Interview by Robyn Ochs
Robyn Ochs: Please tell us about yourself.
Jacquelyn Applebee: I was born and raised in London, England. I’m currently a published writer of erotic fiction, although I work in an academic library too; sadly they only stock business books, so it’s not much use to me! I’m out at work as bisexual, polyamorous and kinky too, thanks to my writing. I’ve had a lot of acceptance there, and it’s something I’m very grateful for.
One of the things I love is getting out of London. I’ll happily take myself off on a train for the weekend to explore a bit of the UK whilst getting inspiration for more smut. I’m always intrigued at the diversity of people I meet, and how receptive they are to alternative things. The UK may look like a white conservative canvas, but I’ve made some great friends whilst travelling; bonding over erotica seems to be the way to go.
RO: How did you come to identify as bi?
JA: I remember watching an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation where I realised that I fancied pretty much everyone on the Enterprise bridge, regardless of their gender. That was when I was 24. I spoke to my boyfriend about it. He phoned the London Lesbian and Gay switchboard, but they were not very positive about it. When I telephoned them after him, they recommended that I go to Scotland, as there wasn’t anything for bisexuals in England! It took me some time to feel relaxed about things. The difficulty was that in those days there was very little support for bisexuals, and what there was tended to be only for a certain type of person. Some groups were outright racist, and that was extremely damaging to me.
RO: What is your religious background, and what impact did this have on your coming out? Did it make it harder or easier? In what ways?
JA: I am a Christian. I don’t attend church any more, but I’m still looking for one. I’ve been to the Metropolitan Community Church, which is a gay-led congregation, and Asylum which is a Goth-led congregation. Even though I haven’t settled with either church, I’m glad that they exist as they reach people who traditionally have previously not been made to feel welcome by the church.
I was brought up in a very violent and abusive atmosphere that was also very (hypocritically) religious. When I got out of that situation, I was amazed that I could feel love and desire for anyone ever again. I see my orientation as a positive thing; something to be thankful for, so for me there’s no conflict with my beliefs at all.
RO: I was introduced to you through your wonderful essay in the Getting Bi anthology. In that essay, you describe yourself as a writer of erotic romance and the host of a monthly “Smutty Storytelling” session at an alternative London bookstore. Do tell us more.
JA: Well, the alternative bookstore – Coffee, Cake and Kink – closed down for a while although they are planning to re-open soon. Nowadays I read at events such as BiCon, Celebrate Bisexuality Day, and shindigs organised by Wotever, which is a great gender-queer group.
RO: We finally met in person at the International Conference on Bisexuality/UK Bicon just a few months ago. You led workshops there that I heard were brilliant. Can you tell us about them?
JA: I co-hosted the “Bis of Colour” workshop, which was amazing and very affirming for me. I also did an extended reading during my “Smutty Storytelling” session, along with another talented writer. And, of course, I participated in the Getting Bi panel. Because of my negative past, my speaking voice used to be almost inaudible. So when I was able to speak and read intimate stories to a roomful of people, it was amazing for me. In the “Bis of Colour” workshop, it was just great to be with others who had been through so many similar things, and to know that I was not alone.
RO: Do you see your erotic storytelling as a form of activism?
JA: Absolutely. My email signature reads: “Breaking down barriers with smut.” My stories tend to feature people not usually seen in erotic fiction, such as the disabled, working class people, and those from ethnic minorities. It may not seem like much, but when I look at most erotica, everyone is still white, young, rich and American. To be able to let people know that black folks can be kinky too, that disabled people have desires, and all the while, still craft a sexy, believable story, is quite liberating for me. I have been humbled by some of the feedback to my writing: a woman wrote to tell me that after reading my bisexual story, “Fallen Soldiers,” she hoped she could accept that part of herself. I’ve had other people write and tell me that they thought they were the only one to think or feel the way they did.
RO: What resources are available for bi folk in London, and how long have they been available? Can you recommend any newsletters, websites or other resources?
- Bisexual Underground is a monthly pub-meet in central London: www.bisexualunderground.org
- Bi Coffee London is a great social event in an accessible location: bi.org/bicofee/london
- Bisexual Community News is a fantastic magazine which has been going forever! www.bicommunitynews.co.uk
- Bisexual Index for plain speaking information on all things bisexual: www.bisexualindex.org.uk
RO: Finally, Jacquelyn, how can interested readers access your writing?
JA: My writing website: www.writing-in-shadows.co.uk will have all my latest links to my work.
Robyn is the editor of the 42-country anthology Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World and of Bi Women.