Bisexual non-fiction by Black writers

SERIES: ASK THE BI PAN LIBRARY

Black writers on bisexuality and fluid sexuality

Hello 🙂 I have read some non-fiction about bisexuality but I have overwhelmingly just seen books by white people. Do you have any recommendations of bisexual non-fiction by Black writers?
Much love, Christine

Hi Christine, what a delightful question!

There is quite a bit of writing about bisexual and sexually fluid identity by Black writers, and I’ve compiled a booklist below across a variety of forms. A few of the individual essays are found in difficult-to-find out-of-print books, so if you are interested in a particular essay but cannot purchase or borrow the book yourself, please contact me to set up a viewing or scan of the library’s copy.

I also want to note that although this list focuses on published works (because that is what the Bi Pan Library primarily focuses on), printed-and-bound books are just one of many ways to engage with the deep well of Black bisexual/fluid experience and wisdom. Digital resources like blogs, social media, YouTube, and podcasts are also fantastic ways to connect with modern Black bisexual/fluid perspectives.

BOOKS focused on bi/fluid identity

Finding the B in LGBTQ+ History: Tips & Tools for Learning Bisexual+ History by Angélique Gravely

Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality by bisexual scholar and activist H. Sharif Williams, perhaps the most prominent living Black bisexual writer.

Black Enough Man Enough: Embracing My Mixed Race and Sexual Fluidity by Gee Smalls

ESSAYS

• “A New Politics of Sexuality” by June Jordan is a powerful piece of bisexual writing. It was originally published in The Progressive in 1991, but was later published in essay collections such as Some of Us Did Not Die. The Bi Pan Library has a copy of the original issue of The Progressive

• “Erotic Computer: Janelle Monáe’s Black Queer Femme Representation and the Lens of Audre Lorde’s Writing” by Jessica Brough(from The Bi-ble: New Testimonials)

‘I Still Feel Like I Can’t Quite Be Myself’: Bisexual Students’ Experiences with Invisibility, Marginalization, and — Exclusion Within LGBTQ+ Camps Spaces” by Jayna Tavarez(from The Bi-ble: New Testimonials)

• “Fluid Desire: Race, HIV/AIDS, and Bisexual Politics by Elias Farajaé aka Manuel Kalidas Congo (from Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions)

• “Politics of the Bisexual Deep-Fry” by Michèlle T. Clinton (from Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions)

• “Celebrating bisexuality, beyond the silos” edited by mpho ndaba

• Several sections that may be of interest to you in Sexuality, Religion and the Sacred: Bisexual, Pansexual and Polysexual Perspectivesparticularly “Part II: Indigenous and Decolonizing Spiritual Discourses”. 

• “Worth the Balancing” by Alan Silver (from Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out)

• Several personal narratives, poems, interviews, and art pieces in Plural Desires: Writing Bisexual Women’s Realities you may find interesting. Notably, it was published in collaboration with Sister Vision: Black Women & Women of Color Press.

• Several personal narratives from Black bi/pan/fluid men in Rec*og*nize the Voices of Bisexual Men, co-edited by H. Sharif Williams. 

• Several personal narratives from Black bi/pan/fluid people in Getting Bi : Voices of Bisexuals Around the World.

MEMOIR & BIOGRAPHY

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay covers her relationships with men and women. 

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow covers him questioning his sexuality and coming out as bisexual.

A Woman Like Me by Bettye LaVette covers her relationships with men and women.

• Any of bisexual humorist Samantha Irby’s essay collections (We Are Never Meeting in Real LifeWow No Thank You, and Meaty) discuss her love and sex life.

• The biography Alice Walker: A Life and Rebecca Walker’s memoir Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple) and her daughter Rebecca Walker (prominent activist, coined the term “third wave feminism”), both identify as bisexual. Rebecca has another memoir about parenting, called Baby Love : Choosing Motherhood after a Lifetime of Ambivalence.

Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood by June Jordan. I read this quite a while ago and do not recall if this book covered her bisexuality, but I do remember it was very good! 

