Exploration may translate into an affirmative bisexual identity. In the genre of science fiction, writers have created worlds in which bisexuality is the cultural norm. Ursula K. Le Guin, in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and Robert A. Heinlein, in Friday (1982), depict openly bisexual characters. In Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), Marge Piercy offers a future in which women, freed from childbearing, explore lesbian relationships while maintaining their connections with men. Leaving behind contemporary societal baggage, writers imagine bisexuality to be a normative identity.
Positive depictions of bisexuals are, however, rare. In Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy (1979), the bisexual man is a threat to the gay identity of his lover. In Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (1980), he is the image of sleaze and marital deceit. Beyond Therapy, Christopher Durang’s 1982 satire, includes a vapid bisexual in a world of equally quirky monosexuals. Thus, bisexuals are portrayed most often either as menaces to straight and gay societies or as careless clowns in the circus of sexual liberty.
As awareness of human sexuality expands, however, and as gay culture embraces bisexuals and transgendered persons, affirmative portrayals emerge. A classic work is James Baldwin’s Another Country (1960), in which an array of ethnically diverse characters seek love and sexual fulfillment. Baldwin, himself primarily homosexual, infused the work with respect, compassion, and complexity. Baldwin’s seeming heir is E. Lynn Harris, whose first three novels— Invisible Life (1994), Just as I Am (1994), and And This Too Shall Pass (1996)—explore bisexuality in an African American milieu, including positively self-identified bisexuals and supportive gays and straights. Marge Piercy’s Summer People (1989) offers an affirmative portrait of a married couple and their shared female lover. Like the experience of other oppressed or unconventional groups, the emergence of bisexuals in literature validates the life choices of all who sense that they belong somewhere between exclusive homosexuality and exclusive heterosexuality.