Rise Of The Bicon
The last 10 years have been a truly transformative period for bisexual acceptance. It has seen the rise of a new type of cultural leader: the bisexual role model – or, bicon.
Long after the days of Bowie and Queen, mainstream discussion of bisexuality centred on female celebrities. In the late noughties, tabloids and internet news sources disrespectfully speculated same-sex experiences, yet the word ‘bisexual’ was not in the vocabulary of most journalists.
This 2009 article from the Evening Standard (fig 1) demonstrates the dominate narrative:
“The younger generation, epitomised by Peaches and her gang, swap their sexuality as easily as their style...
Along with Katy Perry, Peaches Geldof has now kissed a girl — and she liked it. With that one act she has joined part-time lesbianism, taking advantage of the younger generation's complete acceptance of malleable sexuality.”
The commonplace assumption that women use bisexuality for attention comes through in this article. The implicit judgement exposes the misogyny: they are ‘part-time lesbians,’ not to be taken seriously. If women were open about their relationships with other women, they were written off as attention seekers.
Like many of us that grew up in the noughties, Lady Gaga (fig 2) was a key figure to accepting my queerness. Not just because of her born this way message, she was also the first bisexual role model I could identify with.
After intense media speculation (and not just about her sexuality), she came clean about having sexual relationships with women in 2009. Owning her own narrative and the unwavering support she has given the LGBTQ+ community throughout her career made her a truly inspiring bicon.
Things were not easy for bisexual women at this time. Amber Heard attempted to come out in 2010. Unfortunately, news media did not quite get the message (fig 3). Since then she has addressed her frustrations with the media labelling her a lesbian and the damage it did to her career at the time.
While female celebrities couldn’t escape speculation over their sexuality, men had the opposite problem. Male bisexuality was rarely discussed, let alone speculated.
Enter Frank Ocean.
Frank’s coming out was a significant milestone in the story of queer acceptance (fig 3). In early 2012, he published an open letter to his fans detailing falling in love with another man when he was 19. Hip-hop as a genre has been continuously accused of homophobia and being unwelcoming to LGBTQ+ folk. After Frank’s coming out, the warm reception he received from the hip-hop community and fans alike became an iconic moment in LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Since 2012, there has been a huge diversification of bisexual visibility.
Fellow Odd Future member Tyler, the Creator came out in his album ‘Scum Fuck Flower Boy’ (fig 4). Janelle Monáe has openly discussed her status as a queer woman. After a career as an ally, Brendon Urie identified himself as pansexual last year. In 2015, Miley Cyrus publicly discussed her pansexuality. Ariana Grande, one of the most widely known international pop stars, recently hinted at sexual fluidity with the line ‘I like women and men’ in her latest single ‘Monopoly’.
For bi and pan kids today, there is no shortage of role models. It’s the kind of variety my 13-year-old self could only dream of. Currently, my go-to Jewish bicon inspiration is Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson (fig 5). If she can rock frizzy hair and swinging both ways, so can I.
Condescending judgement once defined the way bisexuality was discussed. Now that we are getting closer to representing the true breadth of the bisexual (or pansexual or unlabelled fluidity) experience in the public eye, social equality no longer seems so far away.
Article by Olivia Cohen