I have another short essay (essaylet?) on writing in the “Fic, Fandom & Sexuality” issue of Spark! (No. 43, 22 November 2018). I repost it here for those who may be interested.
As a bisexual feminist, it’s been important to me from the beginning of my participation in fandom to write bisexual characters, particularly bisexual male characters. I do this for two reasons.
First, because bi erasure—particularly dismissal of bisexuality as a valid form of desire for cis men—is an ongoing problem in queer spaces.
Second, because it is a way of taking men with canonical m/f relationships and queering them without invalidating their past intimacy with women.
Currently, I’m working on a piece of Jimmy Perez/Duncan Hunter fic (Shetland) where I am navigating the fact that both Jimmy and Duncan have lost a wife and lover who was a woman, who was an important relationship in both of their lives, and figuring them both as bisexual means I can honour her place in their sexual histories while also bringing the two men together. I really like having the chance to make a narrative more complicated than either/or.
I also take particular pleasure in writing stories where older people discover that as they age their sexual desires shift in new ways—not in the sense of long-denied desire surfacing, but in the sense of recognised but marginalised desires taking on new salience, or surprising new desires taking shape.
I tend to write relationship-first stories, wherein the characters are more invested in nurturing relationships that feel right to them than they are in ensuring their relationships neatly map onto some sense of fixed orientation. And that, too, is a political decision (for me as a writer) because our culture is so strongly invested in “born this way” notions of sexual identity.
Such an understanding, requiring fixity of desire across a lifetime, does not accurately reflect the full range of human relational possibility. So I use fic whenever I can to advance a more fluid understanding of desire that focuses less on identity and more on individual people and the joy they bring to one another. And then I let the identity of each character grow out of those encounters.