Why I’ll Be Holding onto These Five Nuanced and Inspiring Bisexual Characters for Dear Life This Pride
It’s Pride Month, everyone! And it’s a particularly exciting one for me as *drumroll* it’s the first one I’ll be celebrating as an out bisexual. There’s something weird about coming out later in your life. There’s a lot more to wrap your head around as there’s stuff that you were trained not to really pay attention to before. Like, for example, representation of your actual sexuality on television.
When I was living life as a straight person, I knew I liked dudes, so clearly I wasn’t a lesbian, and since those are the only two “real options” (because “bi” is just a stop on the road to gay, right?), I must have only wanted to be really good friends with the girls I imagined making out with.
Dear Society, Offering bisexuality as a legit option might have saved me a lot of time and grief, and gotten me laid a lot sooner. Get it together. Thanks. Love, Teresa.
I also didn’t really register how many bisexual characters there were/weren’t in my pop culture. Because I didn’t know to call myself one, I didn’t know to look out for them. When they did appear, I greeted the revelation with a sincere, That’s nice.
Everything changed the night I saw Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, and I realized that I wanted to be in a Kate McKinnon/Chris Hemsworth sandwich (obviously there was much more to my realization and coming out, but for now, let’s just enjoy the image of that tasty, tasty sandwich). Suddenly, it was like … you know how when you learn a new word that you’ve never heard before, and suddenly it’s everywhere? It was kind of like that.
Every time I saw a bisexual character in what I was watching, my heart leaped! That person is of my people! That person is me!
Then I noticed something interesting. My wife is a lesbian, and whenever we watch something together, and a female character engages in a same-sex relationship, she assumes they’re a lesbian, and I’m the person who says We don’t know that yet. All we know is that she likes women. She could be bi. And she gives me a reluctant Maybe.
I found myself getting more and more frustrated every time that happened, not just with my wife, but elsewhere—and as it turns out, it’s everywhere—because as I was trying to wear my identity proudly, I was starting to learn how little space there is for it. People in same-sex relationships are assumed gay until proven otherwise. People in opposite-sex relationships are assumed straight until proven otherwise. When I mention “my wife” to people, I see a look of recognition in their face like, Oh! I get it … which I always want to head off at the pass with Wait. No, you don’t.
And so now, whenever I see a character who is without-question, canonically bisexual in a TV show or film, I latch onto them for dear life.
According to the GLAAD “Where We Are On TV” Report 2016:
“Bisexual representations on broadcast rose to 30%, up by ten percentage points from last year. Bisexual representations also rose on streaming series, from 20% to 26%. However, cable series have dropped in bisexual representations from 35% to 32%. Bisexual women far outnumber bisexual men on every platform. Many of these characters still fall into dangerous stereotypes about bisexual people.”
And so here are some of my favorite bisexual characters; favorites because they inspire me in some way. Either they’re outright heroic, positive representations, or even if they’re a little complicated, those complications have nothing to do with their sexuality:
STEVEN UNIVERSE‘S ROSE QUARTZ
Let’s go ahead and start with one of the complicated ones, shall we? Plus side: she’s often portrayed as heroic and selfless. She not only protected the Earth from the gems of Homeworld, but she sacrificed herself to give Steven life. She’s someone who inspired loyalty and bravery in others. She also has an enthusiasm for life and its wonders that I share, and she’s capable of great kindness. And as for her bisexuality, her long-term relationship with Pearl, and her significantly shorter-term relationship with Greg are both given equal weight and respect.
Minus side: she’s really, really self-centered. Her enthusiasm for life often manifests itself as callousness as she places her desire to see and do new things over, say, people’s feelings. She often treated both Greg and Pearl like toys she was playing with, and while she gave Steven life, she also left him motherless … just to see what would happen.
However, I wouldn’t call this a harmful or negative portrayal of a bisexual, as Rose’s attraction to both Greg and Pearl is real, and as of right now, her not-so-great qualities are balanced out by her good ones. Also, she’s a larger woman, which gives us something else that we have in common along with our awesome hair.
