My experiences with bi erasure, and some fun stuff about the sensual parts of The Second Mango

I spent nearly a decade in fandom hearing the anti-slash crowd try to point out, “But how can those two men be a couple? Look how much [one of them] liked women!” And they said it again and again, because so many people who are only attracted to one gender truly believe we don’t exist. Bisexual women who marry cis men are called “lesbians until graduation”, and bisexual women who marry AFAB people of any gender are often mistaken for lesbians by straight people. I’ve had a number of straight cis men argue with me about my orientation for years — they’re determined that I should be called lesbian, not bisexual, despite my rather passionate crushes on various cis male celebrities and my spouse’s transgender identity. Thank goodness I married the way I did because otherwise I’d be mistaken for straight, and I’d certainly rather have my hetero side erased than my queer side — if I have to suffer such mislabelings at all.

There used to be a link to another blog here, but they had to move their site and I was told the old posts might not migrate. So I’ll post the content here. It goes into some detail about how my bisexuality led me to write both lesbian romance and heterosexual romance into my fantasy novel, The Second Mango.

I thought I’d talk about the more sensual aspects of the book. Now, it’s listed as New Adult or Young Adult, so the sex scenes aren’t explicit, and they focus more on the emotions than the mechanics of what’s going on, but I was still striving for unbridled passion, and even without graphic details you can tell which acts are being enjoyed.

First of all, the main character of my book is a bookish little lesbian queen named Shulamit, who’s at that age where pretty much all women catch her eye. She’s attracted to confidence and competence, and also has a pretty serious interest in Bewbs.

[Shulamit’s] left hand was full of one of Aviva’s breasts, the feel of which sent her brain spiraling into pinwheels of delight. “I tried looking in books to see why these make me so happy,” she commented. “Nobody knew.”

Aviva giggled at her. “You would.” Moans overtook her ability to speak as she ground herself harder against Shulamit’s other hand.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time—I did find some pretty interesting reading on how our bodies work.”

Aviva clenched her teeth, clearly trying to muffle herself, but the next groan escaped anyway, even stronger. “Is that why you’re—Ahhh! Okay, you studied for sex. You are truly amazing.”

Then there’s the secondary main character, Rivka, a heterosexual warrior woman who stands five-foot-eleven and rides a dragon into battle. She’s still a virgin, but only because the man she loved — the wizard who taught her to swordfight, against her uncle’s wishes — was held prisoner of a celibacy curse as the price of his getting to learn magic. They fell desperately in love:

I’m sorry—I’m weak—” She pressed herself against his door, yearning for the impossible, wanting him to hold her and turn whatever felt like a heart beating between her legs into an oasis of sweet relief.

No, you’re strong because you know what you want and you’re not afraid to ask for it.”

Picture him: over six feet tall, with muscled, powerful arms and the kind of body that’s got a cushion of fat over thick, sturdy muscle–the barrel-chested bouncer type, but fun to cuddle. He’s got a neatly-trimmed goatee and an “impish, placid expression and pointed eyebrows that suddenly made her think of a cat smiling at you with its eyes closed.”

The sensuality in my book is feminist-positive, sex-positive, and healthy for all the characters involved. Women are permitted to own their desires; when the celibate Isaac finds out that Rivka has the hots for him, he doesn’t encourage her to choke it off “for her sake”–he attempts to soothe her as best he can and tells her over and over again that she’s allowed to feel the way she feels. Shulamit is the only lesbian she knows for most of the book, but she isn’t ashamed of being different–only lonely and alienated because the people around her aren’t handling her difference in as respectful a manner as she would like.

The Second Mango is very much a reflection of my own bisexual brain. There are lots of things I love about women, and women’s bodies, and the bodies of people who don’t identify as women but have that same body. But I also like certain men — the middle-aged, mysterious, gray-hat, secretive, cassock-wearing, barrel-chested, goateed Isaac being well within a type I’ve loved for years. By creating this story, I can enjoy both types of fictional relationship within the same universe, alongside each other just as they are in my own daydreams. 

About Shira

Queer Jewish feminist author
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6 Responses to My experiences with bi erasure, and some fun stuff about the sensual parts of The Second Mango

  1. Starshadow says:

    Evidently, there’s a lot of people that want things in a category. I’m a lesbian, but I’ve had two children by (gasp!) men. So I had people saying “HOW?” (To which I confused them utterly by saying, “In the usual fashion.”

    I’ve had lesbians argue that transgender people were just confused about their orientation. (This about thirty years ago.) I’ve had to explain that no, sexuality and orientation were two different things.

