Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year’s Resolutions for Bisexuals

The following are suggested possible New Year’s Resolutions for bisexuals in various circumstances, and various life stages.

I will come to terms with my sexuality this year.

I will not sit silently when someone makes a biphobic remark.

Despite the fact that I’m sick and tired of it already, I will force myself to continue to repeat endlessly - to those that try to erase me - that no, I’m not straight just because I “look straight,” and/or have an opposite sex significant other.

I will tell at least one person I’m bisexual.

I will no longer not expect my gay friends to support bi-visibility while I valiantly fight for gay rights.

If there is a bisexual group in my community I will join.

I will come out to at least one member of my family.

I will join a bisexual group on Facebook for example: BiNet, Global Bisexual Network.

If it’s impossible for me to come out at this time I will make a fictional account on social media and join and participate in a bisexual group that way.

I will come out to my spouse.

I will come out to my children.

I will participate in a Bi-pride/visibility event.

I will become a bi activist.

I will wear a “Bi the way I’m not gay” button/shirt to the next LGBT pride event I go to.

I will educate myself more on the topic of bisexuality.

I will reach out for professional help from someone who is bi-friendly if I’m unable to cope with my bisexual related problems.

I will rejoice in my bisexuality.

I will read bisexual books such as (shameless plug alert) this one.

I will make efforts to educate the biphobes in my life.

I will be proud of my bisexuality.

I will reach out to other bisexuals who may need my support.

If my life circumstances makes it impossible to come out, I will make steps to change my life circumstances – whether this means becoming financially independent of my parents, joining another church, finding non-biphobic friends, transferring to a college with a strong LGBT community, moving to a less homophobic town, changing jobs, training to go into a different career, considering leaving a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand and doesn’t want to.

I will remember to enjoy my bisexuality. 

I will try to keep in mind that the people in my life who do not understand my bisexuality are coming from their own limited knowledge and the social prejudices they grew up with; I will try to be patient and understanding as I explain that I expect them to do the same for me. 

I will tame my bisexual rants into more coherence to make my message more accessible to others.

I will make my bisexual rants louder and more forceful so that others can no longer ignore them.

Waving my bi flag high, I will ride my unicorn over to the house of that pretty girl/guy/genderqueer and sweep him/her/them off his/her/their cute little feet, and ride off into a pink, purple and blue sunset.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Holiday Hug

For anyone who may be needing this right now, here's a big supportive Holiday Hug.
If you find yourself this Holiday Season with family who do not accept you as you are, or who you don't even feel you can be honest with about who you are, or find yourself without family this Season for these reasons, this is just a reminder that you are not alone. There are others who do understand you, do accept you. I hope there comes a day when your family can be included too. Until then, seek joy with those who know how to love without prejudice.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What's so Great About Biphobia

I know, I know, biphobia is supposed to be this big, bad, ugly thing. But actually, biphobia is really great. Biphobia is a beautiful automatic filtering device that lets you know who you should not include in your life and why.

What's a great sign that someone has no imagination?
If they can't believe that other people can be something they are not.

What's a great sign that someone is ignorant?
If they say stupid things thinking they are being clever.

What's a great sign that someone is brainwashed?
If they dogmatically repeat what their religious group has told them without giving it further thought.

What's a great sign that someone is brain dead?
If they can't change their thinking no matter what anyone says.

What's a great sign that someone is bigoted?
If they think it's okay to judge others based on an inherent trait.

What's a great sign that someone is cruel?
If they get pleasure in putting down others.

What's a great sign that someone is arrogant?
If they think they know more about a person's sexuality than the person them-self.

What's a great sign that a someone has self-esteem problems?
If they think it's funny to hurt others with unkind words.

What's a great sign that someone doesn't really care about you?
If they want you to be who they want you to be instead of who you really are.

What's a great sign of pigheadedness?
If someone insists that they know how everything is, even things they have no experience with.

Another thing that makes biphobia really awesome is that the lack of it can tell you who to keep in your life and why.

What's a great sign that someone really loves you?
If they still love you even when they know you are something they don't understand.

What's a great sign that someone is open-minded?
If they are willing to listen to ideas that differ from what they've heard growing up.

What's a great sign that someone is intelligent?
If they let reason change preconceived ideas.

What's a great sign of an independent thinker?
If they don't automatically adopt the ideas of any group they belong to, without questioning.

What's a great sign of a kind person?
If they are there to comfort you when others are cruel.

What's a great sign of a selfless person?
If they don't put their needs above yours.

What's a great sign of an understanding person?
If they listen and hear you out.

What's a great sign of an educated person?
If they have learned things beyond that which their personal experience has shown them.

What's a great sign that someone is humble?
If they're willing to admit there are things they don't know.

What's a great sign of a thoughtful person?
If they think before they repeat potentially harmful things they may have heard.

Yeah, so okay, yes, the world would be a better place if there were no biphobic creepy crawlies; but since life gave us these damned lemons let's have another frosty cold glass of fresh squeezed lemonade and bask in some citrusey cool sweetness. In the end, at least it's good to know who our true friends and allies are, and who to write off as bitter seeds needing to be picked out of what would otherwise be a satisfyingly delicious orientation. Raise your glass, and Cheers! Here's to being thankful that at least we get fast-tacked in finding out who to keep and who to cut from the summer picnic that should be our lives.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Why Bother Coming Out as Bisexual?

A commenter responding to my blog post Quietly Coming Out as Bisexual said, “I can't imagine why sexuality would have anything to do with anyone other than the person involved. I have no desire to wear a sign saying I'm a non-practicing heterosexual.” I've frequently heard not only straight people, but also bisexuals, wonder why a bisexual should feel any need to make it a point to come out. A bisexual man on twitter so eloquently put it to me (as @BisexualBatman) this way, "Nobody cares who we fuck." While, gays and lesbians usually have a good grasp on the reasons why they should not live a closeted life - for example this would mean never publicly acknowledging the person they love - the issue gets more complex for bisexuals.

No one thinks twice when a man and a woman walk down the street holding hands, or go to an event presenting themselves as partners. When a gay couple does these things, they are automatically announcing their sexual orientation. But someone doing these things, as part of either a same sex-relationship or an opposite-sex relationship, may actually be bisexual, and thus still closeted about their orientation, despite being open about their relationship.

A bisexual woman (let’s call her Margret) may say something like, "I'm thirty-six and I've been in a committed monogamous relationship with my girlfriend, Joan, for eight years. I've self-identified as bisexual since I was sixteen, but aside from a few make-out sessions in college, Joan was the first woman I was with. Joan knows I’m bisexual and she’s totally accepting, but everyone else thinks I’m a lesbian who took a long time to come out. Since I intend to stay monogamous with my girlfriend, I don’t see why I should come out as bisexual. My mother had such a difficult time accepting my relationship with Joan that I didn't want to complicate things at the time by insisting I was bisexual. Now that she’s okay about me and Joan, I don’t want to cause her any more grief, or disrupt our new found harmony. Also, some of our lesbian friends sometimes speak negatively about bisexuals and I don’t want to alienate them. Yet being closeted keeps nagging at me.”

Like Margret, many bisexuals - contrary to stereotypes - are monogamous. For them, once in a committed relationship, it’s easy to pass as gay or straight. Ironically, bisexuals are criticized for both having this “privilege” (as if bisexuals are responsible for creating the social dynamic that makes this possible), and for insisting on “making a big issue” of coming out as bisexual anyway. As far as having the perceived “privilege” of passing as gay or straight, the truth is this is often experienced as a curse by bisexuals. Gays and straights alike are more than happy to tell a bisexual, “You are with Joe/Jane now so you’re gay/straight now.” This, and the tendency by the press to also automatically put bisexuals in a gay or straight box, is what is known as bi-erasure. We bisexuals are repeatedly shoved into these boxes against our will and then criticized for taking advantage of this “privilege,” and then further criticized - as overreacting - when many of us still insist on being defined as bisexual.