DIANA OF THEMYSCIRA, A.K.A. WONDER WOMAN
This is a more recent confirmed development, but makes a whole lot of sense when you put “Steve Trevor” and “growing up on an island with women who’d never even seen a man before” together. I was so exited when Greg Rucka confirmed this fact as canon, because Wonder Woman is so heroic and so good.
Diana always operates from a place of love, and what’s more loving than loving, well, everyone. In all seriousness, this is something I think that many Wonder Woman fans suspected, but it’s been nice to have it talked about in recent issues of her comic. The Amazons talk about not only Diana’s previous relationships with women, but her prowess. Yet they do so in a way that you know they don’t have a judgement on it. They’re just stating facts.
Of course, it would be even more meaningful if DC Comics gave Wonder Woman a proper female love interest that could stand alongside her historic relationship with Steve Trevor. I, for one, would be completely in favor of Diana pairing up with Etta Candy, myself:
Especially Legend of Wonder Woman Etta Candy, because that Etta Candy is the best Etta Candy.
THE 100‘s CLARKE GRIFFIN
Not only is Clarke a nuanced, complicated, but ultimately good and heroic character, the fact of her bisexuality was handled beautifully (even if her subsequent relationship with a woman didn’t work out the way many of us would have liked). She was romantically involved with Finn in the first season, then later in the show, Lexa kisses her, and rather than have her back off apologetically as a straight girl, she backs off because she’s “not ready for a relationship right now.” With that simple explanation, she confirmed that her refusal of more in that moment wasn’t about Lexa “barking up the wrong tree,” it was about timing.
We then got to watch as a beautiful relationship bloomed between Clarke and Lexa, made more profound by the fact that they were each the leader of very different groups with very different interests and ways of life. We’ve since seen Clarke engage in other same-sex relationships, so this is definitely who she is. Not a “one-off” or an exception.
HALT AND CATCH FIRE‘S JOE MACMILLAN
Aaaaand, here’s the other complicated one. Joe MacMillan definitely has flaws. Hell, his flaws have flaws. However, he’s a fascinating character that you can’t help but root for him, because he’s not only really good at what he does, but because he has the confidence to go after it (unlike, say, the mamby-pamby Gordon). Maybe I’m just a sucker for pretentious, conceited nerds who are also hot. I’ve always been drawn to the person who’s “too smart for the room.”
As for the bisexuality portrayed on the show, Joe could’ve gone into stereotype territory when, after his relationship with Cameron, he seduced the male lover of a woman he wanted something from as a means to an end. Those duplicitous bisexuals! But then we get to meet an artist ex-boyfriend, Simon. One that he still clearly has feelings for, who may well be the One Who Got Away. I loved that Halt and Catch Fire made sure to give us a Joe who actually loved a man, rather than having him have sex with men as a step in a nefarious plot. Joe is complicated (and not always good or moral), but his feelings for Simon are sweet and real.
CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND‘S DARRYL WHITEFEATHER
Darryl is one of the sweetest and most positive representations of male bisexuality on television. Also, he provides us with a theme song:
I also have a soft spot in my heart for Darryl because he, like me, didn’t recognize that he was bisexual until later in his life, and whereas for me the realization happened during a genre film, for him it happened in an exercise class. You never know when bisexuality is gonna take you by surprise! Anyway, now he has a serious and loving relationship with “White Josh,” and it’s adorable.
TORCHWOOD‘S IANTO JONES
No list of bisexuals that warm the cockles of my heart would be complete without *sniff* Ianto from Torchwood. He was kind and heroic, the best of what humanity had to offer. He started off the show in a relationship with a woman (who eventually got deleted by the Cybermen) only to end up in a passionate relationship with Captain Jack Harkness. On a show where damn near everyone’s sexuality was fluid, Ianto’s sexuality never seemed like it was used for shock value or titillation. His relationship with Captain Jack was beautiful and always treated with seriousness. There’s a reason why we all felt like we had the wind knocked out of us during Children of Earth. It’s because their relationship was so well-done and so meaningful. Now, Ianto will always live on as everyone’s favorite tea boy.
This Pride Month, as you’re going to events and parades and rightfully proclaiming gay, lesbian, and trans pride, don’t forget to include your bisexual brothers and sisters in all that! There’s a “B” in LGBTQIA for a reason! Try not to let it get erased. Happy Pride!
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