As with all LGBT representation, pop culture has gotten a lot better at portraying bisexuality as something that an actual thing that exists in the real world. But while bisexuals are more visible than ever, a lot of those new bi characters still fall victim stereotypes and are often depicted as evil, manipulative, non-monogamous, and hypersexual.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a depraved bisexual here and there (ask me about all my “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” Mirror Universe feelings!), and some of those types of characters are great. But when it’s the only type of representation you see, it can be a bit disheartening — especially when it leads others to make false, negative assumptions about you. Where are all the nuanced, three-dimensional bi people who are uptight, or super monogamous, or total sticklers for the rules?
They might only be visible for approximately 13% of the year (sorry, I don’t make the Bisexual Awareness Week rules), but those characters absolutely exist. You just have to know where to look. Here are just a few:
On the surface (and especially thanks to the “X-Men” movies), Mystique seems like a vampy blue-skinned chick who uses her shapeshifting powers to seduce men for nefarious purposes. But while she’s had plenty of relationships with men over the decades, she never loved any of them as much as she loved Irene “Destiny” Adler, a fellow member of the Brotherhood of Mutants. She might be a villain, bur her relationship with Irene — as well as her maternal feelings for Rogue, whom she fostered in the comics — humanize her in a sympathetic and nuanced way.
Ianto Jones, “Torchwood”
Everybody knows that Captain Jack Harkness of “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood” fame will flirt with any sentient creature in the universe regardless of gender or species — which makes him a big ol’ hypersexual stereotype at times. But his teammate and eventual love interest Ianto Jones, on the other hand, is only ever depicted in committed, monogamous relationships — first with his Cyberwoman girlfriend, and then with Jack. And on top of all that, he's an overly enthusiastic sweetheart who just wants to do a good job.
Liara, “Mass Effect”
The Asari race are able to reproduce with anyone regardless of gender or species, and are even strongly encouraged to seek interracial relationships so their children will be more genetically diverse. But that doesn’t automatically make them sexpots — they actually choose their sexual partners very, very carefully. At least, thats what Liara tells you if you pursue a romantic relationship with her — though with her naive, studious personality, she might just be the type to take things slow in general.
John Constantine, “Constantine”
It’s a commonly held misconception that bisexual men are all feminine and flamboyant, in the same way that gay men are usually stereotyped to be — and that’s because most people think that all bisexual men are just gay dudes who are lying to themselves. In the words of Kurt Hummel from “Glee,” “Bisexual is 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.” But gritty, foul-mouthed John Constantine definitely doesn’t fit into the stereotype that our culture has of men who sleep with other men — and while he’s had plenty of sexual partners, he definitely isn’t afraid of commitment.
Josephine, “Dragon Age Inquisitions”
“Dragon Age Inquisition” does have a possible love interest that fits very neatly into the depraved bisexual trope, in that he’s all about casual kinky sex, killing bandits, and manipulating people (his name is Iron Bull and he’s actually the best, proving that even buying into tropes isn’t such a terrible thing if you do it well). But the other bisexual love interest, Josephine, is super innocent and very interested in traditional courtship rules — seriously, you don’t do anything more than kiss her and then engage in swordfights to defend her honor.
Sara Lance, “Arrow” and "Legends Of Tomorrow"
Sara might be a master assassin with a lot of blood on her hands (in which case being bisexual must come in handy because clearly the lack of visibility helps her stalk her targets more effectively). But despite her troubled past and total rage issues, Sara is ultimately a good person deep down, whether she believes it herself or not. Rather than reveling in her murder expertise (lookin’ at you again, Iron Bull), she seems genuinely disturbed by them and tries to do better over the course of the season.
Prodigy, "Young Avengers"
Plenty of bisexual characters (and people, too) don’t use the term “bi” to describe themselves. Why put a ~label~ on yourself when you love people regardless of gender, right? But the problem with that is if you don’t explicitly label a character as bisexual, people won’t recognize them as such; they’ll either see them as gay or straight. In “Young Avengers,” David Alleyne actively struggles with his sexuality and comes out the other side by clearly identifying himself as bi, which isn’t just something you don’t see very often in media — it’s also refreshingly relatable.
Korra, “Avatar: The Legend Of Korra”
Korra and Asami start out by indirectly vying for the attention of the same boy (although that doesn’t keep them from becoming friends and caring about each other, which is clearly a sign that they should have been dating each other the whole time). But by the end of the series, both girls end up developing feelings for each other instead. And Korra in particular is definitely not the cheating, manipulative type by any stretch of the imagination — she’s way too headstrong and straightforward for that kind of thing.
Alysia Yeoh, “Batgirl”
Some people mistakenly assume that bisexuals experiment with same-gender relationships, but inevitably conform to heteronormative ones. Some people also assume that gender identity and sexual identity are linked, and that if you’re trans, your gender identity determines which gender you are then attracted to. Alysia Yeoh knocked both of those assumptions out of the water by dating both men and women over the course of her time on “Batgirl,” and then ultimately marrying another woman — because yes, trans people can be bi, and bi people can commit to same-gender marriages. It’s two stereotypes broken for the price of one awesome character!