So what are some of the reasons why many bisexuals insist on being out as bisexual instead of obediently stewing in our "privileged" closets?  (I did a quick review of some reasons on Bi-Visibility Day, but I will elaborate here.) One reason is that when bisexuals remain closeted, there is no opportunity to counteract stereotypes.  Ideas that bisexuals always cheat, are always sexually promiscuous, always must have a partner of each sex, are really gay/lesbian and will not admit it, or are just trying to get attention, run rampant and unchecked.

In the case of my hypothetical bisexual above, Margret is in the position to show her lesbian friends that despite living in a proud and open same-sex relationship she still identifies as bisexual. It would be difficult for her friends to continue to believe that all bisexuals are really closeted self-hating-homosexuals. She would also show her friends that the stereotypes that bisexuals can’t or won’t stay monogamous, or will always leave a women to be with a man to have hetero-privileges, is also not true.

As Harvey Milk said during his coming out campaign“Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets... We are coming out! We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions! We are coming out to tell the truth about gays!” This massive push for gays to be out and proud and visible is hugely responsible for the incredible progress in gay rights since Milk’s assassination in 1978. Once the greater population saw what gay people are really like, how they really live, it was easy for the straight world to see there was nothing wrong with being gay. The fact that many bisexuals are closeted and living openly as gay (or straight) is, I believe, largely why bisexuals are still so heavily shunned or berated while gays and lesbians are becoming more and more accepted.

Like with everyone contemplating coming out, Margret has to assess the full impact of what that would mean for her and her loved-ones. Margret must consider her mother. She may choose to hide in a same-sex relationship, and appear gay, to protect her family. However, the price she may personally have to pay may not be worth it.

What is the price? For one, feeling guilty - guilty for taking advantage of the less complicated and less controversial label of lesbian, feeling guilty about not being a role model for the larger bisexual community, for participating in bi-erasure, bi-invisibility, for not personally being an example that would help fight bi-stereotyping.
However, the major impact to an individual remaining closeted is in the form of self-denial. Keeping a part of one’s identity hidden from the world can be agonizing. Imagine if redheads had to keep their hair dyed black least anyone find out, imagine if sailing enthusiasts had to pretend that their love for skiing is the only activity they've ever had a hankering for, imagine if art-lovers had to read books about famous artists in dark corners of basements. Imagine the hurt, the loss of intimacy, when one keeps a fundamental part of themselves hidden from their loved-ones. Imagine the anxiety over being accidentally “found out.” Imagine the constant battle of reminding oneself over and over again that even though many people are not okay with who they are, they really are not a bad person, not sick, not perverse. As with the main character in my novel, “Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe,”one ends up asking themselves repeatedly, if there is nothing wrong with who I am, why do I hide? The guilt of further perpetuating the idea that bisexuality is so shameful or embarrassing that one shouldn't openly admit to this part of their personality, can be a heavy burden.

My hypothetical Margret may ask herself, what if my little brother is bi, or my niece, or my girlfriend’s cousin? Wouldn't me coming out make it easier for them? If she and Joan adopt a baby, Margret may wonder: will I be a better mother if I protect my child by hiding this part of myself that is unaccepted and misunderstood by much of society? Or will I be a better mother by being proud and happy and an example of standing up and trying to make a difference?

Sadly, there are often much worse things bisexuals have to consider before coming out – potentially losing a job or a spouse, being a target for a violent hate crime, etc. Certainly these factors may weigh quite heavily.

One of the self-perpetuating problems for bisexuals is that as long as so many of us remain closeted, so many of us will feel isolated, lost, lonely and afraid to come out. Only by being out can we find each other, encourage each other, and support each other. Every person has to decide what’s best for themselves, but one thing is for sure: the more bisexuals are visible and refuse to be re-categorized, marginalized, or mistreated, the sooner society will stop thinking it’s okay to erase us, box us, hate us, and bully us, and a lot happier a lot of individuals will be. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Adventures of Bisexual Batman

Years ago, I wrote a novel called “Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe.” Believing that there were many who would get a lot out of the book, I recently decided it was important to finally publish it. To be sure that the people who would appreciate the book - which is about a fictional bisexual young man - would know it existed, I decided to open a Twitter account. On Twitter, I searched for what was being said about bisexuality. What I found appalled me. You can read the rest of the story on how Bisexual Batman rose from the mist here

Twitter, by far, has way more biphobia than any other social media I've seen. Though I've adopted the Bisexual Batman alter ego for Tumblr as well, I've found that site to be hugely bi-friendly and have very rarely seen any biphobia there.  

As @BisexualBatman on Twitter I reply to biphobic tweets with remarks pointing out the tweeter's bigotry or ignorance, or reply with links to accurate information about bisexuality. When they engage back with me, I try to educate and get them to see how harmful their words can be. I also retweet unique positive comments, and interesting non-phobic comments, about bisexuality. I “favorite” other positive remarks. I reply with encouraging or helpful comments to people who seem to be under some kind of distress about bisexuality. I tweet congratulations when appropriate. I inform those with questions.

Here are examples of the kinds of things I've come upon:

A young high school student came out to her parents as bi, they took it well but the experience has left her shaken and her friends are concerned.

A middle-aged man saying that studies have shown that all women are bisexual, and no men are bisexual. Two women were vehemently arguing with him. At some point he ends up saying women are only bisexual during their “non-fertile” time of the month.

Multitudes of tweets claiming “Bisexual men? Nah, niga, you gay!”

Many tweets proclaiming “I would NEVER date a bisexual.”

Claims are made repeatedly that girls say they are bisexual just to get attention from men.

Frequent mentions that giraffes are bisexual.

A young girl who once experimented with another girl is upset when her Girls Club leader proclaims that all bisexuals are "dirty sluts." She doesn't want to confront her for fear she will “look at her differently.”

Bisexuality is defined on a regular basis as “never being disappointed by what you find when you reach down somebody’s pants.”

A woman who repeatedly reminds Huffington Post Gay Voices to say “same-sex marriage” instead of “gay marriage.” Huff Post more often than not still saying “gay marriage,” and never replying to her tweets about that and other bi-erasure stuff she sees on their page.

Tons of tweets leading to porn sights with the hashtag bisexual.

Mentions that bisexuals ALWAYS cheat or “fuck you up.”

People laughing at and making fun of sexually inexperienced people claiming they are bisexual.

Many, many, tweets saying that it’s okay to be gay, or bisexual but not okay to judge people, some change that to “not okay to wear crocks”

Many tweets saying, gay, straight, bisexual, black, white, brown, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you.

People saying it's okay to be bi but not okay for men to say they love lesbians but think two men together is disgusting.

Proud proclamations of “I’m bisexual.”

Someone insisting that educational institutions have to recognize that there are gay, bisexual and transgendered kids.

People who say they wish others would stop insisting that they label their sexuality.

A bisexual girl complaining that bisexuals complain about gay people too much.

People declaring that they just came out as bisexual and feel great.

People wondering if they should come out.

People wondering if liking just some people of one sex or the other makes you bisexual or not.

A girl asking what the bible says about bisexuals.

Quips about bisexuals trying things and thus being trisexuals.

A lot of people saying they are confused about the meaning of the words bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual.

A proclamation that bisexual women will “always have relationship problems.”

People regularly announcing that other people (who they name) are bisexual.

Several times there were people vehemently arguing about whether someone they know is bisexual or not.

A woman declaring that "now every girl is bisexual, and you guys aren’t gettin good dick.”

A link to an Advocate article saying that Lou Reid was “perhaps bisexual” then describing his obviously bisexual life.

A link to an article where two men say they are proud to identify as gay then go on to describe their joint love-affair with a bisexual woman.

