Blog Post: BiVisiblity Day 2016

Howdy everybody! Today, I want to speak about something important to me that, while not directly related to some of my normal types of posting, I’m going to try to tie into something that vaguely resembles my normal blogging habits. You see, today is BiVisibility Day.

Yes, yes, another day dedicated to some random thing, right? The thing is, there are a lot of reasons that I find this day to be so important. I’m not going to bore you with a long ramble about my own experiences, but I will clarify this with a short summary: When I was coming to terms with being attracted to people regardless of gender, it was difficult. The internet was at 56K dial-up speed and far less vast than it is now. The upshot is that if you didn’t know what you were searching for, in my case bisexuality, you were far less likely to stumble across it. On top of that, people tending to look down on bisexuality, with members of the gay community in particular spouting a lot of things like ‘it doesn’t exist’ and ‘you’re just in denial about being gay’. The sad thing is, that still goes on today. Bisexuality is still very misunderstood, and bisexual people face negativity from both the straight and gay community.

So how does this tie in with my site? Well, to a degree, it always has. I mean, if you read my first two Sci-Fi novels, WICK and CARNIVAL, they prominently feature a gay woman named Fahrn. While the focus is on her past with another character, Meera, and her escapades in the holographic card tournament, the books also deals with her relationship with Maria Grace, an openly bisexual lady. As per my posting last year, the whole point of Maria was to show a bisexual character who just was bisexual. I didn’t want to make a big song and dance of it, I just wanted to show a bisexual character in a positive light. Why? Because I didn’t have that growing up. I didn’t have positive, openly bisexual characters to see in fiction and thing, ‘oh, that sounds familiar’.

Thankfully, I’m not the only one doing this, and that’s what I want to talk about here: Bisexual representation in the wonderful world of animated presentations. I’m going to start this with one of my favourites:

Korra [The Legend of Korra]

korrasamiIf you haven’t watched The Legend of Korra, well … you should. The animation is stunning, the fights are fluid, the characters are wonderfully well fleshed out, and not one of the four seasons is anything less than awesome. How does the series help with bisexual representation? By introducing a slow burning romance. You see, in season one, Korra falls for Mako, her teammate on the Fire Ferrets Pro-Bending Team. Pro-Bending, for the uninitiated, is a sport that utilising the mystical bending powers that both Korra and its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender use as the basis for the underlying story in the franchise. Mako is male, and while initially being interested in another lady, Asami, he starts dating Korra at the end of season one.

The relationship doesn’t last. As tension builds up between them, they eventually build to a split part way between season two, and Mako ends up back with Asami. Korra mostly focusses on her Avatar duties from here, but maintains a friendship with both Mako and Asami. When season three rolled around, Mako and Asami were no more, and Asami and Korra were able to start bonding. All through this season, you start to see the two ladies become closer, and right at the end of season four, they finally get together.

There are positives and negatives to this. Mostly positives though. The slow-build relationship and the complete lack of a reaction to it really helps to normalise bisexuality. That neither character is a walking stereotype also helps, and they manage to both avoid the usual negative connotations that people attach to bisexuality (such as being overly promiscuous and untrustworthy). Where things take an unfortunate turn is how the scene was finally presented. You see, moments before Korra and Asami go off together two other characters were married. They had the wedding and, of course, the traditional kiss. Korra and Asami were not afforded a kiss. Why? Because we apparently aren’t at the point where a same-gender couple can kiss on a kids show. As per this article, this isn’t entirely bad as we weren’t really at  appoint where same-gender couples were allowed to be shown on a kids show, so it is a step-forward. It does go to show though that there is still some way to go, not just in terms of bisexual representation and portrayal, but in the active portrayal all side of the non-heterosexual end of the sexual orientation spectrum.

So who shall we look at next?

Motoko Kusanagi [Ghost in the Shell]

gitsMotoko is portrayed in a very different way to Korra. It could be argued that her appearing in a franchise aimed at adults means that you can get away with a little more that the Korra team could, but is that necessarily a reason to do so? The thing is, I love the Ghost in the Shell franchise, and Major Kusanagi has been a firm favourite character for a long time, but when it comes to how her sexual orientation is portrayed, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

If we start with the source material, the original manga, we know that the Major is bi because she is at one point shown to be in a relationship with a male, and at another shown to be engaging in a full colour, XXX-rated multi-page scene with two other women. Is it wrong to show the character in a sexualised light? No. What bugs me isn’t that such a scene exists (though it was cut from the original Western release), it’s that this is the only way that the Major’s orientation is shown in the book. It could be that her relationships with males tend to be more serious, of course, but I honestly would have preferred both relationships to be shown in the same light, bet they sexualised or just acknowledged.

