Our Favourite Bisexual Representation on TV

Bisexual visibility month is over but there is no reason why we shouldn’t celebrate our favourite, most visible bisexuals on TV – in no particular order, because they’re all powerful and adorable.

Rosa Diaz – my absolute favourite leather jacket wearing bisexual, Rosa Diaz is decidedly not relatable – she has an extremely secretive nature and an affinity to violence that is concerning, to say the least. Despite being an absurd sitcom character that you’re supposed to laugh at, her coming out arc in the fifth season of Brooklyn 99 stands out for how real and affirming it was. Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Rosa and is bisexual herself, contributed her lived experience to the script, grounding it in a special way. She insisted on the word bisexual being kept in the script, saying “This word is important. We have to keep this word in. We can’t just dance around what Rosa is saying and who Rosa is.” While her parents dismiss her identity, and take their time coming to terms with it, Rosa is accepted and comforted by her workplace family, emphasising the value of chosen families for LGBTQ+ folx. She dates men and women on the show and struggles with commitment issues, like most millennials. Unlike others on this list, Rosa’s coming out isn’t about a particular relationship, it’s about being ready to speak your truth to those closest to you. It’s a portrayal underlined with hope and hilarity, and written with great compassion and understanding.

Petra Andel – Positioned as an antagonist in the early seasons of Jane the Virgin, Petra is calculating and manipulative. She’s portrayed as materialistic and self-aware, but as her story unravels we find out why she is the way she is. The show subverts the harmful trope of the bisexual villain – by using her realisation as a positive way forward in her growth as a character. When she falls for confident and assertive lawyer Jane Ramos, we see her being swept off her feet. She’s surprised not because she’s attracted to a woman, but because of the depth of her feelings. She doesn’t dwell on them, though, immediately accepting them and acting upon them. Petra discovers her attraction to women after she’s been married and divorced, pursued a successful career and had kids – providing much needed representation of queer people who have sexual discoveries later in life. The lack of hesitation in her self-acceptance is refreshing to see on a drama and her vulnerability is what results in a very fulfilling relationship for both women – one that makes them grow into better people.

Korra and Asami – Featured on a Nickelodeon show, these two made history as being the first same sex couple on a children’s network in 2014. The final scene of the show features the two teenagers facing each other and holding hands, as the light of the Spirit World glows around them and a romantic melody plays in the background. The creators of the show confirmed that the two were a couple after the finale aired, clearing up any ambiguity about their relationship. They also maintained that holding hands was the extent of intimacy Nickelodeon allowed them to air. What makes this particular couple even more important is that Korra is the lead of the show – the main character. There are movie franchises and highly successful shows even in 2020, that shy away from giving their stories queer heroes. Legend of Korra didn’t just make its heroine bisexual, they also gave her a happy ending that was very clearly queer. It was a victory for queer fans who had spent years hoping for the two friends to get together, and a powerful message to children around the world about what happy endings can look like.

Adam Groff – Sex Education faced some backlash at first with this character. Eric Effiong, an openly gay character on the show, finally stands up to Adam after enduring years of bullying and we are made to understand that Adam envies the approval Eric receives from his father and how confident he is in his sexuality. It is then also revealed that Adam has feelings for Eric. As queer representation increased in popular fiction over the last decade, this trope was seen increasingly on network dramas – that of the armoured closet gay. Seen most often in male gay characters, it involves a homophobic bully that is later revealed to be gay himself. This portrayal propagates the dangerous notion that all homophobes are gay themselves, hence making homophobia the responsibility of the LGBTQ+ community and also brushes over the trauma that the bully has inflicted upon the character that is not in the closet. Over the second season, the show presented a resolution as Eric rejects Adam for being “full of shame”, giving Eric the power to come to terms with his trauma. This pushes Adam in the direction of acceptance as he has conversations about his bisexuality, saying the words out loud and finally confessing his love to Eric at the school play, in front of everyone they know. It’s some of the most genuine and heart-warming character growth seen on TV in recent years, that validates internalised biphobia without demonising it and instead providing a ray of hope.

Darryl Whitefeather – Bisexual men are a rarity on television. When they appear, they often exist as evil characters who only seduce men as a means to an end. This demonises and trivialises them and casts bisexuality, especially in men, in an immoral light. It was a breath of fresh air then, when the bumbling boss on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend came out as bisexual with a huge song and dance number called “Gettin’ Bi.” He discovers his sexuality after he divorces his wife and his realisation and coming out are celebrated with an aplomb only musicals are capable of. The extravagant, unapologetic joy that Darryl and his coming out are treated with is unlike anything else on television.

While these characters (and many others) have provided a range of perspectives that have added to the visibility of bisexual people in media and popular culture, it’s nowhere near inclusive. One glaring issue is the lack of trans and non-binary people on TV, which reflects in this list too. There is a long path to go, until everyone in the bisexual community sees themselves on screen, but at least the path is brightly lit now with authentic stories that have been told with great care and accepted by audiences unconditionally.

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Journalism student, pop culture lover and feminist in progress.
Shradhdha Das

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