Kit Connor’s dilemma: Do you have to know an actor’s sexuality before they can play a gay role? | Culture

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On Nov. 1, Kit Connor tweeted, “I’m bi. Congratulations on forcing an 18-year-old out of it. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Goodbye.” With that, the Londoner, co-star of the British Netflix series Heart stroke, ended months of insulting accusations. Meanwhile, some of his supporters argued that the fact that he hasn’t come out publicly meant he was straight and was simply exploiting his sexually ambiguous image.

This year, Connor – who has a long career in film and television, despite his young age – became one of the favorite faces of LGBTQ+ fiction for his role as Nick Nelson, the rugby player with a heart of gold. Nelson’s process of discovering and coming to terms with his sexual identity is one of the main storylines of the program.

Because Connor had not explicitly stated his sexual orientation, some Heart stroke fans believed the actor was queerbaiting, the term used to describe the monetization of the LGBTQ+ image by someone who does not belong to the gay community or have a real commitment to its claims. In an article in English vogue“Kit Connor owed us nothing”, Journalist Scott Bryan recalled the end of the show’s first season, when Connor’s character finally feels ready to come out of the closet for his mother. “This coming out scene was not only a tender and moving watch, it was also uplifting, as Nick was ready and willing to tell her – not forced or compelled by outside circumstances… It’s a total shame that on the public arena, Kit did not have the same opportunity,” Bryan wrote.

“Coming out and accepting your sexual orientation – bisexuality, in this case – takes time, it takes maturity; it requires discussing it with those you trust the most first,” says Gay Positive Psychology expert Gabriel J. Martin. “Because he is known all over the world, I understand why this guy would have preferred to talk quietly with his family, with his loved ones, first, then, if he wanted to, tell everyone, but he doesn’t have to do it. so, because it’s private. He had no choice but to make it public so that the attacks against him would stop. The truth is that he was the victim of bullying; it’s the same bullying that many LGTBQ+ people complain about.

Last September, Connor deleted his Twitter account after photos went viral of him walking hand-in-hand with fellow actress Maia Reficco, his co-star in A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow (the film is currently in production). After reactivating his account to announce his bisexuality, his co-star Joe Locke and Alice Oseman, writer of the series and creator of the original comic that inspired the series, expressed their support for the actor and criticized the fans who had been pressuring Connor.

“I really don’t understand how people can watch Heart stroke then happily spend their time speculating about sexualities and judging based on stereotypes. I hope all these people are embarrassed like FUCK,” Oseman tweeted. In the wake of the controversy, other Internet users have considered the legitimacy of accusing individuals of queerbaiting, rather than the companies that ultimately benefit from the image.

Harry Styles at the premiere of ‘My Policeman’ on November 1 in Los Angeles.Valerie Macon (AFP)

In addition to Kit Connor, straight celebrities – including singers Harry Styles, Charlie Puth and Shawn Mendes – often called out for embracing LGTBQ+ culture. For example, Styles experiments with his clothes, flies an LGBTQ+ flag on stage and plays a gay cop in the recently released film. my policeman. As Styles explained to rolling stone“Sometimes people say, ‘You’ve only been with women publicly,’ and I don’t think I’ve been with anyone publicly. If someone takes a picture of you with someone, it doesn’t mean you choose to have a public relationship or anything. Shawn Mendes introduced the term ‘wishdar’ into the popular vernacular; it refers to hordes of fans who are determined to wish someone had a certain sexual orientation. As Mendes lamented in The Guardian“There was a desperation for me to come out as gay which is such a ridiculous thing. I got upset because I know gay people who haven’t come forward and I know the pain they go through because of that. It’s just completely ignorant and insensitive to people to be on this shit.

Anxious to see themselves represented

The fact that Connor came out to be bisexual, amid accusations that he was secretly straight but sought to take advantage of gay audiences, has not gone unnoticed by those who believe bisexuals have been rendered invisible. “Dating a girl doesn’t take anything away from being bisexual; it’s part of the definition… A lot of times we’re very extremist for no reason, and it’s all black and white, like you can only be straight or gay,” says psychologist Gabriel J. Martin. He goes on to note that what happened in Connor’s case represents another example of toxic fandom, “as happens with star wars, The Lord of the Rings or any other hit series.

However, when asked if we are seeing the reverse of the days when non-heterosexual actors had to hide their sexuality to protect their careers, Martín warns that the situation is more complex:[LGBTQ+ members] crave representation. It is understandable that a person coming to terms with who they are, discovering their identity, what they love and fall in love with, needs to have role models. Thus, you project yourself onto others. But these projections may go too far.

“In this process of self-seeking, which is personal, we end up turning it into a demand that someone else behave in a certain way… [but that person] is independent, free, and… can and should do as it sees fit,” Martín reflects. “The search for references is natural, but sometimes it is done with too much zeal; when someone does not act as expected, it disappoints you personally and you externalize it on social networks… On the other hand, when someone is a star of the LGBTQ+ community, we are very demanding on his behavior in public; it’s something we don’t do with heterosexual people. It’s an ominous test of purity, as if we need them to perfectly represent us and the community.

Singer Shawn Mendes surrounded by fans.
Singer Shawn Mendes surrounded by fans.Cord press

Last May, just a month after Heart stroke first, Connor discussed debates around his sexuality on the podcast “Reign with Josh Smith“: “Were [Connor and his fellow cast members] all still very young. For me, I just feel perfectly confident and comfortable with my sexuality, but I’m not too big on labels and things like that. I don’t feel like I need to label myself, especially not publicly.

As journalist Quinn Rhodes wrote in a column in the UK edition of Subway“Queer portrayal is life changing and I’m as frustrated as the next bisexual trans man at how often straight and cis actors win awards for roles where they portray queer people… But Connor wants to take time and not labeling his sexuality again is miles away from a cis man cast to play a trans woman.

Heart stroke is currently filming its eight-episode second season. Beyond the plots of the comics, the new episodes are expected to delve deeper into the aftermath of Kit Connor’s character’s decision to come out of the closet. It remains to be seen whether screenwriter Alice Oseman will take the opportunity to send a message to fans of the series.

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