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Pro-“Gay For You” Arguments In The Romance Genre (And Why They’re All Still Bi/Pan Erasure)

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Yesterday, a Facebook friend made a post about the “Gay For You” or “GFY” trope popular with readers. The trope is sheer garbage: a character is straight as an arrow, never questioning their sexuality for a moment or even aggressively asserting their straightness. Then they meet “The One”, the romantic love interest. The straight protagonist knows, deep, deep down, that this is their One True Love™, and that love can overcome any odds. Even if that odd is that one of them is straight and the other is their same gender. “It’s okay,” the trope reassures us. “He’s not really gay. He’s just gay for him.”

This is seen most often in M/M fiction. M/M romance is written by people of all genders, but within the romance community it’s no secret that women are the target audience. Romance readers in general are voracious, but M/M readers seem to have a voracity and budget all their own. At a recent conference, I met a woman who said she reads M/M exclusively, and that she buys up to a hundred books a month. But the genre is still competitive, with some authors releasing twenty or more titles a year. As a result, M/M romance reaches–and influences–people who aren’t LGBTQA+, for better or for worse.

Gay For You is one of those areas where the “for worse” comes in. The GFY trope satisfies the reader’s desire for a happy ending by promising that the couple will find happiness together despite their sexualities, rather than finding their happiness through discovering their sexualities. Homosexuality is treated as a hurdle to be overcome, a tragic circumstance that could have destroyed the relationship had the romantic connection been less intense. That’s not just homophobic. It’s biphobic, and it’s bi/pan erasure.

It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me that the conversation quickly became heated, with lovers of the trope defending it as “just fiction” and actual LGBTQA+ people desperately trying to explain why the trope erases bi/pan people. In one particularly frustrating thread, a reader took the position that it’s “just fiction” and people shouldn’t be using it to learn from. She stated that she herself would rather learn from “real people” about these issues, but when four very real bisexual/pansexual people tried to engage with her on the subject, she refused to listen and cited her transgender cousin and “lots of gay friends” as proof that she can’t possibly be homophobic.

Yeesh.

Because actually interacting with these types of readers and authors is frustrating beyond belief (and because bi/pan people were being tone policed by straight, gay, and lesbian readers and authors in the Facebook thread that inspired this post), I thought I’d create a handy guide to the most common defenses of the trope and the reasons that all of those arguments are 100% Grade A USDA Certified Trash.

“It’s just fiction!” The old saying “life imitates art” didn’t spring up for no reason. Our earliest histories were stories painted on cave walls and told around fires. Stories inform the way we see our world. The first time I saw two women kiss on TV, it was Mariel Hemingway kissing Roseanne Barr on primetime television on the sitcom Roseanne. If you’re unfamiliar with the episode (titled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), the kiss takes place in a gay bar that the title character of the show, Roseanne, visits in an effort to prove that she’s okay with gay people. Hemingway’s character kisses Roseanne without asking her permission, and the kiss goes on for an uncomfortably long time as the camera fixes on her shocked expression. When Hemingway pulls away, Roseanne makes exaggerated faces in an effort to wipe her mouth off. Seeing this cemented two things in my mind: one, that lesbians were predators out to make straight women uncomfortable, and two, that normal, relatable women should be disgusted by F/F sex. And while the show was fiction, it was the only way the information was ever presented to me. No one took me aside and gave me a list of resources to change my mind. The show did end with Roseanne acknowledging her homophobia, but the kiss scene had already done its damage.

For many readers, fiction is the only chance they have to interact with people outside of their own experience on a deeply personal level. That’s why #OwnVoices is such an important hashtag on social media: it’s not enough to just put marginalized people in stories. They have to be portrayed in a way that’s authentic, or risk reinforcing stereotypes that harm real people. If your defense of “Gay For You” is, “It’s just fiction!” then you’re ignoring the visceral power fiction has over our minds, and how often it’s used to transform them.

Sesame Street is fictional, too, but I bet it still taught you your ABCs.

“Gay For You happens in real life all the time!” No, it doesn’t. A person might realize late in life that they’re gay, and that might be the result of an attraction to a person of the same gender. But that’s not Gay For You. Is the character gay? Then they’re gay. Is the character still attracted to and wants to have sex with a member of the opposite sex? Allow me to introduce you to the concept of bisexuality or pansexuality. Is your character attracted to anyone, irrespective of gender, but with preferences that change throughout their lives? Allow me to open your mind to the idea that sexuality is fluid, and that the sexuality of a character who wants to have sex with just this one particular guy but no other guys can be described more accurately without the word “gay.”

This might sound like some kind of weird homo-gatekeeping. Don’t get me wrong, people are free to label their sexuality however they’re comfortable. But authors using “gay” to describe all same-gender sexual relationships, even those engaged in by people who don’t identify as gay, isn’t just bi/pan erasure. It’s homophobic. And saying, “But it happens in real life!” doesn’t magically fix that when there’s so little accurate representation of bisexual and pansexual people in entertainment in the first place.

“So what if it’s not realistic! It’s not like women can actually fall in love with vampires or something!” This argument relies on a false equivalency between bisexual people and vampires. One of these things is not like the other, in that one exists, and one does not. If you write a vampire book, but your vampire really looks more like a werewolf on paper, you’re not hurting vampires and werewolves. If you write a Gay For You book, you are hurting real gay, lesbian, bi, pan, queer, and sexually fluid people.

“I read GFY all the time, and I’ve never once read one that erases bisexual people!” The very fact that you’re calling it “Gay For You” erases bisexual and pansexual identities. It’s not being marketed as “Bi For You.” It’s not being marketed as “Pan For You.” “Gay” cannot be used as a shorthand for bisexual or pansexual in this context without erasing us, because it reinforces the belief that all bi/pan people are just undecided voters.

In fact, “For You” in any context when describing sexuality is reductive, because it reinforces the idea that all sexuality is defined by the genders of an individual’s partners and not by the individual themselves. This is the type of thinking that leads to “gold star lesbian” and “fake bisexual” labels. This is the type of thinking that totally removes asexual, aromantic, and gray-ace people from the discussion entirely, as not having sex or not having romantic relationships leaves them undefined in the narrative.

“But the GFY books I read call the characters bisexual.” That’s nice, but see above. If you want to read about bisexual people or people coming out, super. But don’t refer to those stories as “Gay For You” in shorthand. The second you say “gay” when you mean “bi/pan,” you’re erasing us.

“I write stories about bisexual characters and people who are realizing their sexualities as adults, but I market them as GFY because they sell better.” Let me translate this for you: “I don’t care if it hurts real people. Reinforcing harmful stereotypes also reinforces my bank account, so I’m going to keep doing it.”

Marketing is hard, especially when so many books are out there. You want to find your audience. I get that. But think of it this way: do you really want to find the audience that is looking for books that reinforce ideas and misconceptions that result in real-life harm to people? Do you really want your work to appeal to them? And if it does, what does that say about your work? What does it say about you?

Plus, saying, “I don’t really believe this, it’s just how I’m marketing the books,” isn’t a magical shield against criticism. If LGBTQA+ people question your integrity as a result, it’s their right. They don’t have to believe you have good intentions. They don’t have to absolve you or give you the benefit of the doubt. If their real life struggles mean less to you than your bank account, and you’re willing to state that in public, don’t be surprised if people call you out on it. And if you do it again and again, don’t be surprised if people grow tired of it or terse with you.

