Recently, something in the media, especially TV shows, has caught my attention: bisexual erasure.
Bisexuality erasure is “the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, news media and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexuality exists.”
But for now, I’m talking about something a little more specific; something that annoys the hell out of me. That is the concept of characters feeling the need to decide between being gay or being straight.
As someone who is bisexual and a huge supporter of the LGBT community, it irks me whenever I hear characters saying a version of “I can’t decide if I like boys or girls” or “I’ve turned gay/straight.”
The Fosters is one of my favourite shows. I was hooked within minutes of watching the first episode. It is a show that does a lot of things right. It is a show about the struggles of the foster care system, being LGBT, being part of a dysfunctional family, having mental illnesses, contemplating suicide, being in love with someone you can’t have. This show is about real life. It’s about fighting and fighting to get a happy ending, if at all. This show does not sugar-coat anything. That’s why it’s one of my favourite shows of all time.
But when this show does a lot right, I could help but notice the cases of bisexual erasure. I’m not sure if the producers/writers were just ignorant and didn’t know what bisexuality was or if they just refused to label their characters as bi. However, the characters they created and the way they portrayed them seemed to me that the possibility of them being bisexual existed. But whoever wrote this decided to cover it up and say they were “just gay” or confused.
- Stef Foster – In the first couple episodes, we learn that Stef (who is now married to Lena) was married before and had a child with a man. A few flashbacks reveal her “turning gay” after meeting her current wife.
The show suggests that Stef turned into a lesbian after meeting Lena. In reality, just like you can’t turn straight, you can’t turn into a lesbian. Someone can come to a realization that “Hey, I like girls too, maybe even more than guys.” But to turn into a full blown lesbian, I don’t believe that can happen. Is it possible that Stef is bi? Very. Is it ever considered in the show? No.
- Jude and Connor – These two preteens/teens try to figure out their sexuality throughout the show. They date girls but also experiment with each other. At one point, they fall in love with each other.
The show suggests they either have to be gay or straight. I understand that they are young and trying to figure out their sexuality. I’m not against the questioning or as Jude once said “no labels” but my issue is whenever the adults talked about it, either with the boys or not, they always seem to be questioning whether their son was gay or straight. No one ever said “hey, maybe he’s bisexual/you’re bisexual” or “maybe he likes/you like both”. The boys often felt pressure/confusion between picking one or the other.
- Monte – As a “straight” woman, Monte kisses Lena and eventually falls in love with her. She remains straight for a while and then suggests she’s bi-curious.
She reveals she’s bi-curious way too late in the show. She stays “straight” throughout most of the show. Also, I find the term bi-curious to a little offensive in this situation as it plays into the misconception that bisexuals are just confused or simply curious. Bi-curious to me is when someone experiments with both genders. Bisexual is someone who is attracted to both sexes. Monte is not experimenting; she’s in love with Lena.
The Fosters is definitely not the only show guilty of bisexual erasure. There are MANY, including Orange is the New Black, Grace and Frankie, Degrassi: Next Class, Glee, The Kids Are All Right (movie), How I Met Your Mother and Grey’s Anatomy.
Below are videos I found on YouTube titled “Bisexual Erasure in Media” and “Bi Erasure by Mainstream Media”.