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Credit: Marvel Studios

Bisexual isn’t a dirty word, so start using it to describe Valkyrie

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Aug 1, 2019, 3:00 PM EDT

During the Thor: Love and Thunder panel at SDCC, among other awesome announcements, came the revelation that Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie would be pursuing a lady love interest. "In her first days as king of Asgard, I think Valkyrie has to find her queen," Thompson said. "She has a few ideas."

Allaying fears that we were facing another almost-but-not-quite-confirmed queer moment in the MCU, Kevin Feige went on the record with io9 to confirm Thompson’s statement. “The answer is yes,” Feige said, regarding the upcoming storyline teased by Thompson. “How that impacts the story remains to be seen with that level of representation you’ll see across our films, not in just Thor 4.”

This exciting news marks a significant course correction for the MCU, which previously scrapped a scene from Thor: Ragnarok that would have confirmed Valkyrie’s bisexuality. While Thompson did her part to keep the bi flag flying high at the time, Valkyrie’s sexuality was rendered the stuff of innuendo, subtext, and headcanon — also, comic book canon, but no need to digress.

The strangest thing about all of the buzz and hype about having our first openly queer MCU character is that very few outlets reporting the story seem to be willing to name Valkyrie’s attraction for what it is: bisexuality. Let me repeat that for everyone squirming in their seats right now: Valkyrie is bisexual and it’s OK — and imperative — to say it. Bisexual isn’t a dirty word.

Valkyrie, Thor: Ragnarok

Credit: Marvel Studios

All but one of the headlines I’ve seen recognize Valkyrie as the first "LGBTQ hero" of the MCU, which elides Valkyrie’s bisexuality and also just doesn’t make any sense. Why doesn’t it make sense? Well, no one person is LGBTQ. Each letter of that acronym stands for a specific identity, and while many of us may occupy more than one of those identities, I can’t think of a single person who identifies with all five (or more). Seriously, do you know someone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, *and* queer? LGBTQ describes a movement and communities — it’s a term that is specifically crafted to help unify sexual and gender minorities under a common banner, almost like a rainbow. Really, someone should make a flag.

More importantly, the erasure of Valkyrie’s bisexuality harms bisexual+ people. For neophytes, bisexual+ is an inclusive, umbrella term that describes all non-monosexual identities including people who are bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, or those for whom no labels fit.

Bisexual is a beautiful, powerful, and important word that describes the sexual identities of many, many people who are consistently maligned by or excluded from both straight and lesbian and gay communities. This “double discrimination” has significant impacts on the mental health of bisexual+ people.

A recent study out of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, found that compounding forms of bisexual+ erasure and invisibility negatively impacted participants’ mental health. (Honestly, the health outcomes are staggering, so I recommend my bisexual+ siblings take a beat before digging into this report in depth.) The forms of erasure described range from presumptions made about one’s sexuality based on the perceived gender of their partner to the biphobic belief that bisexuality doesn’t exist to having to constantly come out to affirm one’s identity. These forms of erasure become internalized by many bisexual+ people who begin to view our sexuality as “fake” or “wrong.”

As bisexual+ people, we get stuck in this loop of coming out over and over, trying to affirm our sexualities not just to others, but to ourselves. The reality is that over a lifetime of being told you’re a faker, a liar, and a manipulator (all bi+ stereotypes), you can’t help but begin to believe some of those things. And, if you end up partnered with a monosexual person, it becomes easier and easier to see how you’re not quite bi enough.

Luckily, one of the positive indicators in the study suggests that self-acceptance of our attractions and sexualities is key to mental wellness. So the best thing you can do to make yourself mentally healthier as a bisexual+ person is to own your sexuality and accept yourself. (Easier said than done, of course, my bbs, but you just come to my Twitter feed any time and I’ll tell you how wonderfully-effing-fantastically-bisexual+ you are and how beautiful that is.)

Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) - Thor: Ragnarok

Credit: Marvel Studios

The first time I realized just how dirty a word people viewed bisexual to be was when a parent tried to get my partner, a teacher, in trouble for saying it in one of his classes. When my partner came home from work one day on the verge of tears, I knew something was wrong. This was a person who could have a student spend three hours trying to upset him and just laugh it off. He wasn’t easily frazzled.

As he explained what was bothering him, I started to feel lightheaded, my body sliding into flight, fight, or freeze mode. It turns out that a student had told their parent that my partner and I use the term “partner,” both because we view our relationship as equitable and because we didn’t want to rely on heteronormative terms. While explaining this somewhat novel concept to a 13-year-old, my partner happened to mention that I’m bisexual, which the student repeated — and that’s what really pissed off the parent. How dare a teacher use the term bisexual in a classroom, and how dare they reveal that someone they love is bisexual?

To my partner, he was just responding to a student’s question about why we use the term "partner" with openness, as if the student were a human being. To the parent, we were some wild, hyper-sexual hedonists trying to convert his child to our dark and mysterious ways.

Little did that parent understand that my partner was also exploring his sexuality, trying to figure out what labels fit or didn’t. Little did that parent know that their kid had been spending a lot of time with the LGBTQ and ally student group at school.

It actually breaks my heart thinking about it. What if this is how the kiddo was testing the waters, trying to see how a parent would react to the idea of bisexuality? What if this was how the kid had started their coming-out speech only to be cut short by the rage of a straight man? What if this was their moment to believe for just a short period of time — a time before the ravages of biphobia could rip them to pieces — that they could be loved fervently and inclusively of who they were attracted to? What if they weren’t queer at all and this was the moment that a father could teach his straight child that all sexualities are OK and that they don’t have to be angry at queer people? Sigh. So many missed opportunities.


Credit: Marvel Studios

This questioning and knee-jerk sexualization of bisexuality is something many bisexual+ folks have learned to live with. Unlike the terms “straight,” “gay,” or “lesbian,” which have all come into more common usage than heterosexual or homosexual, bisexual and pansexual in particular tend to be viewed as sexualized — almost pornographic — words. After all, they have the word “sex” and “sexual” in them and people seem to jump right to that part, adding lascivious connotations in their minds along the way.

Listen, if you hear or read the word bisexual and think of threesomes and elicit orgies, I have some news for you: Most of the time, bisexual+ people are just busy trying to live our damn lives without being discriminated against. We save the threesomes and orgies for James Baldwin’s birthday, our highest holy day. Basically, don’t invite any of your bi+ friends to anything on August 2. (Other versions of this joke centered on the birthdays of: Alan Cummings, Mr. Rogers, Janelle Monae, Sylvia Rivera, Evan Rachel Wood, Walt Whitman, Josephine Baker, Aubrey Plaza, and Oscar Wilde, a veritable variety pack of bisexual+ badasses.)

In summation, Valkyrie is bisexual and you need to not only get over it but embrace it. Use the word, scream it from the rooftops, paint it on your face and refuse to answer any questions, skywrite it outside the White House with a big drawing of a butt — do anything you have to, just use “bisexual.” Bisexual+ people around the world need you to because we already have to deal with enough doubt and hatred from bigots.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.

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