Write what you want to write. Read what you want to read. But if those things are harmful, stereotypical, or downright bigoted, then you need to own that. I’m fond of saying that there’s no such thing as unproblematic media. As long as we live in the culture we’re living in, that’s going to remain true. But don’t defend it. Don’t argue with the people it’s hurting. And if you’re not willing to listen, say so at the outset instead of wasting everyone’s time. If you don’t like being thought of as homophobic or biphobic, maybe the easiest way to avoid that is to stop being homophobic and biophobic. Maybe stop asking, over and over again, why people think GFY is wrong. And if you’re a reader or a writer who truly wants to read about bisexual characters and portray them accurately, stop touting your stories as Gay For You.

89 Comments

  1. mirja
    mirja

    It always struck me as weird when, in those kind of novels, the heretofore totally straight character automatically assumes he is gay because he finds himself developing feelings for another man. Especially if the character had until now enjoyed sex with women, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to assume he is bisexual? In some novels it seems there is only gay or straight, completely ignoring everything in between or beyond. But sexuality, like everything else in life, isn’t made up of extremes but lots of shades in between and I appreciate if the novels I read reflect that. (English is not my first language so I hope I brought my point across without offending anyone)

    September 14, 2016
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    • Mojitana
      Mojitana

      Yes, but if they’re gay gay then they’ll have a happily ever after. They can’t be attracted to women still because one day they might find a woman who would override their gay gayness and we can’t have that. Besides, everyone knows bisexuals are just greedy whores who go around breaking up relationships because they’re undecided about who they want to fuck on any given day. Bisexuals are shifty and not to be trusted. They’re nymphos incapable of finding true love in a monogamous relationship. (The above was sarcasm, btw)

      September 14, 2016
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    • Mojitana nailed it: there is this pervasive idea in society that all bisexual people are either inching their way out of the closet or lying for attention (which never made sense to me. What attention are you going to get? Extra oppression?). I’ve noticed that bi people tend to be in this really interesting-in-the-worst way position, where they are sometimes distrusted and/or dismissed by both ends of the gay-straight spectrum. That’s just extra sucky.

      September 14, 2016
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      • Yes, this! Especially when you’re bi but have never had a same-gender partner; the “you’re just doing it for attention” is strong in a lot of people. Or “you’re appropriating our oppression.” I’m always looking at it like “So if I hadn’t dated anyone yet I’d be asexual to you?” (I’m actually “biromantic demisexual”, but I usually don’t try to explain that in that kind of conversation; people are even less likely to believe it exists.)

        September 14, 2016
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        • Hannah M
          Hannah M

          *Biromantic demisexual solidarity fistbump*

          Also I feel you on the mostly not explaining thing. Tried that last year on fb on Bi visibility day…never again

          September 15, 2016
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          • Xebi
            Xebi

            Biromantic demisexual is probably the sexuality label that best fits me, too. Hi! 🙂

            When I told my mother I was bisexual (I was 19 and had had a lot of short term boyfriends but no romantic encounters that she knew of with girls/women) her immediate and lasting response was, “Don’t be ridiculous.” Actually, that might have been mostly denial because she’s too homophobic to be able to cope with offspring who are anything other than hetero.

            I don’t bother talking to her about my sexuality any more, anyway.

            September 15, 2016
        • Casey
          Casey

          (Tangentially related: Romantic orientation is awesome. I had no idea why I had this draw and fascination towards women, and wanted relationships with them, but was not actually attracted to them. I just kept thinking I was like the opposite of GFY: I just hadn’t found the RIGHT vagina that would make it all make sense! XD In the end, there’s not much you can do with a biromantic heterosexuality except find a dude, but it helped me understand myself. That’s why I don’t get people who are anti-labels, so long as you apply them to yourself. This is totally unrelated to anything, but romantic orientation doesn’t come up in conversation much and I couldn’t resist rambling.)

          September 15, 2016
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          • Siona
            Siona

            Finding the right label for yourself can be so liberating! When I realized romantic and sexual orientations could be different, it completely made sense. But when I found out there were more layers to being asexual than ‘never want to have sex’ I literally had a moment “Holy crap, my life makes sense now!” So I tell people I’m panromantic asexual. Though there is another word for the asexual that I am, but I can never remember it. But it literally means that I enjoy fantasies of sex but not actual sex. Seriously, everything about me made so much sense when I found that.

            September 16, 2016
        • =8)-DX
          =8)-DX

          Just occured to me that the same bi erasure dynamic happens to me somtimes: I’m in a relationship with a woman, have always only been attracted to women and been with women, but because I’m not disgusted by being touched by a man and don’t dress/act 100% heteronormative and I support gay pride, some people think I must be a closeted gay man. Not bi. Gay. Like, people, that’s not how it works!

          September 19, 2016
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    • Xebi
      Xebi

      It’s not just novels, either. I don’t watch much TV and have hardly ever watched sitcoms, but I can think of at least two occurrences in two separate sitcoms where the hapless main female character goes on yet another date in a quest to find herself A Man, only to be thwarted by the realisation that he is in fact gay. Because it’s a sitcom, she realises this over a period of time in which he demonstrates that he fits into a succession of gay stereotypes. She eventually cracks and points this out to him, at which point he breaks down in tears and thanks her profusely for giving him this life-changing realisation; the “comedy” lies in the female character’s exasperation at yet another love interest failing to take off.

      He can’t possibly be bisexual, of course.

      Hilarious.

      September 15, 2016
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    • Aletheia
      Aletheia

      Re: “It always struck me as weird when, in those kind of novels, the heretofore totally straight character automatically assumes he is gay because he finds himself developing feelings for another man. Especially if the character had until now enjoyed sex with women, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to assume he is bisexual?”

      To those of us familiar with sexualities outside of the hetero/homo mirror-image, it would make a lot more sense to go “huh, maybe I’m actually bi/pan/whatever.” But… in all honesty, the erasure that Jenny pointed out in her post leads to a lot of people thinking that bisexuality isn’t real, or that it’s faked for attention/uniqueness/etc, or that it’s only something made up for laughs, or whatever, which means that people who don’t know any better don’t actually consider bisexuality as a possible label for themselves. Because, y’know, obviously people are only attracted to the same sex or opposite sex, not both or all or none, you know?

      (If you’re into reading webcomics, Dumbing of Age has a character that’s going through that same situation. And it has a great variety and representation of different sexualities. 🙂 )

      September 17, 2016
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  2. “conversation quickly became heated, with lovers of the trope defending it as “just fiction” and actual LGBTQA+ people desperately trying to explain”

    This pretty much sums up every single conversation about the m/m genre ever and why I avoid it like the plague

    September 14, 2016
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    • IfYouEverComeBack
      IfYouEverComeBack

      So i’m a M/M reader and I agree with you. Some of the folks that read the genre are the worst. That’s why I just read it and try to stay away from discussion boards.

      September 14, 2016
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      • JennyTrout
        JennyTrout

        Yup. I have friends who are M/M authors who I love dearly, and I trust them. I know readers who won’t argue about the problematic elements sometimes inherent in the genre, and I trust them. But I am automatically wary of straight women who only read or write M/M until I figure out what kind of person they are and if I can trust their books/reccs. I’ve been burned in too many conversations online, which almost always turn to, “You’re homophobic if you don’t support my total fetishization of gay men!”

        September 14, 2016
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        • Xebi
          Xebi

          “You’re homophobic if you don’t support my total fetishization of gay men!”

          Wow. I wonder if “You’re racist if you don’t support my total fetishization of Asian people” would wash with them.

