Writing fiction is an odd journey into self-discovery, and my current work in progress is opening up new doors in my life. This book is the ninth manuscript I’ve written. It’s the second book in my Merindah Park series, and probably the greatest stretch in terms of characterization that I’ve written to date. The heroine, Rachel Alexandria Bassett, identifies as bisexual. This wasn’t a deliberate choice, but rather one that simply happened organically as she appeared in the first book. I hummed and hawed about this subconscious appearance of her identity for ages. Not because I worried about showing her identity with care, but because I worry that it looks like a trend based choice. It’s not.
As part of the background research into this aspect of Rachel’s character, I discovered the Kinsey Scale. As a scientist by training, I love graphs, and this one spoke to me in a way which made a whole lot of sense in my life. I’ve always been comfortable with having a wide range of sexual thoughts and attractions, yet didn’t have a way of expressing what this meant in terms of ‘where I belonged’. The Kinsey Scale is seventy years-old, and there are over 200 more recent scales and studies looking at the subject in more detail, including the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid which includes emotional and social orientation.
The Kinsey Scale (thanks to the Kinsey Institute)
The Kinsey Scale was developed by Dr Kinsey, W Pomeroy, and C Martin in the 1940s, as they interviewed thousands of people about their sexual history. Published in 1948, the scale outlined a way to show that sexuality is a range – people aren’t exclusively either heterosexual or homosexual. The scale ranges from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual).
So what about me? I’m not 0 on the scale, but more of a 1.5. There are plenty of moments in my forty years which make this obvious to me and anyone paying attention. Looking around at my friendship groups, and how easily I connect to people all across the Kinsey Scale, this shouldn’t have been a such a moment of realisation. Some of my friends will read this post and laugh, “yeah, we knew already.” I guess I did too, I just didn’t have a concrete way to describe myself. Did I mention I like graphs? The Kinsey Scale won’t suit everyone as a descriptive method, but it works for me in my journey of self-discovery. A 2015 study in the UK found that 72% of respondents described themselves as 0 (fully heterosexual) – that leaves 28% of the population spread over the rest of the scale.
2015 YouGov survey results (via YouGov)
In practical terms, this doesn’t change anything in my life. I’m currently in a long-term heterosexual relationship, and my being open about my thoughts won’t change that. Before writing anything about this topic, my partner and I discussed it. He also thinks it won’t change anything in our relationship, except perhaps when I mention that a woman is hot, we can connect over that! Or maybe what I like isn’t what he likes. Either way, it will be interesting.
Back to Rachel and the Merindah Park series, the other question that now arises is whether I use the #ownvoices tag to market this book. I’m leaning towards NOT using it. I’m happy to be ‘out’, so to speak, but since I describe myself as cis-(mostly)het, rather than bi, I feel like it’s not my tag to own. And I don’t want to take the tag away from people who understand these issues better than I do, or give the impression I’m grandstanding. At this stage, I’m going to listen to other people, and focus on writing Rachel’s character with as much nuance and care as possible.