This is a topic near and dear to my heart because on multiple occasions I’ve been accused of not being true to my orientation because none of my Protagonists in the novels I have completed so far has fallen in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Nor has any of my storylines been about the struggle I myself as a Bi+ woman have encountered. I did some soul searching on this and discovered several things that I want to share with the world.
I don’t have to write anything I don’t want to.
My sexual preferences, gender identity, occupation, social status, or love of pets might affect what inspires me but it doesn’t always. If we say that all lesbians must only write about lesbian protagonists then we are also saying a straight person shouldn’t write anything but straight people. We are fiction writers for a reason. It is our imaginations that creates a palate from which to make up new worlds, people, and problems. Because of my life experiences do my characters have a more sexually liberal POV? Probably but until I got questioned on it I never really thought about it.
I’m not an Activist.
LGBTQ+ activists deserve all our support and love for putting themselves on the front-lines of the controversy every day. They take hits they don’t deserve and force people millimeter by millimeter to see how much their hate and close minded attitudes are detrimental to society as a whole. They are the generals in the war and I’m only a civilian.
My life experiences and writing make me look at all sides of a story and really understand where the hate and fear comes from. I pity those who can’t see outside their own boxes and maybe it is cowardice but I don’t have the drive or desire to go out and try to change them. Now if someone makes the mistake of bringing their hate to my face and won’t walk away with a civil agreement to disagree. Then I’ve been know pull out my spiked clue by 4 and use it with deadly accuracy.
Being Bi+ does not make me a LGBTQ+ expert
Shocking I know. I’ve probably known more members of the LGBTQ community in the almost 30 years I’ve been openly Bi than a straight person. However, saying that makes me an expert would be like expecting someone who has lived on the shore all their life to be an Oceanographer. Silly.
I do write characters with alternate sexual preferences/views and I usually base them loosely on people I’ve met. Which I hope makes them feel real. But I think that any author could do the same and not share my orientation. So why should I only write Protagonists with my same personal sexual identity?
This was the hardest truth to accept because for those who know me they probably wouldn’t believe it. I’m a big personality who has never been in the closet. I may not be an activist but if asked I’ve never hesitated to answer fully and openly. I once battled openly with my corporate LGBTQ organization who wanted to classify me as only LGBTQ friendly because at the time I was married to a man so therefor couldn’t be Bi.
But even if I don’t shout it to world, I refuse to lie or hide and have been out since 2 weeks after I realized I liked both men and women at age 14. That means that I have faced both horrible and subtle prejudice from both the straight and LGBTQ community. None of what I’m about to say is for pity sake but to clarify why I feel what I need to say after.
I have had a man attempt to rape me because, as a bisexual, of course I wanted to sleep with everyone. I’ve had a lesbian call me a traitor and spit on me because I was at a gay bar. More men then I can count think that being bi means I want to have a threesome. I’ve been told that by well meaning friends that I’ll never be happy till I choose because I’ll always wonder what is on the other side of the fence. And just last week I was told that, although I’ve identified as Bi longer then the person talking had been alive, calling myself Bi was offensive and propagating Binary discrimination.
If I was to write about a Bi protagonists all those feelings and experiences would bubble up and need to be on the page. Sounds amazing right? What we all want. But the thought of putting out in the world my pain not just that of some imagined character makes all my creativity dry up and run away. Maybe someday I’ll try, just to see if I can do it. But I’m not sure. Heck I never thought I’d even write a post like this. Who knows.
Do LGBTQ+ have an obligation to write LGBTQ+ novels?
No. But I hope they do. The truth is every book out there that realistically portrays LGBTQ+ characters is one step towards it becoming part of the mainstream. We need to face what is feared to take the edge off of the unknown. Someday maybe it won’t be something to be remarked on when a MC is something other than a straight white male.
This Post Has 2 Comments
What an insightful post. I agree with you that it’s important to challenge things and to give truth as you are able to. Is it etched in stone that you must? I say no.
To spin this another way, this doozie of a question was posed to me a few years ago by another writer, “Can a person of a different gender, sexuality, or race dare write someone else’s POV?
There is real fear as a fiction writer of saying something that offends, eliciting the wrath of trolls or inadvertently hurting someone. Clearly as you stated, if we only write of our own experience it would severely limit our creative direction.
My belief is this, if you or I write and create characters… it’s our responsibility to do our research and to always walk in respect of others. Perhaps we won’t always get it right, but you can’t please everyone. I hope that you write what’s important to you. We all have our own perceptions and yours is just as valid and important as anyone else’s. All the best to you. -Bibiana
There’s an old maxim that the best writing we do is what we know. Time and time again we see new spins on age-old topics that distinguish themselves by their personal authority and authenticity.
I wouldn’t place any value on LGBTQ+ organizational drivel or their politics. I’m a Queer activist (with credentials) and I can assure you that Bi’s were included as Queers (in both the activist and academic branches) from the absolute get-go in the early 90s. “Identity” is much-overrated, nobody else’s business and reprehensible when used by some LGBTQ+ as weaponry against co-aligned people. Sounds to me like you just need to claim your queerness as a right, and the hell with anybody who doesn’t like it. As simplistic as it sounds, there’s no such thing as an LGBTQ+ person, and any group built on that false notion isn’t a group which respects pluralism.
I’d say there’s much great writing we’ve yet to see around bisexuality. (I generally write on modern Queer masculinities, but I’m constantly coming up short on good source material from aware bi guys.)
All the best – go for it in your own good time Ann!