Arguments that not all bisexuals are binary any more than all gays are happy and all lesbians are residents of the isle of Lesbos.

Tweets that insist that bisexuals "fuck everyone."

Tweets that ask "why can’t everyone be bisexual?"

Tweets asking if the person they are tweeting to is bisexual.

Tweets from people wondering if they themselves are bisexual, and friends assuring them that they are not.

Tweets informing other people that they (the other person, not the tweeter) is bisexual, sometimes saying that's okay, sometimes laughing about it seemingly good naturedly.

Slews of tweets announcing, celebrating, or bemoaning (sometimes with great melodrama), that Lady Gaga, Zac Efron, Michelle Rodriguez, the Disney Princess Mulan, or the comic book character Loki ,have recently come out as bisexual.

Tweets declaring that celebs come out as bisexual just for publicity or to win fans in the LGBT community.

Men proudly announcing that their girlfriend is bisexual.

Men lamenting that their girlfriend isn't bisexual.

People saying that someone in their life is bisexual, but “that cool.”

Women saying they are tired of telling men, "yeah, I'm bisexual, but that doesn't mean I want to have a threesome with you and your girlfriend."

A man saying bisexuals are "immature hoes."

People saying "I'm bisexual, remember?" or "I'm BISEXUAL, not gay."

People saying that they forgot someone was bisexual.

A lesbian asking what's wrong with dating bisexuals.

A lesbian saying that all of her recent girlfriends have been bisexuals so "yeah, maybe I do have a type."

I, as Bisexual Batman have been accused of being MADDD, Crazy, a Bitch, a baby, a weirdo and an ass wipe. I've have been thanked, laughed at, laughed with, told repeatedly to Fuck off, and admonished "don't be a victim." There were a lot of “Who are you?” One young girl asked if I was a stalker. Quite often biphobic tweeters try to bully me by being even more biphobic and are stumped when I don’t crumble. A few times biphobic tweeters have apologized.

Bisexual Batman’s tweets and retweets have been retweeted and favorited several dozens of times.

I have gained many new followers, all of whom I’d never heard of before.

I had a man think it necessary to tell me that he has sex with men and women and does not identify as bisexual.

I've had a woman, who was saying terrible things about bisexuals, tell me she is dating a bisexual, and she hates bisexuals and I should fuck off.

I've been accused by a right-wing homophobic group as being part of the “gaystopo.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

For Bisexuals Passing as Gay

Just a simple poem to get across a difficult fact.

For Bisexuals Passing as Gay

Every day I wave my gay flag high.
Every day I live the same lie.
Every day I wave my gay flag high.
Every day I suppress the urge to cry.
Every day I wave my gay flag high.
Every day I ask myself why.
Every day I wave my gay flag high.
Every day I don’t tell them I’m bi.

I tried to tell them.
They said I was confused.
I tried to tell them.
They just looked bemused.
I tried to tell them.
But I got abused.
I tried to tell them.
But understand, they refused.

They use to think I was straight.
They thought that was really great.
Then I brought home a same-sex date.
They want me to be hetero,
Or at least declare I’m homo,
But my sexuality actually isn't mono.

They told me to be proud,
My gayness shout out loud.
They told me to be proud,
But my true sexuality is not allowed. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quietly Coming Out as Bisexual

During these past weeks, with Bi-visibility Day and National Coming Out Day, I have come across a lot of bisexuals seriously stressing about coming out of the closet. Not everyone can do this, but when it's safe and possible, I believe that the quiet method of informing others of one's bisexuality is a great way to go. If successful, you get the information across quietly then go about your life. Besides needing to be in a safe environment, this method mostly just requires being secure and sure in who you are.

Of course coming out is often difficult for gays and lesbians too, but they do have some "quiet" options not available to bisexuals. A lesbian who chooses to have a "boyish" hair cut and wear butch clothes is likely to be assumed to be a lesbian. A bi woman who does the same will also likely be assumed to be a lesbian, and will remain closeted unless she comes out as bi. A gay man who shows up at social events with his boyfriend and introduces him as such is going to be seen as gay. A bi man who does the same will be seen as gay too, and will still be closeted unless he comes out as bi.

Gays and lesbians can also put rainbow flags or an equality stickers on their cars and be out as homosexual. Though the bi community has relatively recently come up with a flag to represent bisexuality, it's still so new that only other bisexuals who are involved in the bi community (a mostly on-line presence) recognize what it is.

So being out as bi is usually something that has to be more directly addressed. Still that doesn't mean there aren't subtle and less stressful ways to go about it. I'll share some examples from my own life to show what I mean.

I met a woman recently who's new in town. Upon discovering she is doing public relations work, I mentioned my experiences with building up a blog. I went on to mention that my blog has gotten a lot of traffic from reddit; mostly from the subreddit "Bisexual," and that I was blogging about bisexuality because the main character in my novel "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe," is bisexual.

The conversation could have gone differently. I could easily have not mentioned the word bisexual. Knowing that bringing up my blog might lead her to ask more about it, I could have never even brought up the blog at all. But in fact, I made a conscious decision to mention the it, and made a conscious decision to use the word bisexual. To have navigated conversation away from where I saw it naturally heading would have been closeting myself. Instead, by allowing the flow in that direction, I instantly outed myself to a new-found acquaintance in a non-dramatic/traumatic way. Sure I didn't make it 100% clear I'm bi, but she'd have to figure I likely was. If she wasn't comfortable with that, I'd know right away, and could dismiss her as a potential friend. By going this route, I also avoided ever having to decide if and and when and how to tell her, somewhere down the road, about my sexual orientation.

This is how I've mostly come out. I know I'm lucky; I come from a relatively progress and non-oppressive background, and I've always lived in progressive and non-oppressive places. As a result, coming out has been mostly a non-event.

Sometimes coming out can just be a matter of not hiding. One night, years ago, I was kissing a woman on the sidewalk a few blocks from where a big event was occurring. Someone we knew was walking by and she tried to conceal my face, thinking I was trying to pass as straight. I told her I didn't have anything to hide. Again, I outed myself just by not making it a point to closet myself.

This simple act of not hiding also occurred a  few years ago when I was exchanging comments on Facebook with a friend who knew I was bi. All the sudden, he went to private messaging because he wanted to ask me something that he knew might out me if done publicly. I told him that the fact that my bisexuality wasn't known by our mutual friends wasn't due to any efforts of my own, but rather because people made assumptions, and I continued the conversation publicly. I'm not sure if anyone was paying attention, but if people who knew me to be in an opposite sex relationship saw the conversation where my friend asked which female actresses I thought were hot, they would have had a good hint I wasn't exactly straight.

In fact, many people I know just found out recently that I was bi when I  set up a Facebook Author's Page for a bisexual themed novel and posted links to my blog about bisexual issues. Again, a non-dramatic/traumatic self-outing. I just thought well, if they hadn't figured it out yet, they'll know now.

Though I think that for many people coming out could be a lot less stressful if they'd only not build it up as such a scary monster in their heads, I also know that sadly, for many, coming out has serious ramifications. Certainly there are situations when a one-on-one sit down talk is necessary. Even then, I'd recommend not acting like it's a big deal, but rather a fact that needs to be shared. Those we come out to take our lead when considering how to respond. Sure some people will be biphobic and overreact no matter what, but if we project that we are okay and fine with who we are, and don't act like our bisexuality is a big deal, chances are a lot  of people we come out to will be more likely to keep their cool too. Meanwhile let's all look forward to a time when a person's sexual identity - to borrow a phrase from Bob Marley and Haile Selassie - "is of no more significance than the color of his eyes."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Gays Don't Support Bisexuals

Gay and Lesbian people often are not only not supportive of bisexuals but actually go so far as to bash bisexuals or deny our existence. A lot of people are perplexed by this. After all, shouldn't homosexuals be bisexuals' allies? shouldn't they feel our rights are just as important as their own? Shouldn't they relate to being oppressed, ridiculed, marginalized? Why are they not on our side?
I have a few thoughts about this, just thoughts, not saying these are facts, and I would love to hear other people's ideas as well.

