Clexa Con featured a few specific panels on LGBTQ representation, including one on bisexual representation. Panelists Jenn Fitzpatrick (@Jennirrific ), Debbie-jean Lemonte (@TheLocdBella), Chelsea Steiner (@ChelseaProcrast), and Jessica Kath (@jerseyfjord) discussed their experiences as bisexual women, the importance of positive representation, and the disproportionately negative portrayals of bisexuality.
Bisexual representation has a long way to go; most bisexual female characters hit more than one negative trope, like the unstable bisexual trope, promiscuity, and oversexualization. Many characters don’t have any sort of substantial story with a female character, and their bisexuality is often erased. For example, Alice (Leisha Hailey) on The L Word started as bisexual but by the end of the series, everyone had forgotten that she was bisexual, including the actress who played her. Anti-bisexual language is also a huge issue. Characters in The L Word routinely attacked Tina (Laurel Holloman) for being bisexual and dating a man and Santana (Naya Rivera) in Glee had a number of lines dismissing Brittany’s (Heather Morris) sexuality. Steiner talked about how bisexuality is one of the last things you can make fun of on TV without really getting called out. Just recently The Real O’Neals had a biphobic joke and Sara Ramirez (Grey’s Anatomy) was all over the news for calling it out, because normally people just let it slide.
Bisexual female characters are hit hard by Bury Your Gays when they are with women, they often lose their partner and aren’t given time to grieve. Clarke (Eliza Taylor) on The 100 is a prime example of that.
Steiner discussed wanting to see more flawed three dimensional female characters, like Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) on Orange is the New Black. Piper is a terrible person, but it’s not because of her bisexuality and there needs to be more characters like that. Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) on How to Get Away With Murder is another positive example of a flawed bisexual character. Annalise manages to avoid the tropes plagued by women of color and bisexual women while providing the driving force of the show’s narrative.
Lemonte talked about wanting to see more intersectionality, especially more bisexual trans women, because there aren’t any. More trans characters on television is important because trans women are murdered at a higher rate than any other group and positive representation can help with that.
The panelists discussed those tiresome articles that ask if bisexuality exists and how they contribute to bi-erasure and the stigma bisexual people face. Bisexual women who are married to straight cis men often have their bisexual identity ignored. Fitzpatrick talked about she often has moments where she “doesn’t feel queer enough,” even at a place like Clexa Con. She also talked about how she doesn’t feel like there’s a space for her and women like her who discover they’re bisexual after they get married (to men). Lemonte brought up bisexual invisibility; bisexual people don’t put themselves out there because they don’t feel queer enough or like they belong. She talked about the fact that she faces a lot of prejudice from the LGBTQ community because she’s “just confused.”
You can check out the entire panel below!
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