The following is an excerpt from my award winning book, 99 Erics: a Kat Cataclysm faux novel — a silly, surreal, sex-positive tale about an absurdist short fiction writer who dates ninety-nine different people named Eric for literature’s sake. Given this premise, I realized early on in the writing process that some readers would initially presume that Kat must be heterosexual (due to her dating men), and thus might be “surprised” to later find out that she is in fact bisexual. So I wrote this chapter (“Bomb”) to defuse this and other straight assumptions readers may potentially be harboring.
Okay, so now I feel like there is this bomb just sitting here in the pages of this book. Because in the last chapter, I casually introduced the fact that I am queer, mentioned my partner Matilda, and alluded (albeit via second-person point of view) to us sharing a large assortment of infrequently used sex toys. And let’s be honest, this shouldn’t really be a bomb; it should just be a small info drop — like in Chapter 2, when I briefly mentioned dropping out of grad school. Your reaction should be, “Okay, now we have learned a little bit more about this protagonist who we are only now just starting to get to know.”
In a perfect world, the whole thing would be just that: a small info drop. But we don’t live in that world. Rather, we live in one with a long history of unscrupulous writers who purposefully treat their character’s sexual minority status as though it were a time bomb that they set to detonate well into the story for maximum effect. “Oh my god, it turns out he’s gay!” “Holy cow, she used to be a man!” “Criminy, this changes everything!”
But here’s the thing: We all know that people who are gay, or transgender, or kinky, or sex workers, and so on, exist. In fact, if you sit down and actually do the math (as I have, because I love math!), each of these groups is more prevalent in the U.S. population than plumbers, stamp collectors, or people from Wyoming. Not to mention people who drop out of graduate-level linguistics programs. But if I were to mention that a character in this book falls into one of these latter categories, you probably wouldn’t blink an eye. At the very most, you might be mildly surprised. But you certainly wouldn’t consider it to be a “plot twist.”
If, over the course of this book, I ever reveal to you that one of the characters is a time traveler, or has superpowers, or is a cloned version of another human being, then by all means, feel free to be surprised, as none of these things are known to exist in real life. If I mention that one of the Erics used to be six-foot-five but has since become five-foot-three, you will have every right to be shocked, as dramatic shrinking is not a part of the human experience. But sexual minorities are. We are part of the fabric of life, which, if you were to touch it, would probably feel like velour, or perhaps corduroy.
Anyway, unscrupulous writers craft time bombs out of their characters’ sexual histories and proclivities. But not me. I am a one-woman bomb squad! And I am here to defuse these assumptions-in-the-form-of-time-bombs one by one. So here we go:
Assumption #1: Oh, you’re a lesbian. But then why are you dating all these men named Eric?
Okay, see, there is this word called “bisexual.” And it’s a fairly common word, one that almost everyone knows. Your next-door neighbor knows it. Your grandmother knows it. Your teenaged nieces and nephews know it. And so on. But unfortunately, despite knowing the word, many people tend to be really bad at applying this knowledge to actual real-life situations. For instance, in response to me describing myself as bisexual, some straight people will say, “No, I think you must really be a lesbian who’s too afraid to fully own it” — as if their heterosexuality somehow gives them piercing insight into the lesbian experience. And some gay people will say, “No, you’re merely a heterosexual who is sexually experimenting” — despite the obvious fact that they live in a you’re-not-gay-it’s-just-a-phase glass house themselves, and they really shouldn’t be throwing stones.
So to be clear, I am bisexual: I don’t limit my dating pool to members of a single gender. And you don’t have to relate to or understand that experience in order to accept that fact. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would become a plumber, or stamp collector, or Wyomingite (yes, that’s what they’re called, I looked it up), but I will never doubt these people’s existences, nor do their proclivities drive me into a frenzy of consternation.
Assumption #2: But wait, if Matilda is your partner, then you must be cheating on her. With Erics, no less!
So Matilda and I are ethically non-monogamous. Or polyamorous, if you prefer that term. Which can mean different things to different people. But in our case, it means that we are primary partners, but we can also be romantic or sexual with other people within certain parameters that we have established together.
Being ethically non-monogamous suits us, in part, because we both have aspects of our sexuality that we cannot readily explore with one another. Being bisexual, I sometimes enjoy dating and fooling around with men. And while I can be somewhat kinky at times, Matilda is into more hardcore BDSM and role-play, which is not my thing. Like, for me personally, sexual arousal and pain exist at opposite ends of the enjoy/not-enjoy experiential continuum. And role-playing doesn’t work for me because I am not a good actor — I can only play the part of Kat Cataclysm. On top of that, I like making jokes during sex, which isn’t conducive to creating a supposedly serious scene.
Assumption #3: But Matilda must be dismayed by the prospect of you dating all these Erics!
Actually, she is somewhat amused by it. She thinks it’s weird, but then again, she likes the fact that I am weird. She finds it endearing. Probably because she’s weird too.
To be honest, Matilda is far more concerned about the fact that I am a writer than she is about the fact that I am dating a plethora of Erics. She worries that I will mine all of our most precious moments together and/or all the sordid and not-so-glamorous parts of our relationship, and like, fashion stories out of them. As writers often do. So she made me promise not to write in depth about our relationship. Which is why you will never stumble upon a book called 1 Matilda. At least not written by me.
I should also mention that Matilda isn’t even her real name. She won’t let me use her real name because she is a Democratic operative — seriously, that’s what people who work for the Democratic party call themselves — “operatives” — as if they were fucking spies or some shit. And all her coworkers, who fancy themselves as open-minded liberals, and who often pat themselves on the back for being so accepting of gay people such as Matilda, would hypocritically freak out if they were to learn that she was in an ethically non-monogamous relationship with a bisexual woman who dates lots of Erics. Not to mention all the BDSM and role-playing on her part.
Assumption #4: I heard that bisexuals are really promiscuous and unable to commit to relationships, so it makes sense that you are polyamorous and seeking out lots of men named Eric.
Fuck you. And fuck your stereotype trap.
What is a “stereotype trap,” you ask? Well, it’s a logical fallacy that goes something like this:
A) Negative stereotype exists about minority group X.
B) Minority person Y seems to fit that stereotype.
C) Therefore, the stereotype about group X must be true.
(Alternately, if you’re an “upstanding” member of group X, then you might accuse person Y of “reinforcing” those stereotypes, thereby holding back the entire group.)
Here’s the thing though: Everybody is different. And even within relatively small minority groups, people will fall all over the map, and have all sorts of different personalities. That’s why I call it a stereotype trap: because some members of the group will inevitably resemble the stereotype. But that doesn’t make the stereotype true.
So when confronted by peddlers of stereotypes, rather than engage them in the pointless this-stereotype-is-true-versus-false game, the most effective and emotionally rewarding response is to simply say “fuck you.”
Which is why I said “fuck you” just a moment ago. In response to those stereotypes.
Okay, I am done holding your hand and walking you through all this now.
You can learn more about 99 Erics via that link. And you can read excerpts from five other chapters — Ethical Slut vs. Confused Slut, Posers, Lady Parts, The One & Only Writing Tip You Will Ever Need, and Banana Slug of a Different Color — right here on Medium!