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Editorial: Where My Sci-Fi Bi Guys At?

Editorial: Where My Sci-Fi Bi Guys At?

It’s long been repeated and analyzed at Comic-Con panels, blogs, and, well, venues like, that openly gay characters in sci-fi and fantasy entertainment are perhaps a bit too few and far between. Deep in the trenches of the nerd establishment – a pop culture trophy room that claims to celebrate imagination, diversity and possibility – there are rarely queer stories or films/comics/TV shows that directly reflect the queer experience. I come here today to analyze, elucidate, and basically whine about under-representation. I come to ask — where all the bisexual men are in sci-fi?

Now before you get angry and begin listing the myriad underground comics and sci-fi novels that feature queer male (and female) characters (which I actually encourage in the comments section below; I’d love to hear about them), I should perhaps specify that there are startling few gay and bi male role models in most mainstream comics, TV shows, and feature films. To elaborate: of the hundreds upon hundreds of superhero characters in the world, I can list maybe four or five gay ones. Batwoman. Northstar. And these aren’t really well-known superstar characters like Spider-Man or Captain America. There are a few bi ladies mixed into superhero comics (Moondragon maybe?), and exactly zero bi men.

When it comes to sci-fi and genre TV shows, there are several gay characters, and I’m sure Joss Whedon’s myriad fans have instantly thought of those that have appeared on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I would perhaps argue, however, that such supporting gay characters are less about trying to directly relate to the queer experience, and more about rounding out a rainbow-coalition ensemble. There is but one positive, heroic bisexual male in all of mainstream sci-fi, and that would be Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and its spinoff Torchwood. Played by a gay actor, Capt. Harkness is a forthrightly sexual fellow that often sleeps with both men and women, and kisses men on screen. But beyond him, can you name me one bisexual male hero from any sci-fi movies?

Frank N Furter

There is a weird irony at work in sci-fi, and when it comes to sexuality, it’s a bit distressing. When we look at sci-fi as a whole genre, and try to come up with a vague, overall sense of what it is, it tends to gel into something along the lines of Star Trek: wild, futuristic stories that use aliens and fantasy technology to explore human questions, often coding modern social debates within futuristic fantasy scenarios. Racism on Earth has been eliminated in Star Trek, but we can still explore the absurdity and extremities of racism when we paint someone half white and half black.

However, within that framework of the fantastical and the unexpected, there is a weird undercurrent of the known and the expected. We can’t riff and comment on the outliers and the marginalized members in our own present-day society unless we have a kind of conservative “baseline reading” underneath the sci-fi exploration. Consider how few gay and bisexual characters are on any of the Star Trek shows. Nothing in the 1960s for sure. Nothing in NextGen either, oddly. There was one episode of Deep Space Nine that posited that the character Jadzia Dax (played by Terry Farrell) was bisexual, but her attraction to women was only ever mentioned in that one episode. She would go on to marry a man. The other bisexual character was the “evil” version of Major Kira in the evil Mirror Universe. Bisexuals in fiction are, more often than not, devious villains, killers, and hypersexual hedonists. Bisexual men especially. Think of any bi men and women in any movies, books, or TV shows. They’re usually the bad guys or the monsters, right?

The most notable bisexual man in all of sci-fi is likely Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the central figure in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The alien transvestite played by Tim Curry creates a male playmate, seduces both Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, and seems to love every second of it. And while most audiences look up to Frankie as a symbol of sexual freedom and wild abandon, we should perhaps immediately recall that he functions as the film’s villain. He’s also a murderer, a mad scientist, a drug addict (if you look closely, he has needle tracks on his arms), and a cannibal. His sexuality is open and free, and I suppose we can laud Rocky Horror for its gay visibility, but I would hardly call Dr. Frank-N-Furter an aspirational or heroic character.


In Skyfall, James Bond was teased by that film’s bisexual male villain, who rubbed his thighs and implied that he wanted to seduce 007. James Bond replied with a flip crack that he had slept with men before. The line functions as a throwaway joke, showing that Bond was perhaps willing to call the bi man’s bluff. But did any of us consider that Bond may actually be bisexual, or was he merely trying to stave off the man’s advances? Now that we have Skyfall, we can ask: Is James Bond bi?

