Tag Archives: straight-washing

The Elusive Bi Character

In preparation for a fantasy novel I am planning to write in the near future, I decided to look up bisexual characters because my main character (actually two of my main characters) are bisexual. This proved to be easier said than done.

What I found was not exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to find books with bisexual characters, or more importantly, characters who happened to be bisexual. In the media, bisexual characters are often treated as merely plot devices. Oh, is the drama ebbing? Let’s toss in a bisexual character who will come into the protagonist’s life and either steal their boy/girlfriend or to form a love-triangle. This has added to the prejudice society has against bisexuals and leads people to falsely believe that bisexuals cannot be monogamous, will cheat on their partner, or wants a threesome. Just because a person likes two genders does not mean they want both at the same time. I came across a lot of books that sadly used these tropes.

I then decided to go onto Goodreads and explore their Listopia section for books with bisexual characters. This lead to numerous lists of LGBT characters, which I was not willing to pick through. My attention span does not last long enough for me to investigate two hundred different books, but I did find a few lists that could be of use to my research. As I scrolled through, of course a number (probably the majority) were straight up romance novels, which I skipped past. It wasn’t surprising since it makes sense that a writer would focus on the character’s sexuality, but the amount of stories that I found with a character who just happened to be bisexual was a bit disappointing. Because my future project will be a fantasy story, I wanted to find some books in the same genre. Luckily, I came across Pantomime by Laura Lam on an LGBT blog’s list and am hoping to read it in the near future.

As I was doing my research, I began to think about my characters and some of the problems a writer may come across while writing a bisexual character. Because society tends to think in terms of gay or straight, sometimes it’s hard to solidify that a character does indeed like both men and women. How many relationships need to be mentioned to get that across? Do I need to show these relationships or can my character just say she is bisexual? Then, I was wondering if she will be judged by her latest relationship. She previously had a girlfriend, but now she is falling for a man. Will she be straight-washed by readers? Will they assume she is suddenly straight? The answer is, probably. If she was dating a woman most recently, would they say she was gay or would they say she was experimenting? On some level, I don’t think there is a correct answer. No matter what order I portray her relationships, she will probably be only identified by her last relationship. My male character will also face the same difficulties. Male bisexuals tend to be immediately deemed gay or assumed to be a gay man who cannot accept himself and therefore still has relationships with women.

When writing characters, I don’t go into it thinking they will be x or y, but as I get to know them, I learn more about their past histories and often their past relationships. As I have gotten further into figuring out these two characters, I realized both had had relationships with their own sex and the opposite sex. They pose an interesting challenge in terms of the way the public may potentially view them and how I can work around these issues or if I should pay them any heed at all and just write what I feel is right for them. More than likely, I will do the latter.

If you know of any books with bisexual characters, please send them my way.

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