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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Bay Area poet discusses bisexual erasure and the struggles of self-publication

(Kristen Pizzo / Courtesy photo for publish with Golden Gate Xpress)

As Kristen Pizzo, a Bay Area poet, and her best friend, Brett Iscovitz, broke a sweat over spicy Indian cuisine on a spring evening in 2019, they discussed a play they were both partaking in, “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler. After finishing their meal that night, the topic of discussion quickly transitioned to sexuality, and this restaurant became the place Pizzo openly came out as bisexual. 

Pizzo self-published her poetry book, “A Reckless Love,” in May, and the book dives into her experiences with her first queer relationship and coming to terms with her sexuality. Pizzo’s journey to self-publication simultaneously illustrates the erasure of bisexuality within the LGBTQ+ community and the condescension held towards self-publication within the literary world. 

Pizzo described the process of being published by a publishing company as a popularity contest in which writers already need a huge following and a large amount of money. 

“The publishing world is very crazy, hence why I have a self-published poetry book,” Pizzo said. “If you’re not already an influencer, publishing companies don’t publish you.”

Very few first-time authors are published traditionally. On average, they have a one in 2,000 chance of getting published by a publishing house, with only 3% of completed books getting traditionally published. London Pinkney and Hannah Kieth, working to mitigate that fact, are SF State alumni who worked together to self-publish, “The Ana,” an art magazine that was released last February. 

“There are definitely people who do not see the point in self-publication,” Kieth said. “But I don’t let comments get to me. I know that what we’re doing is important.” 

Pizzo’s first queer romance, with castmate Ren Watson, was the main source of inspiration for her self-published poetry volume. 

“I found that writing about coming out and my relationship was really helpful in my own process of being comfortable with my identity,” Pizzo said. “I was living in my head because I didn’t have a lot of queer people to talk to, or at least not any bisexuals. So writing about it was really helpful, and I gained a better understanding of myself.”

Pizzo grew up creating original poetry and short stories, but felt uncomfortable with the idea of revealing her words to others. However, as she grew closer to Watson, she began sharing the poems she wrote about their relationship and her sexuality. Watson’s reaction and admiration toward Pizzo’s writings encouraged her to publish the poetry collection independently. 

“I felt really cherished when I found out that Kristen was going to publish the poetry she wrote about me,” Watson said. “I love her writing and I always feel her persona coming through when I read her poems.” 

The book’s final poem, “Whole,” was originally intended as a gift for Watson when the two started dating last June. The piece is a metaphor in which Pizzo compares her love for Watson to eating fruit. Although there are many aspects of Watson that are less desirable, similarly to the bruised parts of fruit, Pizzo loves every facet of them. 

“It’s about accepting people for all that they are and not wanting them to hide the parts of themselves that they don’t like,” Pizzo said. “And I think that’s a lot of the message in the queer community.”

Although “A Reckless Love” is mainly about Pizzo’s relationship with Watson, Pizzo also shares the struggles that she’s faced with coming out. Growing up in the Bay Area, a famously liberal enclave, Pizzo stated that she was surprised her parents were not as supportive as she had envisioned.  

“My mom wanted me to keep it a secret,” Pizzo said. “When the rest of my family did find out, they didn’t understand because I was bisexual. They would always bring up that I still like men, and it made me feel like they were invalidating my sexuality.”

Pizzo reflected on negative comments and other issues she has faced regarding her bisexuality, this form of invalidation is known as bisexuality erasure. Erasure of bisexuality is the social tendency to question the existence and legitimacy of bisexuality. 

“Research shows that we experience more mental illness or mental health issues than any other population– gay or straight,” Pizzo said. “There’s a lot of biphobia, and we rarely hear that word. We hear homophobia, but I think that just makes the problem bigger because people don’t even talk about the issues we face.”

Pizzo said that during moments of self doubt, she reminds herself of authors like Andy Weir, Amanda Hocking, Lisa Genova and other high-profile, self-published authors as a form of self validation when others are less supportive. 

Pizzo also has her partner to lift her up when she feels doubtful of her work. 

“Ren is one of my biggest supporters and is always pushing me to write,” Pizzo said. “We support each other artistically and in every other aspect.” 

Pizzo and Watson have dated for a year now. The two love to explore together. They’ve traveled to Seattle, Portland, New York, California and Orlando, where their sojourn together began at Ahmed, the Indian restaurant where Pizzo came out. 

“If we’re ever in Orlando, we always go to Ahmed,” Pizzo said. “It’s my favorite for so many reasons.” 

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About the Contributor
Erica Gray is a 22-year-old journalism student from the Bay Area. She enjoys writing about mental health, art and beauty. When Erica isn't writing articles for Golden Gate Xpress, she works as an ABA therapist for children with autism. On her free time, Erica loves reading, writing poetry, playing with makeup, watching horror films and jamming out to her favorite Misfits songs.

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    amy weaverApr 20, 2021 at 1:11 am

    love yourself Ŷou r perfect to me

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Bay Area poet discusses bisexual erasure and the struggles of self-publication