. As an organize for the HAHAT, I want to thank you for your participation. Your post was very interesting since I didn't know there was that stigma at all. But then again I prefer M/M/F if there's a woman involved. Great post.

Hugs
K-lee Klein
http://www.chaosinthemoonlight.blogspot.ca/2013/05/hop-against-homophobia-transphobia-post.html
xakara
May. 17th, 2013 07:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you and all the organizers of the HAHAT! I'm grateful for the chance to participate and be a voice, and to hear the voices of others on such an important issue.

Hugs,

~X
kimberlyfdr
May. 17th, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you for taking part in the hop!

In order to combat hatred, we must spread love. Educate others, bring awareness, because every person who has their mind opened is one person closer to a world where homophobia and transphobia doesn’t exist.

kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com
xakara
May. 19th, 2013 01:58 am (UTC)
Thanks to you as well! And thanks for coming by.

~X
sophy
May. 17th, 2013 11:26 pm (UTC)
ILU and your writing!

sophygurl at yahoo dot com

xakara
May. 19th, 2013 02:05 am (UTC)
I've missed you! I'm so sad I can't make WisCon, but I'll be thinking about all of you.

{{{Hugs}}}

~X
sophy
May. 19th, 2013 02:51 am (UTC)
Awww, I'm sad too. Was hoping maybe this year, but now I will have to start hoping for next year. :)
xakara
May. 19th, 2013 02:56 am (UTC)
I thought it would be this year too and then I had a flare and full out crash in February. I've been out from work since March and I'm fully on medical leave since April, so there's just no money. I'm working my way out of it, so I've got my hopes on next year and the years after.
sophy
May. 21st, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
Sadface. Both for not getting to see you and for the bad things making it so.
(Anonymous)
May. 18th, 2013 03:58 am (UTC)
great post
Greetings!
You've bought up a good point: people tend to couple up. Then everyone can breath a sigh of relief knowing they were right. S/he was gay or straight the entire time and was exploring (or heaven forbid the term: going through a phrase). It completely erases the the complexity of their sexuality. Society seems desperate to have the proper boxes checked otherwise mayhem and chaos would break lose.
Glad your voice is out there. Keep it loud and proud.
Big hugs, Z.
(and thanks for hopping over to my blog)
xakara
May. 19th, 2013 02:16 am (UTC)
Re: great post
We're taught to take comfort in boxes, and people take it personally when some of us refuse. I think we're making headway, with more and more young people rejecting the idea. For now, we just keep pushing through.

Thanks for the compliment and thanks for coming by!

Hugs,

~X
rjyoaslh
May. 18th, 2013 01:14 pm (UTC)
Seems like it's kind of like being biracial, esp a few decades ago.

http://in2thewood.com ryalwoods@gmail.com
xakara
May. 19th, 2013 02:22 am (UTC)
Some of the groups I belong to would say it's like being biracial last week, but I get what you're saying. I remember the days when you could only choose one box and absolutely none of them represented being more than one ethnicity. Here's hoping sexuality makes the same progress, despite folks denying the comparisons.

Thanks for coming by.

~X
(Anonymous)
May. 18th, 2013 06:20 pm (UTC)
Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever
xakara
May. 19th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
Re: Who wants to live forever
Depends on the circumstances.
sophiarosehips
May. 19th, 2013 03:43 am (UTC)
Thanks for standing firm, Xakara.
We need more bi fiction out there. In fact, if you could point me to some titles, particularly of FFM and MFM, I'd be thrilled. I'm only just starting to discover LGBTQ fantasy novels, and I love them. I am so bored of straight stories, especially since I don't identify with them. :)

sophia-martin at hotmail dot com

You've already seen my HAHAT blog post, but in case someone on here wants to check it out, the drawing is for my LGBTQ fantasy novel, The City Darkens:
http://sophia-martin.blogspot.com/2013/05/hahat-hop-against-homophobia-and.html
xakara
May. 19th, 2013 05:25 am (UTC)
Re: Thanks for standing firm, Xakara.
I'll have to search out some FFM for you. It's been a while since I've had the money and energy to indulge, and it's a harder sell so most authors I know don't write it. I have some MFM titles in a list somewhere, so I'll see what I can compile for you.

