WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Freeform’s The Bold Type does not shy away from tackling major issues that affect women directly. From breast cancer, the wage gap, and even issues within the lesbian and bisexual community, The Bold Type has something for every woman.
One of the biggest storylines in the show is Kat discovering her sexuality. Up until season 4, Kat proudly identified as a lesbian. Fans of the show loved her on-and-off relationship with Adena, a photographer she met through working at the women’s magazine, Scarlet. However, as season 4 begins two major things happen: Adena comes back into Kat’s life, platonically, and Kat discovers that she is attracted to… men. Oop!
For Kat, this is a wonderful time of self-discovery. Kat has always been proud of who she is, and as she explores what it means to be bisexual, that is no different. However, Adena invites Kat to a part with many of their lesbian friends, and in the same scene, Kat spills the beans about having sex with a man. Adena becomes aggressive and defensive, telling Kat that she is not welcome at the party anymore because she is bisexual and not a lesbian. Thus, moving forward, this one conversation changes the entire dynamic for Kat and Adena.
Kat struggles deeply with accepting herself after this harsh conversation with Adena. Adena has always been someone Kat looks up to and takes very seriously, is Adena’s opinion on Kat’s sexuality valid? Will all her lesbian friends not appreciate her taking up space at this party? Kat confides in a coworker about this, Oliver, and he says that she needs to show up to the party and be her incredible self. This is the boost of confidence Kat needs. Guess what? She shows up to the party with Oliver, looking amazing, and being wonderfully herself.
The twist: Kat chats with some of her lesbian friends at the party, and asks them if they are not okay with her being bisexual. Her friends tell her that they love her and accept her for exactly who she is… which is not what Adena said. This moment changes Kat’s relationship with Adena, as she realizes that Adena lied, and let her own feelings cloud her judgment. From here on out, Kat and Adena’s relationship will remain strictly professional, as Kat believes she should be loved and accepted by everyone when Adena clearly did not accept her.
Season 4 pauses with Kat and Adena working together on a project, which results in Kat getting fired. When season 4 gets picked back up, there have not been any new episodes featuring Adena. Could this be because Kat cut Adena out of her life for not accepting her? The show continues to highlight Kat’s bisexuality in her sexual partners, but Adena is still nowhere to be found. As new episodes play on, fans will just have to wait and see if Adena makes a return, or if The Bold Type writers are using her absence to send a bigger message.
So, what does Adena’s reaction to Kat’s sexuality say? Why did Adena lie and react so harshly to Kat, making her feel small? There could be a variety of reasons, but one that stands out is the fact that Adena is insecure. Adena was Kat’s first girlfriend, the girl that provided Kat with a sexual awakening of sorts. Perhaps Adena feels threatened by Kat’s discovery that she still is interested in men. Or maybe Adena is judging her, from a deeply rooted biphobia within her. Whatever the case, this instance between the two actually speaks volumes about the prevalence of bisexual erasure, even within the lesbian community.
Let’s talk about bisexual erasure. What is it, and why is it so bad? Here erasure essentially means to obscure or to assume someone’s sexuality. In the straight community as well as the LGBT community, bisexual erasure is prevalent. Every time someone says it’s “just a phase” to a bisexual person, that is erasure. Erasure invalidates bisexuality and can make bisexual people feel invisible. To put it into perspective, an example of bi-erasure could be a woman in a lesbian-passing relationship. Sure, these two women are dating and possibly in love, but when the bisexual woman is called a lesbian, that is incorrect. Perhaps that woman would then be defensive, saying she’s bisexual. The same could happen for straight passing couples as well. When the others around the bisexual woman insist that she cannot be bisexual because she is with a woman or that her bisexuality “no longer matters” that is ERASURE, and it happens all too often. (This writer may or may not be speaking from personal experience. Oof.)
Now, back on The Bold Type…
Adena firmly makes Kat believe that because she is bisexual, the lesbian community will reject her. This in and of itself is bisexual erasure, even if Adena did not intentionally mean it to be. Adena is making Kat feel as though her sexuality is not valid because she is not a lesbian. While Adena may have done this simply because she felt threatened, it speaks to the anxiety that many bi women have after experiencing anti-bi bias. The storyline sends a bigger message that harmful stereotypes can be weaponized against bi women.
In contrast to Adena’s behavior, Kat’s lesbian friends at the party completely accept her and reinforce the idea to Kat that Adena used bisexual erasure out of jealousy or spite. So the show provides the antidote to these anxieties about erasure and stereotyping: bi bias does not exist within every lesbian or gay person, but rather in a select bunch. However, it is still a problem that is thriving in every community of people, and The Bold Type does a great job with Kat and Adena’s storyline addressing bi-erasure within our community.
Kat does get her groove back, though, by even showing up at the party and not letting what others might think of her sexuality bother her. We absolutely LOVE to see it. Hopefully we will get to see Kat and Adena resolve these issues later in season 4!
You can watch The Bold Type on Hulu or Freeform.