          September 15, 2016
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  3. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    I’ve never heard of this genre before, but I’m still trying to digest the idea that someone would be disgusted by a kiss from Mariel Hemingway.

    September 14, 2016
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    • Ghislaine
      Ghislaine

      And doesn’t that make it suck all the harder? So, what you’re saying. makers of Roseanne, is that a woman kissing another woman is repellent and disgusting, EVEN WHEN THE WOMAN LOOKS LIKE MARIEL HEMINGWAY.

      September 14, 2016
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  4. May La Nee
    May La Nee

    Implicitly I think I knew this, but you indeed put it most eloquently. That first argument especially really struck me, and made me realise something. A few years ago I became a member of a super politically correct ‘safe space’ website where one could make avatars and dress them up, design their own pets, and things like that. It was like a combination of dress up dolls and neopets. They have events for all kinds of sexuality and such and I thought it was all a little exaggerated and silly, but I became a member for the avatar-dressing-up stuff. But one of their events made me realise I am demisexual, I had never even heard of that before. .__.; Before that I always thought there was just some design flaw in me. So. Yes. That first argument. Yes.

    And I’d love to make a longer coherent comment about this but I don’t get much further than mental images and nodding in agreement. Also, when other people comment stuff I’m thinking I don’t see the need to comment anymore. (And I think I told you before but you are you are yet to say anything I disagree with 😀 )

    September 14, 2016
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  5. Nanani
    Nanani

    Thank you for writing this, and especially for remembering that ace people exist and aren’t defined by which gender we’re not having sex with.

    This whole post just <333

    September 14, 2016
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  6. Avon Gale
    Avon Gale

    “In fact, “For You” in any context when describing sexuality is reductive, because it reinforces the idea that all sexuality is defined by the genders of an individual’s partners and not by the individual themselves.”

    That’s a wonderful point, and so eloquently made. Bisexuals run into this all the time in real life, so it’s refreshing to read (and why I try to *write*) narratives in which this particular stereotype is not reinforced.

    September 14, 2016
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  7. AS
    AS

    Oh my, the “it’s just fiction” argument is one of the most toxic mindsets I’ve ever found. And people who use it some of the most stubborn ones.

    I don’t know exactly when I became aware of bi erasure (and other sexualities, but the topic I want to deal with is bisexuality in particular), but it has bothered me for so long. The fetishization goes so far it sickens me.

    Time ago, I used to read people calling X or Y series “Gay X” or the “Gay Y”, as if having characters you can ship together were the most important quality of a series about teamwork and trying to succeed in a field you love. That was infuriating enough, but the worst of it? Most of those boys have shown before attraction to women, so they would be ANYTHING less gay. Put them as bisexuals, as demi or pan. I don’t care. Just don’t erase a part of the character because it’s more “convenient” that way.

    September 14, 2016
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    • falalala
      falalala

      I want to bang my head against a wall every time I see the “it’s just fiction”/”it’s just art”/”it’s just a book”/”it’s just a game”/etc. argument in any context. Oh, it’s just the very thing that makes us human? It’s only a reflection of our larger culture and a major influence on said culture? It’s merely something with the power to shape hearts and minds, to offer representation or deny it, to reject bigotry or endorse it? OH WELL THAT’S ALL RIGHT THEN.

      (I’m a big sci-fi/fantasy nerd, and I just got into a profoundly irritating argument with a fellow geeky person a few days ago who insisted that it was stupid for me to have any problems with the fact that high fantasy far too frequently means “rape, rape, dragons, rape, swordfights, and rape, oh and literally everyone is white because black people and dragons apparently can’t coexist or something” and that hard sci-fi far too frequently means “manly men being manly in space and maybe banging hot alien chicks, oh and everyone is STILL white except maybe for one token minority because black people and aliens apparently can’t coexist or something.” They completely acknowledged that both of those things were common within the genres in question, but insisted that it didn’t matter. Because it’s just fiction, and so no real people could possibly be affected by it. Sigh.)

      September 15, 2016
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      • Siona
        Siona

        No, we definitely can’t have black people co-existing with dragons and aliens because then people might suddenly realize that aliens, at least, are usually a thinly veiled metaphor for non-white people! And I don’t know… dragons are a thinly veiled metaphor for asexuals.

        September 16, 2016
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        • Aletheia
          Aletheia

          Dragons being “our” animals is one of the decent things about belonging in the mythical sexuality, not going to lie. 🙂

          September 17, 2016
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  8. Maril
    Maril

    I’m gonna start this by declaring that I am a white, straight, cis gendered female who grew up in an upper middle class Canadian, traditional (married parents, two kids, dog, cat…) family structure. So there may be things I just don’t ‘get’ about these subjects, so if I say something stupid, I’m sorry, please correct me. I will listen, I promise.

    I don’t even understand why people say ‘gay for you’. I’ve seen this outside romance novels. I’ve seen straight guys say it about actors they really like ‘I’d go gay for him’. I don’t get it… I can understand that title only in the context of like, a really closeted gay person who was unwilling to come out ‘cuz they were raised super homophobic, or they were scared to come out because of homophobics, but for this person their love overcomes their fear, and they come out of the closet! That’s the only way that statement makes sense to me.

    I’ve seen some people who think bi people don’t exist, but it’s so far outside my realm of understanding that I honestly keep forgetting that that’s a real problem. Like, of course there are bi people. Why wouldn’t there be bi people? If you can accept gay people, why the hell couldn’t you accept bi people? I feel like I must be missing something. Is this a really common thing? Do people really frequently state this? It’s just baffling to me… The Kinsey scale isn’t exactly new!

    I don’t get the appeal of gay men for women, either sexually or that weird thing some women do where they have a gay friend and then talk about them the same way they would brag about a designer purse… Which actively bothers me rather than just confusing me, but that’s not really a part of this conversation… I have tried to understand the fetish. I just don’t… I don’t get why straight guys like lesbians either though. I have asked people who are into these things and none of them have been able to explain it other than ‘it’s just hot!’ So this entire genre, I just don’t really understand it on any level. I mean, I don’t really care what people are in to as long as it’s not hurting anyone, I just don’t get it. But from this article, I find it hard to say this particular sub genre ISN’T hurting anyone…

    I don’t even understand why they would try and defend the title. Is it so important that their genre maintain it’s current name? Changing the name doesn’t change the contents 0-o ‘A rose by any other name…’ and all. What’s the point in defending the genre’s name? Why NOT just change it? Or is this beyond the name? You said that there are authors who acknowledge the character as bi, but stick with the genre title, so that seems to be a pretty simple fix. Again, I just feel so outside this subject that I struggle to understand what the problem IS… From the people defending the genre I mean, not this article’s stance.

    Am I missing something? I feel like I must be. This seems so reasonable and simple that I feel like I must be missing something. I just cannot comprehend why this would be hard for people to accept. Please someone tell me if I’m just missing some kind of context or something that makes this more complex than it seems.

    September 14, 2016
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    • Lucia
      Lucia

      “If you can accept gay people, why the hell couldn’t you accept bi people?”

      I can’t speak for everyone, but from my experience, there are people who think that nobody can be “really” bi/pan – bi/pan peopleple just haven’t decided who they’re into yet and are just being greedy(or are coming out step by step). So those people might be perfectly accepting of gay and lesbian people, but they can’t accept people who “lie” and claim to be bi/pan, because it *can’t* be true. [NOT my thoughts!]

