As the fight for equality rages on in both politics and media, Pride Month appreciates how far the LGBTQIA+ community has come. From the Stonewall Riots to the origins of queer cinema, countless brave and daring icons have made their existence known and claimed the same rights and freedoms as everyone else.
While there’s still a long way to go, the days of hate and insults being tossed around like poppy seeds (on TV, at least) are over. The birth of New Queer Cinema in the early 1990s gave LGBTQIA+ artists the ability to represent themselves beyond being the butt of a joke or double meaning. It was then that the bisexuals of television appeared.
Many characters on this list have never been explicitly labeled as bisexual. However, given the widespread erasure and problematic nature of bisexual portrayal as a whole, it is imperative that readers understand that an attraction to someone, regardless of gender, is not and does not will never be a bad thing. This label comes with love and a big thank you for giving young gay men the representation they desperately needed back then.
Jadzia Dax Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999)
Leading the way with dynamic representation, as science fiction often does, was star trekit is Star Trek: The Next Generation spin off DS9. As Trill joined, Jadzia Dax was the eighth host of the Dax symbiote. Simply put, his species has the ability to host a symbiotic life form. When combined, the two are a new and unique individual that houses the memories of previous hosts.
The Dax symbiote’s previous host had been Captain Benjamin Sisko’s mentor, Curzon. Although now a young woman, the bond between Sisko and Dax remains. Jadzia’s identity is beautifully non-binary due to the diversity of previous hosts. Having experienced life as multiple genders, the love she shares with fellow scientist Trill Lenara Kahn (current symbiote host Kahn, who was once married to symbiote host Dax) runs deep. Tragically, “reassociation” is forbidden, and Jadzia has fallen in love with Lt. Commander Worf.
Xena – Xena: Warrior Princess (1996 – 2001)
The character of Xena originally appeared in several episodes of Hercules: The Legendary Voyages. The character’s notable popularity earned him a spin-off series that somehow overshadowed the huge success of his predecessor. warrior princess follows Xena as she travels through an ancient mythical landscape. She uses her skills as a monumental combatant to protect the innocent in hopes of gaining forgiveness for her dark past, with her faithful companion Gabrielle at her side.
The epitome of “they were roommates,” Xena’s relationship with Gabrielle is often dismissed as platonic by those unfamiliar with the subtlety and tenderness of Sapphic love. As one of the greatest television shows of its time, Xena was very progressive. To have a strong female lead, both physically and mentally, especially in the action genre, was unheard of. There were no homosexual relationships on television at that time. As subversive as he was, Lawless Lucy confirmed, so it’s canon, okay?
Christopher Keller and Tobias Beecher- ounces (1997 – 2003)
Emerald City, the brainchild of prison warden Tim McManus, is an experimental unit that houses inmates within glass walls. Rehabilitation and accountability are the goals of inmates randomly selected to live in the Big Brother-like environment. With each faction equally represented, harmony is lost to power. Each inmate has their own agenda, but when a remorseful and tormented Beecher finds a friend in charming outcast Keller, his feelings get in the way.
HBO ounces was a groundbreaking dramatized depiction of the prison system. The show had a lot to say through Harold Perrineau’s powerful storytelling and performances from some of the best actors of the 90s. The Beecher/Keller arc continues throughout the series and will, time and time again, destroy the viewer’s faith in humanity. A thing that fixes ounces besides many prison stories, there is Beecher’s bisexuality. He struggles, denies and hides it, but eventually accepts that he loves Keller. Huge trigger warning for this show – it’s rated R for a reason.
Willow Rosenblum – buffy the vampire slayer (1997 – 2003)
Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as the titular character who is destined to battle vampires, demons, and the forces of evil. With the help of her friends, the “Scooby Gang”, she balances the weight of the world with high school and college. Alyson HanniganWillow, an academic wallflower and Buffy’s best friend, is one half of the first long-term TV relationship between two women.
Riding the wave of female empowerment in the late 90s, buffy the vampire slayer remains an important and iconic series. Not only did it feature one strong woman, but several. Willow is included here because she was also romantically involved with a man on the show, and the bi-erasure is real. Often bisexual characters (and people) have been forced to “choose sides” when there’s nothing wrong with being attracted to more than one gender, and who you end up with doesn’t change who. you are.
Samantha Jones- sex and the city (1998 – 2004)
sex and the city chronicles the life of sex columnist Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her three best friends in modern New York City. The description of strong female friendships, inspired by the novels of Candace Bushnell, was a ratings success. While some elements haven’t aged well, many have a fondness for the powerful and rebellious vixen Samantha.
Samantha Jones, HIV positive (Kim Cattrall) has been and always will be a darling of the queer community. Her shameless attitude towards life, love and sex has allowed dozens of viewers to embrace their identities without fear of judgment. She once identified as a “sex tryout,” but that was her relationship with Maria Reyes (Sonia Braga) that cemented Samantha as a bi icon.
Marissa Cooper and Alex Kelly- CO (2003 – 2007)
While the initial focus was on troubled teenager Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) and his assimilation into the pomp of Orange County when taken in by his lawyer, Sandy Cohen (Pierre Gallagher), CO quickly tackled many heavy topics through a postmodern lens, such as drug addiction, violence, sexual assault, and classism, and became a must-watch for teens of the era.
The early 2000s were plagued with problematic stereotyping, but when the biggest TV show of the time, CO., introduced an openly bisexual character, some balance was restored. At least it got people talking. While Marissa’s relationship with Alex (Olivia Wilde) was quickly forgotten in favor of many “bad boys”, Alex then dated Seth. Whatever the outcome, the women shared a connection, and young queer viewers saw a possibility.
Next: Best TV Series That Represents Queer Love Like “Heartstopper”