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  • Chloe Page

Bi+ Representation - Why Does It Matter?

Quick note: this article uses the term ‘queer’ in a reclaimed manner. Also, I am just one bi person and cannot speak for every bi+ person’s experience; this is purely my personal opinion.

It is hard to believe that minorities are still fighting for adequate representation in media and literature in 2021, yet here we are. White people like me barely need to put any effort into finding characters that look like themselves. This is not the case for everyone. For people of colour, people with disabilities, and queer folks, the battle for three-dimensional characters with relatable, fantastic, and mundane experiences is ongoing. While the number of well-rounded multi-faceted queer and PoC characters is growing, bi+ folks like myself continue to grasp at straws for decent canonical representation.

Confetti falls on a float as it drives by a block of flats. A man shouts into a mic on the float while a bi flag flies next to him.
Photo by Delia Giandeini on Unsplash

Why Does Good Representation Matter?

When you see a character similar to you, whether it’s because of their skin tone, nationality, journey, or something else, it comes with a certain reassurance. A catharsis is brought by seeing this character’s struggles and triumphs in their chosen community or endeavour. To watch this character have a nuanced tale on the page or screen tells the audience that people like you deserve to have their stories told. To have multiple characters like you, or even an entire cast, treated with the same careful attention to detail and respect as their white or abled peers, sends an even stronger message; you belong here, and your voice will be heard.

To see a character that is a simple stereotype or hollow shell while other (often white, abled, and cishet) characters get to flourish with layered personalities and stories sends an entirely different message; you are not important, and neither are your experiences.

Why Bi+ Folks Specifically?

Well, in case you missed it, I’m bi. I only figured that out as an adult, and it sure would have sped up the process to see more bi+ (people who ‘experience any form of attraction to more than one gender identity.) folks living their lives on screen. The number of queer characters on screen and in literature is growing, which is terrific. Gay men, lesbians, and other queer folks are finally getting to tell the stories they needed to hear as kids. However, bi+ folks always seem to be forgotten when it comes to writing narratives.

The gender binary that Western society is so committed to has negative consequences for bi+ folks, as well as trans and non-binary people. Negative stereotypes and misinformation spread and affect the kind of characters we see on screen; art mirroring life in the worst kind of way.

What Are The Negative Biases Facing Bi+ Folks?

Although bi+ folks make up most of the LGB community, we face ignorance and misinformation from both sides. While everyone has certain biases depending on various factors, some of the most common stereotypes surrounding bi+ folk include but are not limited to:

  • Bi+ folks are greedy.

  • Bi+ folks are promiscuous.

  • Bi+ folks cannot be trusted to remain faithful.

  • Bi+ folks are riddled with STIs.

  • Bi+ women are just performing queerness for male attention.

  • Bi+ men are just too scared to come out as gay men.

  • Bi+ folks have a raging sex drive - asexual erasure at its finest

  • There is only one way to be bi.

  • Bi+ people are not really queer.

  • They can choose to be straight whenever they want.

  • They get laid regularly.

And many more!

These harmful attitudes are received from straight people and supposed 'allies' in the LGBTQ+ community, most often lesbians and gay men. This desire for bi+ folks to ‘pick a side’ in terms of gender and relationships also negatively impacts the trans and non-binary communities.

What Are The Effects of These Attitudes?

When you are repeatedly questioned and undermined on all sides, even by minority groups who have faced similar prejudices to yourself, it can cause you to question your entire identity. At best, you discover who you are a little later than usual. At worst, you bury your true self for your whole life to avoid harm or death at the hands of ignorant assailants or even yourself. You may think that I’m being dramatic here, but take a look at these statistics from

  • 59% of bi+ folks polled have experienced depression, with 50% thinking life is not worth living.

  • 78% of bi+ people polled have considered taking their own lives.

  • 2 in 5 bi+ people surveyed will not come out at work.