      As for the appeal of m/m… Honestly, I can’t give you a definitive answer. For me, it might be because I’m a sex-repulsed aroace girl and having no female character in the relationship basically takes me completely out of that dynamic? Although I don’t usually see female characters as placeholders for me. Part of it might be because with two male characters there isn’t this inherent imbalance of power that exists between men and women in a society where sexism is going strong. (Besides, many mainstream romances seem to have issues with sexism. Or maybe I’ve just had bad luck there? Either way, I don’t want whiny heroines who need a manly man to whisk them away. I’ve been trying to read more romances with empowered women, and I can appreciate them, but it’s just not the same). Another point might be that, while I have no problem talking about vaginas etc, there is no word for vagina that I find appealing in sex scenes (which might be internalized sexism, idk). Finally, and this might be the most ridiculous point of all: having all the lady bits myself really takes away the mystery, and while I know how the guy bits work (from theory and one horrendous experience that I’m trying not to think about ever) it all just seems more fantastical?

      I’m fairly sure this was about as enlightening as pulling a bag over your head in the dark, but I’ve typed it all now, so I might as well post it. Feel free to laugh…

      September 15, 2016
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      • Lucia
        Lucia

        Please blame any ridiculous typos/spelling errors/words that seem horribly out of place on autocorrect.

        September 15, 2016
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      • Maril
        Maril

        My reason for including the bit about not understanding the appeal was my adding to my first paragraph. Just adding to how drastically disconnected from this issue I feel, trying to make it really really clear why I feel so confused. I wasn’t actually expecting someone to try and explain why they like it cuz honestly you’re entitled to enjoy whatever you like and you should never feel a need to justify it to anybody, especially not some random stranger on the internet. I sincerely hope I didn’t make anybody feel weird about something they enjoy! But I actually genuinely appreciate your explaining why it appeals to you anyway, and it actually was helpful so thank you 🙂

        I don’t really find any terms for anyone’s squishy bits sexy XD so totally with you on that point!

        I have seen the whole ‘they’re greedy’ or closeted arguments, but that line of thinking has always confused me. If you can like men or women, why is it such a stretch to believe people can like men AND women? Someone else earlier said for some people it’s about arguing that it’s natural to be gay, not a choice, and the existence of bi people makes it harder to argue that, but I don’t get why the existence of bi people makes that harder to argue… Some people are wired to be able to like men sexually, some people are wired to be able to like women sexually, some people are wired to be able to like anyone sexually, and some people are wired to not like anyone sexually… (I said ‘sexually’ too many times! XD)

        I still feel stupid talking about this. It feels like it should be so straight forward and easy to understand, but since so many people seem to struggle with it I will probably never stop worrying I’m missing something important…

        September 15, 2016
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        • Lucia
          Lucia

          I can’t honestly say that I understand that kind of reasoning either, but I’ve actually heard those arguments (and tried to explain that they’re wrong, especially because I still wasn’t so sure about what I was and identified as eh-maybe-bi-ish(?) at the time and I was talking to a person I would have wanted to come out to eventually). To be honest, I don’t get why people care so much about other people’s sexualities in the first place. I mean, what’s it to me who anyone else is attracted to? Because even if I fall into the group of people someone might be potentially attracted to, that so doesn’t mean that they’re attracted to me. And even if they are, why would it bother me?

          I absolutely agree with you that it shouldn’t be so hard to understand. I think most of it is just people complicating an issue that they can’t relate to and that will never affect them just because they can :/

          And don’t worry, I didn’t feel pressured to explain myself or anything, I was just hoping to shed some light on the issue 😉

          (Re-posting because this was supposed to be a reply, damn it!)

          September 15, 2016
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          • Maril
            Maril

            I sort of understand why SOME people MIGHT care about other peoples sexualities. To a point. Approaching someone you’re interested in can be incredibly difficult at the best of times and there’s a million reasons it can go wrong before even factoring in sexuality. So adding another layer of things someone could reject you over can be frustrating. But beyond that caring about who someone else does or doesn’t want to sleep with just seems silly.

            And I would think the existence of bi/pan people would EASE that anxiety, not make it worse o-o

            I have to wonder if some of it isn’t defensive. I know it’s a cliche to say homophobes are secretly gay, but wanting to fit into the norm does seem to factor in for at least some people. It’s fine to accept gays/lesbians, you (hypothetical person) like the opposite gender, you’re still straight/’normal’. But man, you had that one person of your gender that you kinda got turned on by once… if bi is a thing, maybe you’re NOT straight! Oh no! So for that it wouldn’t be about not accepting bi/pan people so much as fear of not being straight.

            Having said that, my above hypothetical is still ridiculous to me because I can label myself whatever the hell I want. What other people call themselves doesn’t change that. Who I’m attracted to might be hard wired, but how I label myself is up to me. If I don’t think a title fits me, I don’t have to use it.

            I’m glad you didn’t feel you had to explain. And again, it was genuinely helpful, so thank you!

            September 15, 2016
        • Lucia
          Lucia

          I sort of understand why SOME people MIGHT care about other peoples sexualities. To a point…

          Yeah, that what I meant. Should have made it clear that of course you’ll care about your romantic interest’s sexuality. I was thinking about the people who care about total randos’ sexuality.

          It might be a form of denial, I guess? But yeah, it’s just ridiculous. At this point, I strongly suspect that there’s no logic at all behind that reasoning and people are just pulling it all out of their asses…

          September 15, 2016
          |Reply
        • drmaggiemoreau
          drmaggiemoreau

          I don’t necessarily think bi people like “everyone”, they just happen to like people of their gender and another gender. I like Ellen Page and Tom Hiddleston equally, but that doesn’t mean I like Donald Trump and Sarah Palin.

          September 15, 2016
          |Reply
          • Maril
            Maril

            I thought I said that they’re ABLE to like anyone, attempting to imply that they *can* fall for someone regardless of their chromosomes/gender presentation, not necessarily that they will. But if I was unclear or somewhere else implied otherwise I apologize.

            For the record I think liking Trump sexually would require its own category entirely… maybe a fetish for the colour orange…

            September 15, 2016
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            I doubt Oompa-Loompas would want him either. Even if breeding required it.

            September 15, 2016
          • drmaggiemoreau
            drmaggiemoreau

            @Maril- Oh, no, I don’t think you said anything wrong, I was just thinking aloud. But yeah, I can’t imagine anyone being into Trump.

            September 15, 2016
    • Earthed Angel
      Earthed Angel

      I think our (Western) culture loves binaries. Good/bad, gay/straight, woman/man (and even cis/trans). This is why people can eventually easily understand homosexuality but be confused by bisexuality or pansexuality. I think in order to adequately explain ourselves and many topics, we need to frame things more as spectrums.
      For instance, we might actually need three descriptors for our sexuality, instead of the one or two we currently use. One covers who we are drawn to romantically, one sexually, and the third for our level of libido. Call that third one the asexual-maxsexual scale lol. I suggest this because, for me, I don’t feel a lot of sexual attraction for almost anyone. I think I might be demisexual, or just have a low sex drive (are those the same thing?). But I am probably heteroromantic and bisexual/pansexual. As a cis woman, this means that I’m not sure I want to date women, but I’m down for a tumble with them. And while I’m down for a tumble with a person from any gender, I am not usually driven by physical desire so much as the desire for the experience or the intellectual or emotional satisfaction.

