Hello fellow geeks! Bi-Awareness week might have been September 14–24, but this journalist is still celebrating her favorite bi icons. Or is it bicons? Let's get into it!
Magnus Bane from The Mortal Instruments
Magnus Bane, part of the main cast of The Mortal Instruments written by Cassandra Clare, is a centuries old warlock and one of the most powerful characters in the series. He's also a self-proclaimed "freewheeling bisexual." With a penchant for snark, beautiful people, and glitter, Magnus Bane is easily one of my favorite fictional bisexual characters of all time.
When I originally read City of Bones (Cassandra Clare's first book) my attention was instantly grabbed by this attractive person who openly flirted with a male Shadowhunter and didn't give a damn what anyone thought of him. Magnus Bane lured my attention with his charm and magical charisma, and held it with his vulnerability and strength, in his steadfast loyalty and love for those he keeps close to his heart.
Looking back, Magnus Bane may have been one of the first queer characters I saw in a fantasy series, as well as one of the first I'd seen to directly describe themselves as bisexual. In many ways, Magnus helped me to understand some things about myself, including my attraction to androgynous fashion (never underestimate the power of a man wearing eyeliner) as well as inspiring me to become more vocal about my desire to love openly and freely as he does, including at the NYCC 2015 Shadowhunter Panel when I had actually (though not my original intention!) came out to an audience full of people, but that's a story for another day. (Check out if you want to confirm, though.)
Korra from The Legend of Korra
At a queer youth meeting at the NYC LGBT Center a few years ago, I got into a discussion of diverse representation in entertainment media, discussing our favorite fictional characters who we felt connected to. Someone brought up Korra from The Legend of Korra, and the room instantly burst into thunderous approval.
Years ago, when I was still a young geek in training, I fell in love with the world and characters from the animated series Avatar: the Last Airbender, following the adventures of a young lovable monk traveling the world with his friends to learn how to control all four elements and save the world. Still in love with the world of Avatar several years later, when I heard about the latest Avatar incarnation, that existed in the form of a seventeen-year-old female waterbender, I was instantly hooked.
When I first started watching The Legend of Korra, I was instantly drawn to her character. Bold and powerful, Korra was my vicarious hero, battling the world on her own terms, while learning to how to become a compassionate and capable leader to her fullest potential. I connected to Korra on a deeply emotional level, feeling that her emotions of fear, anger, aggression, and vulnerability were accessible in a way that I had been both consciously and subconsciously been represses as a young woman in a patriarchal society. Furthermore, having a character whose body was both curvy and muscular made me feel better about my own body, and confirmed to me that beauty and power can take many shapes.
In addition to all that, while I had originally shipped Korra with Mako, the show's natural progression of Korra's relationship with Asami had my heart beating in ways I didn't expect (and yes, make all the jokes about being a bi-shipper). The day the finale premiered, showing Korra walking hand in hand with Asami to the Spirit Portal, I shouted the same way I had done with that queer youth group years ago, knowing the world of children's animation was being transformed as we knew it, and feeling a very subtle and incredible sense of awe and validation.
Yuuri Katsuki from Yuri on Ice
As anyone could tell from my review of Yuri on Ice, I am a devoted fan of this anime and its characters. From its unique concept, to its beautiful soundtrack and amazing choreography, and its interracial queer couple, Yuri on Ice became an instant international success, gaining the love of thousands, including myself. A major reason for my love for this show is its protagonist, Yuuri Katsuki, a talented yet insecure professional figure skater whose life and personality mirrored my own in ways I hadn't expected when I started watching. Throughout the show, Yuuri is shown to have loved both women and men, from his childhood crush on his female friend Yuuko Nishigori, to his current relationship with fellow skater and coach, Victor Nikiforov. Furthermore, the show depicted Yuuri's struggles with anxiety in a way that felt all too familiar, showing him struggling with constant doubt about his own abilities and experiencing high levels of stress.
In one conversation with my therapist, I went on about my love for this anime and the significance of this couple for me. Dealing with my own kind of anxiety, I often struggle with doubts about my own creative and professional capabilities, wondering if I'll ever become a fulfilled adult, as well as having the reoccurring fear that I annoy the people around me, causing myself to become a burden on them. During the moments when I am with someone, be it potential friends or romantic partners, I sometimes worry about being judged or rejected. Whether for my mental health issues, queerness, or any other factor, my own mind can sometimes betray me, nursing the idea that some part of me will always be unlovable. So watching Yuri on Ice—watching a queer character with anxiety find a loving relationship with a caring partner who accepted and adored every part of him—meant something for me. Yuuri Katsuki gave me representation and hope for my romantic future.
My awareness of my queer identity was and still is a complicated one. For years, I truly believed I was straight until other factors in my life suggested otherwise. Throughout high school and college, I questioned my own ideas about love, intimacy, and identity. I began to research terms that came close to how I defined myself. But sometimes the bi- label doesn't feel entirely accurate whether because of internalized biphobia or because my feelings for other people don't satisfy the classic definition of romantic or sexual attraction. This transition of identity often felt ambiguous. Because media and society supported the idea that I needed concrete ideas about my identity, I hated not knowing exactly who I was or who I was supposed to me. I often hated that ambiguity of my identity, and to this day still do at times. But it doesn't mean that whatever I am didn't or doesn't exist.
That is why characters like Magnus, Korra, and Yuuri are so important to me, why representation is so important to us all: because it can help us learn things about ourselves that we didn't know and help us find a community of people who experience love and life that same way we do, or want to. To this day, the word bi represents a safe place. Perhaps I will be a lifelong citizen of that place, or simply list it as one of the places I've called home, but the people who have been there, both fictional and nonfictional, will have provided support rafts for me as I navigate my journey towards identity. And for that I am truly grateful.