  • 1 in 4 bi+ women and 1 in 5 bi+ men have experienced discrimination within LGBTQ+ communities.

  • 31% of bi+ people surveyed experienced a hate incident in 2016/17, and 75% of them did not report it for fear of not being believed.

  • 3 in 10 bi+ men and 1 in 10 bi+ women polled feel that they can’t be open about their sexuality with their friends.

  • 3 in 5 bi+ people surveyed have self-harmed.

These are some genuinely awful stats that, while not applicable to every bi+ person, do reflect one major thing; bi+ people, as a whole, are not okay. Worse, they are often forgotten or lumped in with lesbian and gay men in studies or discussion. I am merely presenting the few bi-specific statistics I could find; most studies with bi+ people lump their answers with others in the queer community rather than letting them have their own voices.

If creators told more bi+ stories respectfully, they could dismantle much of this misinformation, and bisexual people would not have to face or be anxious about meeting:

  • Insults, pestering, intimidation, or harassment.

  • Unwanted sexual contact or sexualisation of their orientation.

  • Threats of violence.

  • Assault with or without a weapon.

  • Stolen or damaged property.

  • Improper medical treatment.

  • Prejudiced attitudes both in and out of their social circles.

Prejudice like this comes from insecurity and fear; normalising bi+ stories will make the unfamiliar familiar and remove much of this fear and ignorant behaviour.

A man looks off to the side while bathed in blue and purple light.
Photo by Hossein Rivandi on Unsplash

How Can Representation Of Bi+ People Be Improved In Storytelling?

Let bi people tell bi+ stories.

Get us in your writer’s rooms, your tech crews, your sensitivity reads, your actor lineup etc. Let us bring our stories to life. We can be more than just the slutty bimbo, the confused straight, or promiscuous villain. Let us have more than one episode or supportive friend role. Bring us front and centre in stories about more than the angsty coming out tragedy. Let us be messy, ambitious, emotional, mistaken, angry, ambivalent - human.

Bring more bi+ men to the screen.

If bisexuals are forgotten, bi+ men are practically ghosts. In GLAAD’s 2020/21 Where We Are On TV report, the results regarding bi+ characters were:

‘Of the 360 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on scripted broadcast, cable, and streaming programming, 99 (28 per cent) are counted as bisexual+. This year’s group consists of 65 women and 33 men (five of whom are trans), and one non-binary person. This is compared to 90 women, 36 men, and two non-binary people in the previous year...UCLA’S The Williams Institute has collected data which shows bisexual+ people actually make up the majority of LGB people at 52 per cent. Further, GLAAD’s Accelerating Acceptance data shows that bi+ people are the largest group within the LGBTQ community by per cent at every age range.’

Most of the queer rep on our screens belongs to lesbians and gay men - it is no wonder people have a hard time believing bisexuality exists. This skewed balance only reinforces the idea that bi men, especially, are merely gay and contributes to bi-erasure. Many people are questioning or curious to discover a new side of themselves. Please give us more bi men like Darryl Whitefeather from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend who revel in their discovery and are unapologetically bi.

Stop Killing Us For The Plot.

Have you ever heard of the ‘bury your gays’ trope? In the words of President & CEO of GLAAD Sarah Kate Ellis in the opening of the 2016/17 WWAOT report:

‘Since the beginning of 2016, more than 25 queer female characters have died on scripted television and streaming series. Most of these deaths served no other purpose than to further the narrative of a more central (and often straight, cisgender) character. When there are so few lesbian and bisexual women on television, the decision to kill these characters in droves sends a toxic message about the worth of queer female stories.’

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

If it is right in the story for a bi+ character to die, let it be for the right reasons. Let it not be for shock value or to further someone else’s development. Our lives are our own, and so are our deaths.

Embrace Intersectionality.

Of the bi+ rep seen on screen, so much of it belongs to abled, white characters. There will often be a bi+ character, a person of colour, and a disabled character in a narrative, or maybe more than one of each if you’re lucky. However, there are disabled bi+ people of colour who have experiences that should be told.