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
      • Lucia
        Lucia

        Ace here, and please, please don’t confuse asexuality with lack of libido! Asexual means you’re not sexually attracted to people (“I want *this particular person* to touch me sexuality”). Demisexual means you’re only sexually attracted to people who you already have strong emotional bonds with.
        High/low libido means you do/don’t want to have sex (“I want to be touched sexually”). Aces can have high or low libido, and allosexuals can have high or low libido. It’s really not related.

        September 15, 2016
        |Reply
      • Lucia
        Lucia

        Longer explanation now:

        Romantic attraction = I want to be with that person romantically (e.g. kissing, cuddling etc)
        Sexual attraction = I want to be with that person sexually
        (High) Libido = I want to be touched in a sexual way (not necessarily by another person, but even if you want another person to be involved, it may not be a particular person)

        The difference between sexual attraction and libido might be similar to the difference between wanting *this particular* cupcake that you’ve seen and that looks super tasty and wanting *something* to eat because you’re hungry.

        Asexual people can, and sometimes want to, have sex, just not because they feel sexual attraction to another person. (Personally, I’m aromantic and asexual but have a fairly high libido. I just don’t have any desire to involve other people in it ;))

        I’m sorry if this sounds like a lecture – it’s just a really common misconception that we hear a lot…

        September 15, 2016
        |Reply
        • L
          L

          Thank you for that explanation!
          Found it really hard to find words for the different aspects of attraction and sexuality

          September 16, 2016
          |Reply
          • Lucia
            Lucia

            I’m always glad to help 😉

            September 16, 2016
        • Rosa H
          Rosa H

          I see myself in this! I’ve always been so confused because I have quite a high libido but have little to no interest in sex with another person. This discussion is actually helping a lot!

          September 16, 2016
          |Reply
          • Lucia
            Lucia

            Always glad to help 😉

            If you’d like to know more about asexuality, I can really recommend Julie Sondra Decker’s “The Invisible Orientation”. There’s a lot in there about what asexuality is (or isn’t) and it really helped me realize I’m ace (not saying that you are, only you can know that :)) because there’s really a ton of misconceptions

            September 16, 2016
        • Casey
          Casey

          Thank you for this! It’s so weird how we tend to mush those together into “orientation,” when they’re so different. I mean, there’s room for overlap, of course, but it’s amazing the number of times I’ve convinced myself I’m sexually attracted to someone because I was romantically into them . . .

          September 16, 2016
          |Reply
    • monkey_b
      monkey_b

      “I don’t get the appeal of gay men for women, either sexually or that weird thing some women do where they have a gay friend”

      Well I can’t speak to the “gay friend collecting” portion of your question, as all of my dude friends are straight, but the appeal of m/m sex? It’s pretty much double the fun.

      Heterosexual sex is nice, because the reader can insert herself into the woman’s role and imagine all of good bits. And gay male sex is nice in a different way because, if you find men gorgeous and sexy and arousing, TWO of them together is exponentially better. Pretty simple.

      I will say that personally, this only works in porn and written erotica. IRL I don’t find individual gay men attractive, as my brain knows that there’s no potential there.

      September 16, 2016
      |Reply
      • Rosa H
        Rosa H

        Two real life bi men however… *bow chika wow wow*

        September 16, 2016
        |Reply
        • Rosa H
          Rosa H

          Not to imply that bi people are automatically dtf.

          September 16, 2016
          |Reply
  9. First, thank you for writing this post. As a bisexual, it drives me up a tree whenever I read one of these books where the characters refuse to even consider or mention bisexuality. In the gay and lesbian culture, bisexuals are still generally dismissed or rejected–the dismissal is usually in the form of “Oh, you’re really gay/lesbian; you just came out late.”

    No, I’m bisexual. I have always been bisexual, and I will always be bisexual. The fact that my primary partner is the same sex as me does not negate that fact. And it took me YEARS to convince even my partner of that, despite the fact that we have an open relationship and I play with the opposite sex regularly!

    To Maril, one issue I think that causes this, at least from the gay and lesbian side, is that some want to use the argument that they were born they way they are, being solely attracted to the same sex, as a way to feel that they are real. This comes from the straight culture that has so long tried to negate them, or tried to “fix” them. And I understand that. The Bi and Pan challenge their ideas that nature/genetics causes a person to be either gay or straight–they have to then consider that human sexuality is far more fluid and complex. And that’s scary, because then they have choices, and they can’t just say “Nature made me this way!”

    Yes, I can choose between members of either sex that I find attractive. This does NOT make me twice as likely to cheat or move on from a relationship (which seems to be a big fear for those who don’t understand bi/pan). I can choose to be with a woman or man, and therefore possibly condemned by various religions because it’s my choice and not something that has been forced on me. And that’s scary for some.

    I think we still have a long way to go to accept all humans in all their infinite colors and gradients.

    September 14, 2016
    |Reply
    • Liawen
      Liawen

      i’m confused why you think that bi/pansexuals make it harder to argue that sexuality is nature based. yes, i can choose which urge to act on, but i never chose to have those urges in the first place. they’ve just always been there; i can even see the signs of it in my childhood when i look back at the crushes i had on celebrities and realize how many of them were female.

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
    • Lieke
      Lieke

      Yeah, I don’t really understand this either. No one gets to choose who they’re attracted to, but we all have a choice whether to act on it or not. That’s not really different for bisexual people. Except, of course, when it comes to anything other than being straight, some people seem to think that “being” not-straight is okay, because that’s not a choice whereas “acting on” being not-straight is a choice.

      Which to me is either the weirdest or the most heinous argument ever, because people who say that are basically saying: ‘Being not-straight is not okay at all, but it’s not your fault and we’ll tolerate as long as you never do anything not-straight. So, you know, just be yourself without being yourself.’

      Which to me is the weirdest argument. If

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
      • Lieke
        Lieke

        Ignore that last paragraph, please. My laptop is acting weird.

        September 15, 2016
        |Reply
  10. Jo
    Jo

    Amen.

    September 14, 2016
    |Reply
  11. Tez Miller
    Tez Miller

    In the past year I read a YA book published by HarperCollins. Told from the POV of a teen guy. Has a girlfriend and sex, but jacks off his best friend (male). So the narrator starts thinking, “Am I gay?”

    In the Author’s Note at the end, she calls her novel “an example of bi-erasure”. The character never considers bisexuality. He’s not attracted to guys in general; just his bestie.

    So the author knows about bi-erasure, if she can admit her book is an example of that. So if she knows about it, she should also know how harmful bi-erasure can be. Her reason for choosing to erase bisexuality in her book was vague, something about guys not knowing/wanting labels at that age.

    Just really pissed me off. If you know something’s wrong, but you do it anyway…just doesn’t sit right with me.

    September 14, 2016
    |Reply
    • Lucia
      Lucia

      In the Author’s Note at the end, she calls her novel “an example of bi-erasure”.

      But… If you’re aware of that, why would you… That’s just…

      *Head explodes*

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
    • Lucia
      Lucia

      Although, to be fair, having a girlfriend and sleeping with her doesn’t mean he can’t be gay. I assume he’s attracted to her, though?

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
      • Tez Miller
        Tez Miller

        Yep, he is very much attracted to his girlfriend, and girls in general. His male bestie is the only exception.

        September 15, 2016
        |Reply
  12. Lucia
    Lucia

    I can’t honestly say that I understand that kind of reasoning either, but I’ve actually heard those arguments (and tried to explain that they’re wrong, especially because I still wasn’t so sure about what I was and identified as eh-maybe-bi-ish(?) at the time and I was talking to a person I would have wanted to come out to eventually). To be honest, I don’t get why people care so much about other people’s sexualities in the first place. I mean, what’s it to me who anyone else is attracted to? Because even if I fall into the group of people someone might be potentially attracted to, that so doesn’t mean that they’re attracted to me. And even if they are, why would it bother me?

