Join Prism Book Alliance® as Posy Roberts goes Outside the Margins today.
“Mom, I’m not straight.”
These were the words my daughter shared with me in between her English and math lesson about a year and a half ago. My reply was a simple, “Okay. You know mom isn’t either, right?”
“Yeah, I know. You’re bisexual,” she said as she opened to her math lesson, and our homeschooling day continued on.
Over the coming months her “not straight” was replaced by bisexual then lesbian, back to bi, then questioning then pansexual. It seemed like there were new labels being added or replaced at a very fast rate, and despite being part of the rainbow myself and writing about LGBTQ+ characters for years, she was coming up with words I had never heard of, so I was googling as fast as she was coming up with another way to define herself.
After I’d memorized more definitions of gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, and romantic orientation—and was quizzed by my teen on a regular basis! Haha—she still wasn’t satisfied with the words she was finding.
“Can’t you just identify as queer until you figure it out?” I asked. “You have years to find yourself and the right words.”
“Nope. I need to know now.”
And that’s when I had my lightbulb moment. She needed those words to help her make sense of the world. She needed them to know where she fit in and so she could connect with other people who were like her, which in the age to the Internet is totally possible.
I didn’t identify as bisexual until I was in my thirties. This in spite of all the sexual experiences I’d had with women over the years. I look back now and wonder how I was so blind, but I think I dismissed so many of my firsts as experimentation, in part, because I was clueless that people could be attracted to the same and other genders. I also grew up in a time where sex was defined by penetration, and for some reason, oral sex was eliminated from that definition. Curious.
Now when I look back with my rainbow glasses on, I know my first kiss was not with Scott. It was over the year before during a sleepover and it was with a girl. That intense appreciation I had of a college roommate was truly a gigantic crush I still regret not acting on. And those make-out+ sessions with women, yeah, that wasn’t me experimenting. That was me living out my sexual attraction.
Some of the first games we play with toddlers involve categorizing items into like groups. Red blocks with red blocks. Circles with circles. We label these things with words as our kids play. “Yay! You found all the blue stars.” Then we ask them to start differentiating, pulling out the one item that doesn’t fit.
Do you remember this from Sesame Street?
“One of these things doesn’t belong.”
We ask our children at a very early age to discriminate and state something doesn’t belong because it is different. As a child development specialist, I get why we do this. Those phrases like “doesn’t belong,” however, are powerful.
But those labels we decide to put on ourselves are even more powerful.
Our world is categorized so finding information is easier. While my kid was struggling with her own labels, I was struggling with getting the labels on my books reworked on the Amazon site. I was wondering why my North Star trilogy wasn’t showing up under Bisexual Romance when other books of mine with bisexual characters were. Well, it turns out the bisexual keyword had never been used. Using the right keywords on Amazon can mean the difference between a book being seen or buried, so yet again, the importance of labels was being blasted in my face.
If you’ve ever had an odd medical condition where no one knew what was wrong and then suddenly found a doctor who named it, you know the power of labels. Since I was a toddler, I had something I called “the icky feeling,” and to this day, I recall sitting in my doctor’s office after experiencing such a spell and having him finally call this by the right name: epilepsy. The same thing happened when my doctor said I had fibromyalgia. It was an answer with gave me direction. I could look things up and read and learn about what was going on in my body and finally get the right treatment.
Labels give us something to hold on to, something to cling to when we feel lost at sea.
But they are also something that can be very hurtful when people force labels on you. Labeling me epileptic; no! I am not my disease. Calling me a slut or telling me to make up my mind because I identify as bisexual; no! Saying I’m stupid because I’m blonde, weak because I’m a woman, erratic because I have a vagina. Fuck no!
I’ve had reviewers question why I wrote my characters as identifying as bisexual when a woman hadn’t be brought into the plot line. I keep writing bisexual characters because those questions are still being asked and because bisexuals still have to justify their existence, even in fiction. I write them because of bi-erasure.
I didn’t even know bisexual people existed when I was questioning my sexuality, not like my kid knows about it. My kid knows more shades of gray at thirteen than I knew at twenty-three when I knew I wasn’t straight.
I write bisexual characters because that’s how the character defines himself when he comes to me. That is the label he has chosen, and it is my responsibility as a writer to listen. Just like it’s my responsibility as a human being to listen to the people around me and respect the labels and identities they chose for themselves. It is not my responsibility to question how someone really knows. Do they really mean this? Isn’t it just easier to call yourself queer? 😉 Not unless that works for them.
“I finally figured it out. I know what I am,” my daughter said one afternoon in April. I stopped everything and asked her what she figured out. “I’m genderfluid. Panromantic. Demisexual.”
That’s a mouthful. In fact, I had to have her text me the right words because I wanted to get them right for this. She deserves that respect. Is she going to share all that information with people she meets? No. She might use the words queer or not straight to avoid giving a lesson on gender nonconformity, how she’s romantically attracted to all genders, and that she needs to know someone before sexual attraction happens, but those are her words that she’ll share with people when she’s ready. And she’s found power in using them.
For most of us, finding the labels that fit and feel right can take some time. To share those publicly can be scary because it opens us up to scrutiny if we’re one of those blocks that doesn’t “belong.” But we are using those labels to find the other blocks that didn’t belong too.
I’ve found the island of mismatched blocks in the MM Romance world where we all feel we have messages worth being heard. I’m beyond grateful to have all of you to share the world with, whether your block “belonged” or not. We’ve built a wonderful place here where we all belong. Let’s keep supporting each other and helping our genre grow stronger.
Title: Farm Fresh
Author: Posy Roberts
Publisher: Labyrinth Bound Press
Publication Date: 01/28/2016
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Romance, Menage/Poly
Jude Garrity visits the farmers market every Saturday. As an environmental engineering student, he’s curious about living off the grid and sustainable agriculture.
And one particular farmer.
Hudson Oliva has worked hard to support his commune, where queer people live without fear of harm or retribution. When Jude asks pointed questions about living there, Hudson realizes he needs to be honest about his home. Few people know what the farm is actually about, but Jude is insistent.
Jude moves to Kaleidoscope Gardens, however his sexual hang-ups make it hard to adjust. He’s an uptight virgin living among people who have sex freely and with multiple partners. When Jude finally loosens up, Hudson is flooded with emotions. Falling for Jude wasn’t part of Hudson’s life plan. But when vindictive rumors about the commune begin to spread, love might be all he has left.
About Posy RobertsPosy Roberts writes about romantic male love. Whether her characters are family men, drag queens, or lonely men searching for connections, they all find a home in her stories.
Posy is married to a man who makes sure she doesn’t forget to eat or sleep; her daughter, a budding author and dedicated Whovian, helps her come up with character names. When Posy’s not writing, she enjoys crafting, hiking, and singing spontaneously about the mundane, just to make normal seem more interesting.
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