Don’t do that,“ he says. "Don’t ask me questions you already know the answers to. Twice I’ve laid myself bare to you and all it’s gotten me was a bullet wound and a broken heart. Don’t torture me,” he says, meeting my eyes again.
“It’s a cruel thing to do, even to someone like me.
What do these books have in common? Well, in each case, somebody at some point has decided they are “young adult” books. As often as not,
this person isn’t the writer. The category does have some meaning and
some usefulness, of course; books that teenagers enjoy do often have
certain congruences of perspective or theme. But the boundary is porous.
Books are wayward things, and the good ones, the ones that are really
alive with that energy that seems to detonate in your brain as you read,
aren’t so easily contained.Hundreds of superb novels have been published for young adult readers. Here are just eight of them:
So on Friday a friend texted me that YA author Saundra Mitchell was talking about bisexuality on twitter. At first I was excited, then my face literally fell like a stone when I realized what exactly she was talking about. I don’t think it came from any place of hating bisexuals, but it did come from a place of cringeworthy ignorance.
Yep folks, it was the return of the dreaded “bi=two=bisexual reinforces the gender binary” myth. The very same idea about which bisexual transgender activist Aud Traher recently said: “The idea that the word bisexual somehow reinforces the western gender binary, and thus is harmful to trans people like myself, is such a common way biphobia is expressed that it currently is next to “Photograph” by Nickelback on my personal list of things I can’t stand to hear any more.”
I was going to get on twitter to respond to Mitchell, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed more than 142 characters to collate all my thoughts here. Because this goes beyond the old “someone is wrong on the internet”.
First let’s start with basics – the word bisexual does not “reinforce the gender binary” or exclude trans people or exclude non-binary people. If someone is unclear on that point, I encourage them to read the piece by Aud above, or perhaps either ofthese essays from bisexual transgender activist/author Julia Serano or this one by bisexual transgender activist/author Shiri Eisner or read the common definitions of bisexual from bi orgs or just browse our definitions tag. Or dive into some bi history since we’ve been dealing with this myth since the early 90′s.
I’ll give you a minute.
But this is about more than just one author being misinformed, because something Mitchell said really stuck with me. It was this:
I work with teens in my day job (teen librarian) and while I love them to bits, teens are exceptionally prone to misinformation. I’ve had no less than 8 teens in the last month tell me that the recent Power Rangers fan film was actually made by the official company as a trailer for their new movie. Every time I’ve had to bust their bubble. I cannot count how many teens I’ve introduced to snopes.com in the course of my career.
In my outreach to the high school GSA kids, I’ve also had a lot of teens over the years tell me that when they hear bisexual they assume:
only pretending to like girls to get guys to like her
will cheat on you
bi guys are all really gay
I hope we can all see those things for what they are - an attack on bisexual people with biphobic (and usually sexist) negative stereotypes. The idea that bisexual people exclude/oppress trans people needs to be added to that list. We need to show teens that assuming “bisexual = strict gender roles + trans not included” is just as much of a harmful stereotype as assuming “all bi men are gay” or “bi girls are just doing it for attention”. It invalidates the lives of bisexual transgender people, it diverts community attention away from fighting actual problems and towards exhausting and frustrating mythbusting, and it is empirically incorrect.
It’s rare for teens to encounter credible information resources about bisexuality and bisexual people. Teens believe a lot of things they read online and online there is a LOT of biphobic misinformation like what I’ve listed above. Teens also tend to make assumptions based on hearsay, and often have limited experience with real live bisexual adults since we’re the less likely to be out than gay or lesbian people (even while we face higher rates of abuse, homelessness, and sexual assault than gay or lesbian people) . There are often problematic things in YA books with bi characters, and good quality books about bisexual teens are few and far between. Often books by lesbian and gay authors trying
to cover bisexuality for teens do a pisspoor job.
Bisexual people need our YA author allies to BE those credible sources of information. This means questioning the veracity of what teens are saying when you meet them, since YA authors interact with MANY more teens than the average person. Does what they are saying seem like something that dismisses or discredits bisexual identity? Is it holding bisexuality to a standard that gay or lesbian people aren’t? Understand that teens are surrounded by messages that dismiss or discredit bisexual identity. If a teen tells you something that reinforces that there is something inherently wrong with bisexual people, go find some bisexual people to talk to about it because it’s probably crap.
An easy place to find bisexuals is the Bisexual Authors + Bloggers Chat on facebook or by talking to us here at bisexual-books. We can put you in touch with LOTS of bisexual people. Use your critical thinking skills and do your research. If it seems mean, judgmental, and/or fishy, you at least need to google it. Don’t believe everything written on the bathroom stall and don’t spread those rumors to your fellow authors and teen readers either.
And if in the course of your work, you meet a teen that tells you something biphobic, please please please take a moment to correct it. If you’re unsure in the moment what to say, take your time to google it, talk to bi people, then post something on twiiter/tumblr/facebook/etc. YA authors have a platform which they can use to talk to teens and their fellow authors. Please choose to use it to help us stand up against biphobia instead of perpetuating it.