At exactly 0:01am on July 1, you’ll feel the seismic rumble of every corporation taking the rainbow off their profile pictures. “That’s enough guys,” they’ll tell us, “You had a whole month to be visibly queer, now get back into the freezer until next June.”
LGBTQ+ representation, especially on-screen, has improved a lot in recent years, but as another Pride Month ends, I can’t help but reflect on how much further we have to go with new movies and series.
Netflix series like Heartstopper, Young Royals, and Queen Charlotte continue to lead the way in normalizing loving gay relationships. This is great. A victory for one group in the queer community is a victory for all of us.
But as a recently-out bisexual woman, it’s hard not to feel just slightly envious. The handful of bisexual people I’ve seen in romance movies and TV series are usually conveyed as non-committal villains, while sapphic relationships as a whole are often only portrayed through the lens of the male gaze; catered directly toward straight audiences to fetishize and marvel over.
Given how entrenched this status quo is, I took the most reasonable, mentally-healthy course of action possible by immersing myself in the most heteronormative genre out there: teen dramas. Sure, there are a few notable outliers in this genre I’ve already mentioned, but on the whole, you have to admit these kinds of shows reek of compulsory heterosexuality.
Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Girl makes boy her entire personality, relinquishing her agency and other ambitions. Because who cares? The only thing that matters is the boy you like, liking you back. This long-tired premise is what I expected when I tuned in to watch XO Kitty, which sees the titular character move all the way to Korea to be nearer her long-distance boyfriend. Ick.
Yet, the storyline ended up taking a turn that didn’t just take the audience by surprise, but took Kitty herself by surprise, too. Her palpable hatred for Yuri, a fellow student at the school, seems pretty run-of-the-mill at first. They were love rivals: battling for the affection of Dae after it emerged he was dating both of them without the other’s knowledge.
Kitty then proceeds to develop feelings for Yuri, and what makes this development so layered is how the show’s construction in itself mirrors Kitty’s coming out experience. This is because, on a structural level, the drama series throws viewers a curveball. It does this by deviating from the expected, heteronormative storyline audiences expect.
Similarly, by realizing she’s attracted to women for the first time, Kitty has to reckon with a pretty big curveball of her own. Up until that moment, she was secure in the knowledge she was straight. Kitty spent her whole life romanticizing heteronormative relationships, but in realizing her attraction to Yuri, she’s thrown into a tailspin.
This is because having a same-sex crush isn’t part of the narrative Kitty painted for her life, and as these feelings sneak up on her, she’s forced to reckon with the fact that everything she thought she knew about herself may well be wrong. It’s a realization that rocks you to your core. And I know that because it’s exactly what coming out as bisexual felt like for me.
I can’t speak for every bisexual girl and woman out there, but what I can say with certainty is that XO Kitty breaks the mold. Reconciling the person you thought you were with parts of yourself you’re still learning to understand can be tumultuous. Lonely, even. But as XO Kitty shows, it can also be incredibly liberating.
For more on XO Kitty, check out our guide to the XO Kitty season 2 release date. Or, broaden your horizons by exploring everything new on Netflix this month. You can also dive into more queer love stories on the streaming service with our guides to the Heartstopper season 2 release date and the Young Royals season 2 release date.