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Dustin Lance Black Argues ‘When We Rise’ Had Bi Characters, But Bi Activists Disagree

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Sara Ramirez

Last month, bisexual actress Sara Ramirez has become a leading advocate against biphobia and bi-erasure on TV and she has continued her activism into this month by taking on When We Rise, gay director Dustin Lance Black’s ABC miniseries about the LGBTQ civil rights movement.

Some background first on Ramirez first: When ABC aired a February 2017 episode of the The Real O’Neals in which a gay character compared bisexuality to having “webbed toes” or “money problems,” Ramirez told ABC she would “I will invest my brand where I am respected” if the network did not address its biphobia (she had previously acted in their medical drama Grey’s Anatomy).

She also called out Gays and Lesbians Allied Against Defamation (GLAAD) for supporting the episode and shared a Change.org petition started by a Canadian named Ewen Cameron which called the show’s executive producer, Dan Savage, biphobic and asked ABC to end the show’s biphobic tropes — Savage has defended himself against claims of biphobia in the past by acknowledging his previous statements doubting bisexual identity and encouraging more bisexual people to come out as bi.

Now Ramirez has called out the bi-erasure in When We Rise, ABC’s recent eight-hour miniseries about the fight for LGBTQ rights directed by openly gay director Dustin Lance Black. In a tweet issued earlier this week, Ramirez quoted bisexual activist and feminist writer and activist Lani Ka’ahumanu’s critique of bi-exclusion in When We Rise:

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If you’ve never heard of Ka’ahumanu, she’s a bisexual rights trailblazer who co-founded BiPOL, the first and oldest bisexual political organization, and the Bay Area Bisexual Network, the oldest and largest bisexual group in San Francisco. She also published the first-ever article on bi-erasure from the gay rights movement ever to be published in a national gay publication and has continued her advocacy to this day.

Anyway, Black refuted Ka’ahumanu’s claim by saying that his series did have bi-inclusion because it depicted several bisexual activists. He also said that the show did not use the word “bisexual” because many bisexual activists during the 1970s did not describe themselves as bisexual at the time. Bisexual activists on Twitter pushed back on Black’s claims, stating that without words or actions demonstrating characters’ bisexuality, viewers were likely to assume that the characters were merely gay or lesbian:

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Despite the public disagreement, Black offered to work with Ramirez to work for better bi-inclusion and visibility in the future, so Ramirez’s tweet achieved a victory.

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Bi-inclusion advocates will have to  see whether ABC and Black’s future work incorporates explicit depictions of bisexuality.

RELATED | What You Need to Know About ‘When We Rise,’ Dustin Lance Black’s New LGBT Miniseries

(featured image via Shadow and Act)

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Sara Ramirez started the a Change.org petition asking ABC to end the biphobic tropes in The Real O’Neals.