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Proud to be Me

ABOUT
THE PROBLEM

Although bi+ people make up the majority of the LGBTQ+ community, the bi+ community is consistently overlooked in film, television, and the news.

Film & TV.

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In the 1998 classic film, There’s Something About Mary, Mary explains to Ted the reason she is not married yet: “Well, I’m bisexual. So that’s hard for a lot of guys to understand.”  She concludes by telling him: “I’m fucking with you.”  They both laugh it off to a sigh of relief from Ted.

 

The bi+ community is consistently overlooked in film and television. When bi+ people are portrayed in film and television, the characters are often harmful tropes.

 

In the 2020 Annenberg Report, researchers found that there were only eight bi characters present in the top 1,200 films of 2018, and only three present in the top films of 2019 and two in 2020.  Although Annenberg found 13 bi character in 2022, that still amounts to only .03 percent of all speaking characters.

 

Similarly, in its 2022-2023 Where We Are on TV annual report, GLAAD counted 596 regular and recurring LGBTQ+ characters across broadcast, cable and streaming. This was a decrease of 6.44 percent from the previous year’s 637 LGBTQ+ characters. Bi+ characters made up only 25 percent (149 characters), a decrease of four percent from the previous year and far below the actual population of bi+ people. These characters included 104 bi+ women, 39 bi+ men, and six bi+ nonbinary characters. 

 

When bisexuality is portrayed in media, bi+ characters are usually the butt of a joke or stereotyped as villainous (Frank Underwood in House of Cards or Camilla in Empire), sexually promiscuous betrayers (Max in the Gossip Girl reboot), and dishonest murderers (Bridey in The Family).

 

Other times, their attraction to more than one gender is simply used as a plot device, such as in Glee where Kurt tells Blaine, who knows he likes men and is questioning if he may like a woman named Rachel, “Bisexual’s a term that gay guys in high school use when they wanna hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change.” There is no further discussion and the storyline follows Kurt who is brokenhearted by the fact his crush Blaine is questioning his sexuality.

 

This type of bi+ erasure comes as no surprise for bi+ people who grew up to Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw who said things like, “I’m not even sure bisexuality exists. I think it’s just a layover on the way to Gaytown” or to 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon who said, “There’s no such thing as bisexual. That’s just something invented in the 90’s so they could sell more hair products.”  

 

While this is starting to change with characters such as Schitt’s Creek’s David Rose and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Rosa Diaz, the stigma bi+ people have faced on screen has contributed to pervasive discrimination and erasure off screen. 

 

Bi+ people are paid less than gay, lesbian, and straight people.  Bi+ people have higher rates of poverty and suffer from anxiety at higher rates than gay, lesbian and straight people.  Nearly half of bi+ women have been raped, while 75 percent of bi+ women will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes.  Similarly, nearly half of bi+ men will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes compared to 40 percent of gay men and 20 percent of straight men.  And bi+ people are 1.5 times more likely to report suicidal thoughts and attempts, compared to gay and lesbian people.  The compounding effects of discrimination for bi+ people of color, particularly Black bi+ people, is evident in employment, income level disparities, healthcare access, and police interactions, among other issues.

 

Nowhere are the effects of the stigma against bi+ people perhaps clearer than in domestic funding distribution.  Although bi+ people make up the majority (nearly three-fifths) of the LGBT+ community, less than 1 percent of all domestic grant dollars awarded to LGBTQ+ communities and issues goes toward bi+ communities and issues. By normalizing bi+ invisibility on screen, we have given even our philanthropic allies permission to invisibilize us offscreen.

News Media.

Our inaugural Bi+ Censorship in the News report explores the visibility of bi+ people and bi+ issues over the last three decades in print news, the way bi+ people have been depicted, and to what extent bi+ people have been given a platform to tell their own stories. 

 

Unfortunately, our findings show that print newspapers underreport on bi+ issues; and although media representation of bi+ people is becoming less negative and more accurate, media representation of bi+ people continues to be biased, perpetuate harmful stereotypes, and not reflect the lived experience of bi+ people.

While our report contains a number of concerning findings that need to change, Rewrite the BiLine encourages journalists and news agencies to address three most startling findings first.  Read the report to learn more!

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