Although I had an assignment for this week, I came to my desk at a loss. It’s bisexuality visibility week here on The Theatrical Board and our editor-in-chief told us all to write articles relating to said sexual orientation. I’ve been wracking my mind for days now. When I try to come up with shows about bisexuality, I come up blank; when I try to name canonically bisexual characters, all I can think of are stereotypically promiscuous Maureen Johnson and the implied Clifford Bradshaw. When I continued to fail finding a topic, I turned to Google.
The first thing I looked up was playwrights. My search history is now full of famous LGBT+ writers -- Oscar Wilde, Paula Vogel, Tony Kushner, Lorraine Hansberry -- all of whom are fantastic. However, none of them are on the record bisexuals. Still in need of inspiration, I turned to the articles written by my lovely colleagues. And my heart broke.
In so much of what we’ve written, stories about gays and lesbians have dominated the discussions of bisexuality visibility week. The majority of work here focuses on Broadway more than other venues, but searching beyond the lights of the Great White Way, I am still disappointed. Representation for all identities within the queer umbrella is an issue long from resolution; yes, theatre has been a huge catalyst for both the depiction of queer characters and the voices of queer creators. But there is still such a long way to go.
I want stories of bisexuality. I want bisexual characters whose sexuality has nothing to do with the plot. I want to read and see stories that come from the minds of bisexual playwrights. I know that all of these things exist, but I do not know where to find them. Whether or not a large bisexual audience exists for theatre (which, anecdotally, there seems to be a huge bisexual audience for theatre), there is a severe lack of representation of this sexual orientation. Representation serves as more than a mirror for a specific demographic; representation serves to teach the rest of the world about the struggles and successes of other people. The way that bisexuality stands in theatre today stands in correlation to how it is viewed by many. Confusing, if not nonexistent, and oozing with sexual promiscuity. References made to bisexuality seem almost exclusively to focus on the sexual aspect of identity -- nothing more. While these characters and stories are legitimate, and do reflect some people’s stories, they stuff the complex nature of bisexuality into stereotypes. The only solution to this is for more stories to (pardon the pun) take the stage and explore the wide variety of experiences that make up bisexual identity. This is nothing new -- good representation has and always will be a combination of quantity, quality, and variety of stories. But until then, writing articles for weeks like this one will be a struggle. It is difficult to talk about bisexuality in theatre when it is incredibly hard to find in the first place; how can we celebrate something we can barely see?
(Photo credit, GoToVan)