    I absolutely agree with you that it shouldn’t be so hard to understand. I think most of it is just people complicating an issue that they can’t relate to and that will never affect them just because they can :/

    And don’t worry, I didn’t feel pressured to explain myself or anything, I was just hoping to shed some light on the issue 😉

    September 15, 2016
    |Reply
  13. Liawen
    Liawen

    first, i find it funny that the acronyms for “gay for you” and “go fuck yourself” are the same, because the second phrase is my response to that trope.
    second, in response to the “this happens for real” argument; yes, some people can be unaware and think they’re straight or gay until developing feelings otherwise, but that mostly happens _because_ there isn’t much bi/pansexual representation. it took me years to realize i was bi because when i first realized i was interested in girls too, my only exposure to non straight sexuality was the show will and grace (which only focused on gay men) despite reading above my age level. i had no idea girls liking girls could be a thing, much less that you could like both until i was asked if i was bi at a slumber party when i was about 15. it would have saved me a lot of self doubt and years of denial to see or read about bi characters.

    September 15, 2016
    |Reply
    • Lucia
      Lucia

      it would have saved me a lot of self doubt and years of denial to see or read about bi characters.

      Very similar experience here. I only fully realized I was ace earlier this year (I’m 20 now). I’d heard the term before, but never in a positive or even neutral way, so I identified as probably-bi, because I was equally (zero) attracted to men and women. If someone had told me before that aces are not all literally Sheldon Cooper, I probably would have realized I was ace before I let some guy talk me into having sex with him.

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
  14. MelloStello
    MelloStello

    Excellent post, I totally agree. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gotten into arguments over erasure/it’s just a story. Our entire conception of ourselves is based on the stories we tell our selves over and over. Stories have power and it’s so frustrating trying to have a discussion with someone who has never had to question their own narrative and therefore thinks therefore that no others could possibly exist.

    A quick personal story relating specifically to bi/pan erasure: it took me until I was 26 years old to fully realize I was pansexual. I knew I was sexually attracted to men but I kept having these really! intense! female friendships! I spent so much time trying to figure out if I was gay or not, never even realizing that there was a middle ground because A)I basically had never heard it mentioned and B) when it was mentioned it wasn’t a good thing. Bisexuals were Sneaky and Confused and Predatory and Drama Queens/Kings! And this came from both straight and gay communities. It was incredibly confusing and made me feel like I could never be authentically myself. I just had this vague unsettling sense of not fitting into any of the categories presented to me. For over 10 years. I wish I could redo high school (hahahahaha actually no) I wish I could go back in time and just like, leave a bisexual pamphlet underneath my high school self’s pillow. Just like, hey, you know this is an option too!

    September 15, 2016
    |Reply
  15. One of the things that used to bother me about myself, though I couldn’t put a finger on at the time, was that I would use the GFY phrase to describe when I found a female attractive. Until my mid-20’s I didn’t have any friends who didn’t identify as heterosexual. 24/25 seemed to be about the time that friends privately (that is to select friends and family members) or publicly and made their preferences known. Some did it hesitantly, explaining they were still trying to find what they were comfortable calling themselves and their sexuality and some just point blank said “this is what I have always liked, but was scared to admit to”.

    For me though I’m hetero. Its how I identify and while I’m sometimes confused because I don’t seem to act how “heterosexual red-blooded women in their 30’s” are supposed to act it has never made me question the fact. I do find some women attractive beyond comprehension though. Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Milla Jovovich, Jang Na Ra, Liu Shi Shi, Ming Na – these are women that I find physically attractive. And before a very patient Bi-sexual friend explained to me how unintentionally cruel I was being, I would very often say “I’d go gay for her” in relation to them.

    I try very hard now to watch how I say things. My friendship circle is about an even split between hetero and LGBTQIA+. I’m lucky in that my friends are patient and understand when I utter stupid shit its not from malice, but from an actual lack of understanding and they’ll happily school me or point me in the direction of someone who can school me.

    I want my niece, who is six years old and who does not limit her obsessions to traditionally “girlie” things (she wants to be Batman one day, an Equastria girl the next and a pokemon the next sometimes more than one at once. Bat-Pikachu is a favored dress up character), to not make the mistakes I did growing up and not think her feelings or urges or whatever are WRONG. If she one day decides to come out to me and say she likes guys who dress like Clark Gable and also girls who dress like Clark Gable and ONLY people like that…well I want her to know its okay.

    September 15, 2016
    |Reply
    • Casey
      Casey

      Are . . . are you me? Seriously, though, I relate so hard to this, and wish I’d had someone explain how not-cool the “gay for you” thing is prior to this blog and its comments.

      I’m still not sure how to feel about “girl crush,” though . . . there’s definitely shades of No Homo, but at the same time sometimes you can have a crush on someone without being sexually attracted to them, and I can’t think of another term that encompasses that. But of course, it completely alienates all genders and sexualities other than straight women, so . . . I have no idea.

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
      • Its difficult to navigate the world if you’re genuinely trying to be sensitive and acknowledge the problematic aspects of slang and language. “girl crush” and “guy crush” seem harmless to me, but you’re right they do have the shades of No Homo and ignores other non straight sexualities.

        My one friend’s husband, we joke with him because he is…fascinated by? Not sexually attracted to, just…attracted to older British gentleman (Michael Caine, Alec Guiness, Bill Nighy for instance). Something about them is something he feels drawn to. Now he’s always identified as straight, is married to a cis-female and generally doesn’t have this fascination with any type of other guy. Its unlikely he’d engage romantically or sexually with an older British gentleman no matter how fascinated he is.

        So what do we call it? Fascination? That seems perverted. People can’t (or won’t) separate attraction from the sexual connotations attached to it and he exhibits (much like I do with my celebrity female crushes) a sort of blind giddiness and hand waving of flaws that people do when they’re romantically attracted to someone.

        I’ve asked my LGBTQIA+ friends if they’re bothered when I say “I have such a girl-crush on this or that person” and they aren’t (though I’m careful to only say it about unattainable celebrities, as it led to a misunderstanding with another (newer) friend who assumed romance when really I’m just in awe of her awesome) but that’s because they know me. I would never ask an outsider the same question, for fear of offending them, which is an entirely different kettle of fish in itself.

        September 15, 2016
        |Reply
        • Schwa
          Schwa

          I realize I’m way late to the party on this, but on the off chance that you’re still watching this thread… If you’re serious about wanting an alternative term, I nominate “platonic crush” (or “plush” for short). Best thing is it also covers when you feel that way about someone who is of a gender you are typically attracted to. Being pansexual, I do have this feeling sometimes but often find myself at a loss to describe it since the typical terminology isn’t really right for me. Plus, what do monosexual people do when that happens? Since Michael Caine was mentioned in this discussion, and he’s someone I feel good way about, I’ll use him as an example: if I were straight what would I say about him? I can’t say “guy crush/ man crush” since I’m a woman, but my interest in him is more intense than is typical for me. If I could say “I have a total plush on Michael Caine” and have people actually get what I mean it would be a lot easier!

          September 18, 2016
          |Reply
          • Schwa
            Schwa

            *he’s someone I feel that way about… Sorry, just installed SwiftKey and it’s still learning how I type.

