Bisexuals and the media – a very queer affair

Maisie Barker

23 year old student dividing her time between Manchester and London. Studied English and Creative Writing, hoping to pay the rent with it one day.Likes horror films, reading and spending my student loan on clothes. Dislikes spiders and people with topknots.

‘If homosexual “marriage” is universally accepted as the present step in sexual “freedom,” what logical arguments can be used to stop the next steps of incest, pedophilia, bestiality, and other forms of unnatural behavior?’

So goes the argument against civil rights for the LGBT+ community – the argument going that homosexual relationships lie at the top of a slippery slope that leads to men being allowed to marry horses, or women to marry their favourite stilettos. To any sane person this would seem like a ridiculous argument, but the representation of LGBT+ sexuality in the mainstream news certainly seems to be stuck in the mindset of sexually repressed and suspicious conservatives.

Although headways have been made for more positive representation in the media, some news outlets still seem to consider LGBT+ sexualities as being somehow deviant, outside the realms of ‘acceptable’ sexuality.

The case of Shrien Dewani has taken on a tone that seems to implicate his newly revealed sexuality as a factor in his supposed culpability. Dewani is accused of arranging for hitmen to murder his wife Anni whilst on their honeymoon in South Africa. He claims that they were held at gunpoint whilst driving through Cape Town in a taxi and denies any involvement in her death.

Cases of spousal murder are often concerned with outside issues: how attractive the victim is; how ‘of media interest’ the murder is; the fame of the couple (as seen during the Oscar Pistorius trial). One thing you wouldn’t consider as being a necessary fact for the jury to take into account would be the sexuality of the perpetrator, or indeed the victim.

Dewani has hit headlines after identifying as a bisexual male. This announcement came after the news that a German male prostitute was to give evidence that Dewani had paid him for sex in the months leading up to Anni Dewani’s death. The man, Leopold Leisser, claims that Shrien told him he regretted his engagement and wished he had backed out before the marriage.

Although people involved in a sexual relationship with a defendant, whether paid or otherwise, are often called to give a character statement, the media circus surrounding this case and others involving out LGBT+ members seem to imply that bisexuality or homosexuality is somehow linked to negative actions, or makes them more guilty of the crimes they are accused of.

Anna Paquin was recently interviewed by Larry King, who asked her if she was a ‘non-practising bisexual’ as she was married to a man. Alan Cumming is frequently described as a gay man, despite being one of the most vocal and proud bisexual people in society. Female bisexuals are presented as being for the male gaze, whilst male bisexuals are often erased or used as shorthand for deviant sexuality. Bisexuality is still misunderstood – seen as a stepping stone to coming out ‘fully’ as homosexual. Homosexuality is seen as lacking the different sexes supposedly required for a fully functioning relationship. These examples portray a media-wide problem with representations of LGBT+ individuals that needs to be addressed.

If two people loved each other enough to become married then it follows that their sexuality presented itself in a way that made them compatible. It’s true there are some closeted individuals who struggle with accepting their sexuality and there are also sadly cases of same-sex spousal abuse and murder. But to imply that Dewani, or anyone accused of killing their spouse, is guilty or somehow more culpable because he has now identified as a bisexual male is misleading at best and dangerous at its worst.

As Boy George said, ‘There’s this illusion that homosexuals have sex and heterosexuals fall in love.’ 

LGBT+ individuals are capable of loving relationships. They are capable of creating a home and a family together and, sadly, they are capable of ending relationships. Their expressions of sexuality have no bearing on their actions as developed adults. Sexuality is not evidence of criminal intent and it should not be presented as leverage in implicating someone of a crime.

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