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Edition #5
Growth and Power
Lauren Bulla 
Edited by Elizabeth Rose

Queerbaiting Has Lost the Plot; The Very Real Ramifications of Proving Who the “True” Queers Are

In this age where social media dictates how we perceive each other’s intentions and inherent worth - we come across what I will explain to be a negative byproduct of respectability politics and the aching fight for queer liberation. 


The recent fixation on queerbaiting and the pattern of forcing people to demonstrate that they identify a certain way rests upon biphobic principles which reinforce reductive interpretations of sexuality. As Ed Farley has written, the term “queerbaiting” itself is not the problem, so much as the way it has been improperly appropriated toward issues it does not concern (Farley, 2022). Farley explains that the phrase “queerbaiting” was intended to refer specifically to fictional characters in film and television. However, social media has led us down an obscure path where fans expect real life actors to bare all when it comes to their identities, regardless of where they are in their stage of individual understanding.


There is a community split that most bisexual people encounter - an anecdotal feeling of “not being gay enough for the gays” or “straight enough for the straights”. Many experience this as internalized homophobia, informed by stereotypical renditions of what it means to be in the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically, these issues come from the misconception that bisexuality is merely a combination of both gay and straight identities. This misconception informs many popular culture criticisms that fixate on the concept of queerbaiting which was brought into social consciousness around 2010. Specifically, with reference to well-liked pop singers and television series characters (Honderich, 2019).


Originally a critique of the insidious consequences of rainbow capitalism, queerbaiting drew into focus the corporate desire to profit off of the illusion of supporting gay rights. Professor Julia Himberg’s primary criticisms hinge on the commodification of queer identities as a corporate marketing tool. One that is often utilized without any intention of creating tangible change for the same communities it seeks to financially gain from (Honderich, 2019).


Rainbow washing occurs when corporations deceptively suggest that a performance, or television series will include LGBTQ+ representation, subsequently misleading queer fans to invest time and money in their product on this basis. These tactics are designed to give the illusion of being pro-gay rights (Honderich, 2019). We can see this with Disney introducing queer-coded characters while simultaneously funneling money toward overtly anti-gay legislation like the Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill (STITCH, 2022). 


Though it is necessary to be critical of corporations and their intentions when including queer representation - it is also important to recognize that the actors cast are not intrinsically related to the characters portrayed. Placing this kind of pressure on individuals completely misses the point, specifically as queerness is meant to be discursive and fluid in nature. This is not to ignore the issues that can arise when straight performers are selected to represent mannerisms stereotypically aligned with queerness. Primarily as one could argue that such roles would be better suited to actual queer people who exist in these identities daily (McDermott, 2021). However, this does not give onlookers the authority to demand that performers out themselves to maintain credibility amongst their fanbase. Indeed, as supporters of this community - we must be critical of ourselves and the way queerbaiting can reinforce covert forms of homophobic sentiment.

Queerbaiting combined with notions of “cancel-culture” has created a feedback loop of people REQUIRING those in the spotlight to prove their queerness. Farley speaks about this phenomenon in the case of Kit Connor, who was forced out of the closet by fans seeking to prove he was not in fact bisexual when the character he plays is (Farley, 2022). We saw similar pushback with Harry Styles when he was criticized for his gender-nonconforming fashion choices (STITCH, 2022). These notions of queer elitism have come to impact real people and coerce many out of the closet in a way that is counter-productive, bi-phobic, and ultimately wrong.

Looking at this from a queer theory perspective, the desire to file people into neatly labeled folders comes from a historically monosexual representation model. Kenji Yoshino wrote about this in 2000, when he first coined the term “biphobia”. Bisexuality and the nuanced spaces in between “gay” and “straight” are in many ways a direct contradiction of much of the work completed to avoid the “anxiety of identity interrogation” (Yoshino, 2000). Bisexuality, or rather the lack of hard lined definitions of identity, “threatens immutable sexuality standards”, as “it precludes both straights and gays from ‘proving’’ their identities” (Yoshino, 362, 2000). He further discusses that without a clear understanding of what makes people inherently gay or straight, monosexual identities ultimately cannot be proven to exist (Yoshino, 362, 2000).

The fixation on monosexual identities has presented opportunities for political mobility specifically to do with the gay liberation movement. There is a specific kind of justification in homosexual communities for “biphobic response” due to the concern that “sexual ambiguity or fluidity might undermine the basic argument that homosexuality is biological” (Griffin, 247, 2009). Therefore, it has been the fuel with which structural biphobia has taken root and remained rampant amongst both LGBTQ+ community members and straight people alike. 


The notion that people cannot experiment with their style, music, art, romantic affiliations, or otherwise - lest they be considered a “queer-baiter”, is the opposite of what queer theory has worked to establish. Queer discourse is built upon the notion of being undefinable, hard to interpret, and entirely up to the individual. The fixation of forcing people to behave in the way that other queer community members expect them to, is using the same homophobic standards of identity and expression that structural homophobia pits against the LGBTQ+ community. 