First Thought:
If you have a lot of frank conversations with a lot of bisexuals, as I have, you will find that many bisexuals feel that everyone is fundamentally bisexual and that gay or straight people have, for one reason or another, ended up focused on one gender or the other. I read an article in Penthouse when I was fourteen which had this notion as its focus. At the time, I thought, "yeah, that sounds right," and this is actually how I came out to myself. Thus I went around believing everyone was fundamentally bisexual for a very long time. It was only upon some very frank conversations with some very open- minded gay and straight people that I realized that they were really actually fundamentally mono-sexual.

Why was it so hard for me, and many other bi people, to get this? I think that for many bisexuals the idea of not being attracted to one gender or the other is difficult to grasp. If there is a good looking, sexy, man who has a great personality and who you get along with etc. - how can you say, no, not attracted?  Same for a hot beautiful woman who has a hot beautiful well matched personality. Yeah, yeah, yeah, she's all beautiful and wonderful and sure, sexy, and we get along great, but no I'm just not attracted to women? I don't get it. But, I've come to accept that it's not for me to get; if people tell me that they cannot be aroused, not be attracted, interested, in someone like that because of their gender, then I have to take their word for it. I'm not in their head, not in their body, so who am I to say? Conversely - and now were getting to the point - I think, gay/lesbian and straight people - in other words, monosexuals - do not get how we can be attracted to both genders. It just doesn't add up to them. I'm thinking that in their minds they feel that men and women are so different physically and mentally, how can us bisexuals be attracted to both? Either you like feminine body types and personalities or you like male body types and personalities and to like both is beyond their comprehension. If they can't understand it, then in their minds, its not possible. Bisexuals will often use the chocolate and strawberry ice-cream analogy - you can like one or the other, or both, right? But for monosexuals it must seem more like a mutually exclusive situation. It must sound more like if someone said "I'd love to go live in a quiet monastery, and I'd love to play guitar in a heavy metal demonic band." They're all like, what? Make up your mind already. You can do BOTH, and you certainly can't HAVE it both ways!

So the theory here is a difference in perspectives, each side not understanding and there-fore denying the other side.

Second Thought:
It's pretty well established that some gay/les people who have struggled with coming to terms with their identity do go through a phase of deciding that maybe they can find a way to fit into established society. The hope is maybe their same-sex attractions can be ignored, because maybe they are also attracted to the opposite sex. Maybe they can just have a normal hetero life-style and subvert their same-sex desires. For a kid growing up in a homophobic family/school/community/religion the effort to grasp onto any hope of not being that which they know is not accepted and considered evil or sick, must be substantial. "Bisexual" then would be like some shining light in a formerly dark tunnel of "oh my god, why can't I stop lusting after that cute same-sex person sitting next to me in math class!" So maybe I'm bi and can try to live a nice hetero life and no-one will know about my hidden desires. But eventually they find they can not pull this off, and they come out to themselves as being gay and not bi. Then as they become more prideful in their new found love for who they are, they look back disdainfully or pitifully at who they use to be. This colors their view of everyone who claims to be bi and they just think "Oh stop fooling yourself, stop hating yourself, stop hiding yourself! As a result these well-meaning homosexuals make some true bisexuals try to fool themselves into believing they are really gay, and hate themselves for not accepting their "homosexuality" and hide from them-selves and others their true bisexuality.

Third thought:
Gay people have been trying to be accepted by the larger hetero population for so long that the ideals of "being  respected for who you are," and "being able to love who you love" have been overshadowed and largely forgotten by "Acceptance and rights! Acceptance and rights! Acceptance and rights!" I'm going to guess that others besides me have heard bisexuals - especially in the earlier days of gay rights - say that they identify publicly as gay "for political reasons." Fighting for gay rights was paramount, more important than, addressing bisexual-specific issues. The idea was that once we have gay rights and acceptance, things will be much better for bisexuals too. Of course gay rights and acceptance has addressed many issues that bisexuals also have to deal with, but what perhaps no-one saw coming was the day when many homosexuals started to identify with their former oppressors more than their fellow opressees. Perhaps many gays - finally enjoying somewhat the fruits of their labors and getting to be finally considered "normal and included" by many in the majority population - do not now want to muddy up the situations by saying, "bisexuals need to be taken seriously too and need to be acknowledged and accepted."

Homosexuals have one major thing in common with heterosexual that neither have in common with bisexuals - yep, mono-sexuality. And it's all very "let us normal, mono, types stick together and snub those silly, out-of-control bi people."

Again, I'm generalizing and over-dramatizing to make a point. I know there are still lots of gay people who are bisexuals' advocates. These thoughts are about those who are not.

Fourth thought
This is really an extension of the third. Back in the 1960s and 70s, gay people - in celebrating their newly, found pre-HIV, out-and-proud euphoria - got rather wild with displays of overt sexuality. After AIDS/HIV settled all that down considerably, many gays, especially as they got older and society got more accepting, looked back and maybe felt all that bath-house, glory-holes, stuff didn't help any in the cause of fitting in. They look at how bisexuals are stereotyped and see "oversexed" and "sex-greedy" and want to distance themselves from that. There is so much in the current gay rights movement that says over and over again to the straight community "Look, we are just like you!" Aligning with the bisexual contingency does not help in that cause, because straight America still sees us as being perverse.

I'd like to end with a shout out to all the gay men and lesbians who still do stand by our side, defend us, and recognize and respect our existence.
Please everyone, share your thoughts and ideas about this issue.

Friday, October 11, 2013

10 Reasons to Come Out if You're Bisexual

In observance of "Coming Out Day" here are 10 Reasons to Come Out if You're Bisexual.
If you're close to a place in your life where you're seriously thinking of coming out, then here are some helpful reminders of why it might be a great idea. However, if you feel that coming out would be dangerous for you, then keep this list as a reminder to help you when you hopefully will someday be in safer circumstances.

1) The weight of the huge burden that is being closeted will be lifted off your shoulders.
2) You will be proud of yourself and can more fully embrace the person that is you.
3) You will likely find that some of the reactions you worried about will not manifest at all.
4) With those who accept you, you will develop a closer and more intimate relationship.
5) You will weed out those who truly do not care about you as a person and only want you to be what works for them - something you'd find out eventually in some other way anyhow.
6) It's much easier to find other bisexuals to interact with (friends/support/lovers) if people know that you're bisexual.
7) You'll be a role model for others to come out and feel good about their sexuality.
8) You'll be a role model for everyone in the lessons of being yourself and standing up for what you believe in.
9) You'll be lifted from the fear of being accidentally outed.
10) You'll help heal the problem of Bi-invisibility.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bisexual verses Pansexual.

Unfortunately, while those of us who are attracted in one way or another to more than just people of opposite sex, or just people of the same sex, are continually faced with discrimination, belittling, invisibility, bashing and abuse, much of what is said and written by and about us - including the blog post I'm writing here - revolves around definitions and semantics.

I feel I need to add to this because, as I have just begun to write a blog about bisexuality, clearing up this matter from the start seems essential so that I can hopefully get on to more pressing matters.
Recently, Solon posted an article heavily touching on this. One of the points made in that article which struck me, was that since "bisexual" as a word has come to have negative connotations, some suggest, we give it up. This reminds me of how no matter the extent to which someone believes in women's rights, there is often a huge resistance to being labeled a "feminist." Feminism got a bad name from its enemies and unfortunately that negativity has stuck, and unfortunately, along with that negative connotation for the word, a negative connotation for the concept has largely remained as well.
Do we want to let that happen to bisexuality too?