We live in an age where gay people can marry, and a revolution has occurred in the advancement of gay rights. I think our sci-fi and fantasy entertainment – all of nerd culture, really – needs to be better about reflecting that. Having supporting gay characters is all well and good, and there have been plenty of Gay Best Friends and Gay Supporting Characters peppered throughout, but what we really need is more gay and bi heroes. More men featured in central roles who will fight villains to save their boyfriends just as strongly as they will save their girlfriends.

Jack Harkness is a start. Let’s have some more.

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  1. Awesome and compelling article. May I add Delphine of Orphan Black, Where they actually say bisexual and talk about sexual fluidity. And of course Inara from Firefly.I do have to bring up the disappointing decision to erase John Constantine’s bisexuality from the TV show. We talk about this at great length on our show for the bisexual community. Bisexual representation in the media. 2 parter btw.

  2. Troy says:

    We’ll see how the show ends up, the comic version of Constantine is bisexual.  I’ll be really upset if they erase that from his character like they did in the movie.

  3. Patic Isme says:

    Jerry Cornelius in a slew of books and one film by Michael Moorcock. Including his many incarnations through the Multiverse as Jharek Carnelian, etc. he must be one of the biggest bi sf sagas, Even featured as one of his avatars in MM’s Dr Who novel.

  4. Armand Maheu says:

    Teen Wolf is not necessarily sci-fi, but fantasy nonetheless, and wow! How about the gay a bi characters on that show!

  5. Xcelsior616 says:

    In Marvel comics: Richtor and Shatterstar are bi, Wiccan, Hulking, Caroline Dean, and Anole are all gay.  There are more, and they tend to be some awesome well rounded characters for those that read their comics.

  6. taterparker says:

    This is such a great point, good article. However I think it needs ot be mentioned that the issue w the 007 “throw away joke” is that it’s queer baiting. Also I have to mention that when you say of Jadzia Dax that “She would go on to marry a man”, one of the biggest struggles in bisexuality is that people seem to think you are less bi if you’re in an opposite sex relationship (which is of course very untrue!) bc you appear to be outwardly “straight”. A bi women w a man is still bi AND can be representing bi culture well! Thanks for

  7. Reid says:

    I loved that comment about Skyfall…yeah, if you’re going to try and seduce someone, try not kidnapping them and setting out to destroy their country first.  There were two gay demons in Reaper which were gay, and while they weren’t the stars, they were frequent supporting characters.  Someone’s probably also mentioned that king from Game of Thrones who got killed by the shadow thing (sorry bad with all the names).  

  8. verybookish says:

    About 30 years ago David Gerrold wrote four novels (supposedly a series of 7, but the series has never been finished) called The War Against the Chtorr, and the main character was bi. 

  9. Snartu says:

    There is Fusion Man,  a gay superhero.. (a short movie and a comic book) but you have to understand french !

  10. Josh says:

    Bond does what it takes to complete the mission. Especially when it comes to the boning.

  11. Grotesk says:

    Um. I know this is an opinion piece, but we are talking about an audience that ostensibly is rather more diligent than the average. Did anyone involved even vet the subject?

    Yeah, there aren’t any Cap’n Jack’s on the tube anymore (which is a terrible loss to the Whoniverse and science fiction in general as well as to his LGBT fans), and the good Cap’n was a revolutionary concept in that he was a charismatic, heroic, openly bisexual (okay, omnisexual, whatever that means) male leading character played by an openly gay man who debuted and was even featured in all his glory on what was not merely an internationally popular program but also an internationally popular CHILDREN’S program (“family” if you wish, but that includes children), and we’re not likely to see his like again. It is sad and something that should be rectified because the cultural normalization of what is already normal to the species needs to happen soon, but just because you didn’t look for them, doesn’t mean there aren’t bi guys in fiction/science fiction. I suppose it depends on what you are going to accept as “bisexual”, “science fiction”, sufficiently heroic/sympathetic/male and media you consider widely distributed enough, but there is even a category on Wikipedia for this :

  12. princess lgbt says:

    please stop using queer as an lgbt umbrella term. it’s a slur and it’s offensive. just because you don’t have a problem with it doesn’t mean the rest of us are okay with it.

