The many ‘flavors’ of bisexuality

I’m going to be blunt here. I only came out as bi about a year ago. Just one year. 365 days, give or take. For the three and a half decades prior, I identified as straight. And not just publicly. I really and truly believed it.

For more than 35 years, I thought that, despite regular and not inconsequential attractions to women and nonbinary folx, I was straight.

Growing up, I only had two examples about sexuality: gay and straight. And let’s be real, the gay rep is still pretty limited, and up until the 1990s, it was mostly the butt of jokes. What I saw reflected in the world was this binary choice. Either or. You either find men attractive or women.

The only problem was that when adolescent me started having feelings, I would often find myself drawn to both girls and boys. Although I don’t think I had the awareness to look at it this way at the time, I had crushes on almost as many girls as I did boys. But my brain, with its conditioning from this binary way of thinking, couldn’t reconcile this. I knew I wasn’t a lesbian, and I knew I liked boys. Therefore, I must be straight.

Continue reading “The many ‘flavors’ of bisexuality”

Riot Grrrls and Trigger Warnings

My novel Grrrls on the Side, (Duet, June 8, 2017), takes place during the Riot Grrrl movement of the early to mid-’90s. The young women who considered themselves Riot Grrrls were feminists, activists and artists. They participated in the punk scene, created zines, marched on Washington, spoke out about rape culture, and demanded to be heard. But like many young women and teens, they were often derided for their choices and for daring to speak out.

It was an imperfect movement that was often criticized for its lack of intersectionality and ultimately fizzled out due to a lack of organization. But it was still important. Many young women found themselves through the friendships and values they formed as Riot Grrrls. Myself included. My feminism definitely has its roots in Riot Grrrl.

Because Riot Grrrl was (and still is) important to so many women, I knew I had to depict the experience with honesty and respect. That meant being realistic about what these “grrrls” talked about during their meetings. Unfortunately, for one in six American women, that probably meant talking about sexual assault. So it would be impossible to talk about feminism and Riot Grrrl without addressing that very real and important issue. But that doesn’t mean I should exploit the situation. Real people who have been sexually assaulted may read my book (I know of a couple who already have), and I owe it to them to treat their experiences with care because rape and other forms of sexual assault cause very real, lasting trauma. Just because it happens in real life and I wanted to reflect that in a novel, doesn’t mean that victims who might be harmed by reading about something so traumatic should have to read it. So I chose to include a trigger warning in the author’s note at the beginning of the book. Continue reading “Riot Grrrls and Trigger Warnings”

VBT: Day Six

You’re not caught in a time loop, it’s my VBT. And you’re in luck because I have even more to share about In the Present Tense. Check out these great blogs for some fun interviews, reviews, and a giveaway where you could win a $25 Interlude Press gift card!

Today I talked about my writing process with the folks at Love Bytes.

I also spent a little time over at Louise Lyons’ blog.

And I got an outstanding review from A.M. Leibowitz. I also revealed what I would tell myself if I could time travel back 10 years.

Setting the scene

Choosing a setting for my writing is always a challenging task. I’m not really sure why that is, except I don’t want to get it “wrong.” If you aren’t true to the setting, the reader will know. Perhaps that’s why I stuck so close to home for In the Present Tense.

Miles Lawson and his wife, Ana, life in Winter Park, Florida—a suburb of Orlando. Miles’s ex Adam lives in Merritt Island—right next to Cape Canaveral. Other parts of the book take place in Winter Haven and Jacksonville. In some ways, Florida feels like a fourth main character. The heat and the omnipresent humidity weigh heavily on the characters. The stark contrast of air conditioning makes the interiors another world—cold, impersonal.

For a time travel story, it seems odd to be talking about setting. Isn’t time more important? Well, yes and no. Time certainly has its role, but the setting takes on a life of its own in a way the time travel can’t. When time shifts like sand around Miles, location grounds him; it reveals to him details that help him make sense of his condition.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more with you about In the Present Tense and I hope you’ll join me on May 19, 2016 for the launch of my first novel set in Florida: my home, America’s Wang and the craziest state you’ll ever visit.

Why I chose a bisexual protagonist

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?

Wrong.

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.