I’m a librarian so to say that books are important to me would be a gross understatement. Books saved me as 15 year old bi girl growing up in conservative Catholic Wisconsin, where I didn’t know any LGBTQ people and thought there was something wrong with me for thinking my boyfriend was hot and female friends were too. They helped me understand that I was not alone. They were my friends when no one understood, my rock when I needed support, and my joy when I read something particularly smart, funny, or just wonderful. I wouldn’t be as well adjusted and intelligent if not for queer books in general, but as a bisexual, the books on this list represent some of the finest nonfiction I have ever encountered on a subject near and dear to myself.
1. The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe: Quips, Tips, And Lists for Those Who Go Both Ways by Nicole Kristal and Mike Szymanski
This books is not only the first winner of the first Bisexual Lambda Literary Award in 2006, it is friggin’ hilarious. It is divided into sections, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, so it really has something for everyone. It includes the authors own personal experiences along the way, so it never becomes dry or academic. There is also all sorts of useful content, like a guide to Bi film, that you won’t find elsewhere. And because it is written for bisexuals by bisexuals, bisexuality is not just a token mention, it is the real focus. And it is very very funny, sarcastic, snarky, and generally just fun to read.
2. Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu
One of the most famous books about bisexuality and still one of the most important. In 1991 this book shattered the idea that there was a “typical” bisexual by challenging the stereotypes that still plague us today (namely that some people think we’re very very slutty). The book is a collection of personal stories, and you can hear from bisexuals in their own words about bi invisibility in the LGBTQ community and among straight people. It includes a history of bi activism in the USA (until 1991) and while it is getting a bit dated, it was one of the first books I read that made me feel like home, like I had found my people.
3. Bisexuality and Transgenderism: InterSEXions of the Others edited by Nathan Alexander and Karen Yescavage
This book is very eclectic. Its essays includes personal stories, poems, academic research, theory, film criticism, and history. But it confronts head on the controversy around the term bisexuality – is it inclusive or does it exclude trans people? Does it revolutionize gender or just reinforce binary? How does the term bisexuality interact with queer? And where do trans people and other gender benders fit in the bisexual world? Great questions, great anthology.
4. Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World edited by Robin Ochs and Sarah Rowley
Confession: I totally love Robin Ochs. Not only because she is the tireless face of bi activism, but because when she does something, she does it well. This book is no exception. The essays, written by bisexuals from around the world, give an international context to discussions about bisexuality that are so often limited by a Western (and American) world view. In reading them, I felt like I began to understand myself not just as one lone bi girl, but as a part of something bigger and worldwide. But it also confronted my particular white American bias when people spoke about conditions, situations, and cultures that challenged my assumptions about bisexuality and about the countries where the authors lived.
5. Bi Lives: Bisexual Women Tell Their Stories by Kata Orndorff
Bisexual women have issues of their own, namely an American culture that values female bisexuality if it exists for the pleasure of men, but denies female bisexuals their own sexual agency. The author interviewed numerous bisexuals of different stripes, including women of color and disabled bisexuals. The transcripts of these interviews make up this wonderful collection that hits all sorts of issues around bisexuality in the lives of everyday women. Some interviewees are out, some are not. Some have been victims of abuse. Most have faced discrimination from the gay and lesbian portions of the community and sexism from their straight friends and family. Even though it can tread on the depressing, the diversity of the bi community (good and bad) is important to understand.
6. Bi Men Coming Out Every Which Way edited by Pete Chvnay and Ron Jackson Suresha
Bi men have their own issues, namely exclusion and derision by gay men and the utter invisibility of bisexuality in men outside of the pervasive “sleazy married guy.” The men in this anthology come to bisexuality from various life paths, some previously identified as straight, some as gay. Some came out as bisexuals at an early age and others are still closeted, even to their closest friends. They talk about bisexuality in the era of AIDS and the intersection with bear culture (the authors previously did a bear anthology). As a bi woman, this book helped me understand the male half of the bi community better.
7. Current Research on Bisexuality by Ronald Fox
This book is a bit dry and academic, collecting the results of various scientific studies about bisexuals, bisexuality, non-monogamy, and cultural perceptions of these ideals. But it is important to understand how science works for us and against us. Since bi people are usually excluded from many scientific studies (apparently we’re too much of a variable for research in genetics, parenting, and pretty much anything else), Fox tells us what science does know about bisexuality. Great resource if you have a homophobic/biphobic relative, friend, or coworker that keeps insisting science is on his side.
8. Bi America: Myths, Truths, And Struggles Of An Invisible Community by William Burleson
This book specifically looks at the bisexual community, by going to bi picnics, conferences, support groups, and performances. It also looks at bi history. Especially if you feel like you are the only bisexual you know, this book is great. I think I always knew there must be a bi community out there somewhere, but this book showed me where it was, why I couldn’t find it on my own, and how to find it for myself. It made me feel less lonely.
9. Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions by Naomi Tucker
This book brings the theory. It can get boring to listen to the same stories of invisibility, stereotypes, and coming out over and over again. So this book gives a series of explanations for why we face these things and how to overcome them. It is more academic than some of the other books on this list, but it is also vital because it includes multicultural issues that often are overlooked when we focus solely on biphobia.
10. Eros: A Journey of Multiple Lovers by Serena Anderlini-D’Orofio
We spend so much time trying to combat the stereotype that all bisexuals are slutty, that we inadvertently condemn sex, sexuality, and any bisexual who is not monogamous. This autobiography of a bisexual polyamorous woman challenges the idea that there is something wrong with wanting male and female partners simultaneously and that a person who wants such things cannot be successful and happy. This controversial book asks the reader to challenge their own feelings about monogamy and hopes that there can be a space for bisexuals of all stripes, not just the monogamous bi poster children.
This article was first published on Bilerico.