For better or worse, I tend to pay close attention to public figures who come out of the closet. I feel strange about doing so because ultimately, knowing someone’s sexual orientation shouldn’t change one’s perception of them. But instinctually, I find myself drawn to celebrities when they begin publicly identifying as a part of the LGBT community. I believe it’s part of human nature to look for images in the media that resemble one’s own experience, so that one can feel a sense of belonging that may be lacking in daily life. It’s important to be respectful of privacy and individual reasons for choosing not to come out publicly, but I also believe that there’s real power in standing up and being counted. I look for images of bisexuality in real life whenever I can, and since most people I know identify as monosexual, I often turn to the media.
So you can imagine my surprise when I was Googling bisexual celebrities yesterday and discovered that, a little more than a year ago, Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard nearly came out as bisexual. I completely missed this news story the first time around, but I’m glad I finally found it, because it counters a concern I’ve had for a long time: In arenas like politics and religion, many people don’t seem to know how to come out as bisexual.
There are few songs I like less than Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” I dislike most of her music (that skit she did with Elmo, however, is adorable), but “I Kissed A Girl” bothers me most of all. You’d think such a song would be tailor-made for me—after all, I have, in fact, kissed girls and liked it! But it’s really not a song for me, or for any other queer woman (even though I know queer women who like the song). It’s a song for straight men who have “lesbian” fantasies in which femme women make out with each other but don’t present any actual threat to male sexuality and dominance. It’s a song for straight women who find the idea of kissing other women to be a “scandalous” and fun way of entertaining men, but who ultimately aren’t romantically or sexually attracted to other women. It’s a song about false, constructed, performed bisexuality, and it isn’t doing anything to help the acceptance of non-monosexual folks.
Throughout this series, we’ve talked a lot about labels. Identifying as gay or straight can be complicated enough; for those of us somewhere in the middle, it gets even trickier. Discussions over “bi” versus “queer” versus “pansexual” versus “fluid” get very complicated, very quickly. It makes me wonder: Why are we so hung up on labels? Do we even need labels anymore?
Allow me a moment of nostalgia—the late 1990s and early 2000s were excellent eras for teen dramas on network television. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Freaks and Geeks were particular favorites of mine at the time, but most of the teen shows that aired around then—particularly those on the now-defunct WB—had their moments. One show I remember occasionally watching was The O.C., and what I remember most about it was the controversy surrounding a particular story arc—Marissa’s bisexuality.
I have noticed that often such stories use sexual fluidity among young women to signify rebellion against hegemonic institutions. In stories ostensibly about conflict between women and their families and women and male lovers, hints of bisexuality are present as indications of the larger ways in which the women in question are opposing oppression.
One could write an entire book about the depictions of queerness in the world of Doctor Who and its spin-off, Torchwood. Sexuality works itself into the mythologies of both shows in complex ways, which is particularly interesting given that Doctor Who is considered a family-oriented show. But since I’m not writing a book, I want to focus today’s discussion of Doctor Who and Torchwood specifically on the character who introduced queerness to the modern “Whoniverse”: Captain Jack Harkness.
What’s the line between friendship and romance? This is a big question that we’ll address throughout this series, but today, I want to explore it in the context of heterosexual male friendships. Specifically, I want to explore it in the context of the 21st century’s offshoot of the buddy comedy—the “bromance.”
I used to be a regular Glee viewer. For the first two seasons, it was possible (though not necessarily easy) for me to look past the cringe-worthy storylines and enjoy the musical sequences. But as each new episode aired, it became harder and harder to not feel angry about the one-dimensional characters and Ryan Murphy’s obvious lack of ability to write for women, people of color, and people with disabilities. And honestly? With the exception of Kurt, the show’s handling of queer issues has been disastrous, too.
I stopped watching Glee after seeing Season 3’s episode “I Kissed a Girl,” during which Santana performs Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” as if it were a song about lesbian reclamation rather than performative bisexuality for the sake of male spectators. (Don’t worry, we will address Perry’s song and what negative messages it sends about bisexuality later in this series!) But this episode wasn’t the first time the show dropped the ball on queer representation. Season 2’s episode “Blame It on the Alcohol” stands out as a prime example of Glee missing the mark on bisexuality, particularly bisexual men.
I have never been much of a reality television viewer, and any lingering desire I may have had to watch reality shows disappeared after I read Jennifer Pozner’s Reality Bites Back earlier this year. But as soon as I heard about the new season of America’s Next Top Model, I realized I had to give it a shot. That’s because Cycle 18 of ANTM features not one, but TWO openly queer women. And one of them is bi-identified Laura LaFrate.
Yesterday, I wrote about one of the worst bisexual characters I’ve ever seen. By contrast, I want to spend today focusing on one of the best bisexual characters I’ve ever seen: Dr. Calliope (Callie) Torres on Grey’s Anatomy. I’m not a regular viewer of Grey’s; though I understand why many viewers love it, the show just isn’t my cup of tea. But I will absolutely give it credit for its excellent depictions of women, people of color, and queer people, all of which culminate in the nuanced depiction of Callie. Her characterization manages to avoid the stereotypes commonly found in explicitly bi characters, allowing her to be a positive, realistic, three-dimensional bi woman.