            September 18, 2016
          • Casey
            Casey

            Inclusive AND adorable! I do believe you’re on to something here…

            September 18, 2016
      • monkey_b
        monkey_b

        Can’t “girl crush” just mean exactly what it’s always meant? A nonsexual attraction/admiration that a straight woman holds for another woman.

        If you are not a straight woman, then there’s surely an equivalent of “girl crush” that you can come up with. Or possibly one that already exists.

        September 16, 2016
        |Reply
        • Casey
          Casey

          See, I totally agree in theory, but there’s just this tendency to immediately follow all statements of admiration for someone of the same sex with a defense of one’s heterosexuality. “I really like this girl . . . but, like, in a straight way! No homo, it’s just a girl crush.” But I’d never say that about, say, Rupaul, who I find fascinating and wonderful but am not attracted to. I’d just say I love them.

          TL;DR There’s nothing inherently wrong with terms like “girl crush” or “guy crush” (except that they tend to assume, and therefore perpetuate, heteronormativity), but the way they’re used is often to reassure others that they’re not one of those filthy gays (or bis, pans, etc.) . . . which is kinda icky for obvious reasons.

          September 16, 2016
          |Reply
          • Pretty much what Casey said. In and of themselves the terms aren’t necessarily offensive, but the vast majority of those who use the terms are not using it independent of anything else. Which again goes back to both the social perception of words like “Crush” and the person’s own insecurities of how they’re seen.

            Just as you can flirt without wanting to engage in anything else, you can have a crush on someone and not want them physically. That’s a true statement, but not the predominantly held belief. We learn from a VERY young age that to show interest in someone of the opposite gender is to have a “crush” on them and do whatever romantic jargon you want to throw here. We learn from a slightly older, but still young age that how others perceive our interest is more important then what we mean by that interest.

            September 16, 2016
  16. Jennie
    Jennie

    Re: the “Roseanne” episode: the problem was that the Mariel Hemingway character kissed Roseanne *without her permission*, which most people regardless of sexual orientation would not want a stranger (or even a friend) to do. Non-LGBTQ women not wanting kisses from women =/= homophobia.

    September 15, 2016
    |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Didn’t see the episode, but the post described her reaction as disgusted–not shocked or even angry at the over-familiarity.

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
    • Lucia
      Lucia

      I think nobody claimed that the lack of consent wasn’t an issue. The issue, I think, less in the fact that 1. Roseanne after like it was the most disgusting thing ever to be kissed by a woman and 2. Hemingway’s character was portrayed as a predator (because obviously all lesbian/bi/pan women want to force themselves upon the poor straight girls of this world, duh). The homophobia was the general topic of the episode, I think, not something that anyone was accusing the straight character of for not enjoying the kiss.

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
      • JennyTrout
        JennyTrout

        I didn’t mean to completely regurgitate your comment. I walked away and got high and forgot to hit post, so I didn’t realize anyone else had answered. Say no to drugs.

        September 15, 2016
        |Reply
        • Lucia
          Lucia

          Haha, that’s completely fine 😀

          *runs off to tell everyone that a famous author replied to her comment*

          September 15, 2016
          |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      What made the scene homophobic was the depiction of a lesbian as a sexual predator, which is already a stereotype. Roseanne admitted she was homophobic at the end because it was theme of the episode. They just “proved” that she was homophobic in the worst way possible. I don’t think they ever even addressed the fact that Marla just kissed her without consent. Being kissed by a lesbian was somehow worse in all the characters’ minds than the consent thing, which just adds another icky layer. Literally everything in that episode is wrong.

      September 15, 2016
      |Reply
  17. TM
    TM

    I was 16 when I first discovered slash fanfic (good ol’ Kirk/Spock!). As I got older and my interests spread slash relationships in other fandoms, I began to notice a distinct pattern of GFY (or “We’re Not Gay, We Just Fuck Each Other”) stories. This started to bother me. I could understand in some cases having to keep a relationship secret due to career and some social issues, especially before the repeal of DADT. But there was a underpinning of guilt to these stories, as though these men — who were supposed to love each other — were actually ashamed of the relationship. And don’t get me started on the stories where one of the guys rapes his buddy, who then decides OMG I’m in Lurve! afterwards. As a sexual abuse survivor and a bisexual, I was shaken that this is how people perceived love between same-sex couples. Of course, as it’s been pointed out, the authors of m/m fiction are predominantly heterosexual, usually married, women who had never had a same-sex relationship (and didn’t seem to know any gay men, either). So I started to write and publish my own stories. I presented these beloved characters in non-abusive, healthy relationships. If they had been presented on the show as being interested in women (Napoleon Solo was a ladies man), they became bisexual (Illya Kuryakin, OTOH, tended to run away when women got too close, so it was easy to interpret him as gay — hell, they even had him go on to be a gay stereotype, a.k.a. fashion designer, later in life, in The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie!). Never once did these men ever feel guilt or shame for loving one another. A person can be bi but also monogamous, so in the event that his partner dies or they break up, he could wind up with a woman in his next relationship. Or another man. Sadly, our society is so screwed up that it knows only black or white, gay or straight, and nothing in between. When my last relationship (with a woman) ended, I was asked “So, are you finally going to find a man, now?” as though that would make me “normal” and more accepted. Uh, no, actually — I’m not looking for anyone, right now. Although I wouldn’t turn away Chris Evans if he turned up on my doorstep (with or without the Captain America shield); by that same token, I’d also welcome Leslie Jones or Gwendoline Christie. Or all three at once. *makes Mr. Burns fingers* Yes…

    Today, I am a ghostwriter. Recently, someone put me in touch with a client who wanted (specifically) a member of the LGBT community to write stories about straight men falling in love with gay men with a HEA. In the first story, I presented an open-minded, bi-curious but otherwise straight man who hooks up with a gay man. In the second story, the straight man has been with women in the past but it’s been a while; he hasn’t been interested in sex because he’s dealing with some other issues. He winds up falling for his gay friend (through shared life experiences) and while he doesn’t see himself going out and finding another man (if they were to break up), the emotional satisfaction they both get from the relationship is what keeps them together. He does, however, accept that the physical aspect of it makes him bi, and he’s okay with that. Now I’m working on a third piece where the straight man had a same-sex experience in his teen years that did not end well, and in an act of self-preservation he repressed any feelings he had for his own gender. This is actually based on something that happened to me: I was always attracted to both genders, but in high school I had a traumatic experience with a girl that made me decide I would never go down that path again. Some years later, I met someone who would become my partner for the next two decades (it ended badly, too, but this time I haven’t sworn off women — just the abusive, narcissistic, gas-lighting sociopaths). Like me, this male character who has been straight-practicing for years will come to terms with his bisexuality and be fine with it. So far, the client has been extremely happy with these stories and has not complained that the straight man isn’t straight enough; if he did, I would have to break off the relationship because I refuse to write GFY material.

    September 15, 2016
    |Reply
    • anon
      anon

      Jenny, you are a rock star for making this post. I have personal issues with queer but I’m pretty much planning to use it the next time anybody I trust asks for pretty much the same “shut people up” reasoning that you blogged about a while back.

      (Basically I’m at “about 99.99% of cishet dudes need not even apply, everyone else if you ask politely I will at least turn you down politely too, and might say yes”.)

      I want to read these stories now, because they all sound both interesting and like you managed to avoid the obvious pitfalls of mostly-straight dudes having exceptions.