Gay and straight monosexuals do not understand us and thus claim we do not exist. Homophobic straight people see us as being sick or evil or perverse, just as they see homosexuals. Politically correct straight and gay people see us as gay people with internalized homophobia who need to embrace our same-gender attractions and announce ourselves as gay or lesbians from the peak of the highest mountain we can find. Some people insist that "bisexual" omits the love or desire for those not strictly male or female. Some of those who have labeled themselves pansexuals also insist that bisexuals are caught up on gender and fixate on "what's between someone's legs."

My input on this matter is that I think it would be wise to own the word "bisexual," not throw it to our detractors to abuse and mutilate as they will. Let's stand strong behind the word and insist it be taken seriously.

Though I understand the idea behind pansexuality, I think it is far from preferable. For one thing, bisexuality has been around much longer and most everyone realizes it applies to the idea of being attracted to more than just one gender. Pansexuality is still very obscure. And while most people in the general population have never heard of it, pansexulity is already facing plenty of its own ridicule. Twitter is full of comments like, "pansexual? does that mean you love frying pans?" Or, "pansexual means you're attracted to everyone who breathes."

Back in the 1970s and 1980s there wasn't anyone using the word pansexual. Back then, bisexual was defined to mean that you were attracted to both men and women, but this was never meant to exclude non-binary transgender or inter-sexed people. The truth of the matter was that back then people outside the gender binary were relatively unheard of. The whole trans rights movement had just started, and words for non-binary genders were (with few exceptions) not coined yet, and those that were being used we known by only a relatively few people What I'm trying to say is, bisexual wasn't about ONLY being attracted to men and women, it was about being attracted to BOTH men and women, with no intent to exclude other possible genders.

Another truth of the matter is, bisexuality is hugely varied. Some bisexuals are attracted to very masculine men and very feminine women, some like only very androgynous people of either gender, some like only feminine people of either gender, some are into all kinds of men but only boyish women, some have been almost exclusively into women but if a big bearish guy winks at them they just melt, etc. etc. There is nothing here meant to exclude attraction to genderqueer or trans folks at all. If people want to call themselves pansexual to make it clear they are potentially attracted to ANY kind of gender that's all cool, but please don't say bisexuals want to, or do, exclude this. I'd like to see pansexual as a specific subgroup of bisexual.

Now some self-labeled pansexuals are probably pulling their hair out at this point. And this brings us to the other problem with the label "pansexual," and that is, there has been more than one focus for the term, further lending to confusion. Thus far, I have failed to fully acknowledge the other aspect. Not only does pansexual mean, for many who identify that way, the ability to be attracted to "other-sexed" individuals, but often the point is that they feel that they are "gender blind" or that their attraction is "gender irrelevant," meaning they don't care about gender at all. They care about personality and individuals as far as attraction; for them gender happens to be of no concern. Unfortunately, many of these sorts of pansexuals believe that all bisexuals are focused on gender and do care very much about the sex of a potential partner. Again, yes, SOME bisexuals are into men and into women and are into which gender potential partners happen to be, but others are not, others are just into being open about potential partners and their genders. I have never, I repeat, NEVER, anywhere heard of a self-defined bisexual who has said, bisexuals by definition are ONLY into men and women , and always concerned with gender. I have been reading a lot on Facebook, reddit, twitter, blogs and in print and talking in real life to bisexuals, and not one ever claims this. Yet I repeatedly see self-defined pansexuals saying this about bisexuals. So now bisexuals not only have to fight straight and gay bi-phobia, they also have to fight other bisexuals who are now calling themselves pansexuals and actually put down "bisexuality" as gender fixation. Though not all pansexuals have this attitude, a great many do. Enough I say! Let's all focus on fighting our mutually experienced bigotry, oppression and ridicule.

I will stick to using "bisexual" to refer to all non-mono-sexually interested/attracted individuals. So if you read anything I write on the matter you can assume that is the definition I intend.

Please do feel free to comment though!

Friday, October 4, 2013


I'd really like to see people start using NSP instead of LGBTQIPA etc. NSP - for non-straight people, it seems to me, would cover it all, and be a lot more manageable.

I'm old enough - 53 - to remember a time before anyone ever used LGB, much less the loger version(s). I'm working off memory here, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, and I realize too that different things may have been happening in different places. Anyway, what I recall is that back in the 70s, people were talking about Gay rights a lot. Then I remember lesbians wanting to be mentioned separately and not assumed to be included in "Gay" rights, very likely partially as a result of the feminist movement. Then the press etc. started referring to Lesbian and Gay rights - most likely "Lesbian" came first because if it came second it would upset feminist.
Eventually,bisexuals said, "hey, what about us?" As it got lengthy to say Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual rights the press started using LGB rights. A little later, not much, the trans world chimed in as well, and LGBT was born.

It was - I believe - some years later, that I saw a Q added. At that time Q was for queer to cover mainly, I understood, people who either didn't want to be labeled, or didn't feel they quite fit any of the labels. I'm not sure how people now define queer, but at the time queer, which had been earlier derogatory for homosexual, was taken on as an umbrella term to mean "not straight as an arrow." Now, I've seen Q in LGBTQ refereed to as specifically, "Questioning."

Back when I fist heard the word bisexual, 1974 or so, I'm pretty sure no one had yet coined the term pansexual. The whole pan verses bisexual will be another blog post for me soon. But yeah, self-defined pansexuals consider themselves not the same as bisexual and so a P had to be thrown into the lot. 
Inter-sexed people is another whole group that is ignored, bashed, and discriminated against, so the I was added too, I think much more recently.

In an earlier blog post The Superpower of Bi-invisibility, I offhandedly used "LGBQT" to lead readers to a related link. One such reader was kind enough to comment that I should also add "A" on the list to include asexuals. I believe everyone needs recognition and respect and equal rights, so I agreed. However, this made me all the more aware of something that I'd long thought about and intend to write a blog about soon - the extent to which, as the list grows longer, we (meaning all of those included on the list) have our individual group's issues, problems, joys, legalities, etc, watered down. Further, bundling ourselves like this, I believe, has been the cause of some in-fighting. Stay tuned for my future blog about that if you want to hear more.

Meanwhile, when we do all want to stand together, or be refereed to together, in regards to common issues, can we just start using NSP? I think this way we are less likely to leave anyone else out too. Or perhaps, NTHP - for non-traditionally heterosexual people?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pinning to Pinterest From Facebook

Social media, and creating a platform is important for getting the word out when you're about to publish a book like I am. I've learned a lot along the way, one thing I found out was, that you cannot pin an image directly from Facebook to Pinterest. This was frustrating since there are a lot of great images posted on Facebook.
I fiddled around trying different things until I found a way.
Click on the image in Facebook that you want to pin. It'll open up larger, with comments on the side.
Now right click on the image.
Now scroll to "copy image URL."
Click on that.
If you have the pin it button on your browser, open up a new page (tab) on Windows. (If you don't have the pin it button on your browser, and want it, click on the link in the previous sentence. If you want to pin directly from Pinterest, skip to where I talk about that.)
 Now, on the new windows' page, go to the "address bar" at the top of the page, right click, scroll to "paste," and click - you should see the image's URL in the address bar now.
Hit "enter," the image should now appear. Click on the pin it tab on your browser, and you'll be walked through the rest.
If you want to pin directly from Pinterest, click the plus button which enables you to add new pins.
Select, "add from a website," click.
You will now see a space to enter the website. Right click and paste. Then hit enter. You will be walked through the rest.
I've pinned several images on to my Pinterest page from my Facebook friend's posts this way.
Happy Pinning!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Superpower of Bi-invisibility.