In a way, this is dealt with in a far better way in the animated series, Stand Alone Complex. Herein, it demonstrated in two separate episodes of the first season that Motoko has a high level of compatibility with other female cyborgs. At the same time, the Major and her male colleague Batou seem to build towards the feeling that they want to be closer than they are. By the end of the series, they have not taken the plunge in this respect, but that the build was there sends a clear message in my eyes. Meanwhile, if you don’t believe that there was something between these two, season two does confirm that Motoko once loved a male.

So in general terms, how positively (or at least, how balanced) the Major’s sexuality is presented varies between sources. In terms of animation though, they could do far worse!

 

So … who’s next? Well, therein lies a problem. I know there are other bi characters in anime, but I’m not familiar enough with them to really write about most of them. I kidna want to mention Revy from Black Lagoon here but, outside the current story arc in the manga she hasn’t really broached her orientation other than through her slow burn build up with Rock. In my experience, males appear to be thoroughly under-represented too. There’s Grell Sutcliff in Black Butler, who fawns over Sebastian but was clearly in a relationship of sorts with Madam Red, but that appears to be it in terms of the series that I know of. Even then, as much as I like the character, I’d hardly call Grell’s two key attractions healthy.

Regardless though, there are some good examples out there, and that one of the two above is from a show aimed at children is a marvellous step forward in my eyes. Not only that, but both series make the character’s orientation clear while still downplaying it in respect of how much of a big deal is made of it. That is so positive.

 

Things are not always rosy though, whether they be horrifically presented stereotypes, or people’s own real world misunderstandings. As such, there’s still a little way to go in terms of promoting understanding, and for that reason, Bi Visibility Day remains important. I really do urge you all to check the site out.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

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36 comments

  1. Perhaps straights and gays envy bisexuals because they get the best of both worlds. Shame that Kora didn’t get a kiss, but given how much controversy religious types can drum up I am surprised they got away with so much in western cartoon aimed at kids. Years from now such a thing won’t be such a big deal.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This is a great article!

    One character that comes to mind, and one you may already know, it Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 (game and anime at this point). He has a huge crush on Naoto, whom he thought was a boy, but turns out to be girl. Kaji always liked sewing and making cute stuff (makes sense since his family is in textile sales) and the social pressure of being a manly man with his confusion of his own sexuality more or less make him go through very serious existential crisis. I think I blabbed on too long….

    Again, great article. Please make more like these, these are wonderful to read!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I never finished Korra, but now I want to knowing it ends up with such a different direction than I thought it’d go–and that’s a good thing, for sure. I congratulate anyone who is able to be open about this topic. It’s hard to go against the social flow, especially when it has been in stasis for so many thousands of years. That’s one thing about this generation that I especially envy. Thanks for sharing your stance!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The sad thing is, it’s still so difficult for people who inhabit the B part because the lack of understanding comes from both the straight and gay community at times. Still, the more positive examples that the media show, the more that will fade. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent post, Matt! I’m a bit surprised to know that bi people face negativity even from gay people. But it makes sense, in a way. I think Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter is bi. Anyway, keep this up. I love reading this post. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you kindly! Aye, it does seem barmy, but there it is. I think that, to a degree, it stems from a similar sort of misunderstanding that gay people used to (and still do in some places) get from the straight community.
      I did hear once that there was a degree of jealousy too because bi people can ‘live in stealth’, but i’m not as keen on that as an explanation. I can understand the concept in areas where homophobia is rife, but as a generalised explanation I can’t see ti being accurate.
      Things will improve over time though, i’m sure of that. With the rise of pansexuality and other identities outside the better known LGB, the future looks more accepting on paper.
      Thanks again!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re very welcome. I see. That makes sense when you explain it like that. But I figured that perhaps gay people would be more understanding of bi people because they both experience discrimination especially from conservative groups. But I guess they see each other differently. Yes. I do sure hope so. Once again, great article, Matt!

