As a proud “B” in the LGBTQA+ community, authentic representation of bisexuality is something I’m passionate about. Things are changing for the better, but far too often bisexual characters in books, movies, and television shows still fall into shallow, negative stereotypes: he’s really just gay, she’s only doing it for attention, they can’t make up their minds.
My debut psychological thriller Temper (out July 2nd from Scout Press) features several bisexual characters. Early on in the writing process I decided that, instead of shying away from all the stereotypes, I’d lean into them—all the better to subvert them!
Here’s how I twisted three bad bi stereotypes in Temper:
The Greedy Bisexual
Temper’s heroine, Kira, is straight (she can’t help it, she was born that way), but her closest relationship is with Spence, her bisexual best friend with benefits. The two of them share a laissez-faire attitude toward relationships, and they’re both seeing plenty of other people while having casual sex with each other. But while Spence may not be the best at monogamy, he’s so much more than a stereotypical sex-obsessed bisexual: he’s loyal, loving, and in many ways one of the most ethical characters in the book.
The Evil Bisexual
The antagonist in Temper, theater director Malcolm Mercer, is demanding, mercurial, and manipulative. He’s also bisexual. There’s a history in pop culture of depicting bi characters as sneering, cruel, downright creepy villains, and in some ways, Malcolm is part of that not-so-proud tradition. As limiting and offensive as it is to see bi people solely as mustache-twirling bad guys, though, it’s just as constraining to say they all have to be nice. Bi people can be whatever we want to be, and some of us are evil. I wouldn’t want to read a book where the only bisexual person is a shameless sociopath. But if he’s one of a variety of bi characters spread across the moral spectrum? That’s a different story.
The Bisexual Who Chooses a Side
Temper’s second narrator, Joanna, is established as bisexual from her very first point-of-view chapter. Her main relationships in the book, however, are all with men, so some readers might wonder why I didn’t just “round her up” to straight. As a bi woman who’s been married to a man for over a decade, this stereotype is near and dear to my heart—by which I mean, it absolutely infuriates me. Who Joanna is currently sleeping with has absolutely no bearing on her sexual orientation, and she shouldn’t have to prove to—or perform for—anyone her bisexuality any more than I do in real life.