Just like with the Harry Potter invisibility cloak , bisexual can walk around totally undetected. It's amazing really! Bisexuals can go to LGBTQ conventions and not ever even be noticed.

Even when you run around waving your arms shouting "I'm bisexual" people either see a straight or gay person. If you're in a relationship with a person of the opposite sex, people know you are straight. If you are in a relationship with someone of the same sex, people know you are gay. If you say, no, I'm bi, people laugh, or get angry, or pretend they did not hear and still see a straight or gay person. If you act the way people think gay people act and have been in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, then you are a closet homosexual. If you have only been in relationships with people of the same sex and start talking about your sexual/romantic interest with someone of the opposite sex, then you are confused, or oversexed, or trying to fit into society.

And make no mistake about it, lots of bi people who have learned that their bisexuality is greeted only by negative, hateful, hurtful, negating, responses, are walking around clinging tightly to the safety and hell of their natural invisibility super powers - maybe even in your neighborhood, or workplace, or at your family Christmas dinner, masquerading as that nice gay boy or that sweet straight girl.
As my character Jim, in my novel "Love, Sex and Understanding the Universe" puts it: "I could even tell him the truth, point blank, and he still wouldn't know. I could say, "I read the gay papers because I'm bisexual and these issues concern me," and he'd laugh, think it an off-color joke, and leave it at that. I was invincible, and I knew it. Invincible, like invisible..."

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Big Deal About Bi-visibility

When I was writing "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe" I did not know I was going to be writing a novel about bi-visibility. I thought I was writing a fun, engaging, slightly erotic, love story about characters who live out-of-the-norm-lifestyles. It wasn't until I was done and started trying to think up pitches to publishers, and book blurbs, that I realized that what I had written was an account of a fictional character's struggles with trying to be true to himself as a bisexual in a world where no-one wants to accept him for who he is - albeit in a fun, engaging, slightly erotic, love story, kinda way. What's interesting to me now, and really rather sad, is that though most of my book was written more than 15 years ago, not much has changed in terms of how difficult being bisexual can be.

"But," someone not familiar with the issues might say, "how can that be true? Their have been so many gains in the last 20 years in gay rights."

This is exactly the kind of comment that has so many bisexuals banging their collective heads against a wall. Yes, advances in gay rights do help make bisexuals' lives better - for example if they are in an out relationship with someone of the same sex - but there are many issues unique to bisexuality, and the fact that people don't recognize this is one of the biggest issues.

Bisexuality is too often seen as akin to gay, in fact, one of the worst problems for bisexuals is that when they come out of the closet after living a heterosexual lifestyle they are immediately branded as gay by almost everyone, even after pointing out over and over again, that, no, they are bi, not gay. It's as if non bi people have an internalized translator that immediately and repeatedly interprets the word bi to mean gay. There can even been a confused/hostile backlash when an out bisexual gets involved with someone of the opposite sex; for case in point check out: The harsh hurtful reality of being bisexual.

Further, not only gay people, but also straight people, insist that newly out bisexuals are being homophobic when they call themselves bi. These well-meaning people insist that their friend/lover/spouse/family member is refusing to fully accept their homosexuality and needs to stop trying to be at least a little "normal" by claiming to still be attracted to the opposite sex. Ironically, in their efforts to be politically correct and fight for gay acceptance by trying to get the bisexual to see he/she is really gay and should act proud of it, people are actually participating in bi-bashing, bi-erasure, and bi-invisibility.

I will be writing more about bisexual issues in the future blogs.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Naming Characters in Fiction

Often my characters names just come to me quickly as I'm writing down the first words in my story, other times I have struggled with them. Here are some of the things I have considered in naming. 
I have found when I'm reading a novel I get mixed up too easily if two similar characters have similar names. For example, best friends named Mike and Mark. So I avoid that in my own writing. 
I also decided that relatively insignificant characters shouldn't have significant names. In "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe," I changed one character from Alison to Alice for this reason. 
Another thing I have done when naming characters is to have a little fun with it. I had a character named Carol, and when I changed Alison to Alice, I decided I should also have a Ted and Bob - as the theme to the movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, was somewhat relevant to my novel. In my second novel I also use all four of those names.
One of my main characters started out as Clara but I changed it to Bonnie because it was useful to the story-line. Bonnie is not her real name and there is significance in several scenes to both her name being Bonnie - a West Indian guitarist singing My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean on a beach - and the secret behind her real name, which Bonnie is short for.
It can be tempting to have a little fun by giving a character an unusual name, but that can be distracting. I only use unusual names for unusual characters, such as Flash, a bisexual, punker artist who has an orange crew cut. I originally spelled Derek as Derrick just because it seemed more interesting, but then I decided there was no good reason for it to be spelled in a more unique manner and this might just needlessly divert the readers attention.  
I once changed a very minor character's name because I realized that Jamie is short for James and Jamie's brother was named James but called Jim.
Whatever you do, make sure you're being consistent. For a long time, while developing my second novel, I would interchangeably use, Rosalyn, Rosemary, and Rachel for the same character. In the same book I was also accidentally using both Wicked Wendy and Wicked Wanda for another character. The Find and Replace feature of word programs are great for fixing this kind of problem. 
I like it best when the character's name just pops into my head and fits well, as if his or her name was inevitable and somehow obvious. Another one of those moments when you feel like the words you are writing somehow already existed and were just waiting for you to come along and transcribe them.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Details in Fiction

To do your job well of transporting your readers to another world, your writing has to give them the feeling that they have entered an actual three dimensional space. Details can make all the difference. Take for example this bit of description from a New York City scene in my soon-to-be-published novel "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe:"
 "Some fifteen minutes later, taxis honking impatiently, a siren wailing from a nearby street, we stood outside the cafe with our hands stubbornly in our pockets, a Milky Way wrapper swirling in the dust and wind at our feet."
I could have just said that they stood on the sidewalk, but  instead their body language bring a picture - complete with emotions - to mind. I could have just said that the street was full of city sounds, but the details about the sounds bring the scene more to life, giving the reader the impression that this really happened. I could have mentioned "a bit of trash," but the fact that my character noticed what the trash was tells you he was trying not to focus on what was really happening between him and the other guy (it's an emotional scene), and that there was enough time for him to have noticed.
In an earlier scene, my character is getting a ride in a Volkswagen bug and I have my character tell the reader, "I ran my thumb along the textured squares of the vinyl seat." Have you ever been in an older model Volkswagen bug? Didn't reading that line just bring it all back to you what those seats felt like, looked like? Doesn't this bit of movement also show some sense of nervousness and contemplation on the character's part?
In one of the opening scenes my character tells the reader "I looked out the window, past my faded cowboy and Indian curtains, and watched the soft December snow falling." In my first draft I just had him looking out the window and seeing the snow. I added the curtains to give detail. First I thought, there are probably curtains on the window, so let me show that. Then I asked myself what kind of curtains. He's 12 years old here so I emphasis with the curtains his move from childhood towards adolescence, which is relevant to the scene. 
With all the examples, the details aren't just thrown in there to bring the scene alive, each one of them also serves some other purpose to the story.
So tell us what kind of soda your detective is drinking and weather the can is dented or not cold enough or if it tastes too sweet or has gone flat - but only if it adds to character development or gives us a clue to who done it. Maybe the fact that it's not cold means that someone put it in the fringe after the beautiful heiress was murdered, and that must mean that the pool boy was lying about where he was at the time of the murder because he was the only one who had a key to the cabana and..... but the detective doesn't put all that together until Chapter 12, though the savvy reader realizes.....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today is a Good Day to Write

