As an avid reader, television and movie viewer, I am constantly on the look-out for characters in print and on the screen that I can relate to on multiple levels. Time and time again, however, I tend to be disappointed by the lack of bisexual visibility across these mediums.
I wrote a blog for The Lesbrary last year on “The Dearth of Bisexual Literature.” Being interviewed by New York Times columnist Steven Petrow in mid-May, my Huffington Post co-blogger and I were asked about “good, positive” media depictions of bisexuals that “have influenced attitudes for the better.” Such a question made me turn to the screen to see how many bisexuals I could find.
I must admit, it was difficult to come up with a lengthy list.
My go-to answer for this question is always the character Dr. Calliope “Callie” Torres from Grey’s Anatomy, played by actress Sara Ramirez. Callie has had successful relationships with both male and female characters over the course of her story arc on the show. She is portrayed as a well-rounded character, her bisexuality being just one aspect of her identity among many other positive characteristics.
One particular facet of Callie’s arc that spoke to me and my own coming out process involves her first same-sex relationship with Dr. Erica Hahn, played by Brooke Smith. During the course of their relationship, Callie’s confusion over what her attraction means leads her to reach out to a male character, Dr. Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), and sleep with him. While some bisexuals might see such a trope as playing into negative stereotypes about bisexuals being incapable of monogamy or always being cheaters, I’d beg to differ.
I actually found that episode particularly comforting when I first saw it because I went through a similar situation during my evolution into accepting my own bisexuality. I was dating a girlfriend for the first time, and it was new and strange and exciting — but there was a part of me that questioned if I should be with her and what being with her meant about me. I stepped out over a break from college and hooked up with a male friend back home — it was terrible and made me realize how much I really felt for my girlfriend.
While I certainly understand the qualms some may have about the potential “negative” of such a portrayal on Grey’s Anatomy, for me I simply viewed it as accurate and realistic to my own story. I’m certain I am not the only bisexual who feels this way.
When I polled the bisexual activist community via Facebook to ask about other positive bisexual portrayals in the media, the following list was generated:
- Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood)*
- Bo (Lost Girl)
- Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
- Ramona (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)
- Angel and Spike (Angel)
- Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)*
- Rose (Rose By Any Other Name)
- Kalinda Sharma (The Good Wife)
- Daenerys Targarygen and Prince Oberyn Nymeros Martell, aka The Red Viper of Dorne (Game of Thrones)
- Pam de Beaufort, Queen Sophie-Anne and Tara Thornton (True Blood)
- Angela Montenegro (Bones)
- Rachel (Imagine Me & You)
- Caprica Six, Gina Inviere and Lt. Felix Gaeta (Battlestar Galactica – the remake)
- Nolan (Revenge)
- C.J. Lamb (LA Law)
For an even larger list, check out the Wikipedia page HERE.
*NOTE: There are mixed feelings about the Harkness character from Torchwood since, technically, he has relations with extraterrestrials as well as humans of multiple genders; Harkness is also a bit morally ambiguous. Similarly, Willow from Buffy is labeled a lesbian later in the series, despite having had opposite gender relationships previously.
Considering the tens of thousands (if not millions) of heterosexual characters in literature, television and film over the course of history, as well as the hundreds, if not thousands, of homosexual characters, bisexuals have a ways to go to be properly represented – especially considering studies that conclude that bisexuals actually make up a majority of the LGBTQ+ population.
Now it’s your turn — have I left any major bisexual characters off of this list? Who are your favorite bi protagonists? Please share in the comments below.