    • Mike says:

      Not to pick at nits, but “queer” is often self-attributed by many in the LGBTQ society, such as the term “genderqueer” which refers to those who have multiple, overlapping, or no gender. Though the term CAN be used as a slur, it is not inherently so. In many modern LGBTQ and supportive circles, the word has been reclaimed either as an umbrella term or as a more specific identifier.

    • Reid says:

      Well, when you change the PC term, every few years….some people don’t get the memo.  There are far more offensive terms.  Seriously, get some thickers skin. 

    • taterparker says:

      a lot of LGBT are fine w queer, it’s a widely accepted all-iinclusive term that is obviously not meant to be offensive here 

    • Didn’t you get the memo? only certain words are able to be ‘reclaimed’ by the Lgbt community, while others are still forbidden. 

  13. HelenMcT1 says:

    The female authors of urban fantasy and YA know where it’s at.   Read Holly Black/ Melissa Marr and Cassandra Clare ( and many more How about Laurel K Hamilton?).  Yes they are secondary characters but not minor mentions in their books. 

  14. DrkAngelNLuv says:

    A new comer: Oberyn Martell

  15. obsidiandice says:

    Borderlands is one of the bigger sci-fi franchises in gaming and has a number of positively-portrayed gay and bisexual male characters: Sir Hammerlock, Mister Torgue, and Axton the Commando.

  16. Steve says:

    Just a few more I didn’t see mentioned…Lt. Felix Gaeta, Battlestar Galactica, Sam Adama, from the Battlestar spin off, Caprica

    • Rob says:

      Gaeta was bi?

    • Reid says:

      Nope, didn’t see anyone who was bi in either of those…unless you count the two Cyclon blondes who had a threesome with Baltar (Three and Six, I think Tricia and Lucy’s characters).

  17. How about bi ladies? Those are just as important. 

  18. usrtchi says:

    Penny Dreadful, although more”horror” than scifi, has bi characters.

  19. Hryan says:

    Oberyn Martell from GoT is a good bi character.

  20. sean says:

    Daken, Wolverines mostly evil son, was BI. 

  21. Rebecca Schwartz says:

    I recently published a superhero novel with a bisexual main male character. The novel is called Inertia, and there’s a lot of physics in there, too. Sicfi with some actual sci!

  22. isodore says:

    Grant Morrison has stated he thinks Batman is gay/bi.  But like with so many things, the publisher would never dare “alienate” its audience.  This is where the difficulties lie.  The people putting up the money for creative output tend to skew more conservatively on most levels.  They assume risk in putting out a product, and therefore tend to run years/decades behind the times.  Unless it sells, then all bets are off.  We are still in a vicious cycle where the content determines what the audience is willing to consume.  Publishers and investors act as gatekeepers to content, and until we show the market exists for Queer SF, we will continue to lag behind. It is related to some of the reasons nerd-dom as a whole has a gender issue.  For so many years we have been told that women exist as objects for male heterosexual power fantasies, that many of us believe it more than we dare admit.  Or, we have become inured to it such that we accept superheroes despite their creative flaws or tacitly reject stories that don’t fit this worldview. It’s getting better, but it will be slow.  Society as a whole is still on the fence about bisexuality.  Or if not on the fence, they reject it as being fake on the one hand or just as bad as gay on the other.  So it will be tough, but the snowball effect will be impressive once we are able to get past some of the barriers.  One of these days we will get an openly and incidentally gay character, and when we do, the rest can’t be far behind.

    • Alexa says:

      “Publishers and investors act as gatekeepers to content”

      But fortunately, that’s becoming less and less true. The content is out there, self- or indie-published/produced most of the time, but it’s exists. We can prove the market exists by buying them and getting the word out about them.

      The mainstream gatekeepers will still be there, and will always be something of a hurdle, but we can’t think about it in terms of yelling and pleading with them to let us in. We have to bring ladders and battering rams, to the point where they can’t stop us and can no longer see the point of keeping us out.

      (Or we can Trojan horse this thing, a la James Bond up there 😉 )

      • isodore says:

        Exactly.  Thank you for making that point I neglected.  The interwebs have taken much of the financial sting out of producing our own content.  We just need to make good art (easy right?) but more importantly share it so those voices are heard.

    • Mark says:

      *slow clap* well said…just well said!

    • Reid says:

      Please don’t tell me you’re using Batman’s tendency to pick out orphaned wards as proof he’s bi.  That’s just sick.