Why today is a good day to write:
1) Because then tonight you can walk under the stars and feel like you accomplished something.
2) Because tomorrow you'll wish you had.
3) Because it's better than washing the car/mowing the lawn/sorting through your sock drawer.
4) Because I said so.
5) Because you're mother said so.
6) Because you know you want to.
7) Because procrastination (aka sloth) is one of the 7 deadly sins.
8) Because you promised yourself you would.
9) Because yesterday is already too late.
10) Why not?
11) If not now, when?
12) Because then you're characters will stop screaming at you - at least for a little bit.
13) Because you call yourself a writer.
14) Because you can't wait to see what happens next (admit it, you really aren't in control of your plot).
15) Because your English teacher in the 8th grade would be so proud.
16) Because that cheese cake you have planned for dessert will taste so much better if you do.
17) Because.....
oh sorry, I have to go write, write now!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lessons in Blogging

I wrote my first blog post, On Starting a Blog, 38 days ago. It basically says, I have no idea what I'm doing, but here goes. It was pathetic, and I'm tempted to remove it.  I'm going to leave it up though, because it's quaint and pretty typical of a lot of blogs. This will be my 35th post, and I have learned a few things. Though I am sure I have much more to learn, I'd like to share some of my new found knowledge - much of which has come from my reactions to looking at other people's blogs.
Here's my advice based on what I've figured out over the last weeks.
Do not write a post like my first one. Telling people you don't know what you're doing is going to make them look elsewhere really quickly. If you've made the same mistake I did, forgive yourself, and then figure out what you are doing, and do it with confidence.
Blog readers are looking for original thought, so avoid a lot of re-posting of what others have written, or solely posting videos, photos, etc from other places (that's works a lot better on Facebook - though I'm a strong proponent of original thought of Facebook too). In my blog I convey my way of looking at various aspects of the craft of writing and associated topics, giving my twists on the subject. If you really like grooming dogs there is probably already lots of info on the internet about that, and one might think there is nothing new to say, but if you can write about it in a fresh way, sharing your own examples; adding your own humor, or seriousness, or wackiness; posting some engaging photos to illustrate what you're saying; and maybe even explaining the trade a bit more clearly than others have, you will have an engaging blog for those interested in the subject and maybe a few other people as well.
If you are weird, intelligent, awesome, funny or deep, go ahead and say weird, intelligent, awesome, funny or deep stuff, and we'll get the picture in a much more interesting, entertaining way, than if you just were to go on and on about how weird, intelligent, awesome, funny or deep you are - and chances are you'll have readers coming back for more.
Happy blogging, and please share what you have learned.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Real Life Inspiring Writing

In an earlier bog post, Are Novels Largely Autobiographical?, I talk about how bits of experiences in my life are used in creating my fictional worlds, but when all is said and done, the novels are far from autobiographical. However, my poetry is much more autobiographical, and yet my poems too are not completely true to life. A writer often, as I do in my poetry, uses real life as an inspiration but does stick strictly to the facts. 
A writer's first commitment is to create good writing, or more to the point, good reading. To this end, in my poetry, I will often take an emotion or a life situation and magnify its effects to fully capture its essence. It's like cooking down a sauce to enhance the flavor. In so doing, I not only over dramatize the theme but I leave out details that would water down or take away from the full impact.
Readers are left with something that they can possibly relate to in their lives, something they once felt or experienced, and here it is in a pure form, spoken with uncluttered intensity. Though they too most likely did not have as raw of a real life event as the poem conveys, it's speaks to what they went through.
All this being said, here is my most recent poem:

I think that when I hug him, what he feels is what it will be like when I’m gone and he can no longer experience the comfort of being in my arms.
When I kiss him, and he wants it so badly, he pulls away because he knows (has convinced himself) that someday he will not have my kisses, and it will be all the more agonizing if he lets me have his now.
My smile is taken to be a threat that I will someday only offer him only sneers.
My kindest gesture is interpreted as a promise that there will be a time when I no longer give him anything but pain.
Every time he does not slip his hand into mine, he is extending the kindness of making its absence less difficult when he is eventually gone.
When he does not say “I love you,” he is giving me a gift of a less-it-could-have-been someday broken heart.
Each time he refuses to share his past with me, he is assuring me that when I become someone from his past, my secrets will be safe.
The walls he erects are meant to support us both when the time comes for us to stand alone.
For my own protection he has told me it will never get any better.
That fact that I am still here, means little, for he could see the end before it even began.
Yet the fact that we are both still here, is because he has failed miserably in all his efforts to protect our hearts.
- Harrie Farrow August 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Food and Fiction

We all have to eat, generally about three times a day. Even fictional characters have to eat. Even zombies have to eat. My point is, unless you've created a fantasy world where eating is excluded from the picture, food is going to come into your novel, so you might as well make it work for you.
Give this some thought. Answers to the questions of what your characters eat, where they eat, and with whom they eat, are are all great for developing characters, relationships between characters, and can provide settings, and possibly even plot and conflict. Does that blind date take place at a cheap Chinese buffet and result in food poisoning? Does the rich sister insist the poor sister meet her at an upscale steakhouse, then run out leaving the tab unpaid after a call from her husband's mistress?
Maybe the roll food plays in your book is simple and subtle. In the classic movie Repo Man, the main character opens the cupboard and takes out a can marked only "Food," opens it, and eats with a spoon.
Maybe food is a basic backdrop to your story as in the Japanese comedy, Tampopo, that has at it's center a noodle restaurant.
In my novel, "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe" food and eating play many rolls, for example the characters often meet in coffee shops, lemon cake is the only sweet thing one character ever eats, and another character has college classmates teach her recipes from the various countries of their origins, and then there's the strawberries dipped in sugar at midnight scene.
Food is less relevant is my second novel but I had lots of fun with a scene involving two women eating doughnuts at a truck stop and another scene with a woman enjoying a mango while sitting in shallow waves on a Caribbean beach.  
Food offers so many opportunities in fiction, it would be a shame to not take advantage of this readily available tool. Food fight? T.V dinners? The mood at a fast-food joint during off hours? Hot dogs burning on a grill while the parents fight over who takes out the trash? Pink cotton candy stuck in her hair while she cries on a Ferris wheel? A snow cone on a hot day in his favorite flavor changes everything for John Doe? I'm sure you'll come up with something tasty.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Finding Space to Write

Finding space to write is not usually about physical space, it's about mental space. Clearing a space in one's mind where the clutter of all else does not get in the way. One can find time to write and still not have space to write. You can get away from your family/friends/responsibilities and amusements physically, but they call all still be there mentally.
The trick is to find other things to give up in order to have plenty of quality time with family and friends, thereby freeing up mental space that's taken up by guilt over this issue, and then put writing not after responsibilities and amusements, but on the top of the list of responsibilities and amusements.
Finding things to give up may include: not adopting  another new puppy (but he's soo cute! yeah, yeah I know), rethinking if you really need to iron t-shirts, and saying no to helping with the fundraiser for your cousin's step-son's boy scout camping trip. Perhaps polish your silver tea set only once a month instead of once a week? You know it's true; there are things you could give up. So what if the neighbors make fun of you if your car has some dust on it, or you loose track of what your high school friends are talking about on Facebook? Certainly, watching reruns of the Big Bang theory could be replaced by reading a story to your six year old.
Okay, so you feel good about the time you're spending with family and close friends. Now you have to face the fact that writing is a major responsibility of yours, not something that takes you away from your responsibilities (silly idea!). And yes, go on, admit it to yourself, even though writing is a responsibility it is not a chore; it's an amusement. You like writing (otherwise just give it up already!), it amuses you, and revitalizes you, and makes you feel alive and accomplished. Really, is bingo at church this much fun? Does watching DVDs give you this much pleasure? Angry birds? You've got to be kidding me - or yourself.
One more thing, if you're just getting started with writing seriously, it's probably a good thing you're reading stuff - like this blog - about writing, but at some point your're going to have to ween yourself off of what can easily morph into a handy little procrastinating technique of considering reading about writing almost as good as actually writing. If you're a writer, it isn't, unless as I said, your just starting out, then yes there's a lot to be learned from others. If you're one of those who should have weened yourself some time ago - you know who your are! - then close down all internet sites, and pull up your word program, and let the fun begin!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Inspires Your Characters?

