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Bi-Erasure and Bi-Visibility

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

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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( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
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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.

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.
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.

K-lee Klein
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.


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.

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

(Deleted comment)
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.


(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - xakara - May. 19th, 2013 02:56 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 18th, 2013 03:58 am (UTC)
great post
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)
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!


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
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.

May. 18th, 2013 06:20 pm (UTC)
Who wants to live forever
Who wants to live forever
May. 19th, 2013 02:23 am (UTC)
Re: Who wants to live forever
Depends on the circumstances.
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:
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! :)

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!
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.)

Re: Polyamory has always been a dream... - xakara - May. 20th, 2013 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
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.
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!

(Deleted comment)
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 ;)

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
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.

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!

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.

May. 27th, 2013 05:09 pm (UTC)
I prefer m/m/f it feels like everyone is involved more.
sstrode at scrtc dot com
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.

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

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

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( 34 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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