      I still love the Reddit thread about some dude realizing “no, my issues about my gay friend/roomie dating guys aren’t homophobia I’m *in love* (as of the thread time a few years back, they were together and happy. One of the comments is by a dude who ID’s as about 98% straight but is happy with his boyfriend and is basically all “yeah, this is a thing that happens sometimes”).

      September 17, 2016
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  18. Carolina West
    Carolina West

    My ex-fiancé used the “it’s just a book” argument when I brought up the problems with 50 Shades, then said I was obsessed with them when I tried talking about those issues a second time. I was so tempted to point out that those same problems abound in his precious bible, but for some reason I never did, and I sure never brought up those books around him again.
    It always scares me when people say “it’s just a book/game/movie/you get the picture”, especially since we live in a society where so many people pine after characters and relationships that are clearly messed up. Not to mention those who think anxiety, depression and other emotional and psychological disorders are “cute” and rape is something to make jokes about.
    As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t really read romance, so I had no idea this was such a problem in the genre. Sad to say I’m not surprised, though, since anything-besides-straight-phobia is still such a big issue in other forms of media. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it, my issue is why it’s fetishized and ostracized to the degree that it is. That’s what strikes me as gross and unnatural.
    On a semi-related note, I have a gay character in my book and a bisexual one. The guys get together in the second half, but there’s never any big hullabaloo about it. It just happens because they’ve been friends for years and realized they wanted more from each other. I also did my best to make sure they didn’t fall into any of the stereotypes you brought up, Jen. They’re just normal people who happen to like the same sex, not some kind of homicidal aliens so many people seem to think LGTBQ+ people are. I honestly can’t wait for the day when issues like this are a thing of the past. Sadly, I don’t think that’s gonna happen any time soon.

    September 15, 2016
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  19. monkey_b
    monkey_b

    God, while I completely agree with you that the GFY trope is deeply problematic (although for reasons entirely different than the ones you listed), I love it so much. And I don’t mean to say that I enjoy stories of people discovering their bi- or pan-sexuality — I mean I specifically love protagonists discovering that they’re gay…just for that one person.

    It must be because I cut my teeth on obscene amounts of Supernatural RPS fanfic, and GFY made up the overwhelming majority of it. But few other m/m conventions seem to top it in terms of drama, romance, or transcendence for me.

    That said, I’m not writing any of it and I hardly read it anymore, so I suppose my conscience is clear.

    September 16, 2016
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  20. Manna Francis
    Manna Francis

    I’ve always thought of GFY as being conceptually related to soul bonding — a non-mystical version, as it were. The love between the characters is so powerful and special, and so Meant To Be that it transcends all barriers, even sexuality. From that perspective, a character saying “Oh, right, I guess I was bi all along” would remove a large part of the appeal of the trope. It isn’t something I’m personally interested in reading or writing, though, so that’s just my impression from the outside.

    September 16, 2016
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    • L
      L

      That really sounds like a good explanation for the appeal of GFY. It really feels like a very romantic thing, somehow a less unrealistic version of “you are the only person for me”, makes the relationship seem special and deep.

      September 16, 2016
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      • Lucia
        Lucia

        I think that’s basically the same as how heroines in romance are so often virgins who have never had an impure thought or been in love or even kissed someone. It’s like love loses its worth if a character’s been in love before… And since virginity isn’t a quality people admire in men, you get GFY where the hero has been with women before but it’s still a story about his “first love”/”true love”.

        But that’s just my take on it.

        September 16, 2016
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        • L
          L

          That makes so much sense! Not that I think it’s a good way to view love and sex but I totally recognise it from all kinds of stories and the way I thought things where supposed to work when I was younger; really happy that I no longer believe that since it was toxic for me to have that view on the matter.

          September 16, 2016
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    • Casey
      Casey

      There is absolutely something appealing about soul-bonding . . . that’s why, even though it’s kinda silly, I love the fanfiction trope of, like, tattoos with your Twoo Wuv on it and you have to wait until you stumble on them. (The best ones are when it’s the first thing they’ll say to you, and that’s how you’ll know, but there are some other cool variants.) Takes some of the guesswork out of romance, because if you’re Meant To Be there’s no risk of it not being perfect and working out in the end. I’d guess that GFY works in a similar way?

      September 16, 2016
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  21. Scoots2
    Scoots2

    I hear what you’re saying, and I would agree with you on the potential destructiveness of this trope. However, I’m worried about the judginess directed to people who like m/m romance. Personally, I do not write it anymore, as I worried that I was fetishizing someone else’s life and wasn’t ok with that.

    However, it isn’t true that all of these women are straight. And the reason that m/m appeals to them in historical novels is that it’s more interesting to read about two characters experiencing life in the Royal Navy without having a woman stow away as a boy and trying to be like a man and failing. I saw that over and over, mostly in seventies movies, and with few exceptions, it’s weaksauce and not convincing at all. (It doesn’t help that it’s often the daughter of Zorro, D’Artagnan, etc.) Some women did live as men, but they lived as men–it was usually a secret.

    The problem is that before the mid-nineteenth century, people didn’t use the words “gay,” “straight,” “bi,” or “pan.” They didn’t even divide up sexuality in the same ways that we do. So while it’s important to bring in the concept (“guess what? You are attracted to men. It’s not just me,” )the terms themselves are ahistorical and the writers have to work with that.

    September 16, 2016
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    • Lucia
      Lucia

      I don’t think anyone’s trying to force modern labels on characters in historical novels – but those characters can still describe their sexuality. For example, in one of K.J. Charles’ books, a demisexual character says he’s not sexually interested in people he doesn’t already care about. He didn’t say “demisexual”, because he obviously wouldn’t have known that term in his time, but he’s still canonically demi because that’s how he describes himself.

      I don’t think Jenny was concerning all m/m readers/writers, but it is true that many (not all!) m/m fans are straight women, and I think it’s especially important to write respectfully when you’re writing about people whose experiences you don’t share 🙂

      September 16, 2016
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      • Scoots2
        Scoots2

        True. This would be why I stopped writing m/m. I may not have meant it to be fetishizing, but I was afraid I inadvertently would. And until I can honestly be ok with it, I won’t.

        It still gets complicated, though, and for that, I’ve had histories by and about GBLTQ+ issues, like Strangers. It’s fascinating.

        September 16, 2016
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  22. Sara Beth
    Sara Beth

    This meant so much to me, and I know it will touch a lot of people I care about, and so many more we will never know of. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you <3

    September 16, 2016
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  23. L
    L

    Weird realization, kind of did the bi-erasure in my own life exept the other way around so to speak; Straight for you.

    September 16, 2016
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  24. Jennifer
    Jennifer

    This one drives me bonkers. I can tolerate out for you and bi for you, but why can’t they just be bi? Shouldn’t it be more impressive if the guy could potentially fall in love with ANYONE and he chosen the other MC? Good grief. I don’t stop liking coffee if I decide to drink tea instead one morning.

    I knew I was straight way before I started dating. My gay friend (who didn’t come out till after high school) knew he was gay. Of course people can know they are bi. They may not want to admit it for various reasons, but they probably at least suspect. I know I’m attracted to men beside my husband. It wouldn’t be any different if I was attracted to women, there can be attraction without acting on it. I never decided one day to be attracted to men, it just was. Same for gay guys.

    As for books not effecting people’s opinions – I went from pro-life to pro-choice becaue of a book. I went from “gay is a choice” to “nope, it’s not” because of a book. Both of these were fiction books and it helped me grok it in both cases.

    (If you don’t recognize the word, grok is from Stranger in a Strange Land and it really needs to be in the dictionary)

    September 22, 2016
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