For anyone who hasn't visited yet, here's a clickable version of Sophia's HAHAT Post

Thanks for coming by and standing with me! :)

~X
(Anonymous)
May. 19th, 2013 06:43 am (UTC)
Polyamory has always been a dream...
As a bisexual woman, I strongly agree with your argument. We *are* invisible in erotic romance, to a remarkable extent. I believe this is due to the fact that most romance readers are straight females with no real-world or fictional experience with bisexuality. It doesn't, in general, feature in their fantasies, and thus it's off their radar.

As for polyamory, a stable polyamorous relationship has long been my ideal, but not one that I've personally been able to realize. I do think it's possible, but it requires considerable self-confidence, maturity and commitment on the part of all involved. Lust is not enough!
(Anonymous)
May. 19th, 2013 06:45 am (UTC)
Re: Polyamory has always been a dream...
(By the way - this is Lisabet Sarai. http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com. Don't have a Live Journal account.)

xakara
May. 20th, 2013 01:37 am (UTC)
Re: Polyamory has always been a dream...
It definitely requires a great deal of self-confidence and maturity, not only to avoid jealous outburst or sabotaging behavior, but to be able to withstand the questions and scrutiny and judgement what comes from outside of the relationship.

My first adult relationship and first long term relationship was poly. And 17yrs later I'm still with one of those partners and open to having another partner, so I don't really know anything but a poly mindset. I think that makes a difference as well. I never question the validity of the relationship model, so I don't allow others having questions bother me in any way.

I can see how bisexuality might be off the radar of some straight female readers, but it's actually a common fantasy aspect to many women who identify as straight, at least by the last bit of stats floating around. I think that bisexuality as an outright orientation that we're born with and die with, is the concept that's missing. That's it's something that can be sustained and celebrated, rather than just experimented with--that's missing representation.

~X
ext_1830502
May. 19th, 2013 09:38 am (UTC)
This hop gets more and more fascinating ... I usually just read whatever books I can get my hands on. Which usually means a bi-weekly trip to the library. Now libraries tend to be a bit hmm conservative in their book choosing so the internet is my new playground to discover. Lately I've read a lot of romance books - all across the spectrum as long as they aren't too costly (aye I'm not really willing to exchange my lunch for books yet). I'm still wondering why I should decided what my sexual orientation is and what an answer would change for me? apart from adding one more label to the bx that is "me" .. aye well so far I haven't and I wont there are so much more fun things to do than spent sleepless nights over it. That might be a little naive but I've been put into enough boxes to last a lifetime I don't need any more of them.

I will bookmark your site - well yeah money is sparse but every now and then it's there. And there are so many things authors can come up with, by describing the world as they see it or as they wish it would that I would never think about.
Thanks for nudging me in a new direction ... you can read all the facts you want if they come wrapped in a nice story they make that much more of an impact.
xakara
May. 20th, 2013 01:44 am (UTC)
I support the lack of labels and refusal to be put in boxes. No one need identify in any way they don't wish to.

For me, the understanding that there is more than monogender preferences is important, because there are people losing sleep over it. More than that, they're losing friends, family, jobs and more over the fact that they wish to express themselves in the way that feels right and natural for them. Like every minority before them, it will take open representation for that sense of familiarity to lead to equality. To be part of that, I openly choose to use the terms bisexual, poly/pansexual, and sexually fluid and to label my work as such.

It's all open and all out there. We just need the options to express it all and to have the expression protected from bigoted retaliation.

Thank you so much for coming by and weighing in!

~X
alex_beecroft
May. 19th, 2013 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the post! I often write at least one hero who is bi, but because he's currently in a m/m relationship the m/m romance sites treat my characters as both being gay. I suppose it doesn't help that I personally am squicked by het, so although my bi characters do sometimes pair up with women instead/as well, I'm much less explicit in those cases. (I think this is because I'm asexual myself, so any form of sex in which I could actually be physically involved myself is offputting to me.)

But putting the aside aside, I really don't get why bisexuality is a problem for anyone. I thought it was fairly well established by now that most people are bisexual to one degree or another.
xakara
May. 20th, 2013 01:51 am (UTC)
It has been stated time and again that very few people are a Kinsey 0 or Kinsey 6, essentially making most people to some degree bisexual. The problem is that few folks understand what it means. It's a statement without any real impact.