  23. Mark Anthony says:

    Check out Artifice and The Young Protectors by Alex Woolfson 

  24. drew says:

    Mal from Firefly was supposedly bi, according to Joss and Nathan. They made a few references to it, but the show was cancelled before they could write it in.

    • Janet Hardy says:

      I’ve been trying to run down the source of this rumor. Can you point me toward anyplace where this is substantiated?

  25. Matthew says:

    Just a thought (not necessarily endorsing it) but in Lord of the Rings, Tolkien said that the absence of religion is due to the fact that LotR itself is a religious work.  Could the lack of LGBT characters be due to the fact that a lot of Sci Fi is social commentary? Not sure this parallel holds water, just putting it out there.

    • Alexa says:

      No, that’s a weak-ass excuse. Tolkien was deliberately writing a religious work. Most SFF writers aren’t deliberately writing queer metaphors, and even when they do (*cough*X-Men movies*cough*) they could still include actual queer characters (*cough*X-Men comics*cough*).

  26. Alexa says:

    I’ve been calling James Bond bisexual since Skyfall and nobody can stop me! Though some further on-screen confirmation would be great (hopefully not in any context where straight dudes can insist “It was just to get information etc. from that guy!! He’s not actually into dudes!!”)

    That said, you can definitely read that scene in Skyfall as Bond being sort of, “Oh is this the direction this is going in? Alright I can go that way,” (no pun intended). At the very least I think it confirms that Bond is willing to fuck a dude if he think it will help him reach his objective. The Matts had a good chat about it in the Skyfall episode of James Bonding.

  27. krizzle says:

    Game of thrones is what I would consider mainstream fantasy, which is NOT sci-fi obviously but you have Renly Baratheon and then Oberyn Martell

  28. Josh says:

    John Barrowman is bi sexual in the real world.

  29. Bikil says:

    Garek from DS9 was originally supposed to be omnisexual, as Captain Jack Harkness is, but it was not well-received. There are also speculations about O’Brian and Bashir…

  30. If you’re looking for issues on sexuality in TNG, the closest you get is when Riker falls in love with someone who’s asexual. The whole thing is about as close as they could come to a same sex attraction and allow it to ‘pass’.

    • Mike says:

      I recall reading an article or hearing an interview, might have even been on Nerdist, but I think it was the Escapist, about how one of the main Trek producers regretted not including gay characters on the show. It probably wouldn’t have made the cut in TNG, but perhaps Voyager or Enterprise could have pulled it off without S&P stepping in. We’ll never know. Maybe the new movies?

  31. Josh1021 says:

    Lost Girl has several gay characters and the main character Bo is bi-sexual. You are correct though that even in this show while several of the women are lesbians there is maybe only one male that is bi-sexual Vex and he is often portrayed as a villain.

    • Rob says:

      I love Lost Girl, but for a show that is literally driven by sexual energy, it is weirdly lacking in male sexuality, even Vex has never done more then grope Dyson once, its been like 4 seasons and we haven’t even had an incubus.

  32. Michael Thompson says:

    The episode of DS9 you are referring wasn’t an exploration of bi-sexuality.  It was an exploration of what the nature of the duality of the trill really meant.  A previous host of the Dax symbiont had a relationship with the woman in question and its residual feelings dominated the interaction between Jadzia and the woman.  There was never an indication in the show that Jadzia herself was bisexual.

    • sean says:

      I don’t think Jadzia was “BI”. I think she was more omnisexual. Not limiting herself in anyway. 

  33. xceteras says:

    Thanks for this article! Totally agree we need more bi characters in speculative fiction big and small screen. You did miss a few though, which you can find on a blog I co-admin:

    TL;DR: Dorian Gray (Penny Dreadful), Ethan Chandler (Penny  Dreadful), Kieren Walker (In The Flesh), Oberyn Martell (Game of Thrones), Felix Gaeta (Battlestar Galactica webisodes), half of Dante’s Cove, Leonardo Da Vinci (Da Vinci’s Demons).

    None of those are science fiction though – more horror and fantasy. And several are problematic. But it’s a start! Thanks for bringing more attention to this issue.

  34. Jenna says:

    Why are all of your editorials so spot on? Really, it’s getting creepy.