How My Bisexuality Changed the Way I Watched TV

When CW’s The 100 brutally and without remorse killed off Lexa within the same 30 minutes of the culmination of her courtship with Clarke, I was, for a lack of a better word, devastated. By that time, I was fiercely protective of  both the representation and presentation of members of the LGBTQ community in main stream entertainment, and I’d had enough of a television show’s capacity to only feature one same sex couple at a time, unflinchingly killing one off to replace with the next one. Within two episodes of Lexa’s untimely death, The 100 introduced a male same sex relationship, as on the rocks as it was. Why didn’t room exist on that show for both couples? Were they afraid to lose viewers due to a heavy gay presence?

Photo: Variety
Photo: Variety

Let’s rewind to a few years to when I was in college. I was home for the weekend, sitting in the living room watching an episode of The Real World: New Orleans. My stepdad walked through the room while I was vegging out and stopped abruptly in front of the television. He turned and looked at me, breezily spouting off about this is what’s wrong with this generation’s entertainment: “The gays, they have to be represented in every show.

There has to be at least one in every single show now. I just don’t get it.” At this point in my life, I did not identify as part of the LGBT community. Dating a woman wasn’t even on my radar. I had one friend who came out to me right after high school, and I loved her, but I didn’t really think twice about what my stepfather said. I shrugged it off and kept watching.

Fast forward a few years to 2014. My biological father and I had begun to take steps to repair an irreparably broken relationship. After several years absent of communication in any form, we had begun to talk every few weeks on the phone. My dad and I always bonded about literature, film, and television, particularly the murder mystery genre. We were discussing various book and movies we had watched recently that we’d recommend to each other, which led to a discussion about the then brand new show How to Get Away With Murder. We discussed how enthralling the show was, and suddenly my dad, who was normally very rigid yet politically correct, became particularly terse. “What I just can’t get past on that show,” he said, “is how much they focus on that gay boy and his escapades. I don’t mind if you’re gay, but I don’t really want to watch it on my TV every week.”

“What I just can’t get past on that show,” he said, “is how much they focus on that gay boy and his escapades. I don’t mind if you’re gay, but I don’t really want to watch it on my TV every week.”

By this point in my life I was a bit startled by his statements. I still had not recognized or acted on any attraction to someone of the same sex, but I had several close relationships with those who identify as gay, particularly the woman I now get the privilege of marrying in a few months. His words didn’t impact me personally, but they didn’t just roll off my shoulders. I didn’t evaluate How to Get Away With Murder by its inclusivity and handling of its lesbian and gay characters, but I appreciated the show for unapologetically and provocatively representing a community that in my eyes deserved as much exposure as I did as a straight woman. I didn’t shy away from same sex characters on television, but I didn’t assess them by their representation. I didn’t tune in just to see a relationship that I could relate to my own, because the ones I could relate to were on every channel all the time.

Over two years later here I am, crushed by Lexa’s death while relating to Clarke’s sexual fluidity, for it mimics my own lack of gender discrimination. Crushing on Alex from Orange is the New Black, giddy over every stranger who approaches me, asking if I’ve ever been told I look exactly like Piper (it just happened to me recently at my hair salon). Thrilled by Black Mirror’s exploration of bisexuality not as a label or a lifestyle, but just as an existence of women who see a soul recognition in someone else regardless of what body parts he or she happened to be born with. In high school I was almost heartlessly unmoved by the death of Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and now I get this sick feeling in my stomach through the entirety of season 5, crying alligator years over Tara’s demise and Willow’s subsequent breakdown. My casual interest in How to Get Away With Murder has become immense respect and reflection. Viola Davis makes me proud to own my bisexuality and what it stands for. I don’t have to pick a side. I don’t have to feel ashamed to want the best of both worlds. My value as a member of the LGBT community isn’t diminished by the fact that I spent 27 of my 29 years of life unable to recognize my full capacity to love.
Photo: Culturess

“My value as a member of the LGBTQ community isn’t diminished by the fact that I spent 27 of my 29 years of life unable to recognize my full capacity to love.”

I’m invested in works of entertainment art that choose to create characters like me, people who I can root for, fall in love with, and shed tears for because I know how I’d feel if that were me. I am the only bisexual person I know, so there’s no context, no point of reference that exists outside of what I read and watch. Buffy, the Chosen One, was my favorite character growing up. The strength, the courage, the heart, the power to defeat the demons of the world around her and save humanity.

Now my hero, my Chosen One is Willow, the one who has the courage to be herself every single day. The woman who doesn’t hesitant to open her heart to a man with a beast who lives inside him, and when he breaks her heart doesn’t hesitate to open that heart even more to let a woman love her. That’s true strength, real courage, the most heart, and the most powerful weapon you can have. Thank you Willow. Thank you Piper. Thank you Clarke, and thank you Annalise Keating, for showing me who it’s okay to be and what I’m capable of doing. Thank you for changing the way I watch TV.