“The reality for bisexual people is that we are having to constantly remind people of our bisexuality”
BY ELLA GAUCI, IMAGE BY NETFLIX
A few days after season two of Netflix’s show Heartstopper came out, I came across a TikTok (which has since disappeared) of two girls mocking the character of Nick Nelson for saying “I’m bi, actually” throughout the series. Masked in their laughter and “light-hearted bantering” about the show, what these two girls were actually saying was that Nick’s bisexuality annoyed them in some way. That his constant refusal to be called “gay” aggravated them. That, quite simply, bisexual characters should just shut up.
But the reality for bisexual people is that we have to constantly remind people of our bisexuality. We have no singular coming out. If we date someone of a different sex we are automatically labelled as straight “again” (as if we had taken up bisexuality as a hobby). On the other end of the spectrum, if we date someone of the same sex – like Nick – we are automatically assumed to have “made up our mind”.
I was 15 when I came out as bisexual, just one year younger than Nick Nelson. Despite knowing since primary school that I was different to my other friends, I didn’t have the language to express how I felt.
“Are you sure you’re not actually just gay?” Someone asked me during a lunchtime break at school following my coming out. What she hadn’t known was the nights I had stayed up wondering the same thing myself, unsure of how you could like people of different genders. You were either gay or straight, right?
“Everyone’s saying they’re bisexual these days,” adults would comment as if I was becoming a vegetarian or taking up rock climbing.
Like Nick’s character experiences in the show, other people will constantly try to place you into a label they understand more easily. I think for others around me it would have been easier to understand if I was a lesbian. As bisexual people, our inability to stay between the binaries, to move between the sides of the sexuality spectrum, seems to make us difficult to comprehend and understand. How can you like boys, girls, and everyone else?
When I came out I didn’t have any bisexual representation I could relate to. The only bisexual characters on TV were adults who already had their lives together and understood their sexuality. As I spent evenings literally googling “Am I gay?” quizzes online, I felt alone and misguided.
Seven years later I watched Nick Nelson do the same thing in Heartstopper season one and I burst into tears. I was happy that a whole new generation of teenagers would have representation that captured the feelings of confusion which come from being bisexual in a world obsessed with neat categorisation. But I was also devastated for my 15-year-old self who had done it alone.
We need more characters like Nick Nelson who explore the intricacies of what it means to be bi. It’s all well and good to see badass characters whose bisexuality is not their central point like Lorraine in Atomic Blonde, but I also want to see bi characters coming to terms with their sexuality in the same raw and intimate way that we see with Nick.
I wish I could give Nick Nelson a hug. And Kit Connor, who should have never been forced to come out. Who should have been able to have the same right of passage as his character in season two to come out on his own terms.
But most of all, I want to give a hug to 15-year-old me. I want to give her the words to say “I’m bi, actually” every time someone tried to undermine her sexuality. I want to tell her that it will get better, and one day people will simply accept you when you come out to them, rather than try to label you themselves.
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