POETRY ABOUT identity, LOVE AND SEXUALITY

Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan by June Jordan

The Body in Its Seasons and This Isn’t Godhood by Maz Hedgehog / M.S. Ikeji

Race. Resistance. Love. by H. Sharif Williams

books focused on THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE

I am including a short list of books about sexually fluid figures during the Harlem Renaissance because it is a fascinating and particularly well-documented period of Black bi/pan/fluid history.

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis

Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters by Donald Bogle

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments : Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

Christine, I hope this list helps you get started! I’m sure if you keep exploring, you’ll find new books and authors the Bi Pan Library should know about — stay in touch and let me know what we’re missing!

Do you have a question for the Bi Pan Library? Let us know what you’re searching for, we’re here to help.

16 Nonfiction Books to Help You Explore Outside the Gender Binary

16 Nonfiction Books to Help You Explore Outside the Gender Binary

Whether you’re newly questioning your gender, have known you’re nonbinary for a while and want to settle your roots deeper, or even if you’re cis and looking to learn more about how to support and respect your friends outside the binary, books are a great way to start. Different people need different kinds of maps when they set out exploring, so we’ve gathered 15 varied and easy-to-jump-into self help, personal essay, poetry, and memoir titles to send you on your way…

Whether you’re newly questioning your gender, have known you’re nonbinary for a while and want to settle your roots deeper, or even if you’re cis and looking to learn more about how to support and respect your friends outside the binary, books are a great way to start. Different people need different kinds of maps when they set out exploring, so we’ve gathered 15 varied and easy-to-jump-into self help, personal essay, poetry, and memoir titles to send you on your way…


EXPLORE THROUGH SELF-HELP BOOKS


How to Understand Your Gender: A Practical Guide for Exploring Who You Are by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker

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Have you ever questioned your own gender identity? Do you know somebody who is transgender or who identifies as non-binary? Do you ever feel confused when people talk about gender diversity?

This down-to-earth guide is for anybody who wants to know more about gender, from its biology, history and sociology, to how it plays a role in our relationships and interactions with family, friends, partners and strangers. It looks at practical ways people can express their own gender, and will help you to understand people whose gender might be different from your own. With activities and points for reflection throughout, this book will help people of all genders engage with gender diversity and explore the ideas in the book in relation to their own lived experiences. (Publisher’s copy)

Trans Power: Own Your Gender edited by Juno Roche

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“All those layers of expectation that are thrust upon us; boy, masculine, femme, transgender, sexual, woman, real, are such a weight to carry round. I feel transgressive. I feel hybrid. I feel trans.”

In this radical and emotionally raw book, Juno Roche pushes the boundaries of trans representation by redefining “trans” as an identity with its own power and strength, that goes beyond the gender binary.

Through intimate conversations with leading and influential figures in the trans community, such as Kate Bornstein, Travis Alabanza, Josephine Jones, Glamrou and E-J Scott, this book highlights the diversity of trans identities and experiences with regard to love, bodies, sex, race and class, and urges trans people – and the world at large – to embrace a “trans” identity as something that offers empowerment and autonomy.Powerfully written, and with humour and advice throughout, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of gender and how we identify ourselves. (Publisher’s copy)

Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker

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A truly original and insightful guide to reflecting on how we view and understand the world we live in and how we all bend, blur or break society’s binary codes.

Much of society’s thinking operates in a highly rigid and binary manner; something is good or bad, right or wrong, a success or a failure, and so on. Challenging this limited way of thinking, this ground-breaking book looks at how non-binary methods of thought can be applied to all aspects of life, and offer new and greater ways of understanding ourselves and how we relate to others.

Using bisexual and non-binary gender experiences as a starting point, Life Isn’t Binary addresses the key issues with binary thinking regarding our relationships, bodies, emotions, wellbeing and our sense of identity and sets out a range of practices which may help us to think in more non-binary, both/and, or uncertain ways. (Publisher’s copy)

Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon

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Gender is not what people look like to other people; it is what we know ourselves to be. No one else should be able to tell you who you are; that’s for you to decide.”