Sexual exceptionalism, as Ratna Kapur puts it, “continues to operate in ways that include some queer subjects”, that is, “those who conform or assimilate [...]while it simultaneously casts out non-compliant sexual, gender, and racial others” (Kapur, 136, 2018). Following this narrative, notions of queerbaiting often come from a specific interpretation of the word “queer” in and of itself, one that Kapur expresses as “aligned with a set of (white) secular norms [...]where practices such as gay marriage serve as a marker for the distinction” between those on the right side of progress and not (Kapur, 136, 2018). Many of the negative implications for bisexual people in particular can be traced back to the false narratives of the AIDS epidemic that established stereotypes about bisexual men as promiscuous and therefore, the ones attributed with “bringing HIV/ AIDS into the heterosexual community” (Griffin, 246, 2009).

Bringing the case of Kit Connor back into focus, he was forced to come out because he was seen with a woman. Fans were so wrapped up in proving who the liars are that they have completely riddled the nuance of bisexuality, a meaningless endeavor. Therefore, in this case, he was perceived as straight. Commonly this becomes an issue when dealing with bisexual people dating those of the opposite sex and constantly being forced to prove in other ways how they are still queer despite their outwardly appearing heterosexual pairing.

This erasure becomes systemic as social media is a powerful filter of what we perceive as “truth”. Regardless of an assumptions’ validity, people often risk losing their careers if they don’t come out. This narrative omits the danger in coming out as if we don’t live in an homophobic world that does not always reward those for being openly themselves (Farley, 2022).

There cannot be any variation in expression or romantic connection when the all-consuming hammer of social media depicts the right way to be queer as it swiftly slams down on difference. This standard of identity does not allow any kind of variation in the process of coming to understand oneself in time. If you come out one way, you’re expected to hold onto that identity as if it’s life or death. Even if one doesn’t relate to it, is arbitrarily forced to come out too soon, or into an identity that wasn’t theirs in the first place.

Bringing this home - these larger issues impacting celebrities trickle down into our shared queer spaces. The standards we place on larger scale influencers inevitably come to dictate the way we treat people in our smaller, more interpersonal relationships. These unrealistic standards come to impact people in our day to day lives in a way that is hugely powerful and destructive. Regarding queer nightlife in London - many have faced rejection at the door of gay bars for merely “not looking gay enough”. External-community standards of queerness & subsequent stereotypes become internally violent and isolating when attempting to define what a “proper queer” should look, act, and think like.

This brings issues of the difficulty in fixating on monosexual identities back into focus, as Yoshino has argued. Adding to this conversation, Griffin expresses, “herein lies the difficulty with a minority identity development model that requires a single endpoint as different from the majority” (Griffin, 250, 2009). Due to the confines of queerbaiting on a larger scale, we see the ways in which this same destructive discourse seeps into our closer-knit community spaces where bisexual people are expected to cut ties with any heterosexual tendencies of their identities, while exaggerating the homosexual parts (ibid.). Therefore, further establishing the idea that sexuality is a choice and representation is owed to the community more than it is to oneself.

Queerbaiting has lost its plot. What was originally meant to critique larger scale corporations and their fixation on the direction of the rainbow dollar - has now become a benchmark with which to determine punishment of  those who do not act in accordance with the standards of queerness they’ve had thrust upon them. This standard of identity is reductive and as a result we are losing the opportunity to grow into our truest selves at our own pace.

Queer theory seeks to determine the infallible value of difference and nuance in the way people are able to express themselves over time, on their own terms. At the end of the day there is no right or wrong way to express one’s sexuality. That is, as long as it is not being used to shame, blame or isolate others for having a different variation of that same label.

I’ll leave us with a quote from Christian Klesse;

Some theorists consider multiplicity, fluidity and non-coherence to be the sources of bisexuality’s unique queer potential for undoing the dominant gender and sexuality categories of Western binary thought.

(Klesse, 115, 2021)

Instead of fixating on what “true” queerness looks like, we should be opening ourselves up to interpretations of identity that focus on the power of difference. Simultaneously we must reconfigure the critical lens that queerbaiting seeks to establish back onto corporations. This is how we can aim to protect the process of growing and coming out on what should be the terms of each individual.


Farley, E. (2022). In defence of Kit Connor: the danger of misunderstanding queerbaiting. Available at: (Accessed: 10/01/2023). 


Griffin, K. (2009). ‘If it’s wednesday I must be gay’ and other thoughts on bisexual identity 

development’, Group Therapy with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Populations, 33(3), pp. 245-256.


Honderich, H. (2019) Queerbaiting - exploitation or a sign of progress?. Available at: (Accessed: 10/01/2023).


Kapur, R. (2018). ‘The (im)possibility of queering international human rights law’, in Queering 

International law: possibilities, alliances, complicities, risks. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 131-147.


Klesse. C. (2021). ‘On the government of bisexual bodies: asylum case law and the biopolitics of bisexual 

erasure’, in  Mole, R. Queer Migration and Asylum in Europe.UCL Press, pp. 109-131.


McDermott, M. (2020). ‘The (broken) promise of queerbaiting: happiness and futurity in politics of queer 

representation’, Sage Journals, 24 (5), pp. 844-859.


STITCH. (2022). On queerbaiting, betrayal, and the quest for better representation. Available at:

fan-service (Accessed: 10/01/2023). 


Yoshino, K. (2000). The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure. Stanford Law Review, 52(2), pp. 


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