    But this is why I like the Kinsey bell curve. Zero to six. (On that curve, I’m about a five. I don’t identify as bisexual, though there is one male living I’d do in a HEARTBEAT (*cough* Adrian Paul *cough*) not that I’d ever have the chance, but I now a great many who do so identify.

    And I wonder why it’s so important to someone else to label what a person calls hirself. Here’s an idea. Use the pronoun that person prefers. If they use a label for their sexuality–even if it turns out it’s fluid–allow them to self-identify.

    And me? I guess I’m just an old vanilla cisgendered lesbian who rather likes the idea of slash and of people being comfortable with who they see themselves as being. May we all get there some day soon.

    • Shira says:

      I’m shocked at the thoughtlessness of people who would ask a lesbian how she got her biological kids, considering the fact that some of the possible answers they might get are not so nice at all (ranging from all the way from “I was afraid and closeted for thirty years and married someone to get by” to rape.)

      I agree with you in letting people self-identify. Listening to people about themselves, when it comes to gender and sexuality, is a vital sign of respect and humanity.

      • Starshadow says:

        Usually it was in the kind of thoughtless way people sometimes speak–like at the Judson Scott memorial con, when the person who put on the con called me to confirm my membership when my kids were little. She had a HUGE crush on Judson Scott–I found out later he’d done stuff for her very ill child. And she was gushing like an adolescent in a heat-crush and wasn’t I excited to meet Scott and I said, not particularly, that I was going because Bjo and John Trimble would be there. “But,” I said, “if you had Nichelle Nichols…”

        Confused, she said, “But…but…you said that the way I talk about Judson Scott!”

        And I said, “Yeah, I’m a lesbian.”

        More confused she said, “But…but…how?”

        To which I replied and confused her more with, “The usual way.”

        She wasn’t meaning to offend. She was just a well-meaning idiot.

        This happens. I would hope by now she’d have learned better, but you never know. To me, this is an important reason for writing the kind of fiction you write, and I write, so people KNOW that we are all just people, who happen to have sexuality and orientation.

        Keep on keepin’ on. I know you will!

  2. Shira says:

    Hopefully there’s enough queer visibility these days that people know not to say “but you–!” like she did. I do like your answer, “the usual way.” That’s awesome.

    Even in this day and age — well, as recently as five years ago — I was meeting people who told me I was the first person who made them realize that queer people could have a spiritual life, or that people in same-sex marriages could be working on the very same things within those marriages that the straight, Christian, religious folks are. Yes, those people are probably very sheltered, because at this point there are a lot of very visible queer faith communities and surely every straight person has multiple people in their lives who are in committed same-sex relationships, but still–visibility is growing by leaps and bounds right now.

  3. Alex says:

    It’s funny — I was always bisexual, but would get treated as a “hetero pretender” by the gay community when I identified as female and my spouse as male. Now I identify as genderqueer (really, I’m surprised I didn’t figure it out sooner) and my spouse is transitioning so her body will match her female mind. And even so, a lesbian friend of mine stopped speaking to me entirely because I said having sex with my wife felt like a more lesbian experience for me now. I was heartbroken and furious, because she’d been a good friend of mine for over a year. And she total me, “Bullshit, it’s still heterosexual sex” and stopped replying to my emails.

    Strangely, the people who have accepted me and my marriage the most are hetero cis friends. We had a number of these friends — mostly middle-class straight guys — tell us that because of us they realize their privilege and try to check it now, and they’re all perfectly fine calling us the pronouns of our choice even though they knew us first as our old pronouns. How is it that they have no problems with us, but the gay community does?

    I have always, *always* liked both binary genders. I call myself by the not-overly-specific “queer” these days instead of “bisexual”, because I have come to realize that gender is a spectrum and I’m attracted to people all across it. I love my wife even more now than I did when she was my husband, because she’s a happier person and I love seeing her happy.

    Love is love. Anyone who tries to squash it into a box with a label is just trying to set up a “them vs. us” situation so they can feel superior and treat the other as lesser. Fuck that.

    • Shira says:

      I prefer ‘queer’ but I also really, really, REALLY want to reclaim ‘bisexual’ so that people like Dan Savage won’t be able to claim that bisexual only refers to people who married heterosexually while still having same-sex attractions, and so that I can push back against the social pressure to feel “not good enough” because I’m not a gold-star lesbian or because I still have attractions to cis males (*cough* certain celebrity *cough*)

      I’m just so glad you guys are happier now in your own selves.

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