In Beyond the Gender Binary, spoken word poet Alok Vaid-Menon challenges the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full color. Taking from their own experiences as a gender-nonconforming artist, they show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression. (Publisher’s copy)

Gender: A Graphic Guide by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele

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“The way gender is socially constructed in the time and place that we live is part of what shapes our lived experience, but it’s not the whole story, and different people relate to gender in different ways.”

In this illustrated journey of gender exploration, we’ll look at how gender has been ‘done’ differently – from patriarchal societies to trans communities – and how it has been viewed differently – from biological arguments for sex difference to cultural arguments about received gender norms. We’ll dive into complex and shifting ideas about masculinity and femininity, look at non-binary, trans and fluid genders, and examine the intersection of experiences of gender with people’s race, sexuality, class, disability and more.

Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression by Iris Gottlieb

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“The way gender is socially constructed in the time and place that we live is part of what shapes our lived experience, but it’s not the whole story, and different people relate to gender in different ways.”

In this illustrated journey of gender exploration, we’ll look at how gender has been ‘done’ differently – from patriarchal societies to trans communities – and how it has been viewed differently – from biological arguments for sex difference to cultural arguments about received gender norms. We’ll dive into complex and shifting ideas about masculinity and femininity, look at non-binary, trans and fluid genders, and examine the intersection of experiences of gender with people’s race, sexuality, class, disability and more.

A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson

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“Practicing gender neutral pronouns is both an exercise in language and a chance to grow as a more empathetic and respectful communicator. And nothing is as cool as being an empathetic and respectful person.”

Archie, a snarky genderqueer artist, is tired of people not understanding gender neutral pronouns. Tristan, a cisgender dude, is looking for an easy way to introduce gender neutral pronouns to his increasingly diverse workplace. The longtime best friends team up in this short and fun comic guide that explains what pronouns are, why they matter, and how to use them. They also include what to do if you make a mistake, and some tips-and-tricks for those who identify outside of the binary to keep themselves safe in this binary-centric world. (Publisher’s copy)


EXPLORE THROUGH PERSONAL STORIES


Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities edited by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, and Kat Gupta

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“Non-binary people come in multiple forms, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ages… we come from various communities, countries, histories, and families… our communities are more vibrant and nourished when they embrace the diversities within them.”

Our gender identity is impacted by our personal histories; the cultures, communities and countries we are born into; and the places we go and the people we meet. But the representation of contemporary non-binary identities has been limited, until now.
Pushing the narrative around non-binary identities further than ever before, this powerful collection of essays represents the breadth of non-binary lives, across the boundaries of race, class, age, sexuality, faith and more. Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives; how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria. This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary. (Publisher’s copy)

Gender Explorers: Our Stories of Growing Up Trans and Changing the World edited by Juno Roche


“I believe that children who are questioning and exploring their gender are the gender bosses that we all so desperately need. I believe that they are our future.”

In this life-affirming, heartening and refreshing collection of interviews, young trans people offer valuable insight and advice into what has helped them to flourish and feel happy in their experience of questioning their gender and growing up trans.  (Publisher’s copy)

The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood by Krys Malcolm Belc

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“I sent a copy of my ultrasound picture to my mom, inside a card. “How do you think she’ll feel?” my boss asked. “Surprised,” I said… “I just don’t think she thinks of my as the kind of person who carries a baby.”

As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, Krys Malcolm Belc has thought a lot about the interplay between parenthood and gender. Giving birth to his son Samson clarified his gender identity and allowed him to project a more masculine self. And yet, when his partner Anna adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as “the natural mother of the child.”

By considering how the experiences contained under the umbrella of “motherhood” don’t fully align with Belc’s own experience, The Natural Mother of the Child journeys both toward and through common perceptions of what it means to have a body and how that body can influence the perception of a family. 

Spectrums: Autistic Transgender People in Their Own Words edited by Maxfield Sparrow

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“I used to think “I’m just weird, I just don’t belong anywhere,” before I realized who I was.”