Everything they come across, day in and day out, including whatever television station or website they read the stat on, perpetuates the concept that in the end, everyone will be in a gay or straight relationship. And it's assumed that most bisexuals will end up in straight relationships to avoid the discrimination of gay relationships--a discriminatory belief in and of itself.

There's also the pervasive representation of bisexuality and indecision or even insanity, in movies and television. If you never see healthy bisexual portrayals, why would you believe they exist?

Putting them out there in print, pushing for more on television and in movies, speaking out as openly bi/pan/poly and refusing to let it lie is what we have to do to change that and make healthy bisexuality as common as gay and straight relationships.

Thanks for being a voice for the "Bi Side", Alex ;)

~X
laylalawlor
May. 21st, 2013 05:45 am (UTC)
Hello! :) This is a really fascinating post. I love encountering bisexuality in fiction, and different variations from the traditional, monogamous ideal of the happy-ever-after. I'm really just getting started writing romance myself, but I'm already starting to find myself running up against the limitations of many of the presses that only publish certain gender pairings. I will have to check out some of your books!

layla (at) ravenschildren dot com
xakara
May. 29th, 2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
Hey, congrats on your start in writing romance! It is eye-opening experience to see what's out there and what others are able or unable to entertain as valid. I hope you like my books and find the right place for your own stories!

I'm happy to talk publishing experiences any time you like.

~X
Lena Grey
May. 26th, 2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
Interesting perspective. I hate putting things in categories. it's good to see someone mix it up. Thanks!

lena.grey.iam.gmail.com
xakara
May. 29th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks for coming by and for participating in the HAHAT! It's all about mixing it up and getting voices heard.

~X
(Anonymous)
May. 27th, 2013 05:09 pm (UTC)
I prefer m/m/f it feels like everyone is involved more.
sstrode at scrtc dot com
xakara
May. 29th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
That's exactly how I felt. I didn't like the idea that someone was "extra", I preferred that everyone want to be there and want to be exactly with the people involved.

Thanks for coming by.

~X
Peggy Clark
May. 27th, 2013 06:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you for participating in the Hop.

peggy1984 at live dot com
xakara
May. 29th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you as well!

~X
ext_1876162
May. 28th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
Hi, my name is Jade Crystal. I find it indescribably frustrating when people label bisexual people as "gay" or "straight" based upon the person with whom they end up in a relationship. Your chosen partner does not determine your sexual orientation; it's the other way around. I feel like I can relate because one of my characters in the books I'm writing is an openly bisexual male who ends up in a committed poly relationship with two other men. Sometimes people and other characters assume that means he is gay. The other two men are gay but he is still bi. People who struggle to define or justify bisexuality just don't understand that.

bloodandfires (at) yahoo (dot) com
xakara
May. 29th, 2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
Hi Jade,

It is a frustration, both in my day to day life, and in my writing. In my PsiCorps series, I have an intimate network that consist of a MMMF foursome and a MMM triad. The men in the triad all identify as bisexual, pansexual or sexually fluid. It's established that they've had relationships with women and still seek relationships with women. But twice I've had to correct people that second books DOES NOT feature a "bi foursome" and "gay menage", they're all bi because sexually fluidity is the norm for the world. Sigh.

Thanks for being another voice out there for bi characters.

~X
chickie4
May. 28th, 2013 03:48 am (UTC)
Thanks a bunch for sharing and participating!

tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com
xakara
May. 29th, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you as well!

~X
( 38 comments — Leave a comment )

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Xakara's books on Goodreads


Shifting PassionsShifting Passions
reviews: 1
ratings: 38 (avg rating 4.41)



Ghost of Christmas PastGhost of Christmas Past (PsiCorps, #1)
reviews: 7
ratings: 41 (avg rating 3.92)



A Way to a Dragon's HeartA Way to a Dragon's Heart
reviews: 2
ratings: 23 (avg rating 4.60)



Dawn's Early LightDawn's Early Light (Psicorps, #2)
reviews: 1
ratings: 13 (avg rating 4.00)







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