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Angelia Sparrow has done something in this essay I wouldn’t have thought possible — she made me want to go back and rewatch X-Men 3.


As I look ahead to the last batch of guest posts, I’m trying to decide whether to take another break before posting the rest. There’s a lot to process and think about in these things … what do you think?




Once upon a time—all the best stories start that way—once upon a time, there were no gay people on TV, except Billy Crystal on “Soap,” and certainly no lesbians. I joke that lesbians weren’t invented until the 1990s, and for all our pop-culture representation, we might as well not have been.


I grew up in the 70s and 80s, not a great time to be gay to start with. The world was starting to acknowledge we were real, but the plague lay sore upon the land, and “Unclean” was not an atypical reaction. Pastors were preaching against gay people with the same vigor they had recently discovered for abortion after school segregation became a toxic issue with their congregations.


I’m a middle-aged married byke now, with four kids, two of whom are bisexual. I had no clue when I was six why I wanted to be Batgirl, other than the motorcycle and long red hair and librarian and apartment of her own. Lesbians weren’t even mentioned, except Billie Jean King, and I couldn’t be an athlete. Add in a lot of the aforementioned bad religion, and my generation learned to hide.


My daughters got subtext and the occasional relationship, but they still didn’t see much of themselves in media. Willow and Tara on “Buffy” were one of the first lesbian couples on TV, and certainly the first we watched with the kids. Seeing my approval of that relationship helped my oldest daughter, Victoria, come out to me in 2005. But Willow went from “I’m with Oz” straight to “I’m with Tara” gay without even acknowledging the possibility of bisexuality. And that hurt. It felt like a glaring omission, a negation.


Victoria went through the same media I had, twenty years before. And the problem movies and “dead in the third reel” stuff depressed her and bored her. Xena and Gabrielle were the only characters she saw having relationships with both men and women. She wanted to know if she was going to have to die young.


About this time, George Takei came out. Victoria had a huge Sulu crush to start with, and seeing him as an old man, older than her grandfather, and knowing he was gay, reassured her she did not have to die before thirty. We started looking for other, older media figures who were out, and found a few. But again, almost all were gay. Bisexuality was not an obvious thing, and something very few admitted to.


My youngest, Olivia, saw subtext before she could read. She loved Smallville and would lie on my tummy on the couch and watch it. We watched season 3, episode 2, when Lex gives the deed to the Kent farm over. Her eyes got big and she watched Clark and Lex, and then announced, “Clark love him, Mommy!”


In 2006, we saw X-Men 3. The movie gets a lot of scorn, but for us, it was a real turning point. Remember, this was the year after the Summer of Zach. We had joined with the local community to protest Love In Action, a reparative therapy center, because of Zach Stark, a teenager who had been forced into its program and left a list of the rules on his MySpace, exposing it. Our local movie critic called X3′s mutant cure “Love in Action in a syringe.” We had figured out a long time ago that the X-Men franchise wasn’t really about mutants. So we went. Victoria and I came from the movie with different takeaways, but we both saw exactly what was happening in the real world on the screen.


The cure. The ordinary humans fighting us (this was the same year eight states passed anti-marriage amendments). The radicalization of more marginalized factions. It was all there, with more explosions than necessary. We started getting more involved in the community. I volunteered at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Victoria became active in the local youth group. And my fundamentalist husband joined PFLAG.


Now, almost a decade later, we still piece together the existence of bisexuals in the margins of our media. There are gay characters in almost every genre, and they’re no longer limited to minstrelry or villainy. But bisexuals are rarer and almost always female. Irene Adler on the BBC Sherlock is presented as bisexual, Sarah Lance on Arrow. The very pansexual Jack Harkness, Brittany on Glee. They do, however, exist.


There are out media personalities, and some identify as bisexual. And this, too helps. My youngest, now in her teens, dates boys and girls alike. She listens to Lady Gaga, enjoys Misha Collins on Supernatural (the first out poly star), and knows they’re bisexual. Her media world is very different from mine, and hopefully a more welcoming one.




Angelia Sparrow is the queer pagan liberal that Pat Robertson warned you about. She has been writing professionally since 2004, when she sold her first short story, “Prey,” to Torquere Press’ Monsters anthology. Since then she has published a dozen novels, with everyone from Ellora’s Cave to Storm Moon Press, and over eighty short stories. She writes SF/F/H, often with a queer bent.


Her work can be found at http://brooksandsparrow.com  and she can be found at valarltd on livejournal, Pintrest and Tumblr and Angelia Sparrow on facebook.


Angelia Sparrow





Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
siege
Mar. 17th, 2015 02:38 am (UTC)
Thank you. My family doesn't really understand where I'm coming from when I talk about acceptance of people who are different.. and I keep writing bisexual characters that I don't know what to do with, because I look straight from the outside (and don't have much exploratory experience as it is).
dionysus1999
Mar. 18th, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC)
Just watched the referenced episode from Smallville. And I had the same reaction, these dudes love each other. And we already know Clark has a Secret.

X-Men III and Smallville both metaphorically dance around the idea of aspects of a person that have to be hidden away to make them safe from society. X-men III just makes what was always in the background front and center.
wintersillusion
Mar. 23rd, 2015 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Seriously! I don't know how many times I've gotten into arguments about the way they portray people "converting" in t.v. and movies. Willow was my idol. I used to work backstage at a music hall in Los Angeles where many celebrities would come in to see the shows so they wouldn't have to be out with the crowds and get pestered by fans. Before that, I grew up in a family that worked in the motion picture industry and met a lot of famous people while going to work with my parents. Alyson Hannigan was the only celebrity I ever acted like a silly schoolgirl over when I met her. It was all because of Willow. Which is why it hurt me so much when they made her magically go from straight to lesbian with no wiggle room. WTF!?! I was incensed. How could they make her love with Oz so epic and then act like she just didn't like guys at all? It was just this realization. Like, "oops, my bad." No, I couldn't handle it and I felt like it was some horrible insult to all people on the spectrum. After that, I noticed it was a huge pattern that kept emerging. Characters on t.v. would suddenly become gay with no real in between. I understand that some people go through relationships with one gender and then one day finally come out and never date that gender again. I have a friend who did that. But, you can't make their first relationship epic and then act like they don't care anymore. And, you shouldn't make that the trope of how all people out themselves.

Anyway, thank you. Sorry for the long rant. That has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time. And, I know people don't always know who they are right away, either. I went from thinking I was straight, to bi, to figuring out that I was pansexual over the past fifteen years. I just hate seeing it portrayed like some sort of switch you just flip one day.

Edited at 2015-03-23 09:12 pm (UTC)
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