Solely written by autistic trans people from around the world, this vital and intimate collection of personal essays reveals the struggles and joys of living at the intersection of neurodivergence and gender diversity. Weaving memories, poems and first-person narratives together, these stories showcase experiences of coming out, college and university life, accessing healthcare, physical transition, friendships and relationships, sexuality, pregnancy, parenting, and late life self-discovery, to reveal a rich and varied tapestry of life lived on the spectrums. With humour and personal insight, this anthology is essential reading for autistic trans people, and the professionals supporting them, as well as anyone interested in the nuances of autism and gender identity. (Publisher’s copy)

Homie by Danez Smith

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“i want to say something without saying it
but there’s no time. i’m waiting for a few folks
i love dearly to die so i can be myself.
please don’t make me say who.”


Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family—blood and chosen—arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for their friends and for you and for yours. (Publisher’s copy)

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

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“Some people are born in the mountains, while others are born by the sea. Some people are happy to live in the place they were born, while others must make a journey to reach the climate in which they can flourish and grow. Between the ocean and the mountains is a wild forest. That is where I want to make my home.”

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears.

Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere. (Publisher’s copy)

Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

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“I was happiest when I didn’t have a body. I had been all body, all gender for a while. I needed some time off from having a body in order to figure out what kind of relationship I would have with one when I got back to it.”

In 1996, poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha ran away from America with two backpacks and ended up in Canada, where she discovered queer anarchopunk love and revolution, yet remained haunted by the reasons she left home in the first place. This passionate and riveting memoir is a mixtape of dreams and nightmares, of immigration court lineups and queer South Asian dance nights; it reveals how a disabled queer woman of color and abuse survivor navigates the dirty river of the past and, as the subtitle suggests, “dreams her way home.” (Publisher’s copy)

Gender Failure by Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon

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“I realize that the English language is sadly devoid of names for people like me. I try to cut the world some slack for this every day. All day… But the truth is that every time I am misgendered, a tiny little sliver of me disappears… all those slivers add up to something much harder to pretend around.”

Ivan E. Coyote and Rae Spoon are accomplished, award-winning writers, musicians, and performers; they are also both admitted “gender failures.” In their first collaborative book, Ivan and Rae explore and expose their failed attempts at fitting into the gender binary, and how ultimately our expectations and assumptions around traditional gender roles fail us all.

Based on their acclaimed 2012 live show that toured across the United States and in Europe, Gender Failure is a poignant collection of autobiographical essays, lyrics, and images documenting Ivan and Rae’s personal journeys from gender failure to gender enlightenment. Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, it’s a book that will touch LGBTQ readers and others, revealing, with candor and insight, that gender comes in more than two sizes. (Publisher’s copy)

Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin


“I don’t identify with the words female or male. They are not my words. The space in which I have felt gendered female and transitioned to gendered male has been in the ways people have treated me.”

Meet Nevo: girl, boy, he, she, him, her, they, them, daughter, son, teacher, student, friend, gay, bi, lesbian, trans, homo, Jew, dyke, masculine, feminine, androgynous, queer. Nevo was not born in the wrong body. Nevo just wants everyone to catch up with all that Nevo is. Personal, political and passionate, Finding Nevo is an autobiography about gender and everything that comes with it. (Publisher’s copy)


OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES


Life Outside The Binary: Nonbinary Transgender Information Centre
A resource centre for nonbinary people and their allies, focused on providing resources to nonbinary people and youth, nonbinary visibility, support for friends and family, and creating a safe and inclusive space.

Trans Student Educational Resources
A youth-led organization dedicated to transforming the educational environment for trans and gender non-conforming students through advocacy and empowerment.

Trans Lifeline
Providing trans peer support for our community that’s been divested from police since day one. Run by and for trans people.

Genderqueer & Nonbinary Identities
Providing awareness, information, and resources for genderqueer, non-binary, questioning, and gender non-conforming people and their allies. 

GENDERQUEER.ME
A platform amplifying nonbinary experiences through personal stories & art.

Bon voyage, gender explorers!

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