(Image: a smiling man pointing at the bisexual flag.)
This article on bisexuality and bisexual people facing discrimination within the LGBT community gave me some food for thought the other day. Particularly about bisexuality in fiction, and male bisexuality in particular.
I am writing a book with a male bisexual main character. After years of believing himself to be straight, he finds he can have attraction to men, namely his best friend. He has to re-evaluate who he is and how he identifies.
In the first draft, I toyed with the idea of having the character come to some fuzzy woo-woo conclusion about his sexuality, like he was “beyond labels” and “labels didn’t matter” sort of thing. You can tell I did not find that satisfying. In many ways, that is the expected outcome of the kinds of sexual and personal experiences the character has. Doubtless most books would want to solve the problem of his sexuality by tying it up neat in the ambiguity bow — by not answering the quintessential questions about sexuality that this character’s experiences pose.
Ambiguity can be used as an avoidance of the truth. We’ve all been there: that murky place where things are left unsaid, where people don’t not tell the truth, but they don’t make eye contact with each other either. A furtive place, where we hide things by just not talking about them or confronting them. It is in that kind of space that easy answers like “labels just don’t matter” exist. It is in that kind of place we deny experiences and instead opt for a reality that pretends to embrace the complexity of human sexuality, and yet doesn’t.
Ambiguity like this is poison. And it is this kind of poison which is a little too frequently served in fiction, from TV to film to books.