Purple Prose ushers in a new era of Bisexual Visibility

LouisaBook Reviews, Society & Entertainment, What The Matriarch Sees

Who can forget Little Britain‘s introduction to homosexuality?

It was clever comedy on so many levels; dealing with stereotypical perception that Bacardi and coke was clearly the drink of choice for ‘all gays’–god forbid they should drink a masculine pint of stout–that they should only dress in latex and tank tops, that Matt Lucas’ character felt so isolated and misunderstood as ‘the only gay in the village’ that he should reject the validity of anyone else’s queer identity and worse, shun their choices as ‘effeminate’. In under 3 minutes Matt and David also play with the aspect that there should be an existence of a ‘gay test’ and if you don’t pass it,

‘You’re probably not gay, you’re just a little bit poofy.’

Few could scream about discrimination. Matt Lucas is gay and David Walliams is camp so the British public also mistakenly identified him as gay. But David is attracted to people, over and above whether they identify as male or female. David is bisexual, or rather pansexual (since he appears to reject binary thinking–yay!).

Perhaps you too have questioned whether your sexuality is other than the hollywood heteronormative depiction but don’t quite match up to your own and society’s expectations of what being queer should constitute. If you, like me have felt any shame or denial about your sexuality–and if you’re British I would say that’s a certitude–Purple Prose, published yesterday by Thorntree Press, will help you where many LGBT communities still fail… if you do not pass the ‘gay test’.

“…it may seem odd that people whose own sexuality might have been excluded or undermined might want to undermine or exclude yours, but unfortunately it does happen. So keep remembering: it’s not about what you have or haven’t done and its not about what other people think.”–Purple Prose

This aspect of dual marginalisation of bisexuality is picked up from the outset in the book and comforts those who have searched hopelessly for acceptance in queer circles, or don’t feel that they are queer ‘enough’ to appropriate and/or undermine the LGBT struggle for acceptance but still feel at odds with the hackneyed heterosexual boilerplate.

My own self-identification happened late in life, not because my experiences with women weren’t already in their double digits, but because before I was thirty, being bisexual–calling myself bisexual–made me hate myself even more than I did already making bisexual denial the easier path to survival. Being British, my self-hatred was only visible through self-deprecation, keeping it in the bedroom and not blowing my own trumpet, something many Brits have been schooled to abhor as an ‘Americanism’. Being bisexual would make me look at myself differently in the mirror and if there was anything I wanted more in the world, it was to fit in. Eccentricity was the reserve of elderly uncles and I didn’t have the stature, or the courage, to pull it off.

Yet since I veered more towards male-presenting albeit androgynous partners, I was able to hide any hint of attraction behind a seemingly heterosexual veneer… and needless to say, that veneer cracked easily when I was down the pub, binge-drinking my bacardi and cokes on a Friday.

I’m painfully aware that I should need nothing other than my own decision to define as bisexual; that obtaining it through literature like Purple Prose passes the buck away from my own self-determination, of which I’m usually so proud. But relationships are mirrors, and when you’re bisexual the mirrors which surround us are black and white, either–or. You’re not 100% homosexual so you must be heterosexual because if not, you’re indecisive, deceitful, greedy or going through a phase.  Being polyamorous AND bisexual meant I was the greediest of the greedy, the most indecisive of the unwashed uncertain.

The ideas that Purple Prose lay out are not new; but they are published. Publication does a lot to validate ideas in our world since our collective unconscious recognises validity most often through third party verification. The gold for me in this book is that it is so distinctly British–using terminology like ‘snog’ and references to Clapham Common–and the British need it. As oh-so-painfully demonstrated by the Brexit fiasco, our nation is a nation of social division living in the past, where much of the mentality remains shamefully unchanged since Vanity Fair. Whilst my own social circle is mostly sex-positive, inclusive, and non-judgemental (well as much as humans can be) my background is firmly rooted in the ‘if you don’t talk about it, it will go away–close your eyes and think of England’ ethos. Denial and shame. Denial through shame.

Purple Prose is positioned as an anthology; I would say it’s more like a series of documentaries, each chapter introducing topics like dating and fictional bisexuality to bisexual black and minority people and lesser-spotted attractions (a very British pun on ornithology), with interview style passages from notable blogs and activists in the UK community. You can expect it to sit on your shelf as a reference book, proudly proclaiming your interest in, involvement with and acceptance of a sexuality–which if probability theory is anything to go by–includes most of us at some point in our lives, however you choose to practice it, or not. Verdict, highly recommended.

Buy the book


Full disclosure: Thorntree Press is also the publisher of my own books, whom I think are doing Very Important Work.