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Bisexuality has long been a heavily misunderstood and invisible identity. Biphobic stereotypes and stigmas run rampant throug both straight and LGBTQ+ communities, often leaving bisexual people shunned from both. I mean, is there a bi person alive who hasn’t been told to “pick a side” or that they’re “not really” bi? It’s not just the ‘real’ world either; from Sex and the City, to New Girl, and even queer classics like Glee and The L Word, pop culture has reinforced these stereotypes with biphobic storylines, punchlines and erasure. For far too long, biphobic narratives have dominated the way bisexual people are seen and heard.
However, the rise of TikTok and its overwhelmingly Gen Z audience have, thankfully, started to turn things around. We all know that Gen Z is progressive – bravely and boldly talking about mental health, sexuality, and politics in a way previous generations haven’t dared to. It’s this attitude and openness to identity – this desire to be true to who you are – that has helped shift the tide for bisexuals to feel safe to come out, to be visible, and begin to chip away at the stigmas that surround them.
It’s easy to write off TikTok as a platform that’s purely fluff, and an addictive way to kill time – a wave of thirst traps and dance trends, and not much else. But the truth is that TikTok has evolved into a place of education, self-discovery, and acceptance – and Gen Z are leading the charge in shaping the platform for this purpose. No longer shunned to a corner of the internet, bisexual culture is heavily visible and thriving on TikTok. From videos of “things that are bisexual cuture”, where bi youth are adopting and crafting bisexual aesthetics, to coming out trends, bisexual teens are definining being bi, on their own terms. No longer forced to embrace offensive stereotypes, bi culture on TikTok is represented by The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather”, cuffed jeans, converse, and the “Bisexual bob” with bi teens adopting seemly random things as expressions of their sexualty. There’s something really powerful in the dichotomy of Tiktok – it’s heavily-Gen Z audience lets LGBTQ+ teens come out to their peers in a big, meaningful way, yet its heavily Gen-Z audience also means the network is relatively closed and safe from judgemental comments or biphobia. Many teens are out on TikTok and connecting with other LGBTQ+ teens, giving them a space to be out when they perhaps aren’t yet out to their parents or at school. Here, they have a safe space, a haven to be themselves, and to feel less alone.
Queer people have long used sutble signals and coded markers to express our identity. These examples stretch back to 19th century England, when gay men used a coded language called Polari to communicate in the face of England’s anti-homosexuality mandates. Other examples is asking if someone’s a “friend of Dorothy” from the 50s and 60s, and the handkerchief code, which many gay men used in the 70s and 80s. In a world of rampant homophobia and transphobia, little nods to our identity are powerful ways to express ourselves without having to out ourselves to people who wouldn’t be favourable – employing an approach of if you know, you know.
Gen Z are doing exactly the same thing as the generations of queer people before them, only now it’s taking place on TikTok. One of the most common codes is for queer women to come out by using the song “girls” by girl in red as the soundtrack to a video. One simple 60-second clip of a song and you’ve told thousands of other queer girls that you’re one of them. You’ll often see LGBTQ+ girls writing comments on other girl’s videos asking, “do you listen to “girl in red””. A simple ‘like’ or “yes” from the creator confirms that they’re into girls, too. The trend is both discrete and far-ranging, just like “friend of Dorothy” from decades before.
Another example is the “Sweater Weather” trend, which has truly exploded over TikTok as a way for bisexual people to come out. “Sweater Weather” is a track by The Neighbourhood that came out all the way back in 2013, but now has a second life as a bi anthem and in-joke among Gen Z. If you’re bi, and you want to come out on TikTok, all you need to do is make a video with “Sweater Weather” as the soundtrack, and you’ll be met with praise, support, bi flags, and congratulations from fellow bi teens and their allies. Gen Z has validated bisexuality and normalised it to the point where thousands of teens are coming out without even having to say the words. And there’s something so powerful about the trend’s simplicity: post a video of Sweater Weather on TikTok and the community will find and uplift you.
What’s particularly interesting is that Sweater Weather isn’t actually explicitly about bisexuality – but the imagery and aesthetic of the lyrics is so very bi. And that’s another thing that Gen Z has been so successful at: humanising bi people. Bi teens on TikTok have developed an entire culture and aesthetic for themselves, so they can finally take control of a narrative that was previously imposed upon them. The dictionary definition of “bisexuality” on TikTok isn’t offensive stereotypes and superficial representation, it’s leather jackets, finger guns, and big comfy hoodies. It’s listening to “Sweater Weather” in your bedroom when it’s raining. It’s having a crush on both Timothée Chalamet and Lily-Rose Depp. For a group of people who’ve previously been invisible, bisexuals are now adopting symbols and aesthetics so they can finally be seen how they want to be seen.
Gen Z has carved out a visible space for bisexuality online, and given it the validation it deserves. What’s particularly radical is that the representation is so joyful. Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia are sadly, still just as present in our lives as they ever were. But no longer are we forced to associate queerness purely with hardship, trauma, stigma, and shame. Bisexual teens of Gen Z are telling new stories on TikTok, where they’re proud to be bi, and actively celebrate their sexuality. And honestly? It’s about time.