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Is 20 bi-teen living up to its name?

Updated: May 17

2019 has been hailed as the year of the bisexual, but how much are things improving for bis?

There’s no denying that 20 gayteen was particularly important for LGBTQ+ visibility in popular culture. We saw more depictions of same-sex relationships in music, thanks to artists like Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan and Sam Smith.

Queerness made its way into the mainstream not just in the pop sphere, but on screen too. Films such as Love, Simon, Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post drove representation of queer folk forward, covering everything from coming-of-age comedy to the horror of conversion camps.

We also saw bisexual visibility improve throughout 2018. Janelle Monáe’s Make Me Feel was hailed as a bisexual anthem and Harry Styles’ Medicine, a song seemingly about a sexual encounter with a man, also got people excited. There were some noteworthy bi moments on screen too, thanks to Courtney Act’s The Bi Life and Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual. At long last, we’re starting to see our identities being depicted with the depth and detail they deserve.

Janelle Monae's "You Make Me Feel" music video

So far, 20 bi-teen isn’t quite living up to its name as we’ve had precious few triumphs to celebrate. Halsey’s raw, emotive performance of Without Me at the Billboard Music Awards with a female dancer was incredible and Lauren Jauregui was on Gay Times magazine cover flying the flag for bisexuals.

Halsey performing "Without Me" at the BBMAs

There was also a sign of progress when dating show Blind Date featured a panel of bisexual contestants without reducing them to the stereotypes about being greedy, loving threesomes…you know the drill. This was great until I read the two men had been sent to St Lucia, where same-sex relationships are illegal.

Bi musician Victoria Monét collaborated with Ariana Grande on the single Monopoly, in which she sings “I like women and men.” However, the track only made headlines because of claims Ariana Grande is queerbaiting and taking advantage of the LGBTQ+ community. (For the record, I’m claiming this as a bi anthem because Monét identifies as bi.) Even when it seems like we’ve moved one step forward, we’re going two steps back.

Victoria Monét and Ariana Grande in the "Monopoly" music video

Although we have some amazing bicons in music and TV, there’s undoubtedly a long way to go. We’re still continually erased from queer spaces, reduced to demeaning stereotypes and expected to justify our sexuality. It’s exhausting.

It’s shocking that it’s 2019 and we still have to remind people that we don’t need to pick a lane, we’re not here to spice up people’s boring relationships and we’re not confused. We want to see our identities represented properly in the mainstream instead of being stereotyped - or ignored altogether.


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