‘The overwhelming majority of bisexual+ characters forecasted this season are white, at 57 per cent (56) of all bi+ characters. There are fourteen (fourteen per cent) Latinx bisexual+ characters, thirteen (thirteen per cent) Black bi+ characters, six (six per cent) who are Asian Pacific Islander, and eight (eight per cent) who are of a different race or ethnicity.’

Two women lean in close to each other, eyes closed, in an intimate moment. Fairy lights are wrapped around them and light filters through the sheer curtain behind them.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Stop Making Us Bi+ For The Plot.

Bisexuality has often been seen as a transitional period, a layover between straight and gay. As stated in Glee: “Bisexual’s a term that gay guys in high school use when they wanna hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change.” This idea of bisexuality being a stepping stone for conflict is weak. Making bisexuality something the character explores briefly before never mentioning it again or deciding that they are gay or straight is also weak. Our sexuality is more than a plot point - it’s a part of who we are.

It Doesn’t Have To Be A Big Deal.

Rosa Diaz declaring that she is bisexual in Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done incredible things for the bi+ community. Not only do we have a character to point to as a reference when discussing bisexuality, but she is an absolute badass, treated with respect, and is played by a bisexual actress. However, you do not always need to put a tragic coming out story front and centre.

Let us have various loving relationships with people of multiple genders and not scream it from the rooftops. Let us have messy relationships and, rather than never mentioning them again or portraying us as liars (looking at you, Misfits), let us remain bi+. No one needs to say anything or make a big deal out of it; just let us have nuanced relationships without begging for a gold star.

Give Us Rounded Personalities And Stories.

I want to see bi people in every genre. I do not care if it’s fantasy, sci-fi, slice-of-life or erotica; we deserve to be there. Not only that, but we deserve to go through similar struggles and elations as straight characters. Our lives can be dangerous, messy, funny, and lighthearted - bring that into your writing.

Learn How To Be A Good Ally.

Bi+ people have different struggles and needs to other LGBTQ+ folks - being an ally for us will look different. Learn how to be a good ally and show your characters standing with us, but, more importantly, stand up for us in your everyday life.

What Characters Are Considered To Be Good Bi+ Rep?

What constitutes good rep will be slightly different for everyone; however, if you bear in mind the points I mentioned earlier, you’ll be on the right track. Some characters that people consider to be good bi+ representation include:

  • Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

  • Darryl Whitefeather, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

  • Kalinda Sharma, The Good Wife

  • Oberyn Martell, Game of Thrones

  • Callie Torres, Grey’s Anatomy

  • Annalise Keating, How To Get Away With Murder

Looking for some reads? Here are books recommended by some in the community:

  • The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue - Mackenzi Lee

  • Leah On The Off Beat - Becky Albertalli

  • Let’s Talk About Love - Claire Kann

  • Not Your Sidekick - C.B. Lee

  • The Disasters - M.K. England

  • I’ll Be The One - Lyla Lee

  • Verona Comics - Jennifer Dugan

  • They Both Die At The End - Adam Silvera

  • Autoboyography - Christina Lauren

If you would like to draw on real-life experiences of bi+ people, you can find plenty of modern and historic bicons to research. Alternatively, you can attend a Bi Pride or get in touch with local activists. Read up on our history to see where we come from and talk to bi+ people to see where we are. Everyone’s experience with being bi+ is so different that no one can speak for everyone, but it can give you a start.

To quote the inimitable Captain Raymond Holt, ‘Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.’ If bi+ people were given their own space and allowed to tell their own stories while being supported outside of the community, it could cause an awakening for many. For bi+ people to take centre stage, to tell stories of all types without being killed off or turned into a villain would allow questioning people to discover themselves much earlier. Give us the bi+ rep we deserve so we can improve our wellbeing and turn those stats around.

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