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Bisexual Awareness Week comes to an end tomorrow. As someone who identifies as somewhere between bi, gay, and queer, this marks a sort of bittersweet moment every year. I spent a long time unable to find myself in stories I felt I could safely consume and wanted to.
When I found out that comics!Mystique was bi, I was seventeen. I had just seen the X-Men movies that had come out by then: X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the then-new X-Men: First Class. Those movies took me by the shoulders and told me, quite frankly, that I could see myself there.
But only obliquely. Mystique’s bisexuality is invisible in these films. Rogue and Kitty, played by WLW actresses (Anna Paquin, bi; Ellen Page, gay), both act as Bobby Drake’s love interest. Bobby Drake dates a girl he can’t touch, then winds up in a love triangle with a girl who can make herself untouchable. When Magneto asks ‘What’s your name?’ he’s not asking for the one your parents gave you, but the one you chose yourself. The world wants to kill or cure mutantkind because they fear that which differs from their norms.
At seventeen, I found this to be enough. At seventeen, this felt like almost too much. Sitting on my family’s couch with a bowl of popcorn, my heart raced as Bobby Drake came out as a mutant to his parents. I thought to myself Oh god, Dad’s right here, what if he can tell? I bit my tongue a movie later and shook with rage at the cure plotline. They don’t need a cure. I don’t need a cure.
At seventeen, Mystique telling Nightcrawler that she doesn’t look human ‘because we shouldn’t have to’ felt like revelation, felt like holy writ, and still does.
But today, this year, this Bisexual Awareness Week, I know that what felt like too much for seventeen-year-old me to bear is not enough. Five years later, Mystique’s wife still has not appeared. Bobby Drake last appeared in a movie one year before the comics outed him as gay. Jubilee’s role in X-Men: Apocalypse barely gives us anything to work with. LGBT X-Men, in these movies, just don’t exist, five years after I first found these stories.
That’s not acceptable. I don’t accept that.
People tell me ‘oh, just make your own.’ And I do. All the time. From fanfiction to the original story I’m pre-planning right now, I do. But that stuff only reaches so far. I have more power to tell stories than people in my grandparents’ generation by a long shot, but it still doesn’t touch Hollywood.
It doesn’t touch the X-Men. I can’t reach out and make that change without a million intervening steps. The best I can do is keep working on my indie projects and honing my craft and never, ever shutting up about it. So I do that.
I don’t want any other generation of bi/queer/etc. X-Men fans to look back after five years and say Nothing’s changed, nothing’s gotten better. They deserve better than that, same as I did. They deserve to see themselves, not just implicitly, not just allegorically.
The time for allegory is over. Happy Bisexual Awareness Week, and remember:
Intersectional mutant stories, or bust.