Archive for the ‘Bisexual Fiction’ Category

Rainbow Road, by Alex Sanchez (2005)

In the final installment of the Rainbow Boys trilogy, Jason, Kyle, and Nelson embark on a cross-country trip to L.A., where Jason has been invited to speak at the opening of a gay high school. Kyle and Jason are each nervous that so much concentrated time together might be detrimental to their relationship, but the lure of the open road and the promise of sleeping next to each other every night for two weeks is too good to resist. Nelson is along for the ride (after all, it’s his car), but his incessant smoking and flamboyance (particularly in redneck country) put everyone on edge.

On their trip, each boy confronts his own expectations about what it means to be gay or bisexual, worthy of love, and in a relationship. Nelson, Jason, and Kyle meet a number of characters, from Horn-Boy and Lady Bugger, members of a free-spirited gay mountain sanctuary; to BJ, a transgender teen outside of New Orleans who’s a dead-ringer for Britney Spears; to “heteroflexible” university students in Texas; to a gay couple celebrating their twenty-year anniversary—each of whom serves to broaden the friends’ definitions of themselves and each other.

Jason shrugged and sipped some of his Coke. He didn’t really like to label himself as “bi” because it made him feel like he didn’t belong in either group, straight or gay. Besides, he was boyfriends with Kyle, so didn’t that mean he was gay? He wanted to ask Evie and Keesha more about how they dealt with their “heteroflexibility.” Were they still attracted to guys? Did they feel like they fit in with hundred-percent lesbians?

Sanchez (2005), p. 130

In his third and final Rainbow Boys book, Sanchez shows the myriad ways in which people identify and express themselves, a furthering of the “coming out,” in that the label one gives oneself is often not completely accurate or fully inclusive. Coming out—again, that “lifelong process”—is more than an event. It is a journey to happiness. Rainbow Road is a testament to that.

Sanchez, A. (2005). Rainbow road. New York: Simon Pulse.

Lambda Literary Award 2005 Finalist

New York Public Library 2006 “Book for the Teen Age”

American Library Association 2009 “Popular Paperback for Young Adults”

Rainbow High, by Alex Sanchez (2003)

Rainbow High picks up right where Rainbow Boys leaves off. Kyle, Nelson, Jason, and others at Whitman High School are successful in starting a Gay-Straight Alliance, and meetings begin with the hope that they will help to alleviate some of the rampant homophobia in the school’s hallways. Kyle and Jason are together, but not publicly. Nelson has a new boyfriend, but he’s HIV positive, and Nelson’s nervous about his own HIV status after an unsafe one-night fling and how it will affect his relationship with Jeremy. Kyle has come out to his parents: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My mom cried that she’d never have grandkids. My dad argued all this stuff about it being a choice—the wrong choice. I told him it’s not like I asked to be gay. It’s just the way I am” (Sanchez, 2003, p. 4). Kyle endures taunts from his swim teammates and can’t count on his coach to back him up, but soon realizes he has an ally in his dad. Jason’s experience in coming out to his dad ended badly in the first book; his dad left the house in a rage, calling his son a “maricón.” Jason worries that by coming out to his own coach—and the rest of his team—he is putting a much-needed university scholarship in jeopardy. He seeks advice from the GSA advisor, art teacher Ms. MacTraugh:

“Coming out is a life-long process,” Ms. MacTraugh continued. “Each time we meet someone new or move to a different setting, we’re challenged to reveal who we are. It’s not always easy. But no matter how difficult, it’s something I’ve never regretted. So few things in life truly matter. Chief among them are being true to yourself, and being honest with others.”

Sanchez (2003), p. 69

Throughout the book we see that coming out to their parents and close friends is only one of the first steps in the “life-long process” for these teens. Jason, in particular, is seen as a role-model because of his basketball star status. Time after time he’s told to come out, or not come out, for that very reason. What will his teammates say? What will the school at large think? Does he have a responsibility to maintain a certain image because that’s what people expect? While Kyle has indeed come out at school (having added “AND PROUD” to the “QUEER” scratched into his locker door) he has yet to experience being part of a public couple, or to talk about boyfriend troubles with his mom. Sanchez‘s second book in the Rainbow Boys trilogy wrestles with these issues frankly, revealing the pain and triumphs for teens just beginning the “life-long process” of coming out.

Sanchez, A. (2003). Rainbow high. New York: Simon Pulse.

