Here and Queer: On Writing a Bi Romance Heroine

via Unsplash

*deep breath* There’s something you might not know about me.

I’m queer.

As in, LGBTQIA+. As in, bisexual (but I prefer queer). I’ve blogged about it before, and I’ve been out for years, but it’s not something I talk about often. Even though I’m proud as fuck to be bi—to be me—there’s another part of this story that is painful. Well, a few parts actually:

  • When I tried to come out to family, the first person I told said to me that there’s no such thing.
  • When I came out to my then-boyfriend (who was a complete scumbag anyway), all he could talk about was threesomes.
  • More recently, when discussing my sexuality with someone, they were all “Hold up. You can’t be queer. You married a dude!”

Thankfully, I had a fantastic support system when I came out: a whole bunch of queer people in my high school. We may have all drifted apart, as people tend to do after high school, but I’ll never, ever forget my friends Lisa*, Lacie*, Joy*, Phoebe*, and Starr*, who were all super supportive during the great LGBTQIA+ coming out party. (By the way, I’ve been searching desperately for Phoebe on Facebook, with no luck. I can’t remember her birth name or last name. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. I was one of very few people that she shared her name with and told she was trans, and I would love to know how she’s doing, how her story after high school unfolded.) This was before Twitter, so I can appreciate how very lucky I was to have such a support system.

Not many people are so fortunate.

via GIPHY

I’ve been thinking about my sexuality a lot lately. A lot. It’s extremely important to me that I don’t lose that piece of me. That it doesn’t get lost in my heterosexual marriage or these strange, dark times we’re living in.

Being queer is an extremely big part of who I am.

I knew that Krista, the heroine and main character of my work in progress Cruising with the Blues, would be queer. I also knew that she and Perry were meant to be. I’ve struggled so much with this novel, writing tens of thousands of words only to scrap them because I just couldn’t get it right. I think I was trying to do too much with one book: play matchmaker, address a few social issues, wrap up the series… You know, nothing major. 😅

In the very first draft I wrote, Krista was a bi woman struggling with depression. I wrote something like 5,000 words and then tossed it because it just didn’t feel right.

In my second try, Krista was a spoonie like me, only living with Lupus. (My disease is possibly pre-Lupus.) She was also bi. Again, I was trying to squeeze too much into one book. I threw away over 16,000 words, which stung.

With my third shot, I wrote another 6,000 or so words, cutting the mental and chronic illnesses. This time I approached the story from another angle, matchmaking Krista and Perry by using their shared desire to get their band mates into rehab. Once again, though, I was focusing too much on things outside of Krista, rather than on Krista herself. So I scrapped those words, too.

Altogether I’ve thrown out something like 20,000 words. Can you say ouch?

But fourth time’s the charm because this time around, I understand Krista a bit better. I now totally get why she’s so upset with Poppy for ditching their plans to share a cabin during the cruise.

Krista is in love with her best friend.

She’s also got a thing for Perry.

There have been two times in my life when I was in love with two people at the same time. It doesn’t seem fair that the heart can be so conflicted, but it happens. It’s a painful experience, something that you can’t just turn off—just like Krista’s and my sexuality.

While I’m still incorporating other elements into SOF4—getting Krista and Perry together, wrapping up the series, getting Jett and Max help—I’m focusing more on bisexuality and the stigma from all sides.

How non-queer people just don’t get how you can have feelings for and be attracted to both the opposite and the same gender.

How queer people often exclude bisexual people, writing us off as “confused” or “looking for attention.”

How you just don’t feel like you fit in with either the straight or gay world sometimes, or all the time.

This kind of erasure—from two opposite parts of your life—can be heartbreaking and confusing, to say the least.

By exploring Krista’s feelings for both Perry and Poppy, I’m hoping to give other bi people a safe haven where they can find characters they relate to. There are so few books out there with bi characters, and the few that do usually have them in same-sex relationships. I’m writing the book that I’ve desperately needed for years, damn it.

I wonder all the time if I’ll someday regret marrying a man. I love my husband with all of my heart, and I’m happily monogamous. Making the choice to be in a heterosexual relationship despite my still-very-much-alive attraction to the same sex is conflicting enough, without other people saying things like “But you’re married. You can’t be queer!”

To which I reply, “The hell I can’t!”

