Please welcome Carrie Pack to LGBTQ Reads! I met Carrie at RT in Las Vegas, when I was dancing around to every rainbow-flagged table in the room and froze at the sight of her beautiful cover, and now her book is out, you can buy the cover for yourself, and you can read this guest post!
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When I started writing In the Present Tense, I knew I wanted an intersectionally diverse cast of characters. I was already writing LGBTQ characters, so that part was a no-brainer. But this time, I wanted more racial diversity. And not because I wanted to check boxes or fill a quota, but because I’m sick of the whitewashing of the entire entertainment industry. I’m appalled that when I read a book I default to imagining the characters as white. I’m angry that American media have conditioned me this way, and I’m bored with this homogenized view of the world. There are so many stories to tell that aren’t about white, cisgender, heterosexual people and they can and should be told.
But simply put, there are certain stories that I can’t write because they’re not mine to tell. I am not the person to tell the story of what it’s like to live as a person of color because I am white. But I can make sure that my characters aren’t “white by default.” So I wrote a bisexual bi-racial man whose mother is black and father is white. I wrote a first-generation Colombian woman. I wrote a gay Korean adoptee. However, I did not write about their struggles or challenges as those identities.
Instead, I wrote about something I know: mental illness and the effect it has on the people we love. (I have depression and anxiety.) But what I didn’t realize at the time was that I was also writing about my sexuality. What I didn’t realize until it was all written was that I am bisexual.
Even now it’s tough for me to say it. To claim it outright. To not feel the need to excuse it or qualify it.
In fact, just a few months ago I wrote this in a blog post:
Ultimately, I don’t identify as bisexual… I have exclusively been in relationships with men my entire life. And since I’m happily married, I don’t see that changing any time soon. Even though I am occasionally attracted to women, my sexual feelings toward women are far less pronounced than the attraction I experience toward men… [Bisexual is] just not my label.
But the truth is, it is my label. I can claim it because it’s my identity. I am bisexual. There is no test to qualify. No requisite number of female partners. I am attracted physically and romantically to women. I am married to a man. These things can be true all at once.
I always leave little hints of myself and my loved ones in my characters. Little tiny Easter eggs that my friend and family may never find. So when I wrote Miles, the aforementioned bisexual man, I unknowingly left a little part of myself in his back story. Miles says that in high school, he thought he was only attracted to guys. He built his life around it. It wasn’t until much later he realized that girls were pretty great too. This was so similar to my experience that I can’t even believe I didn’t notice it before. I denied attraction to women because I had always been interested in men. Straight and gay were my only options, obviously. Isn’t that what the media tells us?
I think one of the reasons I never considered bisexuality when I was younger—despite several same sex attractions—was that I didn’t know it was an option. Fictional characters are always identified by the sex of their current partners. If a man who has always dated women is now dating a man, he’s suddenly gay. There is no room for fluidity.
It took me writing a book about a bisexual character for me to figure this out. I had to actually create the story in order for me to see myself reflected. It sounds almost rote at this point to say it, but I think it can’t be emphasized enough. Representation matters. It matters because there are still people out there who need to see themselves reflected in media. They need it because they need to be seen and they need to see possibility.
My name is Carrie, and I am bisexual.
Carrie is the author of two novels—Designs On You and In the Present Tense—and a part-time college professor. She recently left her job in marketing to actively pursue her writing career. Her early career focused on advertising, journalism, and public relations while she also did freelance writing for businesses in the nonprofit sector. Carrie lives in Florida, which she fondly calls America’s Wang, with her husband and four cats. Visit her website at carriepack.com or follow her on twitter @carriepack.