“I’ve dated people of all genders, but even if I hadn’t, I’d still be beautifully, outrageously, unapologetically bi”
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGES BY NETFLIX
“back for a minute. i’m bi. congrats for forcing an 18 year old to out himself. i think some of you missed the point of the show. bye.” After enduring relentless accusations of queerbaiting, Heartstopper’s Kit Connor came out via Twitter on Monday night. In alternative circumstances, this would be a happy occasion: sadly, this isn’t the case.
Kit was forced out, and reading his tweet broke my heart. When I was 18, I was nowhere near ready to tell the world that I was bisexual. When I was almost 19, I managed to confide in a few close friends and later on, my university flatmates, but I didn’t tell my mum until I was 21. My coming out journey was difficult, but it was mine: I had complete ownership and authority over it, and I came out when I was ready. Kit Connor should’ve had that choice, too; everyone deserves that.
The thing is: individual people cannot – and should not – be accused of queerbaiting. For this very reason. A marketing technique for fiction and entertainment in which creators hint at but then do not depict LGBTQIA representation, its purpose is largely to attract a queer or straight ally audience. Queerbaiting is produced in writers’ rooms that have little to no understanding of how to tell LGBTQIA stories authentically, and it’s right that fans call out shows that treat queer lives – and queer representation – like a game. But repeatedly hounding an 18-year-old? That isn’t progress.
The worst part of it all? The same people that were abusing Kit for his so-called “failure” to come out drastically misunderstood the entire point of bisexuality. The cruelty that he faced worsened when photos of him with a love interest emerged. Because he was papped with a girl – and not a boy – fans decided that he was somehow unjustly profiting from his role. In their eyes, he didn’t deserve to be playing a bisexual teenager if he wasn’t dating a boy like Charlie in real life.
Bisexual people don’t always exclusively date people of the same gender. That’s the entire point. Hurling abuse at an actor for “being straight” for supposedly dating someone of a different gender isn’t forward-thinking. It undermines all the beauty that Heartstopper set out to achieve – and did achieve – when it aired earlier this year.
What’s more, Kit’s treatment proves that – despite huge milestones – we still have a long way to go. It’s 2022: bisexuals shouldn’t still be standing here, saying ‘hey, can you not erase me?’ whenever we’re in relationships that don’t present as “queer” on the surface. I thought we were past that point, but clearly, we aren’t.
I’ve had a boyfriend for three years, but that doesn’t make me any less bisexual. I’ve dated people of all genders, but even if I hadn’t, I’d still be beautifully, outrageously, unapologetically bi. It hurts my heart – and, quite frankly, pisses me off – that we’re still having to revert back to these discussions when we still have so many bridges to cross to achieve true LGBTQIA equality.
The same argument can be extended towards the treatment that Harry Styles has received by both the media and certain sections of his fanbase. In August 2022, he was forced – yet again – to defend himself against critics that had accused him of queerbaiting ahead of the release of gay romance My Policeman. “It’s obviously pretty unfathomable now to think, ‘Oh, you couldn’t be gay. That was illegal.’ I think everyone, including myself, has your own journey with figuring out sexuality and getting more comfortable with it”, he stated in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Likewise, in 2017, Harry Styles remarked that he’d never felt the need – or the desire – to label his sexuality. “I don’t feel it’s something I’ve ever felt like I have to explain about myself”, he told The Sun. Like Kit, his sexuality wasn’t something he felt he owed the public an explanation on, and rightly so. “I’ve been really open with it with my friends, but that’s my personal experience; it’s mine”, he told Better Homes & Gardens in April 2022.
Real queer lives aren’t “content” for fangirls to obsess over. Kit Connor didn’t owe anyone a coming out, and I’m sad that this situation became his reality. Suggesting that people in the public eye – like Kit Connor, Harry Styles and so many more – are obliged to disclose the intimate details of their love lives isn’t progress. It’s outdated, and it ruins lives.
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