Queerbaiting and Celebrity Culture

Jessica Vieira | Opinion Editor


I’m sure everyone that keeps up with gay news has heard that young actor Kit Connor has been pressured to come out as bisexual after portraying a bisexual character in the Netflix show Heartstopper. The show, based on a series of graphic novels with the same name, follows two high school aged boys as they navigate falling in love with each other, maintaining friendships, and finding themselves along the way. The novels stole many young peoples’ hearts, and everyone fell in love with these characters right away. Netflix casting did a fantastic job finding and casting people for these roles.

Connor’s character, Nick, is bisexual, and prior to now, he had not made any suggestions about his sexuality. People online, in their regular online fashion, bullied, berated, and pressured Connor into feeling like he needed to come out. In a tweet he posted, he said "I’m bi. congrats for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye." The actor was being accused of queerbaiting fans of the show for not coming out as gay or confirming his sexuality. His co-star, Joe Locke, also faced the same backlash. Queerbaiting can be defined as a marketing ploy to get queer audiences and straight allies to watch or read a form of media. It hints at or suggests that somewhere within the media is gay representation, when in actuality, there are no gay relationships or representation to be found when the entire thing is consumed.

This is seen a lot with many different actors and celebrities. If an actor does not come out as a certain sexuality, and perhaps is playing a gay character, or dresses in a way that deviates from the heterosexual norm, they are accused of queerbaiting, and some might even go as far as say that they are a bad person because they do not wish to disclose their sexuality to the world. All this even though these reasons reinforce harmful stereotypes about what gay people should look like and how they should act.

Celebrities like Harry Styles face this often. Harry Styles dresses in eclectic feminine clothing, and recently starred in a movie about a gay man called My Policeman. He faced a lot of backlash because again, people on the internet were accusing him of queerbaiting, because he did not want to disclose his sexuality after writing songs that fans have claimed are gay based on speculation, and after he played a gay character.

People cannot queer bait other people, celebrities aren't products, they're people just the same as everybody else, and to suggest that a celebrity or someone can queer bait an audience reveals more about the character of the accusers rather than the person being accused. Kit Connor should not have had to come out as gay for people to respect his privacy and his agency as a person.