Let’s all give a warm welcome to Laura Pohl who is here to talk about what bisexual means to her! (And when you’re done reading this, be sure to order her book The Last 8 which came out yesterday :D)
I can’t remember the first time I used the word ‘bisexual’ to describe myself.
So many people talk about their moments, the instant they realized that something clicked. For me it was more like a journey—not the mountain climbing type, mind you, but that one long stretch of road where you get to stop and see the flowers. It didn’t have one specific moment, one inevitable crush, a feeling so overwhelming you can’t ignore. I guess that’s part of the importance of intersection, too: I figured out I was aromantic long before I realized I was bi.
I don’t think I can talk about one without the other. It’s a part that comes hand in hand in my identity, in the way I talk about relationships and attraction and romance. I was fifteen when I realized I’d never fallen in love and maybe never would, I was fifteen when a friend told me she’d kissed another girl and I found out that it was a possibility and it was okay, too. I hadn’t used words for any of that—I didn’t feel the need to describe it yet, I didn’t know myself enough then.
It’s why writing YA has always felt so interesting to me. It’s a world where teens are allowed to explore who they are. Teens don’t know themselves yet—it’s more of a journey. It’s about finding out who you want to be, but also, about figuring out your place in the world, and how you can describe yourself. How you can use the words that exist to help you fit somewhere.
I didn’t get to read many books where characters were openly bisexual or even described themselves that way until I was in college. Even then, I knew something about myself: maybe I didn’t fall in love with people, but that didn’t stop me thinking that they were pretty. I’d been described by friends as ‘picky’ about guys—I never thought they looked good or hot enough, and only years later I realized it was because I liked girls much more than I liked guys. Having a word for it makes it easier, but it doesn’t exactly encompass the whole experience.
That’s the thing about using words and labels. They can help you along, but they never encompass the whole.
I never thought I’d sell a book if I wrote an openly bisexual protagonist. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to ever write romance between two girls when I first started writing, that it was a thing I could do. It came to me in very small steps—a side character who fell in love with another girl, then only one of the storylines, then a main character, all by herself. It felt like a victory, like a defiance, like I was finally being able to write a piece of myself into the narrative, and I was completely okay with it.
Still, I’d be hesitant at first to describe myself as bisexual. Although I was clearly more attracted to girls, it took me a while to define myself with the word. People around me didn’t really talk about their sexualities (mostly because they were all straight), so I didn’t feel like I needed to. I also kept trying to validate myself, as the world tries to put us into a box—am I really bi if I haven’t kissed any girls? How can I tell if I’m really attracted to them or is this just something my mind is making up because I’m bored?
The fact is, these questions kept me guessing, kept me at bay, from using my identity. Not just using it, but claiming it as my own. Because the thing about using a word that you can identify yourself with is not about you fitting into a box. It’s about something that fits you.
My experience is like many other people’s, girls, boys, and all the other genders. We all experience questions. We all want to find this little box to fit in, we want to be able to use something without having doubts—but the thing about sexuality is that it’s fluid, it changes, and each experience shapes us differently. There isn’t just one way to be bisexual.
Because in the end, it never comes down to a moment, or it never comes down to a single word. You can’t make yourself so small that you fit into a tiny space. Be big. Be bold. Be whatever you want to be. You don’t have to limit yourself to one experience, to one meaning.
I spent so many years being afraid of defining myself that I forgot that words are there to help. They are there to show that this can be possible. It’s why representation is so important—to show that there can be more than one experience, more than one thing, to have something to choose from. To show people that it’s about being comfortable with your labels and not afraid of what they might mean to someone else.
They are about you.
I don’t remember the first time I’ve used ‘bisexual’ to describe me, but I remember every time I’ve used it since.
Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature.
She is the author of THE LAST 8 (Sourcebooks, 2019). When not writing, she likes reading science fiction and fantasy, and enjoys deep discussions about conspiracy theories and alien life. Learn more about her on her website (www.onlybylaura.com), and make sure to follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
THE LAST 8
A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave
Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.
When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.
Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe… or who to trust.
Content warning: PTSD, depression, suicide attempt.
Releases on March 5th, 2019.