Love + Sex, Love

Bohemian Rhapsody made me cry, and not in a good way

We got a biopic that tenderly shows his love for people of multiple genders, so why is everyone still calling him gay?

Note on word usage: Throughout this article, I use the word bisexual. It is a word widely used to identify people who are attracted to genders the same as their own as well as different. Pansexual is another word to describe fluid sexuality and the usage of one or the other is a matter of personal preference.
Bisexual erasure is not benign. It destroys people, it marginalizes bisexuals of all genders, but the harm it does to men is particularly profound. The stigma for women tends to be focused around the image of the slut, the untrustworthy interloper but outright erasure seems to affect men even more. It is a heartbreaking mix of homophobia and bi erasure – men who come out as bi risk losing so much especially if they are with women. Women and feminine presenting folks are, generally speaking, allowed more room to be sexually fluid. Bisexuality in its feminine form is fetishized, which is a horrible thing, but in its masculine form, it is all too often seen as repulsive. Homophobic stereotypes around men are so strong, and bisexual men are subject to them in equal measure. Imagine, bi men’s identities are often erased as soon as they come out and on top of it, they are subject to homophobia. It’s no wonder so many bisexual men stay in the closet for so long.
When Bohemian Rhapsody, the film about Freddie Mercury’s life came out in 2018, I prayed that it would begin a much-needed conversation about bisexuality. Freddie, as he made very clear in his lifetime was bisexual. Yes, I’m used to people calling him gay because the fact is people don’t give a shit about bisexuals but this film was going to fix that. It did not. I think the thing that hurt the most was seeing Rami Malek, who plays Freddie in the film refer to him as gay while accepting an Oscar for the role. A man who played Freddie, who embodied his love for Mary Austin as well as his sexual and romantic attraction to men and his beautiful queerness managed to deny the legend his identity. I put off watching the film, I was not ready. When I finally gave in, I openly wept because it’s such a beautiful portrayal of a complex, queer, bisexual man and it seems everyone but my own community failed to see it. Freddie was brave and true to himself, he was punished for being bisexual, he was punished for being labeled as gay and it breaks my heart.
I want to hold Freddie’s face in my hands, tell him he’s loved and he is seen. People like me and Freddie Mercury represent 50% of people who identify as LGBTQ, but you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t bisexual. Neither sexuality nor humanity fit into a binary. This world is filled not just with men and women, not just gay and straight and failure to acknowledge those of us in the middle is at this point, purposeful. We deserve better, so we will keep shouting. We will keep claiming our icons and correcting revisionist history.

  • Katherine Kaestner-Frenchman

    A lifelong nomad, Katie is passionate about storytelling, Judaism, feminism, foreign affairs, and wine. When she's not working, she's throwing dinner parties, taking photos or putting her Art History degree to good use as she explores Europe.