BookTok’s Role in Bisexual Visibility
September 19, 2022
With books that have gone viral, readers all over BookTok (a community of readers on TikTok) are celebrating bisexual representation.
Bisexual Awareness Week began on September 16th and Bi Visibility Day is on September 23. Both aim to increase awareness about bisexuality, including learning about bi stereotypes, validating bisexuality and becoming a stronger ally to bi folks.
Via BookTok, books including LGBTQ+ characters have gained popularity. After speaking with teens who identify as bi, I discovered that many bisexual teens have found comfort in titles like these.
Without further ado, here are some highly recommended books that include iconic (in my opinion!) bisexual characters.
“Conversations with Friends” by Sally Rooney
From the beginning, the main character, Frances, openly identifies as bisexual. Rooney describes Frances feeling sexually attracted to a male character, Nick, and more emotionally attracted to a female character, Bobbi. Through the characters, we see that bisexuality isn’t simply “alternating between heterosexuality and homosexuality.”
This shows readers that it’s OK to be attracted to more than one gender at the same time and the bi representation has pleased many readers. “I think representation matters because it gives you a sense of pride and joy,” says Illenia, 18, of San Diego, CA. “It illustrates something that may not be talked about in your everyday environment.”
“Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston
In “Red, White & Royal Blue,” Alex Claremont-Diaz struggles with his sexual orientation and coming out to his family. Many teens experience “internalized biphobia”—a feeling of self-hatred about how you identify that may come from messages you’ve heard from other people or in the media.
Alex initially wishes that he could lean into what he feels would be “normal” attraction, just toward girls. Gauri, 17, of South Brunswick, NJ, can relate to this: “As a bisexual person, I struggled with feeling that my attraction toward girls was less valid than my attraction to guys.” Other bisexual teens relate to this story as well. “I was comforted in the way that Alex’s story seemed similar to mine,” says Amanda, 19, of Youngstown, OH. “It made me more comfortable realizing that I’m not alone.”
“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
And finally, one of my favorite books: “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.” Like the title says, Evelyn does indeed have seven different husbands at various points in her life. However, she also has Celia, the woman she loves secretly. At one point, Evelyn is unintentionally outed when her husband opens an old love letter she received from Celia. As a result, Evelyn experiences biphobia from her husbands and later on, even Celia herself. She is judged for not “picking a side.”
Many bisexual teens struggle to come out because they fear backlash from their family and friends. “I personally haven’t come out because of fear that I’ll damage my close relationships,” says Anindiya, 19, of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This book showed me that it’s important to respond with understanding and support when someone comes out.
Heading in the Right Direction
While we’ve seen an increase in bisexual characters in literature, readers want to continue to see thoughtful bi characters with diverse backgrounds in the future. “Though there isn’t nearly enough representation,” says Orli, 17, of Sydney, Australia, “I think we are heading in the right direction based on the immense popularity of books like these.”
By adding these books to your shelves, you can learn more about yourself and others around you.
Photo by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash