Why I chose a bisexual protagonistPosted on: March 2, 2016, by : Carrie Pack
This May I release my second book from Interlude Press, In the Present Tense and it features my first bisexual protagonist, Miles.
A friend recently asked me why I chose to make Miles bisexual and I couldn’t put it into words. I knew it was important to create a character who felt real to me. And questioning your sexuality and even identifying as bisexual is something that hits very close to home. But it took me a while to put my finger on how that translated to writing an entire novel around a bisexual character. Turns out, I was writing what I know.
As a tween and teenager, I found myself confused by my sexual attraction to my female friends. There were times when I wondered if I was a lesbian, but this troubled me because I was also really into boys. In fact, I preferred boys and only experienced the occasional same-sex attraction. So I couldn’t possibly be a lesbian, so that must mean I am straight, right?
What I didn’t realize at the time was that you can experience varying degrees of attraction to both genders and it’s a legitimate thing. The Kinsey scale may not be perfect, but man could I relate to a phrase like “Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual.” You mean I’m not the only one to ever feel this way? It was mind-blowing. (Hell, some people experience attraction to ALL genders. Imagine how that blew my mind. But that’s not the point of this post, so I hope my trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming friends will forgive me for a moment while I talk about my personal experience.)
So, there’s a moment in In the Present Tense where a character says something like “bisexuality is a real thing” and I almost took that line out. It felt too self-serving. Or worse, I worried that readers would interpret it as me trying to be politically correct or even pandering to my readers. (By saying things that real bisexuals have to say all the time? Who knows? My brain is a weird place.) I guess I was worried it was too on-the-nose and obvious. And you know what? It is. And that’s why I kept it.
If only I had known at 11 or 12 years old that bisexuality was an option. Or hell, that fluid sexuality was possible. Perhaps my adolescence would have been far less confusing if I could say “well, I’m a 1 on the Kinsey scale.”
Why am I telling you all this? Because representation matters. And not just for people who see themselves reflected in diverse characters, but also for people who see the possibilities of life reflected in those characters.
Ultimately, I don’t identify as bisexual. It would be false of me to say that I have experienced any of the issues associated with that identity and I have exclusively been in relationships with men my entire life. And since I’m happily married, I don’t see that changing any time soon. Even though I am occasionally attracted to women, my sexual feelings toward women are far less pronounced than the attraction I experience toward men. I know that means I’m probably not entirely straight. But as an adult with some perspective and knowledge, I don’t readily identify as bisexual either. It’s just not my label.
Still, it’s important for me to know that the possibility exists. It validates my feelings. It makes me feel like a real person, a whole person. Like I am worthy of existing.
So for that reason, I had to make Miles bisexual. He’s proud of who he is. Like me, he didn’t understand or even recognize the fluid nature of his sexuality at first. He always assumed he only liked boys. Girls were on the periphery but not his priority. And then one day, he figured it out. And no one in his life makes him feel like any less of a person because of it.
I wish I could have read about a character like this when I was young, scared and confused. At least now he exists.