        And by the way, I love that you say “aye” & “barmy”. So British! Love it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! Being an Irish/British Dual National, I get a lot of little things like that creeping in to my general speech. My accent gets a bit mixed up at times though, and sometimes ends up sounding Australian.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There a fair few, but I’m not sure any of them sound Australian. I used to have a thick Irish accent, but it faded by the time I hit high school. I guess being around so many people with the same different accent just rubbed of on me.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Where has this post been all my life

    It really is hard to find healthy representations of bisexuals (or pansexuals for that matter) in media. The idea that we’re ‘faking’ or ‘confused’ is just ridiculous.Here’s hoping that this attitude will change soon.

    The only anime bi character that comes to mind aside from the ones you’ve mentioned is Shion Karanomori from Psycho Pass.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Psycho Pass … that’s been recommended to me by several people, but I just haven’t gotten around to checking it out yet. Is it any good?
      Thank you though. I think that there’s still so much misunderstanding for everything outside heterosexual and homosexual right now, and having healthy representation in popular media is something that we need more of (hence my tendency to show balanced same-gender relationships in my own work). There are some poor examples out there too though. The representation of bisexual = over promiscuous is one of the things that I don’t care for in Game of Thrones for example, as it propagates a common stereotype too much for my liking. The whole faking and confused thing really didn’t help me much as a teen either.
      Thanks again for reading, and i’m glad that you enjoyed!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I liked it. Loved it actually. It presents an engaging take on the whole utopia-except-not-really concept. Shion is a fairly minor character but she’s fun.

        I kinda live somewhere the whole lgbt+ thing is not even talked about and even het relationships must be kept secret from family. No sex before marriage and all that bs. Ironically enough, finding out I was bi (pan, technically) wasn’t all that confusing at first because at the time, I only had positive exposure to lgbt via internet. The shitshow began later.

        I was put off GoT before I even began (something about gratuitous rape scenes) but now there’s another reason to keep away from it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had the issue that when I was coming to terms with stuff, I was faced with a far less vast 56K dial-up internet, no idea what to look for, and some poor role models/stereotypes floating around. I was lucky though in that my parents were supportive (though they thought I was gay rather than anything else). It still took years for me to figure things out though.
        The internet now is a wonderful tool for self discovery. It’s not without its ridiculous side, but it can provide a lot of good support fit those searching.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That must have been difficult. I’m glad you figured things out though. It’s a work in progress for me; all the heteronormativity saturating everyday life doesn’t help at all.

        Agreed. The internet does have its dark side (and boy, is it dark) but yeah, it can be really helpful too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No, heteronormativity can be prohibiting. Still, with in progress beats utter confusion and denial, so you can take as a passive if nothing else. Here’s hoping things get easier for you.
        It was difficult at times, but not insurmountable. I’m forever thankful that I didn’t have things near as bad as some so.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. The main character of Wandering Son, Nitori, is a trans girl who I think is bi. She has a crush on her trans boy friend(who she definitely sees as a guy), but she also dates a cis girl. It’s one of many things I love about her, since basically all the other trans girls that I’ve seen in anime/manga(of which there are not many) have been straight.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Even though I still struggle to pin down exactly what my sexuality is, seeing bi characters in media that make me feel comfortable in who I am means a lot to me too. It is a shame there aren’t more bi guys around in anime especially, the only two I can think of are Grell and Hisoka. Funnily enough, I wrote my own piece about this with Grell as its kind of poster boy. I love that Grell is so out and proud in his sexuality, so flamboyant you just get whisked along with him.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This older post is one reason I decided to follow your blog by the way. I really respected your visibility as a Bi person, & the commitment to reflect that in your reviews of various characters. Well done! I’m 50 & Bi, although don’t really like the label… it’s awesome to think younger folk will hopefully have an easier time just being themselves partly because of these kinds of cartoons & comics. Enjoy the celebration of 100 Followers too 😃🌈👍🏼🎉 G

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I wasn’t always so open, but once I took on the National Bi Representative role in my old job, it kinda became a necessity. It was good though. Not having many role models in my was difficult, so if me being visible helped even one person, that’s a success in my eyes. It is marvellous seeing some representation in various media now. I’d still like to see more, but the bi presence in fiction is growing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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