September 23rd is Bi Visibility Day, a celebration of bisexuality and a chance to shine a spotlight on those who identify under the bi+ umbrella. Fortunately, in the horror world, we have lots of incredible bi+ authors out there writing today, which means plenty of great horror to read.
In honor of Bi Visibility Day, I recently talked to a group of bisexual horror authors about their experiences, the stereotypes they see perpetuated, and their thoughts on bisexual representation in the genre. It was an incredible opportunity to see how many of us are often feeling the same way about our place in the industry as well as how much we share the same hopes for the future.
Bi+ misrepresentation and erasure in horror
“Being bi+ can make you feel like a bit of a neglected kid,” says Sam Richard, author of Grief Rituals: Stories and owner of Weirdpunk Books, “but I’m grateful to have felt embraced by the queer horror community in all my interactions with folks. Part of the reason I’m so vocal about my own bisexuality is that I didn't really see any bi+ men in the indie horror sphere when I started out. Granted, I'm sure there were some and I just missed them, but it became increasingly important to me that other bi+ folks would hopefully not feel so alone.”
There are still so many misunderstandings about what bisexuality even means. In fact, people can at times struggle to recognize it when it’s right in front of them. I myself am usually labeled as straight, especially since I’m married to my husband, and I’ve had characters mislabeled in reviews as not being bisexual, even though they clearly have relationships with more than one gender. Sadly, I’m not the only one who finds myself frequently having to clarify my identity for others.
“I think that my writing tends to attract an audience that’s largely queer and bi+ supportive, which is great,” says M. Lopes da Silva, author of Hooker and numerous short stories. “Occasionally there’s an essential misunderstanding of my bisexuality and people question or misidentify me as pansexual, and I have to explain the political significance and history of bisexuality, particularly in its relationship to the trans community, which can be tedious. But this is probably the main thing I do as a bisexual, aside from perpetually using finger guns and sitting in chairs improperly.”
The challenges and joys of writing bi+ characters
Although most of us are coping with some negative stereotypes and misunderstandings, we’re fortunately also finding a lot of positive feedback in the industry as well.
“My experiences as a bi+ horror author in the genre has been met with acceptance for the most part,” says Nicole Givens Kurtz, author of the Kingdom of Aves series and Sisters of the Wild Sage: A Weird West Collection as well as the owner of Mocha Memoirs Press. “However, I want to note my coming out as bisexual occurred fairly recently. Many of my horror colleagues may have assumed I was cishet. In a way, the erasure or rather the assumption is one of the ways bi-sexuals don't get as much spotlight as our queer siblings. Couple it with being a Black woman, and the genre shrinks even more in terms of opportunities.”
Kill Three Birds: A Kingdom of Aves Mystery
Sisters of the Wild Sage: A Weird West Collection
Because bisexuality is only now becoming more widely accepted as the legitimate identity it’s always been, there are still many firsts yet to happen. Case in point: at StokerCon Pittsburgh in June, I was thrilled to moderate the first-ever Bisexuality and Horror panel, which included several authors featured in this article.
“Just being able to talk openly about our perspective was wonderful,” says K.P. Kulski, author of Fairest Flesh and House of Pungsu, who was among the authors featured on the Bisexuality and Horror panel. “I’ve received messages from attendees who not only enjoyed the panel but felt seen or emotionally affirmed by our visibility, which made me tear up a bit and made my bi-bi heart glow with hope and determination.”
House of Pungsu
Writing bisexual characters can be daunting at times, because you can feel the pressure to not only get it right but also to put yourself out there in public in such an intimate way. On the panel in June, several of us discussed how we were writing bi+ characters before we were even publicly out, which makes it an even scarier experience.
“One of my earliest stories has an openly-bi protagonist and when it was accepted for publication, I was a little nervous because now it was out there and I couldn’t take it back,” says J.A.W. McCarthy, author of Sometimes We’re Cruel and Other Stories and Sleep Alone. “But the reception was wonderful. Writing authentically and being accepted by this community has strengthened my work and my sense of self.”
Sometimes We’re Cruel and Other Stories
One of the most common themes as I was talking with everyone is that we’re all eager for a future where not only are we represented as bi+ authors but also that bi+ relationships are fully accepted.
“Love, romance, attraction: they are all part of the human experience,” says Rebecca Rowland, author of White Trash and Recycled Nightmares and editor of American Cannibal, “but I can’t wait for the day when queer authors don’t have to make a concerted effort to define a character’s sexuality: instead of having to scream, WE’RE HERE! we could just BE HERE, and readers will see themselves in our stories, regardless of their backgrounds.”
White Trash & Recycled Nightmares
Harmful stereotypes and misrepresentation
Even now, when so many in the writing community call themselves allies, there are still unfortunate stereotypes being perpetuated.
“There can be the tendency to categorize bi characters as greedy or indecisive and to depict them in a very sexualized and titillating way,” says Angela Sylvaine, author of Chopping Spree and the forthcoming Frost Bite. “I think we can do better in portraying bi characters as complete and complicated people that are heroes, villains, and everything in between. I also hope for bi writers to be welcomed fully under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.”
Advancement for the future
When it comes to bisexuality, a word that often resonates with me is liminality, specifically the way being bi+ makes you feel like you don’t belong in any one place or community. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
“As far as bi+ representation in horror, I'd love to see more narratives that explore the liminal, messy aspects of these identities,” says Eric Raglin, author of Extinction Hymns and co-editor of No Trouble at All. “Being bisexual often feels like existing between worlds. It can be lonely, strange, and complicated, but it can also be pretty fun. I'd love to see more horror that explicitly acknowledges bi+ characters who are dealing with that complexity.”
Tremendous thanks to all the featured bi+ authors for sharing their thoughts! It was a huge honor to hear their perspectives and give them a spotlight. Please read their books as well as all queer authors’ books year-round! And once again, happy Bi Visibility Day!
No Trouble at All
Featured photo: Cecilie Johnsen / Unsplash