Bisexuality in Romance
Shira Glassman talks about the best ways to present bisexual romances and characters in order to make your novel as believable and favourable as possible.
When I was asked to write about bisexual representation in romance, the first thing that came to mind was Rebekah Weatherspoon's short, billionaire-romance trilogy about Kayla and Michael, So Sweet, So Right, and So For Real. Michael literally never has any kind of "acceptance narrative" about any of Kayla's marginalizations—she's fat, Black, and bi—despite being thin, white, and not part of the umbrella world himself. Nowhere in any of the books do we have to watch Kayla going through the painful process of watching him unlearn his prejudices because of how much he cares about her, and while this is A story, this is not THE story I want when I'm specifically reading Romance.
That's not to say Kayla's life is completely free of any problems, but Weatherspoonchose to represent those microaggressions as having come from outside the romance. For example, when Michael buys a basketball team in Miami, they make a big show of presenting Kayla with a team shirt—that's several sizes too small. Nobody thought to check. But I'd rather see the participants in a romance tackle that stuff as a team, as Weatherspoon wrote. Kayla is also not the only umbrella character in the books, with a trans best friend and other characters as well, so she feels realistically fleshed out that way.
Showing that a character is bisexual in a book without more than one configuration of romance for the same character can take many forms. Kayla's is simply announced, and then it seems natural that she has her queer friend group. In Austin Chant's Caroline's Heart, m/f romance about a trans cowboy and a trans witch, the bi rep for the cowboy male lead is given as a line about the men he finds attractive. There is also triad romance, like Lauren Gallagher's amazing Kneel, Mr. President, in which you can tell the president is in love with both his wife and his Secret Service agent because it's happening right there in the story.
Other solutions involve discussing exes of a different gender from the current love interest in a context that makes it clear that it wasn't experimentation (Hey, it turned out I was straight after all!) or social norms (I dated men in the past, but it really wasn't ever my thing.) that led to the old relationship, and that the feelings of attraction that inspired it are still part of the character's current identity. This is how I handled my own super-heroine Cinnamon Blade's bisexuality in my latest release, Cinnamon Blade: Knife in Shining Armor. In the book, she romances her favorite damsel-in-distress, but there's a line about an art forger she used to pal around with during her jewel thief days, and she mentions how good he was in bed. There are also references to a girl and a nonbinary person she used to date in high school. Caroline's Heart, mentioned above, also employs this device as the titular "Caroline" is actually the deceased wife or girlfriend—I can't remember—of the female lead, not the female lead herself.
You can also show a one-direction-only crush or interest on one gender before the romance ends happily with someone of a different gender. The character Frankie in Dahlia Adler's Out on Good Behavior is pansexual, not bisexual, but the same principle applies—she's shown on the page being attracted to people of various genders before the full-on romance with the female love interest gets going.
So many options! And I hope, for you, some new books to check out.
Do you often feel misrepresented in literature and novels? Tell us why, and how you think these mistakes could be rectified, or just have a goog old-fashioned vent in the comments or on social media using #DiverseRomance