Lambda Literary Award 2003 Finalist

New York Public Library 2004 “Book for the Teen Age”

Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez (2001)

The most amazing thing was how Nelson talked about all this stuff in front of his own mom. She even subscribed to XY magazine for him.

“How did you ever tell her?” Kyle wanted to know.

Nelson lit a cigarette. “You kidding? She knew before I did. I’m her fucking cause.”

Sanchez (2001), p. 14

In Alex Sanchez’s book, Rainbow Boys, we’re introduced to three characters who are in various phases of confronting their sexuality. Kyle is a shy, straight-laced swimmer who knows he’s gay but hasn’t come out to his parents or at school. Nelson is his outspoken friend, gay and proud and lucky to have an ally in his mom (she’s the president of the local PFLAG chapter), yet he faces unrelenting harassment on a daily basis at school. Jason is a popular basketball player who suspects he may be bisexual, but fears the wrath of his alcoholic, homophobic father if he were to come out—not to mention, he has a girlfriend.

Sanchez deftly portrays each character and his point-of-view—the chapters alternate between Kyle, Nelson, and Jason—and it’s a riveting read. Will Kyle ever get up the nerve to tell Jason how he feels about him? Does Nelson like Kyle as more than a friend, and if so, how does Kyle feel about him? Can Jason love his girlfriend, Debra, yet have these unexplained feelings for other boys? We are drawn into the boys’ world, and with them we face typical teen worries (about popularity, sex, friends, sports, weight, braces) as well as those challenges facing gay teens in particular. While Kyle and Jason must come out to their families and friends (and each does so to varying responses), the real issue is whether they can be truthful to themselves.

Sanchez, A. (2001). Rainbow boys. New York: Simon Pulse.

American Library Association 2002 “Best Book for Young Adults”

New York Public Library 2002 “Book for the Teen Age”

Lambda Literary Award 2001 Finalist

Peter, by Kate Walker (1991)

Peter, written by Kate Walker, is a 1991 novel (published by Houghton Mifflin in the US in 1993) set in Australia, where a 15-year-old boy named Peter suddenly begins to grapple with his sexuality. Peter rides his motorbike on some family property in a suburban development area and has to fend for himself with some hooligan “townies” that he is afraid of. He is always being accused of being too soft and of not being willing to stand up for himself. His peers constantly talk about how they can sleep with a girl, any girl, and how any guy who does not fight or go after girls with such zeal is a “poof.”

Peter does not “come out” as such, given that the story ends somewhat unresolved in determining what his sexuality may be. This is a story of self-exploration and subjective attraction. David, a gay friend of Peter’s uber-masculine brother Vince, becomes a role model to Peter and makes him start questioning who (or which sex) he likes. After meeting David, Peter is come on to by a fast-moving girl whom he rejects, instigating more self-doubt as more friends and peers start questioning whether Peter is a “poof.”

It is with the accusations of being a homosexual that Peter gets indicators of how his parents would react if he formally came out as gay to them. His mother is a no-nonsense, progressive-minded nurse who encourages her kids to express themselves and try things out.  “She’s great, you’d like her” (p. 3) he tells the readers in an aside. She knows that Vince is friends with 20-year-old David, who is gay, but is sensible enough to not jump to conclusions and often invites David to the house for dinner. When there are unspoken indicators that Peter may also be gay, she reminds him that his father will “never withdraw support” in spite of disagreements fathers and sons may have (p. 135), in effect showing that she will not, either. Peter’s father is going through something of a mid-life crisis after the divorce and is very concerned about his image and his boys being sufficiently masculine. He comes to the scene when things go awry, in this case because “the whole neighborhood could be thinking [our] son is queer” (p. 110). He also believes that David has been making moves on his son.

Peter gets support from three fronts. He first makes an anonymous call to a teen hotline where a seemingly indifferent counselor comes through for him by saying he is young, has to experiment, and must not base what he should feel based on what his peers say or may present themselves as being. The second comes from tough love from his brother, who pushes him to resolve his own issues and not worry about what other people think. Finally, he gets support from David, who tells him that Peter’s experience of discovering sexuality is very different from his own (David knew that he was gay from the age of twelve, and never wavered), and that being fifteen leaves many years for Peter to sort matters out. David offers his friendship and support, but clearly says that there is no chance of a relationship due to their age difference and his friendship with Vince.

Peter is a unique story in that it offers support to teens facing coming out, but also allows for readers to embrace more fluid interpretations of their sexuality that live outside of labels.

Walker, K. (1991). Peter. Norwood, S. Aust: Omnibus.