Earlier this year, I wrote an article for The F-Word about bisexual visibility in TV and film, and gave examples of seven great things to watch containing well-written bi characters. It was really fun to put together, but the thing is… it was also really hard.
The piece took about a week to write because I had to trawl through so much media to find characters that weren’t one-dimensional or offensive, abandoning films when something biphobic cropped up. Some films I found and loved instantly, and some – literally any representation of a bisexual man – were really difficult to find.
In the end, I’m really happy with the brilliant pieces of TV and film I found, but seriously, it was that tough to find just seven?
2017 is the year that it was reported that more bisexual people are ‘out’ in the UK than ever before, and it was found less than half of Millennials identify as straight. The latest Annual Population Survey by the Office for National Statistics actually shows that the number of people identifying as bisexual has overtaken people identifying as gay or lesbian. In 2015, 1.8% of 16-to-24-year-olds said they were bisexual, compared to 1.5% identifying as gay or lesbian.
So, we’ve identified the fact that there is a huge number of bisexual people in the UK, but where are they on the screen?
Otherwise progressive show Orange is the New Black has never scripted the word ‘bisexual’ despite including characters that date people of all genders. Wonder Woman’s character is canonically bisexual in the comics but the film never addressed this, and I can’t remember the last time I sat down to watch a TV show and saw myself represented. That’s a lie. I still can’t shut up about San Junipero. But still. Where are all the bisexuals?
According to GLAAD’s latest media report, out of the “66 regular or recurring LGBT characters on scripted cable television [in the US], 35 are gay men, while only 4 are bisexual males.” According to the report movies fare even worse, with less than 1% of characters in all LGBT-inclusive films in 2013 identifying as a bisexual male.
So why is this important? I’m glad you hypothetically asked.
There are two problems with a lack of representation in media (and this can apply to race, disability and religion too): you don’t see yourself, and others don’t see you either. Not being able to recognise yourself in the characters you see on screen can be confusing and make you feel left out; it’s one of the primary reasons I didn’t come out until I was 22. I just didn’t think bisexuality was an option for me.
More damaging than this, though, is that you aren’t seen or humanised by the general population who might not know any LGBT+ people or be engaged in the community. I’ve lost count of the number of people that have described me as a ‘lesbian now’ because I’m in a same-sex relationship. I’ve lost count of the number of lazy stereotypes I and my bi friends have received. If decent portrayals of bisexual people were on the screen more often, people might see the nuances of what it means to be bi, and realise how best to treat and understand the community.
It’s completely valid and personal to not want to label or define your sexuality, and it’s great that fluid sexuality is sometimes shown in the media, but bisexual people are a huge part of the LGBT+ community, and we deserve just as much as anyone else to be proud of our label and see our stories told on screen in authentic and healthy ways.
Film and TV might always lag behind when it comes to representing race and sexuality, but the most important thing for young LGBT+ people to have is real role models, wherever they come from. Celebrities like Cara Delevigne, Evan Rachel Wood and Billie Joe Armstrong have all publically come out as bisexual, and whether or not we begin to see more representation on screen, their public pride is so important to the community. So if you’re feeling down about the lack of great bisexual characters on TV and in the cinema, just turn your attention to the real-life role models we have all around instead.
Seen a great bisexual character or storyline in TV or film? Please let me know on social media or by email and I will be eternally grateful.