I’m over 6,000 words into Cruising with the Blues now. It’s both painfully and proudly #ownvoices—written based on my own experiences as a marginalized person.

(Side note: I feel kind of weird using the word “marginalized,” but I also feel that it’s important to call it like you see it. A lot of my bi friends have purposely assimilated into heterosexuality, because even though gay people are for the most part accepted by our culture, our society just doesn’t understand or accept bi people. And trans people, and ace people, and… *neverending sigh*)

The first 5,000 words came slowly, but now that I’ve realized where Krista is coming from, man am I on a roll.

Letting her shoulders relax, she melted back into the music. Perry moved with her, letting her set the pace and tone. His hands never wandered—even though she desperately wanted them to—and he kept a respectable distance between them. Still, he was close enough that she could feel the heat radiating off his body.

And something else.

Something like desire.

Or maybe she was just projecting.

via GIPHY

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Story Time: How I Realized I’m Bisexual

Bisexual Visibility Week 2016

Something not many people know about me is that I’m queer—totally bi, dude. It’s been a long journey of self-discovery and I’m still learning a lot, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m completely comfortable with who I am, and I don’t care who knows. It’s not about them, after all.

Being bi doesn’t mean that you’re into swinging or threesomes (though some people are and that’s totally cool). I’m happily monogamous in my marriage to a bearded dude who will kick your ass if you make ignorant comments toward me. Kidding. Maybe.

Bisexual means that you’re physically attracted to both male and female genders. It doesn’t mean that you’re confused or promiscuous. It just means that you’re wired to appreciate women and men. Bisexuality is not a choice, phase, or excuse.

It’s an important part of who I am, but it also doesn’t define me as a person.

Growing up watching soap operas and not knowing any other queer people, it was my understanding that women married men. Still, I had crushes on both Devon Sawa and Aaliyah. I would sit on my school bus admiring other girls’ asses and had no clue that something was different about me.

Until high school.

Every morning we stood in the old Municipal Stadium parking lot, smoking cigarettes (and maybe other things, heh). Two of my friends from our morning crew, Lisa* and Lacie*, announced that they were together and that they were bi.

This piqued my attention. I knew I wasn’t gay because I still liked guys, but I was also very much attracted to other women. Finally there was a word to describe how I felt. I had to know everything about this completely new-to-me sexuality. Between my friends and the internet, I realized I was bi, too.

And it wasn’t just me.

Lisa and Lacie’s brave coming out sparked an entire LGBT+ movement throughout our high school. Suddenly dozens of students were also proudly declaring their sexuality and gender IDs. “I’m gay,” a usually quiet and shy boy I knew proclaimed. “I’m trans!” my friend Helena* announced. The school gave us a weekly support group and, for the first time, I met lots of people like me.

People who didn’t fit the mold, who were different and vibrant. We were artists and writers, daydreamers and metalheads. Ordinarily we might have never spoken while passing in the halls, but in “gay group,” as we dubbed it, we found kindred spirits in each other.

Gay group ended up collapsing after our facilitator Karen* suddenly stopped coming. Looking back, she was an adult that we all looked to for guidance, but she was only human, and dealing with her own issues. A lot of us were hurt and angry. We tried to carry on without her, but things just fell apart from there.

One thing that didn’t change, though, was the wave of tolerance and acceptance that flowed through our school. Kids in new freshman classes openly came out long after gay group ended and Lisa and Lacie graduated. I like to think that the legacy we built continues.

Though I’ve dated many women and men, I met my match in a tall, blue-eyed artist who keeps me on my toes. Actually, for the first year or so that we were dating, he drove me bonkers. It took me a while to snag him, but once I did, I knew I’d found the real deal.

Marrying a man doesn’t make me any less bisexual, though. I’m still queer as fuck, just like married people still feel attracted to other people but don’t act on their attractions. Nor does it mean that I have feelings for every woman I come across. I have a type, thank you very much. If you’re related to me or we’re friends, you don’t have to worry about me coming on to you. And never, under any circumstances, would I cheat on my husband.

These days, I use my sexuality to write #ownvoices novels for readers just entering adulthood. Krista—the main character in the fourth and final South of Forever book—is bisexual, and I’m exploring some tough themes with her in my WIP.

So that’s my Bisexual Visibility Week story. I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m still the same person I’ve always been. Just a little bit more colorful.

💗💜💙


*Names changed for privacy.