In order to move your plot along, you have to have your character decide to do something. You've created conflict, so there are problems, to build suspense there are more problems. Something has to change, something has to bring the story to it's climax.
While it may be tempting to make events beyond you're character's control bring about the resounding crescendo of your novel, readers are much more enamored by a story if the struggling protagonist actually does something that makes all the difference.This is where your character needs inspiration. Generally, this is in the form of a catalyst - something new introduced to the story that awakens the lead.  It may be hitting rock bottom as a result of an especially catastrophic event. Just like what inspires alcoholics to go to AA, the situation gets so bad for your character that they are forced to recognize that something has to be done.
Your character may be woken up by something another character does or says at just the right moment - a slap on the face during a wedding by a grandmother who has always been only kind, a statement by a co-worker that makes the character realize that her impression of who she is, is far from how others see her. It may be that a new person or relationship in their life makes your character realize things can't go on they way they have been.
Perhaps it's something subtle like a glace in the mirror at a friends house or the way a fish struggles on the end of the hook during a camping trip.
Inspiration can come in the form of a long repressed memory coming to surface, or a lovely dream, or the look on a dog's face.
Your plot, theme, setting and characters will all guide you towards the best choice for your book. Just make sure your readers feel it as intensely as you do.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Fiction Of Love

The Fiction of Love

Love is not fiction, but love makes good fiction. Readers want to be moved; they want to leave the mundane of their life when their life does not leave the mundane. Of course one of the most assured ways to get your readers there is by writing about love. Perhaps what inspires us the most in life is love, wallowing in it when you have it, looking for it when you want it, recovering from it when it's gone. Everyone can relate and almost every story, no mater the genera, at least taps into this theme. One need not write a romance to write about love.
Love is also especially useful for creating the necessary "page turning," "can't put it down," that keeps readers hungry for your books. Will he find love? Will she ever get that guy? Will he ever finally get a divorce and be with the one he truly loves? Will they ever stop fighting and enjoy their love? Will she ever tell her co-worker she loves her? Will love heal the pain of his past? etc.
One of the best vehicles for using love to create suspense is the friends/coworkers/neighbors who just can't quite seem to ever get it that they are in love. The reader figures it out early on but the characters, or one of the characters, is clueless. There is flirtation that is not recognized or acknowledged by those involved. There are excuses to get together that they believe are innocent. There is fluttery stomachs and nervous laughter that are written off as a reaction to the burrito at lunch and being over tired. When will those two ever see what we see? When will they finally figure it out? Will they both figure it out at the same time? Will they ever stop laughing at their friends when they try to clue them in? Oh, we can't wait for the moment when they finally fall into each others arms. But every time it seems there is a glimmer of recognition, they look away and start talking about their kids baseball game, or suddenly notice that it's pouring rain and run into their separate cars.
Love is also good as a backdrop to other story lines. Love causes characters to make that fatal mistake that messes up their best laid plans to become stockbrokers, or rob a convenience store, or finally do right by their long lost child. The loss of love drives characters to commit gruesome murders, or to become overly involved in their children's lives, or to debauchery, or world travel.
Yep, love is a writer's best friend... or wait, is it really just friendship, or the beginning of a torrid romance?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Books that Inspire

In the beginning, most of my writing was poetry. I started writing poetry when I was 13 and continued through to my late 20s when I started writing mostly short stories. Though I've almost exclusively focused on novel writing since my mid 30s, occasionally a poem will still find me. In fact it was a poem I wrote today that gave me the idea for this blog.
 "Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle" - perhaps the best book of poetry ever compiled for teenagers - was a big inspiration for getting me excited about writing. My pediatrician had a copy in her waiting room, and for me it was instant love. I still have the copy I got back then - a full forty years ago - the cover, of course, quite tattered. I've even taken it off the shelf a couple of times recently to recite a poem to my boyfriend. While my son was growing up, I on many occasions read poems from it to him. When his second grade teacher started getting the kids interested in poems I lent it to her and she picked out a few that she felt would be perfect for kids even that age. Yes, while many books are entertainment or a peek into a new world giving new understanding, often a book can open up a new world, lead to new adventures, inspire greatness or creativity.
Just yesterday I joined Goodreads because I heard it is a great place for authors to get their work reviewed. Right away the site asks you to rate books you've already read. Based on what you say your reading interests are, lists are presented to you. I've always felt that I don't read as much as I'd like to, but book after book that I've enjoyed over the years came up and yes, with so many of them I was able to reflect instantly on how they helped inspire and grow my writing or other aspects of my life. It was a fun and unexpected trip down memory lane.
Of course as a writer, it would be the ultimate high to know that you've inspired someone.
I'd love to hear which books inspired you and in what ways.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Writers' Groups

Since novelists spend a lot of time in isolation tapping away on keyboards creating new worlds, having any sense of perspective about our work is a constant struggle. For me, one effort towards this end is to be part of a writer's group. There are all sorts of different groups, and I've tried a few.
I've been in groups where writers socialize and have speakers talk about writing. These groups are great for networking, encouragement, and gaining insights about issues of concern to writers. I went to one such group last night, VillageWritingSchool.
Other groups I've participated in consist of writer's socializing briefly, then reading their work aloud to the group who then claps. Often a couple dozen participants or so - from a pool of many more - show up each time, and the group meets once a month. Usually, because of the group size, reading is kept to under five minutes. There's a lot to be said for getting your work out there on this level. For writer's who are newly introducing their work to the public this can feel like a safe way to do it, and some writer's do not like to be influenced by feedback early on in the creative process. A group like this I've started going to lately is Howl Women's Open Mic. I also frequently go to Poet Luck at Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow.
My favorite groups though, are those that consist of 6 - 12 regular participants, meet on a regular basis two to four times a month. Writer's read their work aloud, and feedback is strongly encouraged. In these groups, feedback is in the form of encouragement/praise and constructive criticism (emphasis on constructive). When critiquing fellow participants' work fellow writers usually say what they liked best about what was read and then give suggestions on what could maybe be improved or clarified.
These groups give writers perspective on their work, provide people who are going to notice if they've been writing or not, keep writer's from being lazy about what they do write. Knowledge about grammar, publishing, plotting etc is also bantered about. Frequently, a word or phrase is thrown out each meeting as a suggested writing prompt for inspiration.
I've been fortunate enough to have belonged to two such groups. One was on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We met in the back room of a restaurant (we had a view of boat docks), there was no charge for the room and the group was free. The man who started it was our first moderator, he would just keep us on topic and make sure everyone got to read. I became the second moderator (and was nicked named Margret Thatcher for keeping everyone focused on writing and not everything else under the sun). It was through this group that I got my first paid writing job. A local weekly paper, about all things boating, approached the group looking for a new reporter - I jumped on board without hesitating. The second group I belonged to was in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where I still live. We met at a writer's retreat Writer's Colony at Dairy Hollow, which provided a free space for us and again the group was free. We also had a moderator, which changed a number of times. This group disbanded some time ago, but many of us are still in contact. Though the group consisted mainly of writer's who had not been published much, I'm very proud to be able to say that since the group's demise, one of the writers, Iris Jones Simantel, had the book she'd been working  on, Far From the East End, win a contest which led to getting it published in print, and becoming a top seller. Sweetly, she gave those of us in the group a nod of gratitude in her acknowledgments. She's now published a second book, GI-Bride, and another writer in our group, Woody Barlow, just e-published his novel, Tarzan-wore-Chaps.
The group was extremely encouraging in convincing me that there is an appreciative audience for my novel, "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe," so now it's time for me to get my work out there!